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Mr I S Smith's Preparatory Academy, Harpenden

Was this on the corner of Church Green in the 1830s?

Advertisement for Mr I S Smith’s school. Credit: LHS archives – copy of document in Bodleian Library, reproduced in NL 43, May 1987

In Newsletter 43 (May 1987), it was reported that a member of the Society had discovered an engraving in a catalogue of ephemera at the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

The article asked: “Was there really a building like this in Harpenden with chimneys at each corner? Or has a standard engraving of a school been used for the advertisement? …. where was it?”

The advertisement reads:

For a Limited Number of Young Gentlemen

Mr I S SMITH begs leave to direct the attention of Parents and Guardians of Youth to the above Establishment, where every attention is paid to the comfort, health, and improvement of the Pupils: the plan of instruction adopted at this Seminary Mr S. feels confident will meet the approbation of Parents; Mr S. also trusts, by an unremitting attention, to prove himself not unworthy of the confidence that may be reposed in him. The village of Harpenden stands unrivalled for dryness of soil: the House is commodious, rooms large and airy, having been recently fitted up at a considerable expense.

Terms, including Board, Latin, Reading, Writing, Arithmetic and Geography, from 20 to 25 Guineas per Annum, according to the respective ages of the Pupils.

Two Stages Pass Daily

Mr I S Smith did have a school in Harpenden, which was advertised in Piggot’s Directory for 1839.

Island Cottage

The building bears some resemblance to Island Cottage, occupied by Mr F G Lockhart in 1870s and 1880s, until he moved to Lea House on the corner of Ox Lane.

Two gabled house on the corner of Church Green – occupied by Mr F G Lockhart in the 1880s. Credit: Scan from Harpenden, A Picture History, Harpenden WEA 1973

Island Cottage was described in particulars for sale by auction in 1886*, as being ‘brick-built, tiled and slated 2-storey high, with ornamental double gables and bay windows’. The building was pulled down in 1890 and replaced by houses and shops which still face north onto Church Green.

Lea House

Mr F G Lockhart was listed at Lea House in Kelly’s until 1924. It seems Mrs Lockhart then moved to 15 Clarence Road; by 1932 she was no longer there. By 1928 Lea House was occupied by Hugh C Webster, and it became 1 Ox Lane from 1930.

By 1938 Kenneth B Castle was listed as running school at 1 Ox Lane. Lea House, a preparatory school, ran under his headship until at least 1946. Some time between then and 1949 it became a girls’ hostel for the National Children’s Home: in 1956 it was listed as an NCH ‘diabetic hostel’. Possibly empty in 1958, it was then occupied by Frank E Ritchie until 1964. It was demolished in around 1965 and by 1966 the six flats at Lea Court were all occupied.


Lea House, during demolition. Credit: Lesley Coburn – scanned from original belonging to Amy Coburn

* in LHS Archives, Box File 10.55.

Comments about this page

  • Lea House moved to Aldwickbury in Wheathampstead Road in 1948.
    My wife Sally Oliver (nee Castle) was one of the daughters of Kenneth Castle.

    By Antony Oliver (11/02/2023)
  • If it can be assumed that a J has been misinterpreted as an I and that there has been a variation in the spelling of the name ‘Stancell’, Mr Smith’s school and Island Cottage were most likely the same building.  In the poll books for 1802 and 1805 a John Smith is listed under Harpenden while that for 1832 records a John Stantial Smith as being qualified because he owned a Freehold House, Island Cottage.  The schedule for the 1843 Tithe awards states that plot 559 (house and garden) was owned by John Stancell Smith and that is the plot on the corner of the High Street and what is now Church Green ie where Mr Lockhart’s house stands in the photograph.

    By Diana Parrott (03/02/2018)
  • Kenneth Castle later moved the school to Aldwickbury where it continues to flourish.

    Thank you for pointing this out!  We have made a link to the school’s website. ed

    By Adrian Smith (01/05/2015)

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