Object 48: Waste Court

For two weeks during the summer of 1928 the School’s future hung in the balance, either it found £2,000 and was able to complete the purchase on the Waste Court estate or the house, outbuildings and nine acres of land, with all its potential for the School’s future expansion, would be sold to another bidder. To give you some idea of the value of £2,000 in 1928, the asking price for the whole estate was £5,500.

The Waste Court project was the culmination of a decade-long attempt to commemorate the dead of the First World War and solve the problem of the pressure on space caused by increasing numbers at the School. The original war memorial scheme had been to add two storeys to the top of the woodwork shop (Mr Christadoulou’s House Room) and join it up with the sanatorium wing. The next plan, in July 1922, was to extend the School at the south front, infilling the area between School House and Tower Steps with a two storey extension containing dormitories and a large library and reading room, the latter to be furnished with the photographs of the fallen (Object 46), a fitting tribute to the fallen that would “help in a practical manner the School that trained them up to manhood”.

By 1924 this scheme too had gone into abeyance, demand for places at the School, particularly boarding spaces, was so high that it would no longer provide a solution. It was at this point that the Waste Court estate came onto the market; adjoining the School on its northern boundary it was a heaven-sent solution to the problem, except for the asking price. 

Initially the vendors were in no hurry and with £1,600 in the war memorial fund an appeal was launched for the rest. Christ’s Hospital of Abingdon promised £2,500 and the School raised a further £1,800. However, Christ’s Hospital had problems delivering the money and four years had gone by when the Headmaster received a letter from the vendors on 19 June 1928 telling him that unless the remaining money was paid by the 7 July the estate would go to a new bidder. 

Two days later, Founders Day, the Headmaster William Grundy told his audience of the School’s predicament. The Chairman of the Governors, the Earl of Abingdon, and the Vice-Chairman, Arthur Preston OA, both immediately announced that they would each give £500 to the appeal and after this the money just tumbled in, from parents, OAs, local residents and even from the boys themselves. The Headmaster gave £100, his two sisters five guineas each and members of the Remove and Form III donated one guinea between them. In just two weeks the School had raised £2,300, the property was secured and there was even a small amount of money left over towards the costs of conversion.

Waste Court House opened for the Summer term 1929 with the accommodation being described as “little short of luxurious”, which it probably was for the time since it not only had electric lighting but central heating and a 500 gallon hot water supply. But this was felt to be appropriate, as the editor of The Abingdonian commented, “There is no fitter memorial to the illustrious dead than a building and estate like this, which bear the potentialities of a great future. The memorial of their sacrifice is based on a more abundant life.”