Saturday, January 14, 2012

New Information: The Chittendens of Seaford and Newlands School

Hello, everyone! I hope the new year finds you healthy and happy! Here, it finds me a bit wiser, thanks to the recent kindness of Richard Ogden, grandson of G. W. D. Chittenden, headmaster of Newlands School in Seaford. Of one thing we are certain: Barbara Chittenden was a dear friend of the Mills family in post-war Budleigh Salterton. Is there, however, more to it than that?

I've included has missive in its entirety for your perusal. It was fascinating, informative, and provides greater depth of background for our research into Seaford, its preparatory schools, and their possible relationship to George Mills.

[Bold-faced font has been added to the text to ease information retrieval.]

I have recently been researching my family’s history and stumbled across your blog. My Grandfather was George William David Chittenden, former Headmaster of Newlands School in Seaford. He preferred to be called David which substantiates your correct assumption that ‘George Chittenden’ and ‘David Chittenden’ are indeed one and the same person.

Newlands is the last remaining preparatory school in Seaford – the girls school, Micklefield (where my mother, Jane, and her two siblings, Philippa and Angela, were educated – Newlands at the time being boys only) having disappeared under a housing development just over a decade ago in much the same fashion as Warren Hill. I have had many rambling conversations with my Grandmother, David’s wife Mavis, who was formerly Matron of the school and who still lives on the grounds. She is always very willing to part with interesting anecdotes about days gone by. She speaks of there being five separate preparatory schools strung along ‘Eastbourne Road’ alone (as you quite rightly asserted, there was a plethora of independent schools in Seaford at one time) all abutting one another. I know that upon the closure of Sutton Place School in 1968, the fourth domino to fall, its grounds were bought by my family and added to the Newlands holdings, becoming Newlands Manor (senior) School. We still have the documentation detailing the purchase of grounds for the original school site (as well as the acquisition of Sutton Place) and as I recall a charming map that illustrates the distribution of housing and schools in the region.

The Chittenden family has been with Newlands from its inception and all of us were saddened to witness its decline over the past two decades that culminated in it going into administration in 2006. It once proudly boasted the epithet ‘Miniature House of Lords’ (Prime Minister Lord Balfour [right], for instance, can be counted among its alumni), something that my Grandfather spoke of with pride. I doubt any of the staff there now would be aware of the school’s quite distinguished history (with, perhaps, the notable exception of Hugh Coplestone, son of the former Headmaster of Sutton Place). This legacy survived in the names of the Boys’ Houses (‘Balfour House’ being one) until very recently, when I believe they were superseded by more modern and generic names such as ‘Dragon House’. My Grandmother, I know, is thankful that my Grandfather at least was spared having to witness the nihilation of the values instilled by successive generations of Chittendens and the fingerprints that they left behind, including the displacement of the family crest on the website (a half Talbot). Given the exigencies of continuing to attract students to the school, perhaps this was deemed a necessary step in ‘rebranding’. Personally, and admittedly with a certain bias, I was surprised that the longevity of the school and its more illustrious past weren’t employed as marketing tools to help attract more students and indeed to encourage alumni to invest in the school’s future. As far as I can tell, the school makes no mention of its famous alumni on its website. Promisingly, the new Head teacher seems to be making some progress improving the fortunes of the school, and when my Grandmother has bumped into her on the grounds, she has remarked approvingly on the strong work ethic and efforts that she has brought to the table to right the floundering Newlands ship.

All of this leads me to the point that could be of interest to you:

Until the late 80’s my Grandfather was the Proprietary Headmaster of the school, becoming school Bursar upon his ‘retirement’. It was in ’86 (I think) that the school acquired Charitable Trust status, my Grandfather ceding financial responsibility for the school. A number of facets were responsible for its subsequent decline – too many to go into here – but when the school went into administration in 2006 my Grandmother (and indeed the whole family) were very concerned that articles belonging to the family (heirlooms and other things such as family photographs, etc) would be unknowingly sold off . To her and to us, the history of the school is synonymous with our family history. The upshot of this is that, contrary to the belief of Newlands’ Registrar, Lisa Sewell, that all records have been ‘lost or destroyed’, much has been preserved by either my Great Aunt (David’s sister, nee Anne Chittenden) or my Grandmother. This body of information and the recollections of both individuals could very well shed some further light on the life of George Mills. Given the close relationship that my Great grandmother Barbara (who died in 1987, the year after I was born) had with the Mills family it would be exciting to find out whether George was ever employed by my great grandfather. In the days when a drink and a cigar were all that was needed to secure employment (and given that they probably shared one or two of both) it doesn’t seem overly implausible. I think my Grandmother would also be very interested in the clips of the sports day events from the late ‘30s and may well be able to definitively identify some of the suit-wearing protagonists on the reel.

To help clarify a few further details:

1. Barbara [right] and Hugh Chittenden did indeed give birth to four children: Joan, Anne, David and Hugh (who died in North Africa in 1942). When my Grandfather died I acquired Hugh’s cufflinks and dress studs – apparently the total extent of his personal effects, untouched since the day he died. Anne is the only surviving sibling and she and I, with the help of my Grandmother, have spent a lot of time collating information on the family’s history.

2. David Chittenden would best be characterized by the bottom left caricature of the snippet sent by Barry McAleenan – He founded the Seaford Seagulls Cricket Club and was chairman of the club until his death in 2001, my father assuming the chairmanship thereafter. An obsessive sportsman he is said to have been a very useful spin bowler (and a big fan of Bradman!)

3. The Warren Hill playing fields pictured elsewhere in your blog in front of Moira House (called the ‘Nuffield’ pitch) were unfortunate enough to have played witness to my paltry cricketing endeavours when I attended Eastbourne College (2000-2005). Refreshingly, the landscape doesn’t appear to have altered much in the past 75 years.

The information that you have gathered made for an extremely compelling read, a lot of it ashamedly being unfamiliar to me. I hope that some of the information above is of use and I apologize that I do not have more information immediately to hand - I’m in London and getting my technophobic older relatives to scan and email me documents is probably a bridge too far! If you are interested in finding out more, I would be more than willing to share any information with you that I can gather over Christmas. Many thanks for the fascinating read.

Many thanks, Richard, for the information, and for the marvelously engaging and colourful way you put it all in context! Your kindness and generosity is very much appreciated, and we'll look forward to hearing of anything you may discover about the school and George Mills. Cheers!


  1. I had a generally miserable experience at Newlands from 1961 to 1967. I went there far too young, before my seventh birthday, from my family home in Nigeria. For me, it was a reign of terror. During my first term, when I was homesick and frightened by the unfamiliar environment, I was suddenly called to the headmaster's (HFC's) study. Somebody had heard me say, "Bloody hell". I had reacted to a wriggling nest of newborn spiders in my Sunday suit jacket. HFC made me stick my head under the top of his desk while he opened a long drawer and selected one of his flexible rattan canes. I was left in tears with vicious blue welts on my backside, some of which developed bloody scabs. Roald Dahl describes the incredible pain well in his autobiography 'Boy'. After this introduction, I was beaten twelve more times for trivial offenses by Captain Tommy Davis Manning (TDM) during my stay. TDM also supervised the early morning cold showers, making each semi-naked boy sit on his knee before showering.
    Most of the teachers were World War Two veterans who shouted and threatened a lot. Those who stood out as more humane characters included Mr Macdonald, who had, I think, been a prisoner of the Japanese, and a stereotypical old officer called Major Bulkley, whose voice was much imitated. The place had a postwar atmosphere, full of ptsd, if not shell shock. The only person who seemed both entirely normal and genuinely kind to me was the visiting art teacher, Miss Gaunt.
    I spent a lot of time gazing at the beautiful surrounding countryside, wishing I could dive off Beachy Head and swim back to my family.

    1. Hi Mike,
      I was at Newlands at same time as you. And have similar miserable memories. Can you email: 1962-66.

    2. come on Richard and Mike we lads always experienced problems and bulling at school.i was..but it makes you a stronger person?Contact me.

    3. I really dont think institutional bullying and violence makes you a better or stronger person. It dehumanises and terrifies people

  2. I remember The Chittenden's well. I started at the Prep school in 1984 and left the Manor in 1989. Mr Brian Underwood was headmaster then, but we would see Mr Chittenden frequently.

  3. John H Green - I went to Newlands Prep School from 1968-1971 before going on to Eastbourne College (Reeves House) I also remember Capt.Manning - what ever finally happened to him ? I also remeber the school rugby matches and names such as Jones (Major), Jones ( Minor) and Jones (Minimus) !! Drove past the old school last week and only just learnt that it has now closed.

    1. I was at Newlands between '67 and '72, and I don't remember a John Green, nor do I recall three contemporaneous Joneses, so I'm calling bluff.

      On a related matter, my experiences were similar to those of Messrs Hawthorne and Wachman, whose accounts seem all too believable.

      It now seems astonishing to me that Chittenden could have got away with running such an establishment without penalty. I don't believe it could happen now. Well, let's hope not.

    2. I was at Newlands very happily in the late Sixties and early Seventies. Not everything was a bed of roses - rationing had only ended barely a decade before, and the food was pretty dreadful, Cheese Egg aside - and most barrels have a bad apple or two. But all things considered and by the standards of the day, Newlands was a tremendous overall success, both academically, on the sports field and in many other ways - art, music, drama, Scouts etc etc. Much of this can be attributed to David Chittenden's kind, wise and above all energetic leadership, ably supported by the ageing Captain TDM RN and the splendidly demanding (and volcanic) Peter Wragge-Morley, aided and abetted by a whole host of interesting (and admittedly sometimes eccentric) fellow staff - including the delightful and brilliant Henry Foxon (Classics, since the Twenties!), kind Colonel Tyrrell (History), clever Colonel Brooker (French), charming Captain Hamilton (Maths, and Billy Bunter), the entertaining Chris Hadfield, the amusing Mr Mafflyn (French)... Many were genuine war heroes, including David Chittenden, who flew numerous sorties as a very young man as a navigator in Lancasters, and the redoubtable Miss Le Lacheur of the Jersey Resistance, who had lost fingernails and no doubt much else to the Gestapo. Some of the matrons were a little fierce (come in, Mrs Pearce!) but Betty Hill and Mrs Baxter - among others - provided band aids and maternal solace to many hundreds over a decade or two, and as for the lovely young Carol ??? - phew!. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Newlands, and felt - then and now - profoundly grateful for my years there. A true measure of its strengths and success is that it carried on until 2014 - most other Seaford prep schools capitulated thirty, forty or even fifty years earlier. I suspect a case of embittered revisionist midlife sour grapes from many - like the "never any good anyway" view of the British Empire. Many would have been profoundly grateful for what we were lucky enough to benefit from then... and I suspect many would be still today.

    3. cheese egg.was delicious!i remember it well.

  4. 67-71- i remember a similar regime as described by may have served its purpose during the days of the empire but hfc should have been booked for abh.

  5. I went to Normansal and well remember playing games against Newlands, sad that the last Prep school in Seaford has now closed.
    We were never beaten at Normansal, just sent to bed, if we behaved badly, thank god for Rex Hackett.
    I returned to what remains of Normansal, with a former fellow pupil, Ben Gullum, on Tuesday 22nd September 2015, exactly fifty years to the day we both went there, its an old folks home now.

  6. Michael Wägeler
    I had the pleasure of visitng Newlands School from 1975 to 1979. I cant complain and I look back upon these years as very positve and with fondness.. I can understand the comments made above in terms of a certain harshness as the School underwent a definite change around the year 1977 when (but not because) a certain deputy headmaster Mr. Morely (I hope I got it right) retired. He was a tough and strict deputy headmaster and to be told off by him was usually considered worse than a canning by Mr. Chittenden but he was very kind to the smallest of us and liked very much by the older pupils - which can be seen as deserved respect. In the early years I can remember a certain dormitory captain who took pleasure in hitting the soles of anyone whose foot was sticking out - it happened to me once - and I still have not forgotten it. The above mentioned harshness - for the largest part - was imposed by the pupils themselves, respectively the prefects and sub-prefects of the various houses (otter, volves etc.). One must not forget - these times were different to today - and many pupils had fathers whoose boarding-school experiences were even harsher and many probably thought Newlands was "rather" soft in comparison. I came to Newlands on the 16th of September 1975 - I can remeber the date because I had a properly broken nose on the 18th - unfortunately the war was not that far away - and I was the only German around. I know for a fact that Mr. Chittenden himself was not a friend of such bullying behaviour. I knew him better than some as I often had to visit him. As a matter of fact I think I hold two records - or three possibly. The most successful and longest escape by foot and night (the police caught me in Newhaven) - the fastet foreigner to learn english - and my number of acquaintances with the cane . which, with one exception, I usually deserved - therefore I will not complain. After all - it is your own fault - if you get caught. And Mr. Chittenden was a reasonable man - he collected me at the police in Newhaven at around 9 o`clock in the morning. I was watching everything from a cell in the police station. When he told the officers on duty that I had obviously walked from Seaford onwards they first refused to believe. His remark " You are forgetting two things Gentlemen: First of all - he is a Newlands boy - and secondly he is a German - they can march!" When we came back from Newhaven I did not get a caning - Mr Chittenden himself made me a breakfast. He also had a refreshing and sometimes cunning sense of humour - but I cant write a book right now. The phrase "common decency" - was often heard out of his mouth - and quite rightly it was - because if you have visited a british boarding school and do not know what common decency is - your parents have wasted money! I think that could have been his words - all the best michael

  7. Having attended Sutton Place, next door, 1956-62 and come across no similarly barbaric behaviour as described above, I'm relieved my parents chose the right school. The food and beds weren't great, but certainly prepared us for the same lack of home comforts to be found in the Public Schools most of us then went off to.
    What I cannot forgive the Chittendens for was their attempt to erase the name Sutton Place (or Sutton Manor if you prefer) from the map of Seaford when they purchased it. True, the Coplestones failed to attempt to imbue in us any sense of the old manor-house's place in local history (unlike the Headmaster and staff of Ashampstead when it occupied the site before WWII). But surely a family which claimed relatively long establishment in Sutton-cum-Seaford should have had some respect for history?

  8. As a badly behaved child at home I was sent to Sutton Place 1952-1967. I can't say that the atmosphere there was as bad as described in the later decade at Newlands, but pupils were beaten for relatively trivial offences leaving bruises but no blood as I recall. Only two of the masters were allowed to wield a cane or a riding crop. Despite this, the masters were well liked and respected by the pupils. Robert B Galt (for a brief period in 1956 he administered the riding crop if you made a mistake in Latin) instilled a genuine interest in classics and, together with Reg Evans, mathematics. Charles Edward Frith taught history with a fair degree of eccentricity and political bias. His geography lessons produced some mirth with his pronunciation of some place names, as I recall. But he was a popular teacher because the pupils knew exactly what to expect of him. It seems a little strange that there seems very little mention of this school on the Internet (apart from this message). Surely its ex-pupils can operate computers. Maybe Mr C "erasing" it has something to do with it, or maybe the education there seldom produced anyone with a desire to cultivate these skills. I was a rebel who hated school anyway :-)

  9. I was at Newlands from April to December 1978 and I can honestly say it was the worst 8 months of my life. I loathed every second of my time there and particularly remember the Deputy Head, Mr Burston, who made it his business to instill fear as a means of behavioral management. I am shocked to find out the school is closed but it is not a place I will miss and I certainly won't miss the cold showers at 0600.


    1. me.07415692341

    2. me.07415692341

    3. They clearly didnt teach you spelling...


    1. hi babek.i think i remember you im 46 now you?i did well at sports aswell probably beat you aswell.

  12. I'm sure one of the house mistresses at Micklefield in the late 1980's was a Mrs Chittenden!

  13. I was at Newlands school between 1969 and 1974. A lot of what is said here resonates. I do not think it was a specially cruel place in itself, although I now believe that the main cruelty was sending boys away from home at such a young age.

    Although there was corporal punishment, this was not excessive, and the main cruelty was in the form of bullying, mainly verbal and pscychological. Some boys who were not good at sport, had unusual appearances /physical defects or just did not fit the norm had a terrible time.

    I think the best part about Newlands was the general behavioural education -healthy mind and body, as someone said above, being generally decent. I think the academic education was mediocre if not bad. I was one of the brighter pupils and sat a scholarship to public school, and had no idea what most of the questions were about because we had never covered any of the topics.

    Mr. Morley I remeber as described, harsh but mostly fair, and one of the few that was academically good (his son was a classmate)

    Mr.Brookes a disaster as a French teacher and could not control the boys. Married Miss Brett, a matron.

    Mr Hatfield, later Reverend, was another one with a good academic standard, and kind, interesting person.

    Mr.Waddington, maths teacher, nice guy, also married a matron, a rather attractive one, whose name escapes me.

    Colonel Tyrell, kind guy, not a particularly good history teacher, I suspected, as dis my brother and cousin whi were there in later years that he was a little bit too fond of little boys.

    Mr (or Captain?) Mander. Music teacher, certainly too fond of little boys. Red faced from drink, he was dismissed during on of the terms, rumoured abuse of a boy.

    TDM, died in my second year. I remeber the memorial service in the seaford church were we sang for those who peril on the sea.

    Other memories. We were not allowed to listen to contemporary music. I remeber a boy called Travioli who decided to organise a "concert". There was a huge noise about the event before the date and eventually 30 or so boys crammed into a classroom at the designated hour. Mr Morley and Mr Chittenden arrived at the event. Travioli had a classical guitar I think and started to sing "one o'clock, two o'clock, three o'clock, rock ..." He did not get to six o'clock. Chittenden stopped the show when the boys started clapping and singing along.

    Can not rember a Jones major, minor, minimus, but there was definitely a Mirchindani major, minor, minimus, and I myself was major and my brother minor.

    I temeber the aura of stardom and eliteness created by handing out the school colours for sports achievements (scoring 50 or taking 5 wickets for the first team, o r for being outstanding in soccer and rugby). There was a boy called Gumm who won all the athletic events in the sports day. Also the elitism of the Fellows garden,

    Looking back, and even taking into account that 45 years have passed, I think that the school was somewhat anachronistic. Some values it instilled in the boys were very good and Mr Chittenden himself was a kind and value-based person, but the academic standards were not as good as they should have been and I feel that the talent of many of the boys was not developed as it could have been.

  14. I was at Sutton PLace 1959-1966 my name is Richard Bascombe, was called Bascombe 3 as had 2 elder brothers there, like to hear from school mates of that time Peter Cooke Hugh Coplestone or anyone else, good see whose still alive.....

  15. Hi there,

    It was interesting reading your blog about your family and the people who actually went there and further became pretty good and active members of society.

    I was there between 86-91 and though we did not have such a colorful atmosphere as most of you have described I can tell you that reading about one o'clock above was incredibly amusing.

    We had some good teachers such as Mr. Pounds and Mrs. Goodman who taught mathematics and Mr Hayes and Mrs Smith who taught English lit for instance.

    All those years and we still refer to them as Mr and Mrs. For that I have to say there must have been something positive done at the school.

    Many of those who came from the prep scho then onto the manor were different from those who joined the manor school but this is what happens I guess when people bond together like that.

    Academically I think it was fine and people like Mr Brian Underwood did a good job in taking the school forward. I was young then so it would be hard to tell what went on except what I saw.

    In contrast to many of the schools around then many kids were sent to Newlands because it was seen as a pretty good place to go and study.

    When you have such vivid memories of your school good and bad it has to be said that the school must have made an impression on some all though judging by those who had to put ten fingers on the head masters office, 'Boy' was a bit more far fetched.

    I had an excellent time there with classmates such as Patrick Wooloff, Andrew Duncan, Andrew Alan, Adegunwas, Mansfield, Foote, Nicola Brown, Niki Sayers, Justin Tucker and so on to talk to or see walking around and having a chat with once in a while what could go wrong;)?

    If it was still open I'd send my kids there now but alas such is life.

    I'm sorry to hear it had closed and also sadened to see that it was part of your family heirloom and perhaps sometime in the not so distant future...

    Thanks for sharing.


  16. Edward exon anyone remember 1982 at prep school and 1987 at the manor

  17. I was at Sutton Place from 1973-1975 and my sister remained there for another year. It wasn't a boarding school then but it certainly was separate from Newlands, so I think the reference to it closing in 1968 is incorrect. It was run by Mrs Davidson-Houston who was Mrs Copplestone's daughter. I loved it there. My favourite school.

  18. Childhood trauma lasts a lifetime, eats at the soul and causes chronic physical and mental health issues. If these are not even recognised, but suppressed as shameful secrets, the outlook for the sufferers, and others near to them, is bleak. To those who can honestly claim to have had a wonderful childhood at schools like Newlands, I can only say, "You were the lucky ones. You were not singled out for special treatment by criminal schoolmasters." To understand why most victims of abuse at such establishments remain silent, I recommend viewing CHOSEN (Selected Groomed Abused), the acclaimed Channel 4 Documentary directed by Brian Woods and available from True Vision Productions. To catch a fascinating glimpse of TDM (Captain Thomas Davys Manning RNVR CBE), and how he appeared as an Anti-Submarine Instructor during World War 2, simply google "Derrick Breen 'First Time At Seahawk'", on the HMS Seahawk Webpage, for an eyewitness account of TDM's characteristic behaviour before he established himself as the main enforcer of discipline at Newlands.