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Charterhouse School, The Statue of William Haig Brown

The person who had the vision to transfer Charterhouse School from its old City of London home at The Charterhouse near Smithfield Market to the countryside of the Surrey Hills was Dr. William Haig Brown. It was considered remarkable that a statue was erected in his lifetime, but was not unsurprising as both a mark of the esteem he was held in and his achievements in reviving the school and dramatically increasing its pupil numbers.

William Haig, son of Thomas and Amelia Brown of Bow Common, Bromley St. Leonard's, was born on 3 Dec 1823 and baptised 16th Jan 1824 at Stepney Independent[1]. He was educated at Christ's Hospital School, then in Newgate Street in London, and went on to study at Pembroke College, Cambridge[2].

He applied to become the headmaster in 1863 and it was noted that "unlike his predecessors he was not educated at Charterhouse". Apparently, when the governors raised this during his interview for the post, his response was to pose the question "How about the first headmaster?"[2]. Touché. He was duly elected. Several sources state that he knew all of the 560 pupils by sight and also knew something about each one of them.

Enlargement, showing the statue

On his retirement in 1897 he returned to The Charterhouse Hospital and it was then proposed to erect a statue at the school as a memorial of his work as headmaster.

The Royal Academician Harry Bates was awarded the commission, but he died in 1899 without completing the work. The task of finishing the bronze memorial fell to Bates' pupil Mr Henry Poole who was supervised by Mr. Onslow Ford[3].

The statue, erected in front of the chapel, was unveiled on Saturday 28 July 1900 in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London and Lord Alverstone[4] as well as both Viscount Midleton of Peperharow and the Rt. Hon. W. St. J. Broderick, M.P.[5]. Mrs. Rendall, wife of the then headmaster, performed the ceremony. The Archbishop made a speech, dwelling on Dr. Haig Brown's devoted labours to the school[4]. "Dr Haig Brown was given an enthusiastic reception and, in turn, he expressed gratitude for the kindness always shown to him"[3].

The seated figure is wearing his academic gown and in his right hand is a "rough" model of the school chapel, to indicate that he had founded the buildings at Godalming[4]. It seems to have been a ploy used by the artist as several other Bates' statues have similar meaningful symbols in the subject's hands. Haig Brown's obituary stated that the effigy had been placed to face the playing fields which were "ringed with oaks beneath which the boys muster for roll call on summer afternoons"[2]. However, at least some of those fields had been replaced by the War Memorial Chapel shortly before these 1927 images were taken but it is still fitting that the first headmaster of the Godalming School was now looking at a memorial to former pupils. The chapel is on the left in the top image and one of the boarding houses, Verites, is on the right.

In later years he was able to assist his old Alma Mater, Christ's Hospital, and in 1891 was involved in a new scheme in its government and that school's move to Horsham in West Sussex[2].

He passed away at the master's lodge of The Charterhouse Hospital on 11 January 1907, aged 83[2] and was buried in the Godalming school's chapel. The service was held on 16th January, with a memorial service held simultaneously at The Charterhouse and another at noon on the same day at Christ Church, Newgate Street attended by a number of people linked to Christ's Hospital[6].

1. and 2. "Charterhouse, Godalming". (Haig Brown statue). Published by F. Frith & Co. Ltd., Reigate, No.79679. First published in 1927. Posted on 10 Oct 1935 at Godalming. Message unrelated to image.
Postcard in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] "England & Wales Non-Conformist Births And Baptisms", London: Stepney, Bull Lane (Independent). Available on FindMyPast.

[2] The Times, Saturday, 12 Jan, 1907, p.12. Death of Dr. Haig Brown (The Times Digital Archive).

[3] The Times, Monday, 30 Jul, 1900, p.10.

[4] "Morning Post" Monday 30 July 1900.

[5] "Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser", 4 August 1900. These names were omitted from earlier reports but appeared in both the Advertiser and the Surrey Mirror.

[6] The Times, Thursday, 17 Jan, 1907, p.8.

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