History of the School

Founded in 1919, Brambletye has moved from Sidcup, been evacuated to Devon during the second world war, grown and developed and added to its facilities, but always enjoyed a long history of high standards.

The school was founded at Sidcup Place in Kent in 1919 by the Reverend John Blencowe. Despite steady building and development for thirteen years, the Blencowes decided that Sidcup was no place for a boarding prep school and, in 1933, moved the school to Brambletye.

The Blencowes brought the chapel with them from Sidcup but elsewhere embarked upon an extensive building programme – the 100 foot long hall, with its double stage, nine form rooms and underground gym below, as well as changing rooms. With the building work still in progress, the autumn term in 1933 started with 100 workmen and 60 boys. The outdoor swimming pool and the art room were also added, playing fields provided and the top field converted from a kitchen garden. Extra dormitories came next as the pupil numbers rose to 100.

With the arrival of the Second World War and the evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940, the school was requisitioned by the army and everything was moved in trucks to Lee Abbey, a hotel that had gone into liquidation, at Lynton in North Devon. The school remained at Lee Abbey for the duration of the war with only older teaching staff and virtually no domestic staff.

On returning to Brambletye after the war, the Blencowes found the school in a dreadful state. They discovered shelves and flooring burnt, no heating or lighting, and tank tracks over the playing fields. With compensation, they managed to get the school back in operation by the end of 1945. In 1947, the Blencowes felt ready to retire and appointed Bob Jones as one of the first salaried headmasters. Bob and Sybil Jones ran the school under difficult circumstances, during which time their commitment saw a steady expansion of the school, as they tried to repair the ravages of military occupation.

In 1958, the founder’s son Peter came back to join the school as joint headmaster. In 1969, Peter Blencowe formed the Trust and Donald and Sheila Fowler-Watt came from Ashdown House to join them. The Jones Wing was built, as well as the lecture theatre.

In 1975, Donald and Sheila Fowler-Watt took over the school on the retirement of Peter Blencowe. From 1975, the Fowler-Watts oversaw the building of the new indoor swimming pool in 1977, the squash courts in 1979, the Neville Field and a new science laboratory in 1978 and finally the opening of Brambletye Lodge in 1986. The school survived the hurricane of 1987 and further building and expansion continued with the building of the Performing Arts Centre in 1989, the design and technology room and the new library.

In 1997, the Fowler-Watts retired and the governors appointed Hugh and Lucy Cocke, from Old Buckenham Hall in Suffolk, to take the helm. Hugh Cocke, during his time at Brambletye, continued the tradition of developing the school to suit the educational needs and aspirations of future generations. In September 1999, Brambletye began to admit girls. In 2000 a new sports hall was opened along with a state of the art Pre-Prep. A new seven classroom building, the Blencowe Centre, was completed in June 2009. Hugh and Lucy Cocke retired at the end of July 2012 and were succeeded by Nigel and Jo Westlake. In September 2015, Will and Amelia Brooks took over the reins.

The ability of each headmaster to adapt to the changing educational environment through the years has been a major factor in contributing to the success of the school.