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The founder of the school Mr Cyril Marchant Holliday had been a tea planter before the second World War when he worked for the British army intelligence services. He met his wife Marjorie in India where she was working as a nurse. On returning home to England he decided that he would like to become a school teacher as it was something he had always wanted to do and so he and Marjorie decided to start a small independent school rather than teach in the state system.
In 1950 the school opened its doors at Whatcombe House, a large rented country house in Dorset. The Hollidays then decided to buy the present house in North Cheriton and convert the assorted buildings for use as a school; on 6th April 1954 the purchase was completed. Their original school, Whatcombe House School had been located near Blandford in Dorset and they continued to use that name for the new school. They had a group of 45 pupils aged 7-16 years, the majority of whom came from deprived backgrounds in inner London. The Hollidays were the proprietors of the school until the 17th January 1959 when Mr & Mrs Holliday were appointed joint Principals by the newly formed Governing Board of Whatcombe House School Limited. The board of Governors were also Directors of the company and the School property was transferred to the Company on 21st April 1959. When Mr Marchant Holliday died on 4th April 1963, the School and Company names were changed to The Marchant-Holliday School to commemorate the name and inspiration of the founder.
Mr Eric Young was appointed Headmaster by resolutions of the Board on 26th April 1963 and he continued the good work of the school. As Headmaster he oversaw the building of the 'Round Table' recreation room, the much loved, but alas no more, circular swimming pool and additional on-site staff accommodation. He retired in 1986 when Jeremy Robertson took over as Headmaster, eventually assuming the role of Principal before retiring in 2007. Whilst Mr Robertson was in charge the school continued to develop with new buildings and flexible provision for boarding and day boys being introduced. A restructuring of the management team saw the appointment of Terry Kitts, who had been Deputy Headteacher since 1988, to the role of Headteacher in 2003 and the school appoint its first School Business Manager.
During the 1960s and 70s the school went through a development period when many of the existing buildings were modified and adapted. The school was fortunate to have as one of its Governors Miss Hilda Clinkard who had been an official with the Department for Education. She was able to use her influence to raise a considerable amount of money for the development of various projects such as the extensions to the main classroom block where her name still adorns the main entrance.
The 90s saw temporary classrooms, an ICT suite, further staff accommodation and the construction of the current swimming pool called 'The Bill Walworth Pool' after the Governor who oversaw this and many other projects. The turn of the century heralded further developments in the form of a significant building and renovation project led by our fundraiser & appeal manager Sarah Gleadell. This resulted in the upgrading of the residential accommodation at the school to the highest specification. Governors are now looking to the future and further enhancements to the school's provision.
From its inception the school has aimed to provide high standards of education and care that would help its pupils to develop their full potential for social, emotional, intellectual and physical growth. The vision of Mr Holliday was that the children should find here a caring, tolerant and supportive environment that would help them to recover from the childhood traumas or difficulties they had suffered. There have been many changes in society since 1954 but we still look after children who are deeply troubled as a result of their condition or early life experiences. To this day we seek to provide the same consistent, nurturing and accepting environment that Mr & Mrs Holliday were sure was the key to the children's eventual recovery and successful integration back into the mainstream of education.