m-the-digby-hotel

The Digby Hotel, Digby Road, c.1930s.

The Digby has been in continuous use as a school boarding house since 1964.

The Digby Hotel was opened on 11 October (Pack Monday) 1869.  It was built by George Digby Wingfield Digby to cater for passengers arriving on the newly-opened railway (1860) and visiting huntsmen. The hotel was designed in an adaptation of the Elizabethan style by R.H. Carpenter and W. Slater of London.  Carpenter and Slater were also responsible for designing the Yeatman Hospital (1864-4), the western extension to the School chapel (1865), and the south-west block of classrooms (1870).  The hotel was erected in about 18 months under the superintendence of Mr Thompson, the clerk of works, with Mr Estcourt of Gloucester as the general contractor.  It is built of Ham Hill and local stone, and covered with Broseley tiles with ostriches on the roof (the Digby family crest).  The cost of the whole, not including land or furniture, was about £15,000.  The gardens, which originally occupied the space between the hotel and railway, were laid out by landscape gardener Mr Thomas.  An assembly room was added in 1878.  The first hotel manager, James Lane of the White Lion Hotel in Bath, went bankrupt in 1870 when the lease was taken over by Arthur Walter Binnie Clark (1834-1913), a former valet of George Wingfield Digby.  Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald lunched here in 1932.  The hotel features as ‘The Earl of Wessex’ in Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders (1887), as ‘The Lovelace Hotel’ in J.C. Powys’s Wolf Solent (1929), and as ‘The Sawley Arms’ in John le Carré’s A Murder of Quality (1962).

The hotel closed in June 1962 and the freehold was purchased by Sherborne School for £25,000.  Originally, the School had intended building a new boarding house in the garden of Greenhill House (now The Green) but decided instead to convert the former hotel into a boarding house.  The conversion was supervised by the School Bursar R.F. Allan and Clerk of Works Bert Ridout, and involved the conversion of the former cocktail bar into lavatories, the back bar into a shower room, and the removal of partition walls between the hotel bedrooms to create dormitories.  A housemaster’s house and a dormitory block were also built onto the property. The Digby was officially opened as a school boarding house on 10 October 1964 by the Rt. Hon. Alan Lennox-Boyd (Old Shirburnian), 1st Viscount Boyd of Merton.

The Digby Loving Cup, originally known as the ‘Brothers Cup’, was given to Sherborne School in 1906 by Arthur John Bodman Carrington (Abbeylands 1900-1903) and Hugh Bodman Carrington (Abbeylands 1901-1906).  It was made by Carrington & Co. of London.

Former Digby boys have included Andrew Heffernan (Dutch International Event Rider, Olympian & World Equestrian Games bronze medallist), Chris Martin (songwriter, musician, record producer, lead singer and co-founder of the band Coldplay), Freddie Wright (broke the world record in 2016 with Jack Galsworthy for the youngest pair to row the Atlantic).

House letter: m.

Digby Hotel lamp. Photographer: Jethro.

House colours: green and black (formerly Day Boy colours, also the racing colours of the Digby family).

Housemasters:
1964 Peter Thomas Currie (1922-2014)
1973  Simon Foulkes Wilkinson
1987  Alec Michael Davis
1992  Alistair C. Morgan
2006  Martin J. Brooke
2018  Robert C. Le Poidevin

Online Resources:

For further information about the Sherborne School Archives please contact the School Archivist

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