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Changing Times | The history of Eartham’s Great Ballard School

Great Ballard School, located in Eartham near Chichester, has a long and varied past which this article will explore, from its founding in 1924 to the present day.


Great Ballard School was originally founded in New Milton, Hampshire in 1924 and was set up as a boy’s boarding school. After moving to the area from Bournemouth Ivor Poole, the first headmaster, started Great Ballard School in a house on the site that had originally been built by an American family called Ubsell. He had a vision of a school where ‘the values of fairness, politeness, academic success together with an appreciation of sports and music in a country setting including support of charities were to be encouraged’.


During the Second World War, the school building and grounds were commandeered by the Army and the school was relocated to Stowell Park in Gloucester, where it stayed for 7 years (1940 – 1947). The new location for the school was an area of 800 acres in the heart of the countryside and boasted its own cricket fields, swimming pool and tennis courts.


In 1947 the school moved once again, this time to Camberley in Surrey. The site chosen was already a school and had recently been renovated. The school at this time continued to be a boy’s only boarding school with many pupils from both the UK and overseas attending. By 1961 the land around the school had been designated for housing and so a new location was sought. The school relocated to its current location at Eartham House, near Chichester.


Eartham House and Estate has a long history of famous owners and visitors. The first records that mention the Estate date back to 1368 and show that the area belonged to King Henry VIII. The first mention of a house on the site was in 1743 when Thomas Hayley purchased a small estate in order to build a house for his summer retirement. The house was later passed down to his son, William Hayley, known for his poetry. In 1800, Hayley sold the house to Chichester MP William Huskisson. The house has also boasted an impressive list of visitors over the years including the sculptor John Flaxman, artist George Romney who painted many works at Eartham, and William Blake who sketched the house in the early 1800’s. The current building which houses Great Ballard School was remodelled in 1905 by Sir Edwin Lutyens and still features many Regency decorations.


After the move to the new site, the school was opened to girls in the 1980s and new facilities such as classrooms and a gym were added. Sports such as football, rugby and shooting were encouraged as well as activities such as drama, debates and music.


Nursery facilities have expanded over recent years and this term sees a refurbished nursery and the launch of “Little Ballard” allowing younger children to attend. In the 1980s, further land was purchased to allow for a new sports field with views of the countryside, Chichester Harbour and the Isle of Wight.


During the Second World War, several ex-pupils from Great Ballard were killed and the school have been committed in their efforts to remember their sacrifice. In 1953, the first service of remembrance took place and a Roll of Honour was unveiled at the school, this remains in New Milton to this day. When the school relocated to Eartham a memorial was set up in the parish Church, St Margaret’s, along with a book of Remembrance. Further research during the 1990’s led to four additional names being added to the Roll bringing the total to 18.


In 2011, staff and pupils, both past and present, celebrated 50 years of the school being at Eartham. Guests looked at old photographs and were given tours of the site to see what had changed over the years.


Today, Great Ballard School is a co-educational, independent school which welcomes students aged 2 ½ to 13 years of age. The school pride themselves on their small class sizes, quality teaching and the unique educational experience that they provide. There are currently 130 pupils at the school and pupils come from all over the world to attend.


Information taken from ’Great Ballard School celebrates 90 years’ by Tracey Carr.



By Amanda Rogan, learning officer at the Novium Museum

All images courtesy of Great Ballard School



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