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Hillside, Frith Hill, Godalming: Hydro, Boy's School & Hotel


The large nineteenth century house on the hillside overlooking Farncombe was used as an hydropathic establishment, then became a boy's school and lastly was used as a guest house / hotel. It had a coach house, stables and outbuildings and the grounds covered several acres.

Documents relating to the Marshall family show that the "earliest evidence of title to the premises refers to a lease and release between James Arnold, butcher, and Mary Chandler, widow, of 15-16 Aug 1828. Murray Marshall appears to have purchased the property in 1862"[1] and in 1867 an advertisement announced that Hill-side was being used as an Hydropathic Establishment "for the treatment of acute and chronic diseases ... the locality is salubrious and beautiful, the situation being one of the finest in the Surrey Hills. App[ly] to Mr. Habberly MR Clpt[?]"[2]. By 1871 the Thompson family were living at Hillside, so the experiment with hydropathy was over[3].

In March the following year the Rev Edward S. Dodd, M.A. (Cantab), who had been an assistant master at Cheam School, advertised for pupils under 15 years of age; the terms were from 80 guineas. Hillside was described as being "in a healthy part of Surrey"[4]. Eliza Marshall subsequently acquired a further strip of land adjoining the Hillside site in 1873 from Thomas Strudwick of Unstead Farm and in 1874 she conveyed the premises to her tenant, the Rev. Dodd[1]. Arthur Mapletoft Curteis was running an academy at Hillside in 1878[5], with 38 boarders there in 1881[6] when he advertised for a House Master at his preparatory school for little boys. "No very young men need apply : Naval Officers on the retired list preferred"[7]. However, it wasn't until 1883 that Dodd leased the premises to Mr. Curteis, with a clause permitting use as a school "for young gentlemen"[1]. There were 35 boarders attending the school in 1891[8].

Aldous and Gervas Huxley went as boarders to Hillside in 1903, which was by then run by Mr Gidley Robinson[9]. Val Gielgud, elder brother of Sir John Gielgud, was boarding in 1911[10] and "in January 1912, following in his brothers' footsteps, he [John] was [also] sent as a boarder to Hillside"[11]. By then the headmaster was James Douglas; his brother Sholto was also on the staff[12]. For such a small school, it produced a surprising number of distinguished people.

Richard Melville Beaumont transferred to Hillside from Riber School, Matlock in 1919. He described Mr. Douglas as a good cricketer, and "the school was well equipped for cricket and also had a field nearby ("Marking Horn") which had been released from wartime food production, and where soccer could be played. The School house itself was an extraordinary puzzle. There was an ordinary house ... with a drive entrance from a quiet road going up the hill from Farncombe. Several additions had been made to it further up the hill, with one or two classrooms, of a temporary nature, in different directions. There were several staircases. ... there was a good carpentry shop run by a patient and kindly carpenter called Inwood. ... The senior master was a Mr. Taylor, a good naturalist and most knowledgeable about butterflies and moths - the breeding of which (in jam jars) was not discouraged. ... There were twenty garden plots marked out ... shared amongst those of us who were interested". Many of the boys went on to Charterhouse[13].

In 1947 James Douglas was living in Cheltenham and still teaching young boys. "J. Douglas, formerly headmaster for many years of Hillside Preparatory School Godalming, is prepared to take candidates for the common entrance into schools"[14].

"The Revs Walter Edward Fagan Dodd and Charles Haffenden Dodd were the owners in 1936, when the house was leased to William Henry Barton, for use as a guest house"[1]. A similar postcard shows that Hillside was also run as a guest house by the London Co-operative Society, Ltd.. Hillside was demolished in the 1970s, replaced by the housing of Hillside Way.


Please note that there was no connection between this school and the Hillside School, Busbridge which was partially transferred from Reigate to Godalming in 1940 and was located on The Drive.


"Hillside Guest House, Farncombe, Surrey". No publisher. Not posted.
Postcard in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews. Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References:

[1] Surrey History Centre. Hillside House and School ... Bundle of Deeds (1837 - 1936). Ref: 1914/1. Walter Edward Fagan Dodd was the son of the school's founder.
[2] "The Standard" (London), Wednesday, July 31, 1867.
[3] 1871 census, Hill Side House, Godalming. William Henry Thompson was a gardener, born in Worcestershire.
[4] "The Morning Post" (London), Saturday, March 23, 1872.
[5] "Kelly's 1878 Directory", under Farncombe also under Commercial.
[6] 1881 census, when the address was given as Binscombe, Hillside, Godalming. Arthur Mapletoft Curteis, M.A. Oxon, was educated at Harrow (1851 census) and was the son of a Solicitor (1841 census).
[7] The advertisement appeared in the "Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle" etc (Portsmouth), Wednesday, March 30, 1881.
[8] 1891 census. Hill Side, Hurtmore, Godalming.
[9] 1901 census. George Gidley Robinson, the headmaster, was born in Howrah, India. He had taken over the school in 1891, but retired in 1905. He died at St. Leonard's in 1936 ("Hastings and St Leonards Observer", Saturday 29 August 1936).
[10] 1911 census. The address was then Hillside School Hurtmore Road Godalming. J. Douglas, the headmaster, was a 41 year old bachelor at the time.
[11] Croall Jonathan (2011) " John Gielgud: Matinee Idol to Movie Star", London, Methuen Drama.
[12] James Douglas had played cricket for Surrey and "was a cousin of J.W.H.T. (Johnny Won't Hit Today) Douglas, then captain of Essex" (from [13] below). Sholto Douglas was educated at Dulwich College, had played cricket for Middlesex, served as a soldier in the Boer War in the Imperial Yeomanry, and was killed in action on 28 January 1916 whilst serving in the Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex Regiment).
[13] "Richard Melville Beaumont (1909-98) of Southwell in his own words", a private publication. Copyright the Estate of Richard Melville Beaumont. Selected extracts are published here, with kind permission. Richard left Hillside in the summer of 1920, having passed the Common Entrance for Rugby.
[14] "Gloucestershire Echo", Thursday 02 January 1947.




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