It was a chance meeting between Trinity Hall Cambridge graduate, Geoffrey Stansbury and Sir Percy Fitzpatrick at a dinner party in 1912 that inspired the young man to visit South Africa. Fitzpatrick had spoken of South Africa as a land of limitless opportunities, and it was not long before Stansbury, armed with £500 and letters of introduction from Fitzpatrick, was on his way. He travelled widely and eventually decided that Cape Town was where he wanted to be. He found Thornton House, a large Victorian property in Kenilworth that was to let. His friend Raymond Hutchinson who shared his ambition to open a prep school soon joined him from England. A letter from the Cape Director of Education in 1913 supported and encouraged their venture.
Western Province Prep School opened its door to 26 pupils on 3rd February 1914, with Stansbury and Hutchinson as joint headmasters. The rector of Christ Church Kenilworth, the Rev Ernest Lasbrey, was appointed chaplain along with three other members of staff and a matron. The boys wore a dark blue blazer and a blue-and-white striped tie, similar to that of Trinity Hall, and a uniform which remains to this day. With the increase in numbers, the school had outgrown Thornton House by 1918, and Mount Royal and an adjacent vacant site in Claremont were purchased for £3 550.
By the late thirties the school could no longer accommodate and support two headmasters and their families. The partnership was dissolved and Hutchinson went on to Port Elizabeth where he founded St Georges’ Prep School.
Geoffrey Stansbury died in 1941 after a long illness, leaving his wife Christine as sole owner. She appointed Windle Saint Hill a staff member, as acting headmaster.
In 1946 John Pridmore was appointed headmaster on the understanding that when Mrs Stansbury’s eldest son John completed his studies in England, he would return to take over the headmastership and family business.
The young Stansbury took over in 1952, but his lack of experience soon dictated that Pridmore should return as joint headmaster, in 1958.
By 1959 it was evident to Christine Stansbury that the school was no longer financially viable and on the advice of a respected Old Boy and with his assistance she approached St Andrew’s College Grahamstown for support. The resultant association with St Andrew’s enabled WPPS to be registered as a church school, thereby avoiding municipal rates and taxes. Old Boys and parents raised the full amount to buy the school from Christine Stansbury and its future seemed secure. The following year John Stansbury resigned, leaving Pridmore in charge.
The school was by now governed by a sub-committee of St Andrew’s College Council. They appointed Ted Rivett-Carnac from St Andrew’s as head in 1963 and he set about expanding the school, not only in numbers but in facilities. Most of the buildings that we now see surrounding Mount Royal were built by Rivett-Carnac. Grateful parents raised funds to build a new swimming pool, named for him.
Peter Dauncey, then deputy head, stepped in after the sudden death of Rivett-Carnac in 1970 and expanded the school further, by motivating the purchase of the first portion of the Buxton Home property which immediately housed the Sub A and B classes. The acquisition process continued under Dauncey’s successor, Roger Wickens, when the main building was acquired and the Dauncey field created. It was Wickens who introduced the first computers and computer education to the school.
Roland Cooke took over from Wickens in 1987. He oversaw the development of the Buxton property, opening a nursery and reception class, and saw the need for a tunnel to connect the two campuses. He expanded the music department and introduced Design and Technology as a subject.
David Mallett succeeded Cooke in 1997, and further developed the IT and Audio-visual facilities. The chapel was created during his tenure. He played a special role in the development and encouragement of leadership opportunities for the boys.
Pauline Pearce was appointed as interim head after Mallett’s departure at the end of 2003, and led the school for a year until the present head, Michael Hosty took office in 2005.
Hosty led the school towards the celebration of its centenary in 2014, marked by the completion of the Centenary Pavilion, the Aquatic Centre and the planning of the new classroom block on the Eden Rd campus. He initiated a successful student teacher training scheme, and improved the diversity of both staff and pupils.
Gary Skeeles completed his fifteenth year at WPPS as acting head until the appointment of Simon Weaver in 2016.