Our Lambrook Dining Room has had a most eventful life, stretching back for well over one hundred years to 1887. In that year, the school’s second Headmaster, E. D. Mansfield, had the vision to add classrooms, dormitories, and a Big Schoolroom to the original Victorian mansion built by William Budd as a private residence in 1853.
R. J. Burnside had founded his school there in 1860, teaching a handful of boy boarders in the same house where he lived with his own family, but in 1883 E. D. Mansfield arrived from Clifton College as the new Headmaster. He soon resolved to convert Lambrook into a building that was more fit for purpose as an educational establishment, adding a classroom block, dormitories, and other facilities.
This ambitious initial expansion was completed by 1888, with the Big Schoolroom providing a multi-functional space which remains in full use to this very day. Since then, it has accommodated academic lessons and Prep, concerts, assemblies, lectures, debates, magic lantern shows and films, boxing and gym competitions, and dance tuition, as well as countless daily meals of course.
During E. D. Mansfield’s era, morning Prayers were said in the Schoolroom after breakfast, but it was not until 1892 that religious services could be accompanied on an organ. In that year Arthur Asquith wrote to his father Herbert (who had just become Home Secretary) that ‘they are making the organ with carved pillars of wood’, and it was fitted into one corner of the room.
Until the Chapel was built in 1904, the Sunday evening service was also held in the Big Schoolroom. Afterwards, the whole community went upstairs for milk and biscuits in the Dining Room, which occupied the location of our current School Library. Writing nearly 60 years later, a Past Pupil wrote: ‘my impression is that we were fed extraordinarily well at Lambrook in 1900.’
In his reminiscences, that same Old Lambrookian (Audley Gray, 1897-1901) described a typical week’s diet as follows:
‘At breakfast we always began with porridge, followed on Mondays by cold ham – I can see in my mind’s eyes those two lovely hams now. Tuesdays: hot grated ham on toast. Wednesdays: fried bacon. Thursdays: the finest pork sausages I have ever eaten. Fridays: fish, herrings, kippers etc. Saturdays, the only poor breakfast: two oily sardines. Sundays: boiled eggs…’
‘…The midday meal again was excellent – both for the meat course and the ‘sweets’. By modern standards, tea was a quite inadequate repast. The management provided only tea, bread, butter, and jam, but we were allowed to bring back tuck to supplement what was provided – cakes, biscuits, potted meat etc…’
‘…We always had a grand Christmas supper (turkey, plum-pudding etc.) at the end of the winter term, and Lambrook must have been one of the few schools where goose was eaten on Michaelmas Day. We were not allowed any sort of sweets, but 2 or 3 times a week each boy received a thick bar of Cadbury’s ‘Mexican Chocolate’, a particularly pure variety.’
Leaping forwards through time, the early 1970s saw some long-laid plans for re-ordering Lambrook’s school buildings finally reach fruition. Implemented between 1972 and 1973, the scheme’s three phases began with the construction of a new Assembly Hall and Classroom Block beside the playing fields, effectively turning the Playground into a quadrangle.
The completion of this facility led to Phase Two: Lambrook’s former Big Schoolroom was widened, repurposed as the Dining Room, and linked directly to the modernised basement kitchens through the provision of a new servery. One particularly welcome end result of this overhaul was that freshly cooked meals no longer had to be transported via a ‘dumb waiter’ lift in order to be eaten on the floor above!
The third and final phase of Lambrook’s transformative project enabled the former Dining Room upstairs, which had now been vacated, to be refurnished as a spacious School Library. The eastern end, adjacent to the Front Hall and close to the main entrance door, was also separated off from the rest of the room with a dividing wall so that it could once more become the School Office, as it had been until 1930.
In 2003, with pupil numbers having risen dramatically over the intervening 30 years to reach 437, further capacity was necessary in the Dining Room. As a consequence, the School Development Plan envisioned a means of meeting this increased demand for seating by widening the room’s ‘footprint’ again, this time on the Playground side.
The design for an extension was duly drawn up, work began during the summer holidays and, despite a few finishing touches remaining to be made, the children all had a cooked meal on the first day of term in September. Soon afterwards, Lambrook had successfully provided sixty extra places and created a double entry point system to speed up service. The Headmaster could rightly declare: ‘Lunch is now a much more civilized affair!’
In 1849, only four years before Lambrook was built, the Victorian critic John Ruskin wrote the following words: ‘When we build, let us think that we build for ever. Let it not be for present delight, nor for present use alone; let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for’ (The Seven Lamps of Architecture: The Lamp of Memory).
As grateful beneficiaries and honoured custodians of this historic school today, we look forward with much excitement to unveiling our Dining Room’s latest transformation in the coming months.
John Kimbell, School ArchivistBack to all news