The school is situated in a historic house which was home to one of England’s most important aristocratic families - the Dukes of Devonshire - between 1782 and 1950.
School built in the years after 1544
The oldest parts of the present house were probably built in the years after 1544, when it was known as Bourne Place. A hundred years later, the house passed to the Wilson family, who used it as a farmhouse.
Members of the Royal Family have stayed here. King George III was a frequent visitor in the summer of 1780, King George V lived here for six weeks in 1935, and the current Queen visited the house as a child in 1936 and spent two weeks here with her sister Princess Margaret in 1946.
In 1892, the house was visited by an 18 year-old German princess, Alexandra of Hesse, who scratched her name on the window using her diamond ring…you can still see her name on the window today!! Two years later, Alexandra went to Russia, where she married Tsar Nicholas II. Alexandra scratched her name on several windows in St Petersburg and Moscow too, but her life ended in tragedy. In 1917, the Tsar was overthrown by a revolution and the Imperial family was imprisoned until December 1918, when Nicholas, Alexandra and all their children were shot by the Bolsheviks.
The Dukes of Devonshire
In 1782, Lady Elizabeth Compton married into one of the wealthiest families in England: the Cavendish family – the Dukes of Devonshire. The Cavendishes mostly used the house as a summer home or as a home for their children. In the 1830s and 1840s, the seventh Duke of Devonshire developed Eastbourne as a holiday resort “built by gentlemen for gentlemen”, one of the best planned resort towns on the south coast. It is thanks to the Duke and his insistence that there should be no shops by the beach that Eastbourne has such an elegant seafront. In 1950, the tenth Duke of Devonshire died of a heart attack while he was visiting his son’s family at Compton Place. When his son became the eleventh Duke, he moved out of the house, which was then closed down.