History of the school
Great Ballard School was founded in 1924 by Ivor Poole, a choral scholar from King’s College Cambridge, and was based initially in New Milton Hampshire. When it was established, there were 20 boys and it was the aim of Mr Poole to run a school that was different to the traditional perception of a boarding school. Opportunities were to be available to the boys in all areas of life from academia to music and from sport to travel, all being provided in a caring environment where everyone was treated fairly.
The boys enjoyed life at Great Ballard and made the most of the grounds and the surrounding countryside. A great deal of history has been recorded by “old boys” from these early days and they tell the tale of life in the countryside, a good education, bug hunting, playing golf and cricket, travelling to France, excellent music recitals, singing and most of all, “do your best to be your best”. This phrase is still familiar to pupils at Great Ballard School today as it is the loose English translation of the school motto “Vincit qui se vincit”. In fact, looking at the aims of the school back in the 1920’s, although life is very different now, they are still very much those that are in place today!
In 1932, a new headmaster, Vernon Peek, took over from Ivor Poole and after only two years he retired and was in turn succeeded by Norman Knight. Mr Knight and his wife were very popular with the boys who felt happy and secure in their care. He remained Head from 1934 until 1961 and oversaw many changes whilst maintaining the original values of the school.
With the onset of the Second World War, the school was commandeered by the Canadians forces so Mr Knight had to find new premises. A temporary solution was found in 1940 in Dorset before a move was made later in the year to Stowell Park in Gloucestershire where the school remained until 1947. Lord and Lady Vestey who owned Stowell Park, kindly moved out into one of the farmhouses on the estate for the duration of the war and Great Ballard moved in. Stowell Park was set in 800 acres with wonderful sports facilities which the children were able to take advantage of. There was one girl boarder at the school and also Polish refugees and Italian war prisoners working on the estate alongside the American Army hospital built there. The boys spent many happy days there during the war but there were many old boys who unfortunately gave their lives during this time and who are remembered to this day in the church at the current home of Great Ballard.
After the war, Lord and Lady Vestey were ready to move back into Stowell Park and so Great Ballard School was on the move again. In 1947 Norman Knight thought that he had found the ideal solution at Cordwalles, Camberley, Surrey where the Queen had done her ATS training. Unfortunately, after only one term in their new home a workman set fire to the school while working in the holidays and the boys had to return to Stowell Park until the damage could be repaired. The building was eventually finished and the pupils were able to move back and enjoy their new school which was purpose built with playing fields, a pool, a chapel and surrounded by countryside. The future looked very promising.
However, in 1960, Camberley Council took over some adjoining land to build houses and the school was to lose its country feeling. As this had always been part of the ethos of the school since its foundation in 1924, another move to the countryside was sought.
This final move took place in March 1961 to Eartham near Chichester, West Sussex. Eartham House became the home of Great Ballard School and is still its home today upholding the original ethos and values started back in 1924 by Ivor Poole who would no doubt have enjoyed seeing future generations of children still being encouraged to take part in music, sport, nature watching whilst enjoying an excellent academic education too. He would no doubt also have been delighted to know that golf and cricket are still favourite sports at Great Ballard! One important change to the school is that it is no longer just a boarding school for boys, it offers both day and boarding opportunities for both boys and girls with all children being given the same opportunities to “do their best to be their best”.