15 February 2018

Portslade Boy's School

Judy Middleton 2003 (revised 2022)

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

School Motto – FIDELIS (Faithful or Loyal)


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 1950s
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,
FIDELIS (Faithful or Loyal)
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.

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 dinghy sailing. Lessons for the latter took place from Shoreham Harbour.

The Sailing Club and an Unfortunate Incident

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. 
Membership of the school’s Sailing Club was open to 4th-year and 5th-year boys, and was run under the auspices of Mr Travers (metalwork teacher) and Mr Brown (woodwork teacher). Sailing only took place during the spring and summer months, and in the winter the sailing dinghy remained on school premises, stored away in the old air-raid shelter. During the winter, maintenance on the dinghy was undertaken, both essential work and, by all accounts, a unique embellishment by way of paint. This resulted in the craft, built of wood and plywood, being painted white on the lower part of the hull, and black on the top third with a thin, red stripe on a white background, which were also the school colours; she looked very smart. The foredeck and gunnels were varnished; the boys helped with all this but the masters were responsible for the more tricky parts.

Before any boy was allowed to set sail, there was a thorough drilling in safety measures such as how to right a dinghy should she capsize, and how to react around other sailing craft, as well as the necessity of always wearing a life-jacket. There was instruction in rigging the boat including the art of hoisting the jib and mainsail, and the boys learned about the oars, rowlocks, bailer, the buoyancy bags tied in on either side just below the gunnels, and that steering was achieved with a conventional tiller and rudder.

In other words, the boys were well prepared for their adventures on the sea. The boys used to go down to Shoreham beach on a Saturday morning, and Mr Travers would arrive with the precious dinghy on a trailer. The trailer was unhitched and the dinghy taken to the water. Then the boys would take it in turns for two of them to go sailing together.

On 29 May 1965 Patrick Le Pen and David Sharp set off in the dinghy, after Mr Travers had checked the weather conditions. The tide was going out, and there was steady breeze blowing, so they were told to sail close to the shore. The boys found conditions a bit windy, but nothing to worry about. Then the dinghy capsized; the boys climbed onto the centre board, and using their weight, pulled her upright. Unfortunately, the dinghy was rather full of water caused by the waves washing over the gunnels, and the extra weight meant she settled low in the water. It was quite impossible to get rid of the water with such a small bailer, and a sudden gust blew her over again. They managed to right her, and take down the sail; then they decided they had better row for the shore. However, that plan was scuppered because one rowlock was missing and a buoyancy bag and the bailer had drifted away. Although Patrick retrieved the two latter items, there was nothing more to do other than use the oars as paddles, but it was not enough to make realistic headway towards the shore. The boys discussed the matter – without any panic, it must be emphasized – and it was decided that Patrick would swim to the shore and see if he could borrow a boat to tow the dinghy back.

copyright © D. Sharp
1965 'Bramber House'
Prefect's Badge
Patrick reached the shore and was negotiating with a man about borrowing a boat when he saw the lifeboat putting out. He was near enough to see David wave a paddle at the lifeboat, and see him being taken safely aboard. The coxswain and his mate tied a line to the dinghy but it was too heavy to tow. They then went alongside, and tried again but without success. Patrick later heard that the coxswain had removed the buoyancy hatch, but whatever happened out there, the dinghy languished just below the water line and gradually drifted away. The rest of the boys and Mr Travers then walked along the beach to meet David and the lifeboat crew. There was no drama, no ambulance, no flashing lights. All the same, the coxswain spoke rather gruffly to Mr Travers.

When the Press heard about the incident, they had a field day with the Sunday Express printing a banner headline Teacher Let Boys Sail in Risky Conditions says Rescuer. Worthing fisherman Les Fuller, coxswain of the rubber lifeboat, and Philip Davey, the mate, were the men who rushed to the rescue. Mr Fuller reported that David was so wet and chilled that they had to rub his limbs because he had cramp. It was also claimed that the dinghy was drifting away fast and was already a quarter of a mile from the shore. Mr Fuller told the reporter ‘No yachtsman with any sense would have gone out in those conditions.’ In fact, when Mr Travers and the boys first arrived at the shore, the weather was clear, the sea relatively calm, and there were other boats on the water. There was a red flag flying at Worthing but they could not see it from Shoreham. 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 (a gale being measured as Force 8). However, wind strength and currents can change quickly.
copyright © P. Le Pen
1965 'Arundel House'
Prefect's Badge

Some of the newspapers were inaccurate; for example, there was a claim that one boy was not wearing a life-jacket. In addition, the two boys were not novices, and had been sailing at least fifteen times on previous occasions besides both being strong swimmers.

The Water Safety Committee of Worthing compiled a scathing report and presented it to East Sussex Education Authority. The school’s headmaster, Mr A. J. W. Beal, was very annoyed that the document had been prepared without consulting him first. He had of course conducted his own investigation and so had all the facts to hand. He also asserted robustly that ‘one cannot and would not wish to remove all risks from a boy’s life’. Fortunately, the Education Committee took a more level-headed attitude towards the incident and stated the present safety precautions were adequate, and there was no reason to make changes. As for the two boys involved, they had, and still have, a very high regard for both Mr Travers and Mr Beal.

An upshot of the incident was that the insurance money paid for two new dinghies, but sailing activities were confined to the Kingston Buci area of Shoreham Harbour.

(This chapter is based on the memories of Patrick Le Pen and David Sharp, and newspaper reports)

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.

King’s closed its doors at Portslade in July 2019, and removal vans were seen at the site. At present, it seems highly likely that Brighton & Hove City Council might utilise the premises as offices. The question of the place providing much needed housing seems improbable because it is such an awkward and dangerous site as regards access for vehicles

School Mural Riddle

In the Argus (22 July 2019) there was a fascinating article about a school mural that had suddenly come to light. Linda O’Sullivan, aged 50, lead teacher of art at King’s, made the discovery when she took down a board in the art classroom. There on the wall behind was a mural showing the celebrations in Trafalgar Square that took place on 2 June 1953 when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned. The painting must have been a been an astonishing sight in its heyday but it is now somewhat faded and eroded around the edges. Even so, Linda said that the age-group of the children she taught – aged 11 to 16 – found it a fascinating piece of history.

Linda contacted Sharon Durham, who was head of sixth form art at Portslade Aldridge Community Academy, and she remembered that a similar story had been published in the Argus around fifteen years ago. The fact that everybody wants to know is – who painted the mural?

It is interesting to note that there were some ancient Egyptian-style murals on the wall of the long corridor leading to the art and science rooms. Mr V Wills a pupil from that time and a classmate of a ‘Robert Parsons’, remembers that Robert was responsible for the painting of the Egyptian-style murals Robert did not paint the coronation mural, as Robert would have been only 9 years old in 1953 and a pupil of a Portslade junior school.

Paul Harden who attended the school from 1955 to 1959 told the Argus (9 August 2019) that the art teacher at that time was a Mr Faulkner and said the Egyptian-style murals were painted by a Mr Parsons.

Portslade Hub

copyright © D. Sharp

In July 2022 a different sign appeared on the left side of the entrance proclaiming the name of the new establishment – Portslade Hub. It was a pleasant surprise that at least the name of the village was acknowledged. In a way it is reminiscent of the creation of the Mile Oak Approved School, which was a joint venture between London County Council and Brighton Council. Portslade Hub is a three-way undertaking awarded through Orbis between Brighton & Hove City Council, East Sussex County Council, and Surrey County Council at a cost of £3.7 million.

The contract for the refurbishment went to Willmott Dixon Interiors. It meant implementing a complete strip out, and only doing structural interventions as necessary. Costs were kept down by keeping the configuration of the original building.

Portslade Hub accommodates people from the council’s children’s service team with 23,336 sq-ft of office space. The staff will certainly enjoy a pleasant environment, with parking on site and picnic benches and tables in the adjoining garden. It is a win-win situation because the Hub releases land in Moulscoomb, which can now be put to good use and allow over 200 new council houses to be built there instead, replacing offices that were under-used.

Naturally, the building work at Portslade Hub caused some inconvenience to local residents, especially when the stretch of Mile Oak Road nearby was closed to through traffic, and Mile Oak Gardens became something of a rat run. The entrance to the Hub is a very sensitive area, where High Street and the two parts of Mile Oak Road meet. Visibility is not good due to the narrow road and flint walls, plus the number 1A bus going past both ways. Therefore there were dedicated people on site to oversee the inevitable delivery lorries. But it has all been for a good cause.


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  Patrick Le Pen, 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