General Articles

Brighton 1904-1920

Hassocks 1920-1940

Lichfield 1940-1944

Nassau 1940-1944

Hassocks 1944-1954

Hassocks 1954-1972

Post Closure 1972-

Belmont Badge


HISTORY: Stowe House, Lichfield, 1940-1944

On Sunday 3 September 1939, war was declared on Germany. The main activity at Hassocks was the creation of an air raid shelter (which doubled up as an extra classroom). Routine remained much the same, except that gas masks were issued (to be carried at all times) and everywhere was blacked out after dark.

Max Burr took on a job at the Admiralty, although its precise nature was unclear. Indeed at one point arrangements were well advanced for him to sell Belmont to one of his assistant masters, Mr Townshend; these arrangements broke down when Burr’s association with the Admiralty abruptly ceased.

In April 1940, the school assembled as usual for the Summer Term but in mid-May (a week before the Dunkirk evacuation) the threat of a German invasion became a reality and at half term the boys were sent home.

Max Burr had planned to take the school across the Atlantic but the sinking of some refugee ships by U-boats turned some of the parents against the idea. In the end only a small party set off for the Bahamas (see panel below).

Max Burr calculated that the town nearest to the geometrical centre of Britain (and therefore the furthest from any coast) was Lichfield in Staffordshire. He despatched one of the masters, Mr Buncher, whose home town was Lichfield, to try to find a suitable building to house Belmont. The school, numbering 38 boys, reassembled at Stowe House about ten days later.

Click here for comprehensive history of Stowe House, which includes a description of the 'Belmont' era (from the ILM - Institute of Leadership and Management).

Belmont Hassocks was requisitioned by the military.

The boys made their contribution to the war effort by making end-plugs for minesweepers and by Easter 1943 were reported to be “half-way through their order of 2500 components for the Admiralty”.

The services in the Cathedral played an important role. The Dean, Bishops of Lichfield , Stafford and Shrewsbury , Archdeacon and Canons all conducted special services for the school on Sunday mornings.

Rationing was offset by keeping chickens and bees, vegetable gardening by the boys and Mrs Burr's jam making.

Amazingly the school was able to carry on with most of the usual activities such as games, using the playing fields of the nearby St Chad’s, the Cathedral Choir School.  School matches were very sparse: St Chad’s, Yarlet Hall and occasionally Edgbaston Prep were the only opponents. Archery took place on the lawn in front of the house.

An important event was the visit of the King and Queen to Lichfield in 1942 when the boys mounted a guard of honour. How ironic that the other part of the school should be with the recently abdicated King in the Bahamas