‘Pervincet Vivida Virtus’ – ‘All can be achieved by hard work’
The building now known as Copthorne Preparatory School was originally built as a private dwelling called Emsworth House, and was owned by the Kensington Family. It became a girls’ school for a short time, and was then founded by Bernard H. Rendall in 1902 as a boys’ school. He was the brother of the then Headmaster of Winchester College, and the school was originally designed as a feeder school for Winchester.
Mr Rendall’s brother-in-law was Dr Edward Wilson, who died in 1913, at the South Pole, whilst on Captain Scott’s fateful expedition. A stained glass window in the school Chapel commemorates the event. Dr Wilson had used the school in preparation for his trip, and the boys had donated funds to provide huskies.
In 1928, Mr Edward Skeete Workman took over the running of the school in partnership with Mr JP Howard. Mr Tim Workman took over as Headmaster in 1952 on the death of his father, and was later joined as joint Headmaster by Mr David Sale. Thereafter Mr Sale was joint Headmaster with Mr David Cann and then with Mr David Newton. On Mr Sale’s death in 1984, Mr Newton was the sole Headmaster until his retirement in 1999, who was followed for a six year tenure by Charles Allen. The present Headmaster, Chris Jones, started at the school in September 2005.
During World War II, the school was evacuated to the Lee Bay Hotel in Ilfracombe. The school building was requisitioned for use by Army (the Buffs had it for six weeks) and then by the RAF.
In 1976 the school was formed into a charitable trust, and in 1980 girls were admitted for the first time. The Pre-Prep was started in the late 1970′s, and the Coach House Nursery was opened in 1997. The school is now predominantly a day school, although some children take advantage of the weekly and flexi-boarding opportunities offered by the school.
Amongst the alumni who have been at Copthorne are:
- Robert Graves Poet, novelist, critic, author of ‘I, Claudius’ and ‘Goodbye to all that’.
- Charles Graves, His brother, also an author.
- Dennis Price, Actor
- Frederick Raphael, Author
- Sir John Stanley, MP for Tonbridge and Malling
- Crispian Steele-Perkins, Trumpeter
- Rory Knight-Bruce Author, Journalist
- Francis Wheen, Journalist
- Stuart Head, Great Britain and England hockey international
- Sarah Kennedy, TV presenter (who was matron at the school for a time)
- Ed Saunders, Actor (Sweeney Todd)