Today Cheam School is a leading preparatory school at Headley, near Newbury in Berkshire, but as its name suggests, it began life in Cheam, Surrey. Its early history is associated with Whitehall through its seventeenth century founder, the Rev. George Aldrich, who is reputed to have lived here. George Aldrich was assistant curate of St Dunstan’s Church in Cheam for ten years from 1633. He served under the rector, the Rev. John Hackett, a fellow Royalist, who was later to became Bishop of Lichfield.
The two clerics suffered for their views, and Royalist graffiti, possibly connected with Aldrich, dating from the time of the Civil War, may be found on the door now on display in Whitehall. By 1647, Aldrich was running a successful school in Cheam where the clean downland air provided a healthy escape from London’s Great Plague of 1665. It is possible that the school was held for a time in West Cheam Manor (now the site of Cheam Library). From 1719, the Rev. David Sanxay established the school on what is now the site of Tabor Court at the tope of the High Street, beside Dallas Road, where it remained for over 200 years. Prints showing the school at that time are on display in Whitehall.
Cheam School, 1834
Cheam School, 1900. From a painting by an unknown artist
(The original is on display in the Parlour at Whitehall)
After a decline in the school’s fortunes under Sanxay’s son James, the school prospered under the remarkable William Gilpin, who was headmaster from 1752 – 1777, and this success was maintained by his son, also William Gilpin, who succeeded him.
In Whitehall, Attic III, which has been furnished as a study/bedroom of a late nineteenth century schoolmaster, contains some items on loan from Cheam School. The 1881 Census reveals that three masters from the School lodged in Whitehall with Charlotte and Harriet Killick.
Cheam school from an old painting
The Naval class of 1891
The Naval class was introduced at Cheam School in 1870 due to the expansion of the Royal Navy, many boys the school went on to the Naval college at Dartmouth.
The school moved from Cheam in 1934, when the area was developing from a quiet leafy village to a busy suburb. No doubt, road widening, the new by-pass and encroaching buildings contributed to this decision. Only the chapel of this famous preparatory school remains on the site, in Dallas Road, and is now St. Christopher’s Roman Catholic Church. Just before it moved, the Duke of Edinburgh, H.R.H. Prince Philip, was a pupil there, and Prince Charles was a pupil at Cheam School at Headley.
This picture, taken in 1958, shows Prince Charles with two other schoolboys, in the grey suits of Cheam School, walking to a Sunday morning church service
In 1995 the school celebrated its 350th anniversary. It amalgamated with Hawtreys School on the Cheam School site, but is still known as Cheam School. Links continue with visits from staff and pupils to Whitehall and by staff and volunteers from Whitehall to the school.
We are now selling the new Jimmy Taylor book.
“Growing up at Cheam School 1922-34”
Jimmy Taylor was born on 31st May 1922 and his father, the Rev. Harold M S Taylor, had taken over the school from Arthur Tabor in 1920. This is an excellent account of his life at the school until it moved to Headley in Berkshire in August 1934. The foreword to this account of life at Cheam School has been kindly provided by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, a former school pupil.
It cost £4.95 and is available from Whitehall during normal opening hours.