Mrs Dominuque Reilly of The Priory did some work on researching the researching the history of the school. She collated information from the Banstead History Research Group, the Banstead History Centre, Paul Heaton, whose ancestors rented the building, Mr Michael Shackel who was at school from 1935 to 1941 and remembers the bombing and other lovely anecdotes about life at school, as well as various other sources. This feature documents some of the findings.

If you have any knowledge of the school, perhaps you attended The Priory or you have some old photographs etc please mail the Webmaster with any contributions.

The following research document was kindly supplied by the Banstead History Centre


SITUATION: On the west side of Bolters Lane, about 100 yards north of junction with the High Street.

DESCRIPTION: (Formerly) Elegant mansion on three floors, with rose gardens and extensive lawns. (Now) Private school with changing block, sports hall and a number of extensions, including a dining hall and three classrooms, playground, etc.

SOURCES: Article in the "Banstead Herald" of 14 January 1972. Kelly's Directories for 1895, 1907 and 1911. Interview with Stanley Baker by Graham Davies.


The Red HouseThe house was built in the 1880s and was given as a wedding present by John Jaques (the first) to his daughter and her husband, Herbert Edgar Reid.

In 1891 the Census showed the occupants as three young children of the Reid family -John Lillington Reid (aged 6), Harriet May Reid (4) and Katherine Reid (2) with a nurse and servants. Where the parents were at the time does not appear. In 1895 Kelly records H E Reid as living "in Bolters Lane".

An interesting sidelight during the Reids' occupation is that an upper room was used as a schoolroom not only for the Reid children but for some of the Garton family from Banstead Wood House; the governess in charge was a Miss Mason, who later set up a Girls' School in The Lodge (q.v.).

The newspaper article says that the Reid family later moved to Walton Heath and the house was let to the Lightbody family, who were peppermint manufacturers [Note: recent (2019) research by BHRG indicates that the newspaper may be in error as the Lightbodies were stockbrokers]. 

Kelly records Charles Russell Lightbody as the occupier in 1907 and 1911.

Apparently Mr Reid died before 1917, when his widow let the house to her brother, John Jaques (the second). He had a son, John Jaques (the third), by his first marriage. It was from his second wife, Irene, that most of the information in the article was obtained. She said that they left the house in 1932, it was then sold and became a school.

The Priory School was started in 1921 in Sydenham by Charles S Poole and was called as such because it occupied an old building that had been a priory. It actually came to the Red House in 1936.

In 1938 Mr John Skinner joined the staff, who were by degrees converting the school into a preparatory school for boys. (It had originally been co-education). He became Headmaster in 1950 and remained as such until 1980.

During the Second World War the school was not evacuated, but the number of pupils reduced by 1944 to 18 boys, working half-days in the basements. The top floor had in 1940 been severely damaged by incendiary bombs and could not be repaired until after the war.

After the War the school expanded rapidly. There have been a number of additions over the years. A Nursery Department was added in 1995.

CROSS REFERENCE: The Lodge. Banstead Wood House.

DOCUMENTS, etc: Copy of newspaper article. Pages from School Brochure, 1980s. Prizegiving programme, 1957. Note of interview with Mr Baker.

Public contribution to BHRG First letter from Paul Heaton:

Dear Mrs. Reilly,

My grandfather Malcolm Russell Lightbody lived at the Red House, Banstead as boy. I believe that would be in the late nineteenth century. He was I believe born in Belvedere, Kent in 1877. He was educated possibly at Colet Court and certainly at St.Paul�s School, London. He graduated from Keble College Oxford and became a lawyer.In the 1901 census, he was living in Courtfield Gardens, London.

Later in his life he moved to Alexandria, Egypt and lived most of his life there. His father was a stockbroker in London. I believe my father still has a picture outside the Red House showing the family on horses. I would really appreciate the opportunity to visit the house with my cousin who has compiled a family tree perhaps one Saturday or Sunday, and would be pleased to tell you more about the family.

Paul sent in the photograph below which shows The Red House, as it was then known, in the background.

Paul says 'Malcolm Russell Lightbody (my grandfather) is second from the right in the picture and was the oldest brother at 23 in 1901.'

The two fir trees are still there today, only considerably taller, and the field is now The Horseshoe car park - rather well named perhaps!

The Horseshoe car park and The Priory April 2007

Paul continues 'My grandfather and his brothers, were as follows, the children of Charles Russell Lightbody:.
Malcolm Rupert Russell Lighbody
Bernard Alexander Lightbody
Leonard Jocelyn Lightbody
Godfrey Lightbody,
Phyliis Lightbody,
Jean Lightbody,
Kathleen Lightbody,
Barbara Lightbody and
Harold Lightbody

The photograph below was taken in 1938 as part of a set of pictures taken by a local photographer. Mrs Reilly is attempting to trace the school sign which she believes is till held at the school.

The Priory in 1938

This is a letter received from Mike Shackel who was at the school from 1935 to 1941.

Dear Mrs Reilly,

Thank you for the pictures � the original house has barely changed.

You ask about where classes were held during alerts. The answer is, they weren't! I can only remember boring old general knowledge quizzes in the basement while exciting things were happening in the skies above us. But the girls, as is their way, were making themselves useful by doing needlework and knitting while the boys were all squashed together, scuffing their shoes and generally trying to avoid doing anything productive either with hand or mind.

The Priory - View from the BasementThe basement 'shelter' was minute but I seem to remember that our numbers were also quite small due to some evacuations;the boys used to look up through the only window trying to spot planes flying overhead.

'Leave of absence' was not uncommon. Dads and brothers were home on leave, relatives in Bexhill or Bognor were keeping their grandchildren away from the nasty Heinkels and Dorniers on an ad hoc basis, and of course the occasional complete family had temporarily upped roots and gone to some rural spot. So although your rolls for the early '40s may look reasonable, the actual attendance day-to-day might have been quite different.

Seeing the 1938 photograph of the front of the house reminds me that the school always gathered around the flagpole on the front lawn just prior to 11am every 11 November. The cue for the start of the two minutes silence was All Saints clock and the conclusion was marked by the single gunshot from Hyde Park which (in those days of little traffic and 100% observation of the silence) could be clearly heard. I am sure we all knew why we were there as our parents (mostly) had been involved in The Great War, as WWI was then called, in one way or another.

Mike Shackel
Mrs Reilly enthusiastically showing Mr and Mrs Shackel around the School.

Mrs Reilly

The picture on the right was found in the school storeroom and clearly shows the porch which has remained unchanged over the years.

The white double doors shown above are part of the extension to the original building.
Old picture of The Priory