Boarding before 1945
From early days there has always been a small percentage of boys who have been boarders although only since 1945 have they been housed at Brightlands in Gallery Road. The first boys to board were in Mallinson’s time not long after he became headmaster in 1887, when half a dozen or so lived with him and his family at their home at Whitfield Lodge. When 42 Alleyn Park became the family home in 1897, Mallinson was able to house a greater number of boys there and they began to have a more corporate existence than being extensions to his family.
The school had already leased 44 Alleyn Park for teaching purposes and not long after 42 was acquired, the hall with a large room above was built between them. This room became a dormitory for boarders so Mallinson was able to increase their number to about fifteen. To assist Mrs Mallinson, a Matron was employed whose sitting room was on the first floor at the top of the stairs in No. 42 overlooking the garden. A boarder’s day usually started with a cold bath followed by a run to the tollgate after which Matron gave each boy an apple. In those days it was medical practice to isolate boys with complaints such as measles, mumps or even ‘flu to prevent the spread of an epidemic, and for this purpose a sanatorium was built at the rear of the premises overlooking the drive which led to Lord Vestey’s Estate (now Bowen Drive). Opened during the summer in 1897, it was principally single storeyed but still large and not very cost effective in terms of its use, for if there were no boarders who were ill, it was largely vacant. By December of the first year it had not seen a single overnight patient.
When Leake succeeded Mallinson in 1910, the pattern of life for boarders remained much the same, and such was his fatherly care for them that they soon became known as ‘Leake’s Boarders’. While 44 Alleyn Park (the old part of the present Lower School) continued to be used as classrooms most of 42 was the residence of Leake and his family with the hall, and the boarders above, sandwiched between them. By 1922 the school was growing in size and Leake was anxious to find more classroom space. He achieved this by moving his boarders away from the main school buildings to join those who had already formed an overflow at the home of A E J Inglis and his family at 28 Alleyn Park. This was a large Victorian building similar in size to the present No. 38 and which at the time had room to accommodate them, but before long this too proved inadequate. Two years later when W A Sheppard joined the staff, he made mention of there being four housemasters, but they were not true housemasters in the accepted sense and DCPS never had four boarding houses. They were senior members of staff who lived locally and who accommodated a few boys in their homes, but they clearly had some influence in school affairs.
Most of the boys in the school wore Eton collars during the 1920s and on Sundays the boarders wore Eton suits. For church some even wore top hats or bowlers which Matron brushed on Monday mornings before returning each to its box. Church meant the College Chapel where the boys sat in the gallery, one of them invariably being asked to pump the organ to provide air for the pipes. When Inglis left DCPS in 1929, his house was taken over by C P Hamilton, who had previously housed boarders at his home at 32 Croxted Road. Nearby, at 5 Alleyn Park, more boarders were housed under the stewardship of W W Butler, who was the first editor of the school magazine. There were yet more with W H Walker at 6 South Croxted Road for a time. By 1938, when the fees for boarders were £38 per term, their principal home had become 28 Alleyn Park under the care of Mr and Mrs Hamilton and a resident Matron. Robert Guttman (DCPS 1935-1940) remembered the matron as a forbidding person who strictly enforced the rule about no talking after lights out and who administered a weekly bath for each boy. He remembered disliking Fridays because there was always fish for tea, but commented that the most dramatic moment of his time as a boarder was watching in awe the destruction of the Crystal Palace in 1936 which he could see, with others, from his dormitory window. He was also slightly envious of those few boys who went home at weekends, a practice which was not continued after the war for a long time.
When war was declared, Hamilton was soon called into military service and most of his boys at 28, including Robert Guttman, went to the evacuated camp at Cranbrook and later to Wales. The house was severely damaged by a bomb in 1940 and when Major Hamilton, as he had by that time become, returned in 1945, he was nearing retirement age. If the school were to continue taking boarders after the war, different arrangements would have to be made.