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artists projection of St. Cuthmans by Neil Holland Architects St. Cuthmans School
Tote Lane, Stedham
closed 31 August 2004

The former St Cuthmans School is located approximately 1.5 miles north of Stedham at the northern end of Tote Lane, which runs from Stedham Lane at the south end and becomes a bridleway at the north end just past the School.
Duchess of BedfordshireThe School was based in Wispers, a Norman Shaw-designed, Grade II listed, former large country house. Built in 1876 on the edge of an escarpment, overlooking Oakham Common, for Alexander Scrimgeour, when it was called Wispers, after the name of the woodland that lies behind it.
In 1928 Wispers and its estate was bought by the Bedford Estate for the Duchess of Bedfordshire, Dame Mary Russell, the wife of Herbrand Russell, who used it as a weekend retreat and added an eastern wing in the 1930's. She was known as the Flying Duchess because she would fly to the house - a large building to the east of the property was constructed as a hangar in 1929.
At the age of 71, the Duchess mysteriously disappeared on 22nd March 1937, whilst on a short flight from Woburn to Cambridge. Even though extensive searches were made for her throughout the country, she, nor her plane, was ever found, but wooden wing-struts were later washed ashore at Yarmouth.
The house and complex became a school two years later in 1939.
Wispers secondary school, a girls boarding school, was on the site from 1947 to 1956.
St Cuthman's special needs school was established by West Sussex County Council from 1956 to August 2004.
St Cuthman's School had 71 pupils aged 7-16 in October 2002.
On closure there were 54 pupils attending.

In addition to the main house, the complex includes two traditional 19th century cottages to the east of the main building.
On the other side of Tote Lane is Tote House, which dates possibly in part from the 16thC. and the rest from the 18thC., a timber-clad barn opposite and a pair of 1960's-70's semi-detached dwellings to the east of the barn. A public footpath runs along the lane to these properties.
Over the years a number of buildings and other structures had been built and were incorporated into the new school. The former aircraft hangar was subsequently converted into a gymnasium. A swimming pool and an extensive two-storey classroom block were built. Plus there was a brick and tile workshop building.

Wispers School - postcard c.1944-49 - click image to enlarge

One set of proposals for the school after closure were to -
Convert Wispers into seven units and provide garaging for five cars
Extend the two traditional cottages and provide two single garages with garden rooms over
Replace the Coach House with a new dwelling and garaging
Convert the workshop into groom's accommodation for the ancillary use of the Coach House, with new stable building.
Extend Tote House along with a combined double garage and stable building
Convert the barn to a dwelling and the provision of a single garage
Replace the two modern semi-detached dwellings with a single house with garage and stable
Demolish the later school and other buildings, including the hanger-gymnasium
Reinstate the original drive to Wispers

artists projection of St. Cuthmans by Neil Holland Architects
Artists projection of St. Cuthmans by Neil Holland Architects


eMail received June 2013
From Alison Dubois [formally known as Melissa Jones] - Starting year 1993/1994 - Leaving year was 1999
....Was reading the info from you and it brought back some fond memories. I enclose a picture of the Wisper building and of the school swimming pool and of a few friends on the farm with some of the animals we raised there.
I would love to see a lot more pictures of St. Cuthman's from years ago....
Kind Regards
Alison Dubois

St Cuthmans
St Cuthmans
St Cuthmans


eMail received April 2013
From Jeremy Forbes
Fond memories
Lovely to see the article about St Cuthman's online.
In the early sixties while still at school I lived in Madehurst, near Arundel in West Sussex, and had a part-time job with the Hon Mrs Vernon-Barren.
She rented and farmed land at St Cuthmans and I often used to go there. Amongst other things she bred Dartmoor ponies.
A wonderfully eccentric old lady, I had the joyful experience of working in a time-warp.
Everything was done in the, I think, Victorian or possibly Edwardian way; haymaking using horses etc. No chemicals under any circumstances.
Her secretary and general do everything was a Miss Rhoda Thicknesse, who eventually went to work for the BBC.
Thank you for re-kindling such fond memories.
Jerry Forbes.

The Durand Academy in Stockwell, South London, plans to open a boarding school on the site of the old St Cuthmans School.
Although some are in favour, many local residents are bitterly opposed to the plans....
St Cuthman's School had 71 pupils age 7-16 in October 2002 - the school closed in 2004.
Durand intends to bus in 600 pupils to the site.

Read pamphlet delivered to households in the area - June 2013.
Durand Academy
Durand public exhibition, Stedham Memorial Hall.
Labour wades into race row over multiracial West Sussex academy Apr.2013
Tory councillor resigns after remarks on London pupils nationalities
Campaigners fighting Stedham school scheme April 2013
WSCC objections 21 May 2013
Woolbeding with Redford Parish Council objections
letter of objection - Woolbeding with Redford Parish Council
Plans for boarding school rejected - Dec.2013
Kate Hearle, for one, is determined to defend her village. She supports the idea of a school for inner-city pupils but argues it should be much smaller. "This is a bold educational experiment and a very high-risk strategy. To try to experiment on this scale in a national park is just irresponsible. This is the right school in the wrong place."
April 2013
Row as Tory town says: We don't want your inner-city pupils here
Unless there's an exceptional level of discipline, the fears of the villagers will be realized
Education Secretary Michael Gove last night stepped into a bitter row raging over an inner-city school's plan to open its own boarding school in an affluent rural area.
The top-performing Durand Academy in Stockwell, near Brixton, South London, wants to transport 600 youngsters to a site with stunning views over the South Downs every Monday morning for lessons and bring them back on Friday evenings, free of charge. It says the scheme will provide them with 'an Eton-style experience' and help keep pupils safe from drugs and knife crime.
But the plan has been fiercely criticised by people living near the site - a disused boarding school in the quiet village of Stedham, West more"
Durand Academy pamphlet 2013
school coach squeezes down lane - Linch 2013
school coach squeezes down lane - 2013
Derelict school - 2013
Derelictplaces St Cuthmans Stedham - 2013

      Boarding school plans rejected - Dec.2013
      Boarding school Closes - 4 August 2017
If you have anything to add to this page or photographs of the school, please email us.
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    last page edit Oct.2020
    previous edit Apr.2018
    .1st page edit Mar.2009

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