The History of
Hinchingbrooke House

the Hart of Hinchingbrooke

hyncel

wylton

oliver cromwell

edward montagu

pepys

fourth earl

5th-7th earls

Eighth Earl

ninth earl

headteachers

housetour

school

 

headmasters

Mr P J Downes, Mr J D Wakelin, Mr G Rowntree, Mr N Armstrong in 1982

The Headmasters

By 1970 Hinchingbrooke was being used as a school - and by the 1990's also as a training centre and for functions such as conferences and weddings.

The House

By the 1960's The House had fallen into decay and the Montagu family could not afford its upkeep. It was sold to the Local Authority where there was great discussion about the re-use of the house and its extensive grounds. Mary Stuart, long-standing supporter of the school, one-time Head of English and Senior Mistress at the grammar school, who lived for a time in the grounds, parodied the arguments:

from Houseful at Hinchingbrooke - Mary Stuart (1979)
'"Pull it down!"
"No good for a school. Think of hundreds of kids running through it every day."
"Muddy floors."
"Chipping the paint."
"Dirty paw marks all over the walls."
"Who's going to clean that every day?"
"What about the staircase? Won't look like that for long."
"Carpets! In a school?"
"The cost!"
"Unpractical."
"No good."
"Pull it down."


'Eventually, it was the persuasion of Ian Currey, The Director of Education, who had the vision to see what Hinchingbrooke could become, that triumphed.'

Mary Stuart also records the comments of students - which shows that, at that time at least, some young people appreciated their unique environment:

"It is a peaceful room",
wrote the Head Girl, of the History room [now room 45]
"overlooking a deserted lawn where only a nun's sepulchre lies under a tree, and squirrels run among the branches. But the library is my favourite room. It is tranquil and still retains the beauty of a sacred place."

It is an extraordinary thought that the room might still have the atmosphere of a sacred place seen hundred years after its first existence as a nunnery.

 

Adapting the building

"Modern conveniences were a problem for the builders to incorporate into Hinchingbrooke House. Rooms being required for inside sanitation, pipes and electricity cables being required throughout, and servants to accommodate all brought about more changes to a building originally evolving from a Norman Church into a Priory then into a Elizabethan house into a comfortable family retreat. During the late nineteenth century an entire west wing was added to facilitate more bathrooms and servants, only to be demolished in 1947, returning Hinchingbrooke House to its former proportions.

Now came the major changes of the twentieth century, with its sale from the Montague family to the county council, which by September 1970 had incorporated it into a brand new comprehensive school, the old buildings becoming the sixth form block, the opening of which was attended by Victor Montague."

Was Hinchingbrooke worth saving?
What would you say to Ian Currey and Mary Stuart if you could write to them now? Were any of the arguments against using the House as a school correct?

The Foundation stone of the old grammar school is now on the grass outside the present Lower School. Draw it and write down what it says. Draw the carved Hart of Hinchingbrooke too.

Find out significant events which happened while these Heads were in charge of Huntingdon school and draw them on a timeline

Look back at how Hinchingbrooke House started, what it was used for and how its use changed over the centuries.
By the 21st century it had become not only a school but also a conference centre and banqueting facility. Draw a chart which shows the changes of use and the dates.
Look here for more information on what the House is now used for.

Other Links

History of the School