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!