St Christopher’s was established in Sackville Gardens in 1927, in a building that was previously a private house, and has since reverted to such use. When numbers grew in the 1930s, the Geography master who lived opposite turned his drawing room into an extra classroom, and charged the Headmaster rent for its use. The earliest school photograph dates from the early thirties, with the whole school fitting comfortably in the back garden of the house. Even at this embryonic stage, some key things were already established: the four Houses, the distinctive red blazer, and the Latin motto altiora peto – I aim for higher things. As proof of this, within two years of founding, the school had won its first Scholarship, a Maths award to Brighton College, for the then princely sum of £81.
The novelist Patrick Hamilton, born in 1904 and a Hove resident for most of his childhood, created a fictional Hove prep school in his novel The West Pier, but it perhaps gives an impression of what St Christopher’s might have been like in the years before the Second World War. He described an establishment of about forty boys, “the sons of merchants, dentists, estate agents, doctors, clergymen, retired officers and well-to-do local tradesmen” coming from “the Squares and Avenues; Wilbury Road, Holland Road, Norton Road; while the rest came from the Villas – Hova Villas, Ventnor Villas, Denmark Villas”.
As numbers grew further, a new home for the school was found at 56, New Church Road, where the school came under the leadership of Captain Beale. The school moved to 33, New Church Road, its current site, in 1944. The building had previously been a dentist’s surgery, with the family living upstairs. The building still bore the scars of a memorable local incident in the Battle of Britain, when a German fighter-bomber strafed New Church Road heading home after an attack on Shoreham Airport.
Upon his death in 1956, the building and the school as a business were purchased by one of Captain Beale’s staff, Maurice Saunders. Many of the Saunders family took an active role in the running of the school, and this was to remain the case for the next sixty years. Maurice Saunders began to hand more and more of the running of the school to his son Roger, who became Headmaster in 1978. Whilst they both taught at the school, they were known as Old Sir and Young Sir respectively. Danny Scott, former St Christopher’s pupil (and Music Scholar to Brighton College in 1967), joined Roger as Deputy Head, a role in which he remained until 2016, having served admirably under six Heads.
The 1980s saw great expansion of the school site, with additional buildings added stretching back down Westbourne Gardens, and the school grew rapidly in size and facilities. By the 1990s, the school was large enough to warrant the hire of the Gardner Centre at the University of Sussex for the annual school musical, written and directed by long standing Head of English, Mike Carter.
Roger Saunders retired in 2003, having overseen the transition to a co-educational school in the late 1990s. The most recent building on the main site, housing a Computing suite, is named after him. Brighton College acquired St Christopher’s and a new phase in the school’s life began; one that continues to this day, with pupils benefitting from being part of the Brighton College Family. The majority of our pupils go on to achieve considerable success at Brighton College, or at one of the other leading public schools in the UK.
The school is currently in the early stages of planning celebrations for our centenary in 2027, an event that we hope will bring back alumni from many different eras of the school’s life.