217. Grenham House

Boys aged down to 7 were forced to enter a regime consisting of fear and corporal punishment. Today such a school would have been closed. A student died there. Fortunately while tragic caused by an illness and not the awful violence the employees were responsible for.

The boarding school is closed now. However it is still safe to state that it was not a place for children to stay while the school was in existence.


2021 update

An well-known author has come forward with his experiences at the school when he was a child.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin author Louis de Bernières, 66, reveals ‘hellish abuse’ he suffered at hands of two ‘sadistic’ teachers at English boarding school (The Daily Mail Online)

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About Rotsne

Danish immigrant, but very integrated. After having worked for another research center, I have recently started working for International Culture Exchange where I serve the youth and their families wanting to become an exchange student.

21 responses to “217. Grenham House”

  1. Grenham Old Boy says :

    Canings at British schools were not uncommon. Although I attended Grenham House for five years, I was first caned at the age of six or seven at another school. I was caned three times at Grenham. If you misbehaved you knew what was in store as punishment

    • nicholas miles says :

      i could not agree more you did the crime you got the punishment as i did made men of us

  2. nicholas miles says :

    you did the crime you got the punishment great school hard but fair i was at grenham house for eight years made men of us

  3. jonathon dempsey says :

    I attended a nearby preparatory school to Grenham House, Canterbury House School situated in Westgate-on-Sea, the next village along from Birchington, between 1960-1965. The relevance being that when Canterbury House closed down the Headmaster, Major J.S.S. Bury, started as siting and teaching at Grenham House. Major Bury was a man of great integrity – a Military Cross from WW2 and a local Justice of the Peace, an extraordinary man. He was also a Man of God, regular church-goer with great humility..
    There is no way he would have tolerated the unacceptable beatings and paedophilia goings on at Grenham House if he realised or was aware what was happening, if indeed the activities mentioned were still happening when Major Bury was there. Late 1960’s-early 1970’s? I don’t think Major Bury was there for very long in any case.
    I do recall we used to play Grenham House at rugby and cricket, losing every time because we were a much smaller school. I still shake – after 50 years – at the thought of facing their fast bowler, a guy called Amlott! They had another bloke who partnered Amlott in the bowling , equally fast, but thankfully I can’t recall his name….

    • Grenham Old Boy says :

      Denys Jeston also served in WW2 and was clearly very affected by his experiences. A Grenham House old boy died in his arms on the battlefield.

      The Suchet brothers – the TV newsreader and radio presenter; and the Poirot actor – have written or given interviews about their time at Grenham. By and large they were correct with their observations.

      In my days we boys were required to swim naked in the school’s pool, supervised by Denys in his ordinary working clothes. After we got out we formed a queue for Denys to dry our naked backsides – something that he insisted on doing. I always though this was very strange and something that no one has mentioned in recent times. We were apparently judged to be capable of doing this unaided after our nightly bath.

      As for beatings, if you ever watched Billy Bunter on TV or read the books you will no doubt recall the reference to beatings – they were part of school life, particularly fee-paying ones, until the late Sixties or Seventies.

    • Grenham Old Boy says :

      I am sure that Maj Bury was of the utmost integrity. However, sexual abuse was almost certainly rife but he was not aware of it. This can often be the case. Abusers do not usually broadcast what they are up to.

      While I am certainly not accusing every teacher at Grenham of being a pervert, there were undoubtedly a number of them during the time I was there, but only one was exposed and he left immediately a complaint was made. He picked on the wrong boy who contacted his parents.

      Those who were up to no good were the live-in ones – it gave them free reign and enabled them to be much closer to the boys.

    • richard says :

      i can remember his name.it was latham,and he was a deadly bowler

    • Louis de Berniere-Smart says :

      Hedley Wyatt? He was a terrifying fast bowler. I was at Grenham between 63 and 68, and I now write as Louis de Bernieres. I am collecting memories of Grenham House in order to publish them, and am in contact with several old boys. I would be grateful to hear from anyone. I am extremely angry about our treatment, although not all my memories are negative.

      • Grenham old boy says :

        It would be a good idea to provide an email address.

      • Louis de Berniere-Smart says :

        My e-mail is yenikarakedi@btinternet.com if anyone would like to be in contact. Louis de Berniere-Smart

      • Julian Marshall says :

        Louis – I was at Grenham House in the late 1950’s,early 1960’s and have never been so miserable in my life. I was mercilessly bullied but it was nothing as compared to the sadism of Denys Jeston. I remember my first beating,late at night,in a downstairs classroom where he would take a run before bringing down the cane. I was so small and slight at the time that I fell over with each stroke.
        And there was the paedophilia, furtive from someone like Lidgate but explicit from a very tall English master for whom I was the “teachers pet “ and who sexually abused me through my time at the school.
        And of course you never told your parents. They would have found it unbelievable !

      • Grenham Old Boy says :

        I am extremely surprised to hear about the tall teacher because he was newly married with a young child. I had the highest regard for him as a teacher. I would go so far as to say he was the best teacher I ever encountered. He was also very generous with his time out of the classroom, teaching boys to swim and coaching on the sports field. He saw how backward the school was in some respects, e.g. music appreciation and the age of the books in the library, and persuaded headmaster Denys Jeston to improve matters.

        While I was caned three times by Jeston, I don’t hold it against him. Yes, it hurt, but canings were part of school life 50 and more years ago. Times change and what is acceptable today may not be in a few years’ time.

      • Louis de Berniere-Smart says :

        This is a message for Julian Marshall, who commented below. I am astonished by what you say about Ben Adams. He was my best teacher ever. I do remember him creeping about the dormitories at night and eavesdropping on us. Anyway, you were my ‘uncle’ for the first year, and I would like to thank you for looking after me.
        Louis de Berniere-Smart

  4. Jantzen Coles says :

    I went to C.H.S as a boarder in 1979
    at the age of 8. I was there until it closed 3 years later.
    I found it a good place for education and a great place for sport.

  5. John says :

    I experienced and witnessed sexual and physical abuse at this school. I can confirm the drying ritual post swimming. I was there from 1960 to 1963. It was so cold in winter that the water in your mug would freeze in the dormitory. One of the “masters” would get into bed with the boy next to me. Luckily I was not too pretty. There were good people Like Major Nelson who served in India. When caning you Jeston’s face would go red and his voice go dry. Nightmare.

  6. Grenham Old Boy says :

    Denys Jeston liked to humiliate his pupils. A favourite way was to shout “boooooy” at one. Another was to give us nicknames, thus one who was small for his age was called Half-pint, another was labelled Cuckoo because of his slightly bizarre behaviour.

    The only subject that Jeston taught was Latin. I hated it, firstly because I found it difficult and secondly because of his attitude. He had an MA in classics and so the subject was second nature to him. Get something wrong and there would be a loud “Ughhhhhhh” from Jeston in front of the whole class.

    Another humiliation was for Jeston to say to a boy in a loud voice in front of the whole class “Your breath stinks. Have you been to the toilet today?” as if the two were connected. This from a man with a degree from Oxford.

    His mother died at the school in her private quarters while I was a pupil. She must have been in her 80s and may have had cancer. The next day at breakfast Jeston exploded with rage at us for making a noise in our dormitories the previous night while his mother was on her death bed. Children do not understand these things and he should have shown a little understanding

    David and John Suchet have spoken of their canings at Grenham but what they forgot was that corporal punishment in British schools was common until the Eighties or even the Nineties. Anyone what read the Billy Bunter books or saw the TV series should know that. Denys caned me several times but I do not hold it against him because beatings were par for the course. At least one of my contemporaries at Grenham said that his father whacked him.

    The Suchets have written about Jack Lidgate, the deputy head and Jeston’s business partner. Mercifully I was not a “pretty” boy and consequently never suffered. He taught maths and sometimes called a boy up to where he was sitting to explain a point in class. Lidgate then put his hand up the boy’s short trousers.

    I recall how cold the school was because a minimal amount was spent of heating by Denys. We used to have to put our hands on the radiators for a little warmth.

    On the positive side, Grenham had some excellent teachers – Major Nelson and Ben Adams spring to mind for particular praise. Some of the classes were unbelievably small with as few as eight boys.

  7. Philip Hatch-Barnwell says :

    Autumn swimming in the freezing sea every Sunday
    Swimming naked from age five to thirteen in front of staff and parents
    Beaten with a cane by the headmaster with a run up followed by a slide having cleared the desks
    And more

    • Philip Hatch-Barnwell says :

      I remember Major Nelson and The tall Ben Adams very well and with a certain amount of affection! I enjoyed cricket and hockey and was a colour cap for three years for hockey and two for cricket!
      We played football not rugby and we had a bath every three days!

    • Grenham old boy says :

      It is many years since I was at Grenham but I think we had a bath every night with the exception of Sunday. I remember that two or even three of us could be in the bath at the same time. The water was not replaced for the next batch of two or three boys, so it was often pretty filthy with hair and soap scum. Also filthy by the end of term was the water in the swimming pool. I recall a greenish mould floating on it. I doubt if chlorine was ever put in the water.

      Some 15 years or more after I left Grenham, my dad received a begging letter asking for money to rebuild the swimming pool. We decided to ignore it because the school was owned by Denys Jeston and he would be the beneficiary of the money raised. It was a business and there were other ways of financing improvements.

      I don’t think there were any five-year-old pupils at Grenham when I was there, although there were certainly some aged seven.

      • Philip Hatch-Barnwell says :

        When I arrived at Grenham I was five years old and by far the youngest in the school. The youngest of us slept in the Lidgate home where I learnt very early on how to control my homesickness!
        The swimming pool would grow green algae which became darker and darker as it multiplied because the pool was so warm, and, as the previous writer has said, never chlorinated!

  8. Richard Lee says :

    1974 to 1979, I was in Beatty, pupil number 57, my nick was “Bruce”, from age 7 to 12, my memories of Grenham House was the cane, powder scrabbled eggs every breakfast except Wednesday, Jeston supporting Chelsea, the two Dachshund own my Jeston new wife, Major Nelson great teacher, Mr Hollands Rover P5 he was strict but fair, Jack Lidgate doggy hands and glass eye. Crying with the other kids during the first week of new terms sleeping on straw filled mattress in the cold darkness. I felt so strongly about boarding schools I promised never to send my own kids to boarding school, though I do endorse private education, it pushed me. I sent my boy to local grammar schools and private schools.

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