School’s landmark anniversary to be celebrated at Steyning Festival

Headteacher Mr Nick Wergan with Steyning students viewing old school photographs SUS-140520-105025001
Headteacher Mr Nick Wergan with Steyning students viewing old school photographs SUS-140520-105025001
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This year marks Steyning Grammar School’s landmark anniversary and celebrates 400 years of providing excellent education for the students of Steyning.

The school are delighted that the Steyning Festival team have chosen to embrace the School’s anniversary by weaving the anniversary theme into this year’s festival.

Souvenir Book to commemorate the 400th year history of the school SUS-140520-105036001

Souvenir Book to commemorate the 400th year history of the school SUS-140520-105036001

Christine Aubrey, Steyning Festival Chairperson said: “Working with Steyning Grammar School has been one of the great joys about planning this year’s Steyning Festival and we are delighted to have been able to organise some special events which will help the whole community to celebrate the School’s 400th anniversary. Together we will sing, eat, listen, watch, walk and dance our way through two weeks of fun and great entertainment.” The Steyning Festival fortnight begins Saturday 24th May and runs until Sunday 8th June 2014.

On Saturday 24th May the school are holding a ‘Reunion Event’ when the historic Church Street site will be opened for past students and the public to enjoy (from 10 – 2pm). There will be an opportunity to ‘tour’ around this historic site, to view the exhibition on at Chatfields and to look at archive material on the School’s 400 year history.

Over many years, Steyning Grammar School Librarians – Joyce Sleight, Joyce Maskell, Elizabeth Peters and Vivien Kingston-Jones have collected and stored an archive of historical records, administrative papers, photographs, programmes, posters and newsletters relating to the school. During the past two years the whole archive has been reorganised by Caroline Meeson and Cathie Ballard with the assistance of Chris Tod (Curator of Steyning Museum), Janet Pennington (Sussex Historian) and George Barker (Steyning Grammar School ‘Old Boy’ and author), with the aim of making the archive more accessible in its new location at Church Street. As a result of this work the archives will be available for the first time at the reunion event.

Caroline Meeson, former Art Teacher at Steyning Grammar School, who has been very instrumental in creating the exhibition, explains: “Material from the archives has also been selected to create a wonderful visual exhibition, with the aim to both illuminate and entertain. It is a very fitting way of recognising and celebrating the 400th anniversary of the foundation of the school.”

The exhibition titled ‘The Steyning Grammar School Story’ will be on display in Chatfields, one of the medieval buildings belonging to the school, from Saturday 24th May from 10-2pm and from Sunday 25th May through to Saturday 31st May 10-4pm weekends & 2–4 pm weekdays. This is a free exhibition run in conjunction with the Steyning Festival.

A souvenir book to commemorate the 400th year history of the school has been produced by Caroline Meeson, with help from local historians George Cockman, Janet Pennington and Joyce Sleight, Steyning Museum curator Chris Tod and old boy George Barker. The aim of this book is to give a pictorial and historical account of how the school has developed since 1614, from a single oak beamed candlelit classroom with no more than 50 boys, to the giant split site comprehensive with an international boarding house that is todays thriving school. This will be on sale at the exhibition as well books on the history of the school by Joyce Sleight, George Barker.

There will also be a chance to watch the celebration DVD ‘The School Life and Spirit of 2014’ made to celebrate student life in the school as it is today. This has been filmed and produced by Jan Hobson, Community Governor, over a 4 month period and reflects some of the special events in the school and the life and spirit amongst the student body of 2014.

A limited edition Souvenir Watercolour of Church Street by Artist Patricia Hall will also be on sale.

The Church Street School grounds will be open until 2pm for those wishing to ‘picnic’. Refreshments will be available from Bolton House, off School Lane, with teas, coffee, cakes and light snacks available. The Heritage Quilt, a major piece of heritage work which is being produced to mark Steyning Grammar School’s 400th anniversary will also be on display here.

The ‘Quilt Project’ started over a year ago with the aim to create five quilted panels to celebrate the 400 year anniversary of the school. The quilt depicts the history of Steyning Grammar School and celebrates the School’s relationship with the local community, with a central panel dedicated to the School’s 400th year history. Amanda Duke, Project Manager and Steyning Grammar School Faculty Leader for Creative and Performing Arts has been ably supported by the project steering group, which includes local residents Caroline Meeson, Jacquie Gale, Jan Hobson, Elisabeth Harden and Jane Hogg and an army of volunteers including over 130 community members and 300 students. The Quilt will also be on display in St Andrews Church from 26th to 28th May as part of the festival.

Janet Pennington will be giving a talk ‘Four Hundred Years of Education’ on Thursday 29th May, giving a fascinating insight into how Steyning Grammar School has developed from its origins in the early 17th century. There will also be an opportunity to look at memorabilia of the school. The Heritage Quilt will be on display and there will be a slideshow about the whole project.

Steyning Festival has commissioned a play specially for the occasion by former student Alex Packer, titled ‘Carvings, Corridors & Timbres’ this will be taking place in various locations around the Church Street site, and celebrates 400 years of Steyning Grammar School. Discover what stories are engraved in the School’s epic history brought to life by an ensemble of professional performers and Steyning students. Shows take place on Saturday 24th May and Sunday 25th May at 2.30pm, 4.30pm and 6pm. This is a ticketed event run as part of the Steyning Festival.

On Monday 26th May there will be an evening to celebrate the work of former Steyning Grammar School Poets. Ron Stillwell and Ruth Brown, well loved retired English Teachers from the school have come together to read and talk about the work of Paul Coltman, a former Head of English and highly praised writer of rural and local verse and his pupil Ted Walker who earned national acclaim for his poetry and prose.

The festival will culminate on the 8th June with the 1614 Dance in the perfect Jacobean setting of Wiston House.

Nick Wergan, Headteacher, Steyning Grammar School said “I should like to express the School’s extreme gratitude to the organisers of the Steyning Festival, who have chosen to base the theme for some of the Arts Festival around the School’s 400th anniversary. We are working closely together to show our pride as a community in the school; Steyning Grammar School has great heritage, but is also forward looking, it is another opportunity to support students both past and present who are involved in the festival. Our collaboration with the festival reflects this combination of tradition and innovation.”

We are encouraging and welcoming all current and former students, their families, staff and the local community to join in our May weekend celebrations run in conjunction with the Steyning Festival. For further details or to book tickets for a festival event please visit

Throughout 2014 the school will be celebrating the 400th anniversary with a variety of events that involve both the current school students and staff, past students and staff and our ‘Old Boys’, providing everyone with a great opportunity to get reconnected.

For further event updates please visit the school website, following the link ‘Celebrating 400 Years’

Report and pictures contributed by Steyning Grammar School.