History of Aldro

Aldro Celebrated  75 Years in Shackleford 1940-2015

In 2015 Aldro celebrated 75 years since the school moved from its original home in Eastbourne to Shackleford.  To commemorate we produced a book written by Nick Swan and Lizzie Geffen.  Nick was the Head of History at Aldro for over 30 years and is the school archivist having maintained and developed the Aldro museum in the Cyder Press. 

Lizzie Geffen is married to an OA, James (1970-75) and is the mother of Freddie and Tom who were both at Aldro at the time of writing.   The foreword was written by Robert Stovold, the President of The Old Aldronian Association.  He was also one of the first boys to join the school at its new home in Shackleford in 1940.

Copies of Aldro 75 Years in Shackleford are available from the School Secretary at Aldro and cost £20.

History of Aldro

In 1877 a small prep school started in Eastbourne East Sussex which in time would develop into St Andrews School. In 1890 it was sold to a clergyman called Edwin Leece Browne or “ELB” for short. The school flourished and by the mid-1890s it was bursting at the seams.

“ELB” (whose portrait hangs over the fireplace in the drawing room at Aldro) decided to get his younger brother Harold to start up an annexe which Harold decided to name “Aldro” after a farm in Yorkshire that he regularly visited. The name simply means alder row or row of alder trees.

In September of 1898 Aldro moved over the road to what is still known as Aldro House in Darley Road, Eastbourne. Today it is a part of the University of Brighton.

Aldro began with just 36 boys who paid 100 guineas a year in fees and from the start they adopted the Browne family crest with its motto of “Suivez Raison” (follow the right).

The Rev Harold Browne was a remarkable man and under his leadership the school appears to have been a happy place. All the boys were boarders and they came from all over the country with very few coming from Sussex.

The First World War was to cost 37 old boys their lives and this terrible loss is remembered each year on a school trip to the battlefields of the Western Front as well as in the school chapel on Remembrance Day.

By the late summer of 1922 Rev Harold Browne was becoming ill and he died on 13th September 1922. His brother Charles took over briefly for two terms, but by the summer of 1923 it was decided to sell the school.  The new Headmaster was Frederick Hill who had been wounded at Gallipoli in the First World War and, when the war ended, made the decision to go into education.

Frederick Hill and his wife Audrey dramatically changed the school. Houses were introduced called “Squads”, because the boys would do a few minutes military drill each day. They were named after the countries of the Empire and it was not until 1978 that drill ceased to be part of the school day.

New sports like rugby and hockey were introduced, as was boxing, which again continued until the late 1970s.

The years of the Depression from 1929 were hard times and at one point numbers fell to just 33. Frederick and Audrey worked tirelessly and they were fortunate that such a loyal staff stayed with them.

1939 saw the start of the Second World War and by the summer of 1940 Britain was facing the threat of invasion with the Battle of Britain raging in the skies above Kent and Sussex.

All schools had to evacuate from Eastbourne and by pure good fortune Hall Place in Shackleford became available in 1940. The owner, Sir Edgar Horne, had recently lost his wife and he wished to sell the property. After his death in 1941 the school would purchase Hall Place for £10,000 in 1942.

Life in wartime Shackleford was not easy with the playing fields being used to grow hay, and often the boys helped on local farms alongside the Italian POW’s from the camp, at what is now Rose Cottage.

World War II cost 20 Old Aldronians their lives and so in 1949 the barn was converted into the “War Memorial Chapel” as a permanent memorial to all those who had made the supreme sacrifice.  As Britain slowly recovered from the war so Aldro began to grow, but the years of strain had taken their toll on Frederick Hill and on 28th October 1952 he died. His elder son Crispin had been teaching at Winchester after war service in the Navy, and he took over the role of Headmaster.

Crispin was a gifted teacher and under his leadership the school grew to 140 boys by the time he retired in 1984. Education to Crispin was not just something that happened in the classroom and he loved practical tasks such as building bridges over the lake with the boys on a Sunday. He was also ahead of many other educational thinkers when it came to special needs teaching, and after his retirement in 1984 he was to set up “Skillway” in Godalming to help young people who had problems with main stream education.

The first dayboys started during the war and by the time Crispin retired there were far more dayboys than boarders, with the vast majority of pupils coming from a 15 mile radius of the school.

From 1954 to 1964 Aldro had its own pre-prep department in the old Italian POW camp buildings on the site of Rose Cottage, but after the teacher in charge became ill in 1963 it was decided to close it and the land was sold for development.

Crispin Hill retired in July 1984 and Aldro had its fourth Headmaster, Ian Argyle. Ian and Jo Argyle set about transforming the school. They worked very hard to promote the school in the local area and new money made it possible to set about some ambitious building projects, the first of which being the swimming pool, resulting in the boys no longer having to swim in the lake, although the school still uses the lake for rowing. A new multi-purpose hall named after Crispin Hill was opened in 1987, new DT and Science departments followed as well as an Art room. For the centenary of the school in 1998 a whole new teaching block with changing rooms for sport was constructed and Aldro became a thoroughly modern school.

In the summer of 2001, after 17 years, Ian and Jo Argyle retired, and the reins were handed over to David and Sue Aston. They spent the next fourteen years filling the school and building a legacy of academic scholarship and all-round excellence. The school has also seen considerable success through chess, shooting and huge numbers of model railway enthusiasts. Their passion for music and the performing arts has seen record numbers of boys taking part in concerts, performances and music lessons. Development pace didn't slow down much, and the school was delighted to welcome the Earl of Wessex to open the new Aston Sports Centre in June 2015, just before David and Sue's retirement.  The summer of 2015 saw the handover from the Astons to James and Jenny Hanson. James stepped down as Headmaster on health grounds in 2018 and following a year when Chris Rose, Deputy Head for over ten years, ably served as Acting Headmaster. Chris Carlier was appointed Aldro's new Headmaster from September 2019.

The War Memorial Chapel

The chapel was originally built as a barn around 1806 when Lord Midleton of Peperharow bought this estate. You can still see where the great doors were on either side of the building; one side is now the organ loft but the curved beam that once was over the doors on the other side is clearly visible. These doors allowed air flow through so that men threshing grain in the main part of the barn could have the chaff blown away and so they would only be left with the ears of wheat which could then be swept up and put into sacks.

When Sir Edgar Horne took over Hall Place in 1894 he used the barn as his garage. In 1940 Aldro relocated to its present site and the barn was still used as a garage until 1949 when it was turned into "The War Memorial Chapel". Bishop Reindorp (Bishop of Guildford) took the service when it was dedicated to the fifty-seven Aldro boys who gave their lives in both World War I and World War II.

Frederick Earnest Hill (FEH) bequeathed an organ which still remains in the chapel and dates from 1785 and many of the pews in the Chapel were given by Old Aldronians.  

The War Memorial Chapel is where the Aldro community gathers together for a daily act of worship, providing the school with a meeting place and a start to the working day. Our simple act of worship always includes a hymn, reading and prayer, as well as a homily, offering a thought for the day applicable to the whole community.

As a school we are very proud of our strong choral tradition and our chapel choir adds a different spiritual dimension to our worship. We welcome visiting preachers at these services many of whom are drawn from senior public schools. Pupils take an active part in all our services.