Quebec House School, Pevensey Road

I came across a newspaper account of an extension to Quebec House School, Upper Maze Hill, in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer, 12 July 1873. The principal, Mr T. Russell Wilkinson, had negotiated with the landlord, Mr Sellman, while Mr Howell was the builder.

I wondered where this school was. No Quebec House was, or is, on Upper Maze Hill. After a little digging around in the newspaper archives I realised it was in fact on Pevensey Road. The image below from an Ordnance Survey map surveyed in 1872, published 1875, shows it two doors down from the original St John’s church. It is now numbered 32-34 Pevensey Road.

1872 map showing Quebec House on Pevensey Road

The extension consisted of a new schoolroom and a bathroom. The foundation stone ceremony was performed by four named boys, each laying a brick at the corners of the new schoolroom, including Howard Wilkinson, nephew to the Principal. Like Highbury House School and the Duffs which I have previously written about it was very much a family operation.

The account says ‘Having performed their work to the satisfaction of Mr Howell’s foreman, these young gentlemen, amid a hearty cheer from their companions, wished “success to their new school-room.” ‘ A half holiday was granted to the boys.

I searched for planning applications for the extension. The Keep, at Falmer, contains these from 1851 although the catalogue entries vary in their details (I cannot find the original application for Quebec House). The relevant applications were DH/C/6/1/1570, dated 6 June 1873, for a bathroom at 32 Pevensey Road, and DH/C/6/1/1580, dated 8 July 1873, for a schoolroom at rear of 32 Pevensey Road. The mention of 32 Pevensey Road was by a diligent cataloguer identifying the current address. The applications would show drawings of the precise locations as well as architectural plans, signed by the architect, who is not mentioned in the newspaper article. Many are not aware that such documents can often be traced for specific houses.

The 1871 census lists nine persons at Quebec House. Thomas R. Wilkinson was 56, schoolmaster, born London. His wife Margaret, 34, was born in Coventry. There was also Thomas’ sister Sarah, 47. We are lucky enough to have an easily identified visitor who was apparently father to the only two pupils listed (Frederick, 11, and Francis, 9). This was John Croft, baronet. John Frederick Croft, 2nd Baronet of Cowling Hall, Kent. His father had received the baronetcy for, among other services, masterminding a spy network for the Duke of Wellington in Spain in 1810. There were also three servants.

Wilkinson died in 1879 at Quebec House and named both his wife and his sister as executrixes. Burgess’s lists in 1883 show that they were joint owners of the house. By the 1881 census the household was much larger. The 1871 census did not state if Wilkinson’s family joined in as schoolmistresses, but now we have more information. There were now 25 in the house. Both the widow and the sister are listed as schoolmistresses. Another teacher was George Good Wilkinson, 22, nephew, BA Cambridge, with ‘schoolmaster’ scrawled in. There was also a music mistress.

The 17 scholars, all boys, varied in ages between 6 and 14. Five were born in the East Indies, two in Scotland, and the rest in England. Not one was born in Sussex. There were also five servants, all born in East Sussex.

All three of the Wilkinsons were at Quebec House in the 1901 census, with the 64-year-old widow the “head” householder. There were 20 pupils.

In the 1911 census the nephew, the Rev. George Wilkinson, was at Thornton House, Northiam with his wife and his aunt, the same Sarah Wilkinson who was in the 1871 census. When they married in 1883 in Fulham he stated he was of Quebec House. He died at Eastbourne in 1939. Venn, the biographical work for Cambridge graduates, summarises his career as follows: ‘C. of Upper St Leonards-on-Sea, 1883-5. Lecturer of St Mary Magdalene’s, St Leonards-on-Sea, 1891-4. Head Master of Quebec House School, St Leonards-on-Sea. C. of Northiam, Sussex, 1907-11. C.-in-charge of Christ Church, Horeham Road, Sussex, 1911-15. R. of Knossington and of Cold Overton, Leics., 1915-34.’ C is curate, R is rector.

Sarah was buried at Heathfield in 1914, aged 91. Margaret, the widow, had died in 1908 at Thornton House, hence probably living there with her sister in law as well as her nephew’s family.

As for Quebec House — in the 1911 census it was finally numbered, and clearly no longer a school. Annual directories (on the top floor of Hastings Library) would have given more information, including the name of the principal. It is rare for official records for schools to survive so that was no surprise. As for the house itself, below is it as seen on Google Streetview.

32-34 Pevensey Road, formerly Quebec House School

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