The main part of the Westhampnett village school was built in 1839. It was paid for through the patronage of the fifth Duke of Richmond, its foundation connected with a concern for social improvement at the time. The school provided for the basic educational requirements of local working families, who were mainly in the employ of the Estate. The school was also attended by the Westhampnett workhouse orphans, and children of the poor and destitute. The workhouse was located a short distance from the school, in Westhampnett Place, and was renowned for its harsh regime.
The school closed its doors in 1967, the pupils moving to the newly built March Primary School on Claypit Lane, where the original Royal Coat of Arms of the Knight of the Garter that used to adorn the Old School’s front porch can be seen in the foyer. We are still visited by former pupils of the school, who remember their time here with great affection.
The Old School has had a number of notable pupils and visitors. The most noteworthy pupil was James Lillywhite Jnr, and almost certainly his 7 children attended the school. James was an English Cricketing legend in both Test cricket and umpiring. He was the first ever captain of the English cricket team in a Test match, captaining two Tests against Australia in 1876–77, losing the first, but winning the second. The Lillywhite family owned the house immediately next door, which was later used as accommodation for the Head Teacher and her assistant.
The first private owner of the Old School was a BBC producer, who bought the building in 1967 as a weekend get-away for himself and his chums. He converted the Old School into a domestic residence, with a corridor running east to west with bedrooms off it. The corridor was reportedly used as a bowling lane. It is not recorded exactly who from the TV and Radio visited for weekend retreats. It is known that The Goons were regular visitors. Graffiti artwork of Spike Milligan still vaguely exists behind a built in cupboard upstairs. You can only imagine the shenanigans that went on!