In July 1896, the Sussex and London press reported the story of a visit that summer to Warnham Lodge by 600 Christ’s Hospital boys, staff and beadles from London. This may have appeared a little odd at the time as the school had not moved to Horsham, nor had it even been built.
In fact it was six years prior to its move. However, Harry Harben, owner of Warnham Lodge, paid for the entire school to journey from the City for a cricket match at Warnham Lodge at his private cricket ground.
It was reported as being a beautiful day and it could have been Mr Harben’s attempt to help familiarise the boys with what was to be their new home in the countryside of Sussex. Christ’s Hospital girls at that time were educated at a school in Hertford and didn’t join the boys at the school in Horsham until much later in 1985 when the Hertford premises closed.
The journey began from London Bridge Station – the school was then situated in Newgate Street in the City of London where it was originally founded. A special train carried 525 boys and 50 adults, including the headmaster, Rev Richard Lee, to Warnham Station. The party was met by a number of vehicles “of all colours, shapes and sizes, drawn from Horsham, Reigate, Dorking and places from some distance around” to transport them to the Lodge which was a mile from the station.
The first part of the school’s outing was a cricket match between 11 boys from Christ’s Hospital and 11 arranged by Mr Harben. The team from Christ’s Hospital won by 100 runs to 80 on the first innings.
Lunch was served in a large marque provided by Mr Harben and the group were then photographed by local photographer Mrs Aubrey, of West Street, Horsham.
During the afternoon, the pupils were able to explore the countryside around the Lodge and were also entertained by a ventriloquist and conjuror with his assistant ‘thought-reader’ and a Punch and Judy show. In the meantime, staff were taken to see the new site for the school.
The visitors left Warnham Lodge just before 6pm to catch the train back to London Bridge. But just before, the boys were called together and “at a given signal, most enthusiastically cheered the name of Mr Harben and his family”.
Henry Harben was a governor of Christ’s Hospital from 1887 and an Almoner from 1893. He was the first President of the Prudential Assurance Company and he was knighted in 1897.
The school moved out of the City to its purpose-built campus near Horsham in 1902.
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