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The History of Conifers: Where It All Began 

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The history of Conifers School starts from the growth of the Midhurst area, which dates back to the Iron Age. There was much to uncover before the school was formally incarnated in 1934, and the history of the area is one of the many reasons why families love it. Let’s take a look at the history of the area before we dig into the history of Conifers – which in comparison, is relatively short!  

The History of Midhurst

Nestled in the heart of West Sussex, the charming market town of Midhurst boasts a history as rich and diverse as the landscape that surrounds it. As with much of the rest of the county, Midhurst has roots that can be traced back to Roman times, and today has evolved into a beautiful market town that beautifully balances its historical heritage with modern living.

Iron Age

Starting as early as the Iron Age with a fort that stood on St Ann’s Hill, Midhurst grew steadily, with a centre of pagan worship, a Norman castle, and then a fortified house added in the 12th century. These became the foundations of the Midhurst we see today. 

Roman Origins

The story of Midhurst continued with the Romans, who established a settlement known as “Mida” around the 3rd century AD. The Roman influence is still evident in the town’s archaeological remnants, including pottery shards and coins that continue to be found in the area.

Mediaeval Times 

Midhurst’s importance grew during the mediaeval period. It became a market town and the site of a prominent mediaeval fair, drawing traders and visitors from near and far. The mediaeval St. Mary Magdalene Church, with its imposing spire, stands as a testament to the town’s historical significance.

Explosive History 

Midhurst has been the site of much significant history. Guy Fawkes was known to be employed at Cowdray, which meant that the Montagues were dragged into the investigations of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605. During the Civil War, Cowdray was used as a Roundhead barracks, and there is much history documented from World War Two.  

Market Town

Midhurst’s history as a market town continues to remain an integral part of its identity. Today, the vibrant Market Square continues to host regular markets and events, maintaining the tradition of commerce and community in the town.

Cowdray House

One of the town’s most iconic landmarks is Cowdray House, an impressive Tudor mansion that witnessed events of national significance. It was visited by Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I and was the site of a tragic fire in 1793, which led to its partial ruin.

Modern Midhurst

Over the years, Midhurst has embraced modernity while preserving its historical charm. The town has become a hub for art, culture, and leisure, with various festivals, events, and galleries that celebrate its rich heritage – and you can’t fail to see the history as you walk, with an interesting mix of mediaeval, Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian architecture. 

As you stroll through the picturesque streets of Midhurst, you can’t help but feel the weight of history all around you. From its Roman origins to its mediaeval splendour and its thriving modern community, Midhurst continues to be a place where the past and present harmoniously coexist, inviting visitors to explore its unique blend of heritage and contemporary life.

The History of Conifers School 

In the early part of the last century, Conifers School had a very different identity. It was known as the Easebourne, Midhurst & District Cottage Hospital. The transformation into Conifers School took place in 1934 under the dedicated leadership of Miss Barbara Gayford and her sister Joyce. Together, they steered the school’s journey for a quarter of a century.

During World War Two, Midhurst became home to many evacuees from London, and air raid sirens would disturb lessons from time to time, as well as children seeing planes on their way to the capital. 

In 1959, Mrs. Sproule assumed the reins, recognizing the need for expanded facilities to accommodate the growing number of pupils. While the school’s capacity evolved, the building itself retained its historic charm. When viewed from the road, it still preserves the architectural essence of its days as the Cottage Hospital, carrying with it a unique and storied history.

Since then, our school has developed considerably, and all our pupils have access to a huge range of facilities, including our forest school, which was added in 2016, and our music rooms, e-learning centre, sports pitches, tennis court and art studio. 

Today, Conifers School attracts pupils from families across Surrey, Hampshire, and West Sussex, and the history of our local area continues to inform our curriculum.

The Future of Conifers School 

With much history within our school, the local area and beyond, children have a fascinating time learning about the past during their lessons. But there’s much to look forward to at Conifers, both for our current pupils, and those to come. Many of our leavers are awarded scholarships at a range of national and local independent schools, including Royal Grammar School (Guildford), Seaford, St Swithun’s, Lancing, Churcher’s, Prior’s Field and Christ’s Hospital. For our future pupils, we have many exciting plans in the works, so if you’re considering Conifers School for your child, register your attendance at one of our open days, or a personal tour. 

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