School History
York House

School History

York House

Dress up day at York House, when the school first moved to this site

Hampstead to Hertfordshire

York House School was founded in September 1910 by Rev. Cambridge Victor Hawkins (known respectfully and affectionately as “the Owl” – because of his wisdom and not his appearance!) at 98 Broadhurst Gardens, Hampstead. He either came from or had lived in, Wimbledon and that proximity to the Wimbledon Tennis Club is apparently the reason for the school colours. The school crest – the crossed keys of St Peter – may reflect time spent in York or simply his calling.

The school was housed in what was “an ordinary semi-detached suburban house with a back garden converted into a hard playground. Behind the rear garden fence ran the Great Central railway track from Marylebone Station and beyond that the Metropolitan Railway. Swimming (in the summer) and gymnastics (in the winter) lessons took place at the Hampstead Baths in Finchley Road.

In about 1928 the school moved to 1 Crediton Hill in Hampstead. Soon another move occurred, to 1, Lymington Road. By 1937 the school was at 26, Maresfield Gardens, in Hampstead NW3. At this time Rev. Hawkins either became unwell or tired of the venture and sold York House – the school but not the building – to Mr Arnold George Francis White. As war clouds gathered on September 28th 1938, following “a fierce speech from Hitler”, Mr White wrote to his wife of his concerns about the possible need to arrange evacuation: “parents began to be alarmed at the prospect of staying in London. However salvation was at hand: “an Old Boy came to drive us anywhere we wanted to go – most extraordinarily decent of him!”Mr White was able to rent “Cremore” at 10, Cedars Avenue. At this time – when Mr White was on night duty three nights a week as an Air Raid Warden – his diary records that on 5th January 1941, “nearest so far, a bomb fell near Batchworth Lake, 300-400 yards from the school” and a bomb, “thrown overboard by a bomber fleeing London”, fell on a house at the far end of the road. In early 1942 a Miss Hennings decided to sell up and move further away from the bombs so Mr White acquired her Meadow Way School and all its boys (and a few girls), paying £150 for the goodwill.

Money Hill House was about a mile from the centre of town, standing back a little from the road from Uxbridge to Denham. This building was said “to have been originally a Dower House and Cardinal Wolsey himself had slept in it” – although mainly Georgian, built-in 1722, with a fine façade, it had “an attractive Elizabethan hall and fireplace and a good Jacobean staircase”. Several eminent townspeople had previously lived there: William Plaistowe, “a partner in the Rickmansworth Bank which failed in 1826"; then Thomas Fellows, “its attorney, brought up a family ... trained in law and high-class cricket”; Hon. Reginald Capel, son of the Earl of Essex and Director of the Great Northern Railway; Thomas Andrews, designer of the “Titanic” who went down with it in 1912.

Coincidentally Lord Ebury is also thought to have owned it late in the 19th century. Numbers rose steadily and Autumn term 1945 saw 123 boys. The decision to remain in Rickmansworth after the war and not to return to Hampstead was clearly the right one, the school was duly “recognised as efficient by the Board of Education” and began to compete increasingly successfully for local scholarships. Almost at once Mr Archdale was faced with serious problems with the fabric of the school building, not least of all the roof. Finally Money Hill House – “the clustered building - about the Tudor Hall with its Queen Anne façade and the gracious gardens beyond” – was sold for £70,500 and Redheath, with 48 acres, was purchased for £45,000, the owner, Lord Poole, wishing to make a quick sale!

More Recent Times

During the building works in 2001 a large rectangular pit (27ft x 11ft) was discovered. It was lined with “semi-engineering bricks (waterproof)” with a concrete floor laid on brick rubble and a reinforced concrete roof entered by an unusually large manhole cover. It was clean and not smelly so cannot have been a soakaway. At the time various theories were put forward. It was felt to be too well constructed to be a holding water cistern for the kitchen garden or to be a cold store. It was thought possible that it might be an English Resistance bunker – we were told that Anthony Quayle, the actor, was a Major in the Royal Artillery and that he and his team had the job of going around the country setting up these bunkers (containing stores of ammunition etc.) in case of German invasion. The more recent discovery of the 1937 sale brochure seems to indicate it may have been a store for fruit and vegetables. It is now under the Pre-Prep building, so we shall probably never know. 

History of Headmasters

Rev. C. Hawkins:1910-1937
G. F. White (MAOxon):1937-1963
A. J. Archdale (MA): 1963-1984
R. R. Steele (BSc):1984-1990
P. B. Moore (BA):1990-2005
P. MacDougall (BED):2005-2012
J. Gray (BAHons, PGCE):2012-Present