Weeke local History - Nethercliffe School


Nethercliffe School

Peter Symonds’ School was opened in Fulflood in 1899 and most of the land in this area was owned by The College of St Mary (Winchester College). During the period of 1902 and 1913 most of this land was sold for residential development. One part of this development was Hatherley Road where the houses were ‘highly sought after’. For example Miss Elsie Fielder lived at “The Chilterns”, 70 Hatherley Road and she was the daughter of the builder of the original houses on Hatherley Road.

Miss Alice Maud Wright BA (Hons.) London acquired numbers 45 and 47, a semidetached pair of houses on Hatherley Road in 1914. Miss Alice Maud Wright was headmistress of Winchester County School for Girls from 1912 to 1945. Her elder sister Miss Elizabeth Lucy Wright BA became the headmistress of a small preparatory school based in the two houses. The school was called Nethercliffe School and set up on an experimental basis (Yates 1997).

In 1918, as the school became established, 43 Hatherley Road was purchased as a private residence for Elizabeth. She lived here until 1931 until the house was sold pending the building of new buildings for the school. She then moved to “Rabymount” in Cheriton Road, opposite the County High School. Alice had been living in this house for many years and it also acted as a boarding house for girls at the County High School.

In 1931 Alice purchased the plot of land from the College of St Mary to the east of 45/47 Hatherley Road to build new school buildings. Eventually both 45 and 47 were sold when the new school was in use. The new buildings were completed by September 1931, but the pupils were not moved in until January 1932. The reason was that the County High School was receiving a major face lift including a second storey added. The girls needed temporary accommodation so they used the new Nethercliffe School and a temporary wooden building for cloakrooms. The County High School modifications were completed and the girls returned to their buildings. The Nethercliffe children were able to move into their new buildings in January 1932 (Yates 1997).

The new building was built so that each half was the mirror image of other half. The four classrooms on the ground floor were also designed so that they could be transformed into two large rooms. This design was chosen in case the school did not prosper but this was never a problem. The accommodation was originally for 100 pupils of boys and girls who were there to be prepared for entrance to secondary schools. In July 1932 Alice Maud Wright purchased a further plot of land from the College of St Mary to the east of the site, which provides the drive in area of the school and part of the playground.

In 1935 Elizabeth Lucy Wright retired as headmistress and Mrs Madeline Edith Grace Russell took on this role. Mrs Russell had a science degree from Bristol University and had taught chemistry at the County High School for eight years before taking on this new role. Initially she took on a long term lease for Nethercliffe, but after 14 years actually purchased the premises. Mrs Russell was to preside over the school for 23 years, retiring in 1958 (Yates, 1997).

During World War II Mrs Russell would meet a group of children from the junction of Jewry Street and Hyde Street and march them to school. On 9th February 1943 a hit and run raid by an enemy aircraft lead to a bomb doing damage to the road junction just as Mrs Russell was meeting the children. She received a nasty cut from flying fragments but ensured her pupils were all safe. This was reported in the Hampshire Chronicle on 13th February 1943. Mrs Russell was featured in national press as “the teacher who had a miraculous escape”. After the war in 1949 Mrs Russell purchased more land to extend the site to its modern frontage of 200 feet.

When Mrs Russell retired in 1958 the school was purchased by the schools first headmaster, Lancelot Patrick Edward Whitfield BA Dip.Phys.Ed. He obtained his first degree from Birmingham University and a physical education qualification from Leeds. His first action on purchasing the school was to set up a kitchen to provide meals for the pupils. Patrick Whitfield’s son, Gordon once qualified and a 3 year period teaching joined the school and became headmaster in 1970. Unfortunately his father, still active in the school, died from a heart attack in February 1971 (Yates, 1997).

Gordon continued to run the school until July 2005 when it was decided that with a decreasing intake of pupils the school could not be cost effective. The final role was 130 but increasing costs lead to the decision to close and sell the site for development (url 29).

Release 1.0 last update 02/09/08

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