The Old West Downs Society

Some Books about West Downs

“West Downs – A Portrait of an English Prep School”

By Mark Hichens
This book, published in 1992, and written by an OWD who has had a lifelong connection with the school, is well worth purchasing. It covers everything, is very readable, and costs only £18. Copies are available from the OWD Society Secretary, from Mark himself and from the Publishers, Messrs Pentland Press Ltd in Durham.

There is a foreword by Lord Sherfield, known at WD as Roger Makins, 30 chapters and a preface, an introduction and a postscript. There is an appendix and an index. The font used is not large: it looks like Times Roman 9½ points, with 8 point footnotes, so you certainly get a lot for your money. Mark not only had over 100 written contributions from OWDs, but also travelled the country extensively visiting and interviewing them. The original texts of most of the letters are also published by the OWD Society.

“Memorials to Lionel Helbert”

Edited by Nowell C. Smith and published in 1926.
Nowell Smith was Headmaster of Sherborne. He was one of the sponsors named on Helbert’s prospectus of West Downs, and it was from Sherborne that one of his staff, Kenneth Tindall, came to take over the School, so he was certainly the right person to write an appreciation of Helbert.
The book, of 332 pages, devotes the first few chapters to a life of Helbert, and the next three to the IAPS, some letters and his diary. There follow some 200 pages of letters and extracts from letters, selected to show what sort of a man Helbert was.

There is also the full text of the address in the Chapel at WD before the unveiling of the West Downs Memorial, which is worth reading.

The OWD Society’s publications

The OWD Society has published virtually all of the letters sent in to Mark Hichens when he was preparing his book, and these can be seen on this website arranged in three volumes, centred respectively on the times at WD of Helbert, Tindall and Cornes. This of course is the unofficial History of the School, for these contributions are often no more than the memories of fifty and more years ago. The facts are no more than those perceived by the boys to affect them at the time. But some of the material is in letters home and essays written at school, and there is consistency, so we cannot disregard what they say entirely.

Other Books and Chapters about West Downs

There are also chapters about life at WD in various biographies, for instance in “Anthony”, by Lord Lytton, and in the Life of Peter Scott. Some of these are also extracted into the collections of letters mentioned above. It would be quite a work of scholarship to produce an exhaustive list.

Membership and Archives Secretary