P J Downes, Mr J D Wakelin, Mr G Rowntree, Mr N Armstrong in 1982
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 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
'"Pull it down!"
"No good for a school. Think of hundreds of kids running through
it every day."
"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?"
"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,
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
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?
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
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.