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Foremarke Hall - celebrating 75 years as an independent preparatory school

PUBLISHED: 13:48 06 October 2015 | UPDATED: 13:48 06 October 2015

Foremarke Hall today (some pupils included!)

Foremarke Hall today (some pupils included!)

as submitted

Currently celebrating its 75th anniversary, Foremarke Hall was born out of necessity

Headmaster Richard MerrimanHeadmaster Richard Merriman

An anniversary brochure produced for Foremarke Hall includes reflections and comments from former pupils and teachers who have been associated with the independent preparatory school during its 75-year history.

Talking when he was Headmaster there in the 1960s, Ken Jackson said: ‘When a boy has done his work, he can play cricket and have a swim; after canoeing, he can fish and play golf before a game of tennis; ride his bicycle, carrying his violin, past the sailing dinghy to choir practice or voluntary Art before a game of table tennis or finishing his chair in the Carpentry Shop which he is going to sit on at the Scout fires while learning his lines for the school play before helping to prepare for the sale which will benefit our lovely church... if this isn’t educating the full man, I don’t know what is!’

Recalling his days as a pupil at Foremarke Hall, actor and Strictly Come Dancing champion Tom Chambers mentions playing table tennis in the library, letter writing on Sunday afternoons, reciting poetry on the banks of the lake, trumpet lessons and concert band, Saturday night fish and chips while enjoying a Blockbuster film. He also credits Foremarke with helping him decide that acting was what he wanted to do, talking of ‘Mr Levesley, who spent many a patient hour directing the school plays and giving me the bug for a career on the stage after gaining the title role of Dracula in Dracula Spectacular.’

For another old boy, Derby County and England U21 footballer Will Hughes, playing in the national prep school football tournament is, he says, what sticks in his mind from his days as a pupil.

Repton Preparatory whole-school photograph from its inaugural year. Mr BW Thomas (centre of the photo) had taught at Repton since 1927 and was appointed first Headmaster of Repton Preparatory in 1940Repton Preparatory whole-school photograph from its inaugural year. Mr BW Thomas (centre of the photo) had taught at Repton since 1927 and was appointed first Headmaster of Repton Preparatory in 1940

The conclusion of Michael Scott Mark, one of the school’s first pupils, is: ‘Despite all of the wartime hardships it was a happy place... it is a great joy that this atmosphere has stayed with the school... right down to present times... it will not fail to produce worthwhile citizens so long as this spirit continues.’

While what each considers as highlights are different, what is common to them all is that Foremarke Hall is a happy place that helps shape young lives, giving them a chance to discover themselves and a wide range of academic and extra-curricular pastimes.

Foremarke Hall sits in an inspiring and spacious setting. A co-educational day and boarding preparatory school of over 450 pupils, aged from three to 13, it is set in the 55-acre grounds of a beautifully proportioned 18th century Palladian hall in South Derbyshire.

In its grounds, among other facilities, are to be found the new £6m Quad facility housing a contemporary music school, the languages department, the school’s English and humanities departments, an art block complete with kiln, a designated ICT suite for design and technology and a Greenpower garage for Foremarke’s award-winning electric cars.

Pupils enjoying the great outdoors at ForemarkePupils enjoying the great outdoors at Foremarke

There’s a swimming pool, an Astro turf hockey pitch and a lake used for raft-building, canoeing and sailing. A stand-alone pre-prep department and that theatre – where Tom Chambers performed – are also part of the scene.

As Mr Mark reminds us, however, this is all quite different from where and how it began.

It was the hard times being experienced by schools with the threat of another great war on the horizon that ironically meant accommodation became available for a preparatory school within Repton School. It was in 1938 that the then Headmaster of Repton School, Harold George Michael Clarke, had to make the difficult decision of closing a boarding house. The Cross, which stands in the very centre of Repton village, was selected.

The outbreak of war itself saw all manner of changes in the school and among them, of most concern, was the decline in pupil numbers. A decision was taken by the Governors and Mr Clarke to use some of Repton’s redundant accommodation for the establishment of a prep school, in the hope that this would ultimately boost numbers within the senior school.

Old Foremarkian actor Tom Chambers cutting the turf for the Quad with Richard Merriman in 2011Old Foremarkian actor Tom Chambers cutting the turf for the Quad with Richard Merriman in 2011

On 29th April 1940, Repton Preparatory School opened its doors with just eight boys making up the pupil roll. Situated in The Cross, the School was staffed by the Headmaster B.W. Thomas and his wife and Miss Susan Todd. By 1st July eight boys had increased to 18, by September there were 30 and this had jumped to 50 by the end of the year.

As had been hoped, the school was proving successful, both in that it had started to make a reasonable profit and so to contribute to overall financial stability, and also because many of the prep school boys went on to study in the senior school.

Repton Preparatory remained within the village until 1947, by which time demand for places in the senior school had recovered so significantly that the prep had to find a new site. Foremarke Hall, recently released by the Army after use as an Officer Cadet Training Unit (OCTU), was chosen by the Governors to be the new home for Repton School’s Preparatory School.

Having served as a military hospital in The Great War and then as the OCTU, some of the classrooms were actually old Nissen huts and the dining hall formerly the Officers’ Mess. It is reported that pupils and staff alike donned overalls and picked up paintbrushes in order to prepare the new site for its opening – although some of the old army slogans remained visible, making for some unusual classroom décor.

Needless to say, the School has received much ‘tender loving care’ since those early days to become the highly successful, warm, traditional-yet-modern Foremarke so many know and love.

September sees Foremarke Hall officially celebrating its anniversary. A weekend – which includes former Heads and pupils gathering to hear speeches, touring the wonderful facilities, taking time to reminisce and eat lunch; listening to a specially commissioned new school anthem and taking to the floor at a glittering diamond ball – has been organised to mark the milestone.

Headmaster, Richard Merriman says: ‘Today’s Foremarke, like yesteryear, remains a very happy, purposeful and successful school, with a multitude of opportunities and challenges for all pupils. Here’s to the next 75 years!’

FOREMARKE THROUGH THE YEARS

1940 29th April, Repton School establishes a Preparatory School in its former boarding house The Cross, with 8 boys; July - 18 boys; September - 30 boys

1941 May - 50 boys

1942 Prep School moves to Latham House, Repton

1947 January, Foremarke Hall acquired; September, KLT Jackson takes over from BW Thomas as Prep School Headmaster. ‘All hands on deck’ as staff prepare Foremarke Hall for its first term; 24th September, first day of term with 66 boarders and 25 day boys. Tea party in Assembly Hall to mark the occasion

1948 May, Pupil numbers surpass 100 with 75 boarders, 26 day boys

1949 June, Foremarke inspected and ‘recognised’ by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate

1953 30th May–3rd June, long weekend break to mark coronation

1957 September, Asian flu epidemic affects 96 boys, 2 matrons and 6 members of teaching staff

1960 September, Tom Davies arrives to succeed KLT Jackson as Headmaster

1961 September, Uniform change from blue blazers to grey pullovers

1963 Winter, ‘Great Freeze’, pupils could skate on the lake for six weeks

1970 New Music block built and theatre refurbished

1972 Girls admitted to Foremarke for the first time

1985 Richard Theobald becomes Headmaster. Year of renovation for Foremarke

2000 Paul Brewster becomes Headmaster

2001-2002 Boarding facilities completely upgraded

2005 New Pre-Prep building completed with nursery, dedicated ICT suite and Hall

2007 Paddy Watson becomes Headmaster

2011 Richard Merriman, current Headmaster, joins Foremarke

2013 Quad development completed

2015 75th anniversary of founding celebrated

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