Recession finally claims historic school that survived Hitler's bombs

11th June 2010 at 01:00
Closure for independent Mostyn House, run by the same family for six generations, as numbers plummet

It weathered the Great Depression, stayed open during the Second World War bombing and survived the decline of heavy industry in the 1970s and 1980s.

However, the most recent recession has proved the final straw for an historic independent school that has been run by six generations of the same family for more than a century and a half.

Suzi Grenfell, the current head of Mostyn House School on the Wirral peninsula, has described the decision to shut up shop as "devastating" and has been left contemplating the future of the school's striking 19th century buildings.

The fate of the school, which will close at the end of the summer term, was sealed when pupil numbers plunged from 125 to 110 during the past academic year, with only 85 signed up for September.

The school accepts children aged three to 18 and is a member of the Independent Schools Council. It said some current parents were struggling to pay school fees, and younger pupils were not coming in to replace older ones.

Foreign workers from multi- national companies based in the area such as Toyota, Unilever and General Motors, who sent their children to the school, were also moving away and not being replaced, it said.

Mostyn House becomes just the latest in an 18-strong list of private schools, many of them with fascinating histories, to announce closure since the start of last year. Many other schools have been subject to mergers and amalgamations.

Ms Grenfell, the sixth generation of her family to run the school, said 60 jobs would be lost in the closure, including teachers, catering and grounds staff.

She said that successive generations of Grenfells, some of them old-fashioned eccentrics, had successfully steered the school through challenging times on several occasions throughout the last century. Most recently, the school adapted to trends by cutting boarding places and introducing dyslexia and special educational needs specialisms. But a recent plunge in numbers had proved too much, she said.

"Education is a major investment and a luxury and not enough younger pupils have come in to replace the older ones. It's incredibly heartbreaking - we needed ten more pupils in each year group.

"After all the generations of the family who have been associated with it, it's devastating, but unfortunately events have overtaken us."

Meanwhile, a small independent prep school in Girton, near Cambridge, has also announced closure, shortly after moving to newly refurbished facilities.

Piscari Learning, which took over St Colette's Prep School in 2008, said it had only been operating at 60 to 65 per cent capacity for the past two years.

In a statement Mike Lander, Piscari chief executive, said: "The impact of the recession combined with being forced to relocate the school away from central Cambridge has caused an unsustainable lack of interest and demand."

Head count

1854-1862: Rev Edward Price

1862-1889: Algernon Sidney Grenfell (his nephew)

1889-1934: Algernon George Grenfell (son)

1934-1964: Algernon Daryl Grenfell (son)

1964-1979: Algernon Julian Grenfell (son)

2002-2010: Suzi Grenfell (daughter)

Mostyn moments

The school was founded in 1854 as a boys' general and preparatory school for children aged eight to 18.

- Its war memorial to alumni killed in the Great War is a rare carillon of 37 bells. An historic covenant says it must be offered to a public school, "preferably Charterhouse" when Mostyn House ceases to exist.

- An air raid shelter was built in the grounds during the Second World War, and it still stands under the football field, used as a rifle range.

- In 1979 the school became a charitable trust.

- During the 1980s the school phased out boarding and went co-educational.

- The school building is formerly the "Mostyn Arms" hotel. One option is to convert it back into a boutique hotel once the school is closed.

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