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15 February 2018

Portslade Boy's School

Judy Middleton 2003 (revised 2018)

copyright © D. Sharp
The former Portslade County Secondary Boys’ School.

School Motto – Fidelis


St Nicolas School, Portslade, catered for both boys and girls but they were taught separately. In 1929 there was a major re-organisation of schools in Portslade and the senior school’s catchment area was extended to take boys from St Nicolas and St Andrew’s School, Portslade.
The parish of Portslade had found it increasingly difficult to find the money to provide education for all age groups and an appeal to raise much-needed funds received a poor response. It was disappointing when large concerns failed to respond in an appropriate manner. For example, Revd Donald Campbell, who became vicar in 1919, received a dusty answer from London County Council who had the grace to admit that boarding their boys in the parish led to extra expense for ratepayers and managers; the Gas Company stumped up the sum of £500 while Ronuk thought state-run schools were better and only donated ten guineas. The largest contribution came from other churches and the Chichester Diocesan Fund. Although the church schools were saved for a time, the writing was on the wall.

copyright © G. Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph from his private collection.  
St Nicolas Boys School in Locks Hill in the 1920s

In 1936 Windlesham House School, a boys’ prep school, moved from their premises in the High Street Portslade to Washington in West Sussex. St Nicolas School managers had first option on the site but not the necessary funds and so it was East Sussex County Council that purchased the estate. At first, Portslade Infants’ School occupied the Windlesham School premises until their brand new school at Southern Cross was ready for them. This happened in 1938 and in April of that year, St Nicolas School managers wanted an assurance that something would be done for the senior boys without delay. But they could not move in straight away because work was going on at the Windlesham site that included, unfortunately, the demolition of the fine Georgian Portslade House. Meanwhile, the senior boys moved to quarters in the old Infants’ School on the west side of Locks Hill.

New Site and New Names

It was in 1940 that the senior boys moved into the classrooms once occupied by Windlesham House boys. Mr J.W. Burn, their old headmaster, moved with them and it was now called the Senior Council School, Mile Oak. The St Nicolas School managers had relinquished control, although they continued with St Nicolas School, now a mixed junior school. But the new name of the boys’ school did not last long because in 1949 the establishment became Portslade Secondary Modern School and Mr A.R. Furner was the new headmaster, while by the 1960s it was known as Portslade County Secondary Boys’ School.

copyright © Brighton & Hove City Libraries
A class of senior boys outside the former Windlesham School in around 1940

East Sussex County Council had landed a bargain in the purchase of the Windlesham House estate. The school buildings only cost around £4,000 to adapt while the house and 1½ acres had cost £3,250 with an additional piece of land costing £1,250. The grand total therefore came to £8, 500. Compare this with the cost of Portslade Girls’ School constructed on farmland at Chalky Road, Mile Oak and ready for occupation by 1940. The land had cost £4,800 and the new buildings cost £19,800.

Second World War

 copyright © J.Middleton
The 14th Battalion (Hove) Sussex Home Guard 19th Platoon were photographed in 1943 in the playground of Senior Council School, Mile Oak. In 1949 the school was renamed Portslade Secondary Modern School.

There were no adequate kitchen facilities in the new school and so those boys entitled to free dinners (usually because of a father serving in the armed forces) had to traipse down to Ronuk Hall (later Portslade Town Hall) to have their meal.

In April 1940 air-raid shelters were built underneath the playground, where once Portslade House stood, and during the succeeding twenty months they were in constant use.

In April 1941 some 36 boys were evacuated to safer surroundings in Yorkshire.

On 9/10 August 1942 a stick of incendiary bombs fell near the school – one fell through the roof of a classroom and another hit the caretaker’s house.

In 1949 there were 237 boys on the roll and the first educational trip took place. Over half of the boys and all the staff visited Windsor and Runnymede.

copyright © G. Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph from his private collection.  
The Girls School at Mile Oak behind the bungalows in Valley Road in the 1940s
The Girls School was just over a mile walk from the Boy's School, the white unheated nissen hut in the top corner of the playing field was used as a changing room, The football pitch which was on a steep slope was used by the boys of the Secondary School for sport's lessons and inter-house football matches.

In 1963 a playing field for the boys was constructed behind the bungalows in Valley Road. The playing field was 20-ft above the dwellings and East Sussex County Council came in for criticism when in November 1963 torrential rain caused water to cascade down the sides of the field and into the gardens of the bungalows.

The 1960s

A drawing of the 1960s school badge and motto.
The castle and coloured quadrants signify
that the school was divided into four 
'Houses’ each named after a Sussex castle,
 Arundel (green), Bramber (red), Lewes (blue)
 and Pevensey (yellow).

By 1956 Mr A.J.W. Beal was headmaster; William Beal was a keen breeder of budgerigars and in the early 1960s there was a small aviary built on the grass of the top playground by the west wall. But Mr Beal was not content with the small structure and planned something on a grander scale. Under his direction, a new, walk-in aviary was constructed on top of the air-raid shelters. Boys involved in the project worked in their lunch break, making the basic structure by cutting up old, wooden goal posts. Boys who shared Mr Beal’s enthusiasm for budgies joined the budgie club to help look after them.
1965 'Bramber House'
Prefect's Badge
(two prefects for each house) 

This was not the first time that birds had been seen at the school. Back in the 1950s, when rationing was still the norm, there was a chicken club, and the boys who belonged to the chicken club would sometimes be rewarded with a beautiful, fresh egg to take home.

One master, officially the woodwork teacher, had been landed with the task of teaching religious knowledge. He freely admitted to the boys that he knew nothing about religion but he liked books and telling stories. The first novel the boys studied was a western entitled Shane published in 1949 by Jack Schaefar, which was made into a famous film in 1953 with Alan Ladd taking the starring role.

Mr W.R. Travers, the metalwork teacher, took a great interest in mechanical things and quite often there would be the unnerving sight of boys zooming around the playground on their Cycle-master bikes that contained a 2-stroke engine in the back wheel. Boys learned about engines and how to maintain them.

copyright © D.Lickorish
Class 1A in 1962 with Form Tutor Mr Bennett.

The school hosted extra classes and clubs for various hobbies in the evenings. For example, boys could polish up their English, a chess club, swap stamps at the stamp club, or learn woodworking skills. Mr Travers was keen on instructing boys on dingy sailing. Lessons for the latter took place from Shoreham Harbour and the vessel used was a Wayfarer, a model still in use today.

Sailing Dingy Capsizes

On 29 May 1965 a dingy from the school sailing club capsized – not only was it an uncomfortable experience for the two boys involved, it also led to questions being asked about the safety aspect. Naturally, the incident caused much comment in the local Press and it also became news in the Sunday Express with the banner headline Teacher let boys sail in risky conditions says rescuer.

copyright © D. Sharp   
This 1960s tie signifies that 
you were a pupil in the 
3rd-5th years of the school. 
The 1st-2nd year's tie was 
similar but without the 
grey banding.
It was compulsory for 
1st-2nd years boys to 
wear school caps. 
The story was sensationalised and some reports were wrong – for example, the claim that one boy was not wearing a life-jacket. In fact, the two 15-year old boys, David Sharp and Patrick Le Pen, wore life-jackets, were good swimmers and had been sailing at least fifteen times previously. All the same, the accident could have proved fatal. Apparently, capsizing was a recognised aspect of dingy sailing and boys were instructed on how to right the boat in such a situation. On that day in May, David and Patrick had already righted the dingy once when it had capsized but in doing so, a cord holding the buoyancy bags was damaged and one floated away, as did their bailer. The next time the boat capsized, they were unable to right it. While Patrick swam for the shore, David climbed up the hull as she overturned, because he had been taught it was safer to stay with the boat.

Worthing fisherman, Les Fuller, also coxswain of the National Lifeboat Institution’s rubber lifeboat, and crew-member, Philip Davey, rushed to the rescue with the aid of their outboard motor. They attempted to tow the dingy but it was impossible. By this time David was drifting away fast and was about a quarter of a mile from the shore; later, the dingy sank without trace. Mr Fuller said that David was wet, cold and somewhat frightened and they had to rub his limbs because he had cramp. Once safely ashore, Mr Fuller vented his fury at Mr Travers for allowing the boys to be out there saying, ‘No yachtsman with any sense would have gone out in those conditions.’

However, conditions depend on currents and wind strength. When Mr Travers and the boys first arrived at the shore, the weather was clear, the sea looked calm and there were other boats on the water. Sailing in the lee of the land, they were sheltered, while at Worthing, a red flag was flying, but of course they could not see it. After the incident, a coastguard measured the offshore wind strength as up to Force 6, while Mr Fuller claimed it was more like Force 7 with a gale being measured as Force 8.

The Water Safety Committee of Worthing compiled a scathing report and presented it to East Sussex Education Authority. Portslade headmaster. Mr A.J.W. Beal, was angry that the report had been prepared without consulting him. He was of the opinion that ‘one cannot and would not wish to remove all risk from a boy’s life.’ The Education Committee took a more level headed attitude towards the incident and maintained that the current safety precautions were adequate and there was no reason to make changes.

School Outings in the 1960s

The First Years went on a day’s coach trip to each of the School's House's Sussex castle:- Arundel, Bramber, Lewes and Pevensey.
The Second Years visited on a coach daytrip in conjunction with the history syllabus :- Runnymede (signing of Magna Carta) Windsor Castle (The Normans) and Hampton Court (The Tudors)
The Third Years made an annual day-trip to Boulogne sur Mer with the French teacher.
The Fourth Years, in preparation to leaving school for employment, had a daytrip around various factories e.g. Phoenix Iron Foundary at Lewes, CVA Machine Tools in Brighton and a Gate manufacturers in Newhaven.

copyright © G. Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph from his private collection.  
During the 1960s the small swimming pool of the Mile Oak Approved School was used to teach pupils of Portslade Secondary Modern to swim, as the swimming pool was very small, swimming up to 3rd Class Certificate standard could only be taught, to progress to 2nd & 1st Class Certificates meant a trip to the King Alfred in Hove. The football pitch in this photograph was used for School Team matches against other schools as it was a higher quality to the one at the Mile Oak Girls School.  The Approved School was also used as the start and finish for the Portslade Boy's School's Annual cross country race which was a circuit across the Downs to Mile Oak around Southwick Hill and back to the Approved School, it was compulsory for all pupils to take part.


Every boy knew that ‘Fido’ was the nickname given to the plimsoll used to administer corporal punishment. At least it was better than the cane still wielded at many other boys’ school at the time. One example of how Fido was employed, was when boys became rowdy if the master left the classroom. When the master returned he would ask for the culprits to step forward. Of course, the entire class remained seated, which meant the application of Fido to every boy’s backside. One master had the curious habit of writing ‘Fido’ in reverse on the sole of the plimsoll in order to leave a ‘branding’ mark on the back of their school trousers.


The boys’ school was of short duration because in 1971 there was the first intake of girls in preparation for the creation of Portslade Community College, a mixed comprehensive school, in 1972. Later the buildings became the college’s Sixth Form site and by 2013 King’s School was in residence and in 2018 are still there, waiting for work to start on building a new school at Hangleton.


Evening Argus 28 June 1965 / 1 July 1965
Shoreham Herald 1 July 1965
Sunday Express 27 June 1965
Middleton J. Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Recollections of Derek Lickorish and Dave Sharp

Thanks are due to Mr G. Osborne for allowing me to reproduce three of his wonderful photographs 

Copyright © J.Middleton 2018
page layout by D.Sharp