Seaford College (now Corsica Hall)
Seaford College still exists today, but it is no longer in Seaford having relocated to Lavington Park Petworth. It was founded in what is today referred as Corsica Hall (now converted into flats) in 1874.In 1941, with the threat of invasion high along this part of the coast the school was evacuated to Worthing, presumably thought to be safer than Seaford. However in 1946, the Johnson family who owned the school decided to move to more spacious location, Lavington Park near Petworth where it is still located. After the end of the war Seaford Training College of Housecraft was established on Corsica Hall to provide one-year training courses for women teachers wishing to qualify in domestic science, and was opened by the minister of science, George Tomlinson, on 26 September 1950. The buildings were purchased by the County Council in 1948 after being used for military purposes during the war. In 1963 the College was requested to provide three-year courses for home economics teachers. From May 1965 the College was known as Seaford College of Education and in September 1976 it was amalgamated with Eastbourne Chelsea College of Physical Education and Eastbourne College of Education to form Eastbourne College of Higher Education. It lost its separate identity in the 1970s, when it became part of Brighton Polytechnic (now Brighton University). The Seaford institution then became called Corsica Hall Adult Education Centre. Subsequently Seaford Head Lower School was built the grounds fronting Steyne Road and the old buildings sold for conversion into flats.
This is an article about Seaford College that recently appeared in the Seaford Museum Magazine
RON VINCE goes into the museum archives to get a sense of what life was like in the privileged world of those private ‘prep’ schools.
SEAFORD COLLEGE (1884-present) left Seaford in a hurry in 1940 never to return. Today it is a thriving co-educational institution for borders and day pupils at East Lavington, near Petworth in West Sussex. It’s 56 years as a boys’ boarding school at Corsica Hall, Seaford, came to an end when the government requisitioned the local private schools’ premises for use by the Armed Forces. The schools were given six weeks to find alternative accommodation in safer parts of the country. As if to emphasise the urgency, before the last of the pupils had left Corsica Hall an aerial dogfight over the college playing field came close to ending in tragedy. One of the masters, ‘Theo’ Cook, recalled that he was umpiring a boys’ cricket match when he saw a plane hedge-hopping over some fir trees just beyond the school boundary. He went on: “It was being chased by a Hurricane. No siren had sounded but I sent word to all the boys to get in the building. “I was standing watching them file in when the German plane came over the playing fields and the school, climbing steeply with the Hurricane on its tail and both blazing away at one another. Just as the last boy was entering the changing room an incendiary bullet hit the ground at my feet.” Quickly after that, Seaford College moved to Worthing for the duration of the war.
With a history going back to the 18th century, Corsica Hall was a private residence until 1879 when a Dr Sanderson acquired it for ‘scholastic coaching’. Five years later it was taken over by Colonel Frederick Walter Savage, the founder and first principal of Seaford College. He held the position until 1920. Those early days of the school were recalled in 1984, in a school centenary booklet, by J W Savage, a former pupil and a nephew of the founder. Top of his childhood memories were the ‘tuck shop’ and ‘impots’. Impots were “largely of the writing variety, copying out tables or kings and queens. Later, extra PT was introduced.”
He also remembered that there was no electricity – only gas light “without incandescent mantles, which had not then been invented. ”On Sundays they attended Divine Service at the parish church, attired “in an Eton suit and mortar board.” By the 1930s the school had been transformed. A prospectus pointed out that the dormitories were well furnished and well ventilated; that there were bathrooms and hot and cold showers; a magnificent library; a separate science wing; a sanatorium; a private chapel and more than 20 acres of good playing fields.One of the school’s pupils in Seaford between the wars was Anthony Buckeridge, the author best known for his ‘Jennings’ series of humorous children's books. They concern the humorous escapades of J C T Jennings, a preparatory schoolboy, and the characters are substantially drawn from Buckeridge’s friendships and experiences at Seaford College.There are 24 novels in the series, the first, Jennings Goes to School, appearing in 1950.