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The Beechholme Book - 1999

December 30 1998 - GUARDIAN - Heritage

Revolution in the classroom

High Beeches estate was once the site of a progressive school

THE BEECHHOLME SCHOOL SONG

Hurrah for the Banstead School, the school of the breezy downs,

We pass our ways in the open ways, afar from the reek of towns,

And whether we work or play, the lesson we learn is the same,

Play up for your side and win if you can, but anyway play the game.


Perhaps today, many people have forgotten or maybe never realised, but Banstead was once the home for a quite revolutionary residential school.

Opened in 1880, it was originally known as Kensington and Chelsea District School and was home to school children who would otherwise find themselves in barrack-like institutions, if not the workhouse.

The school was situated in the strip of land to the east of Drift Bridge and to the west of Banstead railway station, with the railway to its north and Fir Tree Road to the south.

The school adapted over the years. There were name changes to Banstead Residential School and latterly Beechholme. It finally closed in 1974, and was demolished without trace to be replaced by the High Beeches housing estate.

A booklet produced by High Beeches resident Dr Geoff Marshall details the rise and fall of the school and features a comprehensive history of developments there.

Dr Marshall said: "I was looking at some old maps when I saw the school. It really set me thinking. The writing of the booklet wasn't a constant thing, but I got into it 18 months ago."

He said he owes a debt of gratitude to the many people who helped him with the project.

He said: "In particular members of the Banstead History Research Group, former residents of the school and Mrs Grigsby who worked for many years at Beechholme and whose delightful scrapbook proved an invalu­able source of reference."

The booklet published by the Banstead History Research Group is his second book. The first, completed five years ago, is called Byway Travels: South of London.

Copies of Beechholme - The School on Banstead's Breezy Downs can be purchased from Ibis Bookshop on Banstead High Street and Banstead and Tattenham Libraries, priced £2.50.