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Horton Preparatory School

Ickwell has always been too small and too close to Northill to support any village school of its own. However, for a number of years in the 20th century, there was a school in the village. This was the Horton Preparatory School at Ickwell Bury. The school attracted the sons of a number of the local gentry families including Augustus Henry Orlebar (son of Augustus Scobell Orlebar of Tetworth Hall), Howard Seys Phillips, an officer in 7th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment during the Great War and grandson of Sir Frederick Howard and Sir Douglas Frederick Howard and Melvyn Rollason, two more grandsons of Sir Frederick Howard.

A class at Horton Preparatory School [Z50/16/120a]
A class at Horton Preparatory School [Z50/16/120a]

John Cunningham Thomson had set up a preparatory school at Horton Hall in Northamptonshire about 1890 and moved in 1900, on the expiry of the lease, to Ickwell Bury which he rented from the Harvey family, retaining the school's name. Thomson sold the school in 1920 to Rev.George Lindsay Deuchar. When the Harvey family put Ickwell Bury up for sale by auction in 1925 it did not sell and then Deuchar's wife purchased it from the family "by private treaty". Two years later the school was assessed under the 1925 Rating Valuation Act which noted that although accommodation existed for 60 boys just 45 were on the roll. Staff consisted of a matron, two masters and ten servants in addition to the headmaster. The fees charged were around £150 per annum. The valuer considered that 46 boys were needed to turn a profit but for the business to thrive 55 were required.

a dormitory at Horton Preparatory School [Z50/16/122] 
a dormitory at Horton Preparatory School [Z50/16/122]

Clearly the numbers dwindled still further until a profit could not be made for in 1933 the school merged with a similar institution from Heddon Court in Cockfosters [Hertfordshire]. This added a further 30 boys to the roll and its headmaster J.H.Hope became Deuchar's partner in the business. A former old boy Colonel J.B.Wilson noted in 1982 [CRTNorthill130/26/2] that Hope, besides being "a very hard taskmaster" was also a Communist. He left within two years and was replaced by an R.T.Lee. When Colonel Wilson left in 1936 the number of boys had fallen below 40 making the business uneconomic and the school closed the following year.