Trisha Shetty (Editor)

West Downs School

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West Downs School, Romsey Road, Winchester, Hampshire, was an English independent preparatory school, which was established in 1897 and closed in 1988.



The school was founded by Lionel Helbert (1870–1919), with help from his sister Adeline Rose, wife to Vice Admiral Sir James Goodrich, KCVO (1851–1925). Helbert an exhibitioner of both Winchester and Oriel College, Oxford, was for over four years a House of Commons clerk. The Helberts were supported by Hampshire's Lord Northbrook (who had also helped found the predecessor school), and by their kinsman Lord Rothschild.

Helbert, who described himself as Principal, was influenced by the Miss Mason system, as seen at her House of Education, Ambleside (akin to the P.N.E.U.), and things like the Montessori method, the ideas of Edmond Holmes, and the Little Commonwealth for young delinquents developed by Homer Lane on the lines of the George Junior Republic in America, basically as put by Norman Mac Munn, who taught at West Downs 1914-18, they were interested in the: emancipation of the child.


Its buildings had been purpose-built for Winchester Modern School to designs by the architect Thomas Stopher on a good site on the south-western edge of the cathedral city of Winchester, nearly opposite a Victorian county gaol, HMP Winchester (category B), and next to Edwin Hillier's nursery, established there in 1874.


On Helbert's death there was an hiatus under Dorset landowner William Brymer, and Lady Goodrich then passed the school to Kenneth Tindall, a Sherborne housemaster.

During the Second World War the school was evacuated first to Glenapp Castle and then more significantly to Blair Castle. At the end of the war it returned to Winchester.

In 1953 the school was bought by Jerry Cornes, who was headmaster until 1988.

Move to co-education

For most of its history West Downs was a boarding school for boys aged between eight and thirteen, but in 1970 it admitted its first girl, and from 1975 to 1988 it was co-educational (though curiously the school's founding intake in 1897 of four comprised two girls).

Closing and repurposing

West Downs was a rigorous and enlightened place which prepared its pupils admirably for a variety of schools (including Winchester and Eton) and also for life in general. It lasted ninety-one years and about three headmasters, closing in 1988 (Read more).

The school's site has lived on as The West Downs Conference and Performing Arts Centre, which was opened by Lord Puttnam in May 2001, and then from 2005 as part of the University of Winchester; and from 2009 as the university's own Winchester Business School.

Helbert family

Lionel Helbert Helbert was sixth or seventh child of Captain Frederic John Helbert Helbert (1829-), 5th Madras Light Cavalry and military correspondent to the Times during the 1877 Turco-Russian war, the fifth son of John Helbert Israel (by Adelaide (Adeline) Cohen), second son of Israel Israel. In 1848 the grandfather John Helbert (1785–1861), with his nephew John Wagg (1793–1878), had formed broking firm Helbert, Wagg & Co. (bought by Schroders 1962). They were the Rothschild's principal broker. Meanwhile, Helbert's mother was Sarah Magdalene 'Lena' (1837–1874) daughter of Richard Lane (1794–1870) (Plymouth Brother and descendant of Jane Lane) by Sarah Pink Tracey (of Liskeard). One of Helbert's Lane uncles was a Major-general in the Bengal Army and another, a shipping agent with Lane, Hickey & Company (bust by 1865), was English Secretary to the Japanese Legation in London and a Knight Commander of the Orders of the Rising Sun of Japan, Christ of Portugal, and Isabella the Catholic of Spain.

His aunt (click here to see a portrait of her by Fedrico de Madrazo y Kuntz, now in the Musée Bonnat, Bayonne) Adeline (1825–1892) was wife to Baron de Weissweiller of Madrid. Another was married to a Duke de Laurito (d.1907). His Cohen great-aunts, who were also his cousins, had married Nathan Mayer Rothschild and Moses Montefiore. A great-uncle Samuel Helbert Israel Ellis was a surgeon at the London Hospital c.1802 and treasurer of the Great Synagogue, Duke's Place, London. Samuel's son was Sir Barrow Helbert Ellis, K.C.S.I., HEICS (1823–1887), (see ODNB). Meanwhile, Helbert's brother Charles Helbert Helbert (d.1903) married Evelyn Mary Kennedy, granddaughter of Earl of Cassillis and Viscount Dungarvan and great-granddaughter of Earl of Howth.

(source: Records of the Franklin Family and Collaterals, compiled by Arthur Ellis Franklin, private circulation, George Routledge & sons, London, 1915., & this photo album).

Some alumni

About 2,100 pupils passed through West Downs, including the following:
  • Sir Robert Abercromby, 9th Bt.;
  • Derek Allhusen;
  • John Amery, activist and member of the British Free Corps. Executed 19 December 1945, aged 33;
  • Randal John Somerled McDonnell, 8th Earl of Antrim, and his brother hon. James, MBE;
  • Lord Ashley, father of Earl of Shaftesbury;
  • David Astor, CH (newspaper proprietor & editor of The Observer);
  • William Astor, 3rd Viscount Astor (peer);
  • 3rd Earl of Balfour;
  • Simon, Denzil, Giles (cricketer), Aubrey, & Esmond Baring, grandsons of 4th Lord Ashburton;
  • Sir Malcolm Barclay-Harvey (Governor of South Australia);
  • Sir Randle Baker-Wilbraham, 7th Bt;
  • Colonel H.C.C. Batten, DSO (despatches five times);
  • 8th Earl Beauchamp (politician) & his brother Hugh Patrick Lygon (one of the inspirations for Evelyn Waugh's Sebastian Flyte);
  • Sir Alexander Maitland Sharp Bethune, 10th & last Baronet;
  • Lt. Colonel Patrick J. S. Boyle, grandson of 7th Earl of Glasgow, killed Anzio 1944;
  • Sir Frederick Boy Browning (Lieutenant-General and husband of Daphne du Maurier);
  • Major-Gen. M.J.H. Bruce, CBE, (Dir. Mechanical Maintenance, War Office 1940-42, & Dir. Fighting Vehicle Inspection, Min. of Supply 1942-1944);
  • Brigadier James Bruxner-Randall, (African Theatre of World War I, in French West Africa to the north of the Northern Nigeria Frontier, operations by the Sokoto and Katsena Columns were under the command of Captain J. G. Bruxner-Randall and Lt. Colonel R. G. Coles, respectively, between midnight 4/5 January 1917 and midnight 15/16 May 1917) & at 81 granted a divorce;
  • Gerard Bucknall (Lieutenant-General);
  • William Simon Campion, of Danny, Sussex;
  • 7th & 8th Earls of Chichester;
  • Hon. Sir Gerald Chichester, KCVO, & his brother Richard (killed 1915, Serbia), sons of 3rd Lord Templemore;
  • Richard Hugh Cholmondeley, editor The Heber Letters, 1783-1832, London, 1950;
  • Peter Colefax, son of Sibyl and Arthur Colefax;
  • Lt. General Sir George Collingwood, KBE, CB, DSO; & his brother Sir Edward Foyle Collingwood FRS, DL, CBE;
  • Lt. Commander Trevenen Penrose Coode, of 818 Naval Air Squadron, helped sink the Bismarck;
  • Major Henry Augustus (recte Dom. Joseph) Coombe Tennant, son of Winifred Coombe Tennant by Earl of Balfour (as alleged by Archie Roy);
  • Lt. Col. Sir John Crompton-Inglefield, of Parwich, high sheriff, 1938, son of an admiral, & grandson of Edward Augustus Inglefield;
  • Sir Michael Culme-Seymour 5th Bt. Obituary
  • Major-General Sir David Dawnay, KCVO; & his brother Vice-Admiral Sir Peter Dawnay, KCVO; (grandsons of 8th Viscount Downe & 5th Marquess of Waterford);
  • Lt. Col. Christopher Dawnay, MVO (of Lazard Bros., Dalgety, & Guardian Assurance);
  • Air Commodore Desmond H. de Burgh, AFC, (killed 1943), 1st cousin twice removed of Chris de Burgh (their ancestors came from Oldtown, County Kildare);
  • M. A. Denton-Thompson, consul-general, São Paulo, 1944–45;
  • 3rd Lord De Ramsey;
  • Michael d'Oyly Carte (killed in a car accident, Switzerland 1932). Son of Rupert D'Oyly Carte;
  • Vice Admiral Sir Edmund Malcolm Evans-Lombe, KCB, commanded HMS Glasgow, 1942–43;
  • 4th Lord Farrer;
  • 12th Earl Ferrers, & his brother hon. Andrew Shirley, keeper of Fine Art (Ashmolean), biographer of Constable, & author The Lion and the Lily, 1956;
  • Sir Francis Festing (Field Marshal);
  • Sir Fordham Flower, brewer and ' extraordinary maverick chairman of Stratford ' (as described by Sir Peter Hall);
  • Sir Edward Ford (courtier);
  • Richard Fort, MP;
  • Ivor Geikie-Cobb, (MD, MRCS, LRCP, FRSL, physician & author);
  • 2nd Lord Glenconner (father of Emma Tennant), & his brothers Lt. the Hon.Bim Edward Wyndham Tennant (killed in action, World War I war poet), see monumental inscription to him in Salisbury Cathedral designed by Allan G. Wyon, & Stephen Tennant, nephews of Margot Asquith;
  • Anthony Henniker-Gotley (1887 - 1972), a rugby union international who represented England from 1910 to 1911 and captained the national side.
  • 2nd & last Viscount Harcourt;
  • 2nd Lord Hazlerigg (cricketer);
  • Michael Hesketh-Prichard, son of Hesketh Hesketh-Prichard, & grandson of 3rd Earl of Verulam (thus 1st cousin of 5th & 6th earls, see below);
  • Admiral Sir Deric Holland-Martin, husband to Dame Rosamund, & his brother Christopher Holland-Martin;
  • 6th Viscount Hood;
  • 2nd & last Lord Horder. Mervyn Horder;
  • 7th Lord Hotham;
  • Lord Hyde, killed shooting 1935, son of George Villiers, 6th Earl of Clarendon;
  • Sir Richard Keane, 6th Bt., of Cappoquin, born in 1909 (still alive, March 2010). Read more;
  • 7th Lord Kensington and his brothers hons. Hugh (father of 8th Lord K.), David & Michael Edwardes (adjutant of the Tower Hamlet Rifles c1942);
  • 3rd Lord Kinross;
  • Antony Bulwer-Lytton, Viscount Knebworth (politician);
  • Lt. Col. Harold Boscawen Leveson-Gower, 1st cousin of Lord Sherfield, & descended from youngest son of 1st Earl Gower who married daughter of Edward Boscawen;
  • Robert Linzee, CB, son-in-law of 1st Viscount Craigavon;
  • Malcolm, 1st Lord McCorquodale (politician);
  • Henry Wyndham Stanley Monck, 6th Viscount Monck;
  • Victor Montagu (disclaimed the Earldom of Sandwich & politician) & his brother Hon. William Drogo Sturges Montagu, RAF flying officer (no. 91111), died on Friday 26th Jan 1940;
  • Henry James Montagu Stuart Wortley, of BOAC, nephew of 2nd Earl of Wharncliffe & grandson of 1st Lord St Oswald;
  • Sir Oswald Mosley, 6th Bt, Ancoats. (Politician, MP for Harrow 1918-24, Smethwick 1926-31, Chancellor of the Dutch of Lancaster 1929-30, know principally as the founder of the British Union of Fascists);
  • 2nd & 3rd Lords Mottistone;
  • Major-General Sir John Nelson, KCVO, sometime Major-General commanding the Household Division;
  • 5th Earl of Normanton;
  • Simon Nowell-Smith, sometime London Library librarian. Read an obituary;
  • 3rd Lord Lord O'Neill (killed 1944), & his brother Hon. Brian, killed 1940;
  • Sir Walter Frederic Pretyman, KBE, of Campos, Brazil, emigrated there 1924. Son of Ernest Pretyman;
  • Sir John Pigott-Brown, 2nd Bt. (killed in action, 1942);
  • Sir Hugh (Hubert) Charles Rhys Rankin, 3rd Bt. (a (soi dissant) ' blood-red militant Communist ');
  • John Rankin Rathbone (politician and RAFVF World War II fighter pilot, killed in action);
  • 5th Lord Rayleigh & his brother hon. Charles Strutt;
  • Sir Richard Rees 2nd & last Bt.;
  • Major Francis Howe Richards, DSO (despatches & wounded four times World War I);
  • 7th Earl of Romney;
  • Lord Duncan-Sandys, CH (politician);
  • Christopher Soames, Baron Soames;
  • Sir Peter Scott, CH, FRS (naturalist);
  • Sir David Scott Fox, KCMG, civil servant, briefly thought to KGB Agent Scott, Arthur Wynn;
  • 7th & last Earl of Sefton, & his brother Hon. Cecil Molyneux, RN (killed at Jutland);;
  • Sir Roger Makins, Lord Sherfield, FRS (diplomat);
  • 2nd Viscount Simon;
  • Peter Smith-Dorrien, son of General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien & killed by Zionists at the King David Hotel bombing 1946, & his brother Gerald (killed 1944) & their 1st cousins-once-removed Algernon R. A. (killed 1942) & Thomas Mervyn Smith-Dorrien-Smith of Tresco, Isles of Scilly, the mother of his children was Russo-Georgian H.S.H Princess Tamara Imeretinsky. (Tresco thanks to Augustus Smith); five Dorrien-Smiths were killed 1940-46;
  • Sir Rupert Speir (politician)
  • Ernest John Spooner (admiral);
  • 8th Earl of Tankerville (then styled Viscount Ossulston);
  • 7th Marquess of Waterford;
  • 5th & 6th Earls of Verulam;
  • Sanders Watney, of Watney Combe Reid, in 1934 he said: I am not convinced that there would be any demand in this country for beer in cans. I cannot conceive the idea of a can ever replacing the half pint, pint or quart bottle. The canning habit is certainly growing, but I do not think it will spread to drinks.;
  • Col. John Francis Williams Wynne, CBE, DSO, JP, of Peniarth, Tywyn;
  • 14th Earl of Winchilsea and his brother Denys Finch Hatton, depicted by Robert Redford in the film Out of Africa (1985);
  • Sir John Garmondsway Wrightson, 3rd Bt, (of Head Wrightson), (& his Cornes era brothers Peter, OBE, Commander Rodney & Judge Oliver Wrightson).
  • 5th Lord Aldenham & his elder brother Vicary (d.1944);
  • 3rd Viscount Allenby of Megiddo, (elected hereditary peer);
  • Rt. Rev. Keith Appleby Arnold, inaugural Bishop of Warwick;
  • Lt. General Sir Norman Arthur, Hon. Colonel Scottish Yeomanry;
  • Sir H. G. Beresford-Peirse, 6th Bt.;
  • 4th Lord Biddulph;
  • Sir Jack Boles, MBE, (director-general of National Trust, (read more);
  • Hugh Brigstocke, freelance writer & art historian; & Admiral Sir John Brigstocke, KCB, CBE, judicial appointments & conduct ombudsman;
  • John Browne-Swinburne, of Capheaton, read, & former Lycetts chairman;
  • Lt. Michael Vandeleur Christie-Miller, (killed 1944), (uncle-in-law of Sir Thomas Dunne, KG);
  • John Crichton-Stuart, 6th Marquess of Bute, KBE;
  • Thomas Probyn Cokayne, killed 1943, & grandson of George E. Cokayne (G.E.C.);
  • 4th Lord Cochrane of Cults;
  • Sir John Colville (Churchill's secretary)
  • Michael Colvin (politician);
  • Peter Brownell Cornwallis, RAFVR, killed 1945 on SOE Operation Crupper 37, Norway, son of Sir Kinahan Cornwallis;
  • Charles Cottrell-Dormer, of Rousham;
  • Simon Courtauld;
  • Jurat the Hon. John Coutanche, of Jersey, son of Lord Coutanche;
  • 4th & 5th Lords Crawshaw & their brother Hon. John Brooks;
  • Captain Oliver Dawnay, CVO, (courtier & father of head of United Agents);
  • Lt. Col. Charles Dawnay, son of Admiral Sir Peter D., & grandson of 9th Duke of Queensbury;
  • Richard Ulick Paget de Burgh, son of Air Commodore D.H. de Burgh, AFC;
  • Jeremy Delmar-Morgan, racing-driver & owner Mini Marcos;
  • Charles Drace-Francis, sometime UK High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea & described in Lord Ashcroft's Dirty politics Dirty times: My fight with Wapping and New Labour, MAA Publishing, 2005;
  • Sir Claude du Cros, 3rd Bt., grandson of Sir Arthur du Cros;
  • Anthony Duckworth-Chad;
  • 9th Viscount Falmouth (& 26th Baron le Despencer), & hon. brothers Robert, MC, (politician), Evelyn (killed 1943), & Henry Boscawen (AMICE);
  • Robin, 13th Earl Ferrers (statesman);
  • Sir Philip Frankland-Payne-Gallwey, 6th & last Bt.;
  • 3rd Lord Gainford & his brother hon. George Pease;
  • Wilfrid Grenville-Grey, sometime of Farnham Castle, brother-in-law (from 1974) of Thabo Mbeki & (from 1951) of 10th Duke of Richmond. His wife (from 1963) Edith Dlamini was Drum Magazine cover-girl;
  • Mark Hitchens, schoolmaster & author: The Inimitable P.G.Wodehouse, (2009), Oscar Wilde's Last Chance: The Dreyfus Connection (1999), Prime Ministers' Wives - and One Husband (2004), Wives of the Kings of England (2006), and a book on West Downs itself;
  • Daniel Hodson, Gresham Professor of Commerce 1999-2002. Of LIFFE & DACS. Son of Harry Hodson;
  • 7th Viscount Hood;
  • Peter Howell, photo, (actor);
  • Richard Ingrams, (editor of Private Eye) & Leonard Ingrams;
  • Wayland Young, 2nd Lord Kennet (politician);
  • Aswin Kongsiri, (Thailand based director & chairman);
  • H.E. Sawanit Kongsiri, Thai Deputy Foreign Minister, sometime Ambassador to Austria (& Hungary), IAEA, UNIDO, China, & Australia;
  • Visnu Kongsiri, leading figure in Thai book world & Major General in Royal Thai Armed Forces;
  • Sir Julian Loyd, KCVO, H.M. the Queen's land agent at Sandringham 1964-91;
  • Anthony McDermot (1942-2010), journalist, (his obituary in The Guardian);
  • 6th Lord Methuen, of Corsham;
  • Richard Walter Meynell, FCA, grandson of Ernest George Pretyman;
  • John Dru Montagu, (son of above hon. William Drogo Montagu, & step-grandson of Lord Beaverbrook);
  • Sir Jeremy Morse (Chancellor of University of Bristol, Chairman of Lloyds Bank)
  • Lt.-Gen. Sir Anthony Mullens, KCB, Times obit.;
  • Hon. James Ogilvy, third son of 12th Earl of Airlie;
  • Terence O'Neill, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, (statesman, fourth Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, 1963–69), son of Arthur O'Neill & brother of Shane, 3rd Lord O'Neill (see above);
  • Angus Pelham Burn;
  • Jeremy Hew Philipps, of Picton, chairman Laurence Philipps Holdings, father of Nicky Philipps, & grandson of 1st Lord Milford;
  • Nicholas Ridley, Baron Ridley of Liddesdale, Lord Ridley of Liddesdale, Conservative (politician)
  • William Walter Robert Graham Scarth, killed accidentally 14 August 1948, son of an Heritable Bailie of Breckness, Skaill House, Stromness, & Hall of Sand, Shetland;
  • William Reresby Sitwell, of Barmoor Castle, FRGS, commanded HMS Flint Castle 1943-45, married Joan Castle, & his brother S. T. Sitwell, who married ex-wife of 2nd Lord Selsdon;
  • Christopher, Lord Soames, CH (statesman);
  • Sir James Spooner, kt., chairman Coats Viyella, director Morgan Crucible, chairman Prince's Trust;
  • Admiral Sir William Stavely (First Sea Lord);
  • Sir Michael Straker, chairman Northumbrian Water. A cafe in the Sage Gateshead is named after him;
  • Sir Charles Tidbury, chairman of Whitbread and IRA target. Read more;
  • Major Rob Tillard, author: Ski Story, The Decline and Renaissance of The Ski Club of Great Britain, Rob Tillard Ski Guides, 2000;
  • Sir Anthony Roger Duncan Twysden, 11th Bt.;
  • 2nd Viscount Ullswater (elected hereditary peer & courtier);
  • Major-General Charles Vyvyan, CB, CBE, Gentleman Usher of the Scarlet Rod;
  • Dr. Giles Warrack, Associate Professor, Mathematics Department, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University;
  • Frank Willan, Royal Air Force officer and politician;
  • Peter Wilmot-Sitwell, inventor of the city dawn-raid & father of Alex Wilmot-Sitwell, (more:);
  • 2nd & last Lord Wilson;
  • John K. Wingfield Digby, of Sherborne Castle & son of Simon Wingfield Digby;
  • Harold Lindsay Cathcart Woolley, RAFV, killed 1942, son of Geoffrey Harold Woolley;
  • Richard Addis (journalist and former Anglican monk);
  • 6th Lord Aldenham;
  • Khalid Alireza (at the school from 1960);
  • Major General Benjamin J. Bathurst CBE Late Welsh Guards, son of Admiral of the Fleet Sir David Bathurst;
  • Arthur, Nicholas, Charles & Vere Boscawen, sons of 9th Viscount Falmouth;
  • Philip Colfox, grandson of Victor Crutchley, & son of Sir John Colfox, 2nd Bt., of Symondsbury, Dorset;
  • Harry Cory Wright, Photographer;
  • Guy Dawnay, son of Lt. Col. Christopher Dawnay, MVO, & grandson of Sir Hereward Wake, 13th Bt.;
  • Charles Desmond Ashburner Stanhope de Burgh & his brother Simon Robert Fitzroy, sons of R.U.P. de Burgh, & third cousins of Chris de Burgh;
  • Peter de Teissier, photographer;
  • Finn, Kieran & Erskin Guinness, sons of 2nd Lord Moyne;
  • Valentine Guinness, lead singer of Loyd Grossman's band, & husband to Lulu Guinness & his brother Jasper, sons of 3rd Lord Moyne;
  • 6th Earl Granville;
  • Aurora Gunn, wife to Randal McDonnell, Viscount Dunluce, son of 9th Earl of Antrim;
  • Tom Hammick (painter). Work;
  • Tony Hanania (Beirut born novelist);
  • Dorian Haskard, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, National Heart & Lung Institute, Imperial College London, Head of the Vascular Sciences Section, and Director, Centre for Vascular Inflammation & Lead Clinician in Rheumatology, Hammersmith Hospital;
  • Hon. Philippa Lennox-Boyd, wife to 4th Lord Spens;
  • Tom Lubbock (the art critic & illustrator) obit.;
  • 3rd Lord Margadale & his brother Hughie Morrison (racehorse trainer );
  • 7th Viscount Monck;
  • Peter Neyroud;
  • Simon Ould, (celebrated Hackney artist within the Decima gallery purlieu)
  • Hamish Robinson (poet). Poems about wine (2009);
  • Andrew Selous (politician);
  • Damian Crosley Talbot Sitwell, son of S. T. Sitwell;
  • 7th Earl of Verulam (financier);
  • 7th Lord Huntingfield;
  • References

    West Downs School Wikipedia

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