Westcott House, 1924

Westcott House, Horsecastles, 1924.

Westcott House was a Sherborne School boarding house from 1920 to 1999, and will reopen again in September 2021, 101 years after it first opened its doors to boys from Sherborne School.

The oldest portion of Westcott House, formerly named Grosvenor Lodge, was built in the 1860s on the site of an orchard by solicitor John Young Melmoth (1806-1876), an Old Shirburnian and a Governor of Sherborne School.

From around 1877 to 1880, Grosvenor Lodge was occupied by Colonel Thomas Rattray CB, CSI (1820-1880), retired Bengal Staff Corps, who in 1856 had raised the Bengal Military Police Battalion better known as the 45th Rattray’s Sikhs.  While living at Grosvenor Lodge, Colonel Rattray’s son, Hugh Money Rattray (1863-1940), attended Sherborne School as a day boy from 1876 to 1880.  Colonel Rattray died at Grosvenor Lodge on the 21 October 1880 and the following year, in February 1881, an advertisement for the lease of the house appeared in the local press:

‘To be let, furnished, for one year from Lady Day next, – A good family residence, known as Grosvenor Lodge, standing in its own Grounds and approached from the road by Carriage Drives, containing noble Entrance Hall, Dining room, Drawing room with Conservatory attached, Breakfast room, Library, four large and lofty Bedrooms, two Dressing rooms, three Secondary Bedrooms, Bathroom, and Servants’ Bedrooms, good Domestic Offices and Cellarage, Walled Gardens with Vinerys and Forcing Houses, small Orchard, Stabling for two Horses, Carriage house, Fowls’ House, &c., &c.’

The lease of Grosvenor Lodge was taken over in 1881 by Major General William Noel Waller (1831-1909), retired Royal Artillery.  His son, Reginald William Waller (1876-1914), attended Sherborne School (School House) from 1889 to 1890 and was subsequently at Malvern College.   In 1896, the family left Grosvenor Lodge and moved to Farmington Lodge in Gloucestershire, where Major General Waller died on 7 September 1909.

From 1900 to 1920, Grosvenor Lodge was occupied by Dr John Flasby Lawrence Whittingdale (1858-1946), the School Medical Officer 1889-1945. Two of Dr Whittingdale’s sons attended Sherborne School, John Whittingdale (1894-1974) as a day boy and at Abbeylands from 1908-1913 who later succeeded his father as the School Medical Officer, and Thomas Yeats Whittingdale (1896-1979) who attended Sherborne as a day boy from 1910 to 1913.  In 1920, Dr Whittingdale moved to Wharton in Acreman Street, the house built by assistant master Charles Herbert Hodgson (1857-1922), where he died on 11 December 1946.

In 1919, Geoffrey O’Hanlon purchased Grosvenor Lodge for £3,500 and opened it as a school boarding house on 17 September 1920 with ten boarders.  He renamed the house in memory of former Headmaster Frederick Brooke Westcott and took on the house colours of black and white (from Mapperty a former boarding house in Westbury) and the house letter ‘h’.

Geoffrey O’Hanlon built on additional boarding accommodation for about fifty pupils and in 1925 made over the entire property to the School Governors for £5,000. The fireplace in the common room incorporates the stone door lintel from the town’s former workhouse (now the site of Durrant’s close) which stood on the opposite side of the road from Westcott House and was demolished in 1939.   The building’s rather austere exterior led an American soldier to ask during the Second World War whether it was the town penitentiary.  Large additions were made at the back of the premises in 1965-1966.

As a response to falling numbers, Westcott House was closed as a School boarding house in 1999 and taken over by Sherborne International.  From September 2021 it will reopen to boys from Sherborne School.

On 30 June 2016, Sir Dermot Turing, himself a former Westcott boy, unveiled a blue plaque at Westcott House commemorating his uncle Alan Turing’s time there.

Former Westcott boys have included John Bennett (tragic explorer of British Columbia), Duncan Carse (the voice of Dick Barton, Special Agent, and a highly respected polar explorer), Charles Collingwood (best known for playing Brian Aldridge in The Archers), David Cornwell (author who under his pen name John le Carré has written over 25 novels, many of which have been adapted for film and TV), Richard Eyre (acclaimed director and producer, winner of five Olivier awards and a BAFTA, and in 2017 was made a Companion of Honour for services to drama), Michael Hopkins (for many years in architectural partnership with Norman Foster, his works have included the Mound Stand at Lord’s Cricket Ground, Glyndebourne Opera House, Portcullis House in Westminster, the London 2012 VeloPark, and the Pilkington Laboratories at Sherborne School), Richard Hosford (BBC Symphony Orchestra, The Gaudier Ensemble), George Rittson-Thomas (England Rugby International), Rico Tice (Anglican priest and writer),  Alan Turing OBE FRS (mathematician, computer scientist, and WW2 codebreaker), Dermot Turing (solicitor and author, trustee of Bletchley Park and the Turing Trust), William Watherston (Scotland Rugby International), John Weston (diplomat and poet).

House letter: h.

Westcott House Loving Cup. Presented to the house by the parents of John Willcox (h 39-43).

House colours: black and white (formerly the house colours of Mapperty boarding house in Westbury).

Dormitory names:
Francis – named in memory of James Lowry Francis (1920-1945).
Job – named in memory of Martin Shipley Job (1919-1942).
Weallens – named in memory of Robert Frank Courtney Weallens (1905-1944).

House magazines: West Side Story, The Executioner.

1920     Geoffrey O’Hanlon MC (1885-1975)
1936     Reginald Stanley Thompson (1899-1994)
1952     Frank King (1911-1996)
1966     Bill Cooper (1923-2011)
1981     Rob Lloyd
1986     Paul Carling
1994     Don Cameron
1999     House closed
2021     Ben Sunderland

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