History of Durlston Court


Mr. G.T AtkinsonDurlston Court Preparatory School was founded by Mr G.T Atkinson

In its first year, 23 boys attended Durlston Court School, which opened as a boarding school at Durlston Head, Swanage, Dorset. The school's crest of an Imperial Roman Eagle and the motto 'Erectus Non Elatus' (Proud but not Boastful) was first introduced.

Durlston Court in 1903 Durlston Court logo


Pat Cox became a co-partner and upon the retirement of Mr. Atkinson at the age of 73 years, he became Headmaster until 1965.


The school grew in size to 65 boarders. The school had also purchased additional sports grounds. In addition to sports the school has had a long tradition of producing drama productions.

The cast from the 1938 production of The Pirates of Penzance.

Note the unhappy pirate 7th from the left in the back row: Old Durlstonian Tony Hancock.

Old Durlstonian Tony Hancock 1938 production of The Pirates of Penzance


At the outbreak of war it was feared that Durlston Head was too close for comfort to a local Radar Station. Consequently the school was moved to Earnshill at Curry Rivel near Taunton in Somerset.


The school buildings were sold as a convalescent home for Warwickshire Miners, and were also requisitioned by the Army.


Durlston Court School moved into the vacant Furzie Close School, Barton on Sea.

Durlston Court School building 


The school was devastated by fire. The New Milton Advertiser front page banner headlines stated “Barton School Fire Drama. Maid loses her life but 82 boys saved.” The maid was Miss Josephine Wood and according to the coroner “But for the extra-ordinary presence of mind and discipline displayed at the school the most appalling catastrophe might have happened.”

The Insurers met the rebuilding costs and a well-known firm of local builders, Drews, commenced the task of raising a new school from the ashes of the old.

1965 - 1982

Mr Ian Onslow became Headmaster. He introduced Girls to the school and formed the Pre-Prep Department. Over the next 18 years there were many other additions to the facilities at Durlston Court including new tennis courts, Science Laboratory, new Art Room and heating for the swimming pool.

pupils in school yard 

1983 – 1996

Mr James Seddon became Headmaster. The facilities at Durlston Court School continued to be updated and a further teaching block housing a Library and Computer Centre was opened in 1987.

1996- 1998

Mr Ted Liston arrived as Headmaster. Pupils numbers rose and Boarding Houseparents were introduced.

1998 – 2000

Mr Desmond Bain took over as Headmaster. Many new developments in the Pre-Prep took place.


The school closed boarding and re-opened as a Day School. Mr David Wansey was appointed as the new head and the school began its transformation with the aim of becoming the best Prep School in the Hampshire and Dorset area. The building and facilities were much improved and a programme of clubs and hobbies were introduced to enrich and broaden the education offered at Durlston. Pupil numbers began to climb and record numbers were achieved.


Centenary Year

Celebrations took place to celebrate 100 years of a happy and successful Durlston Court School. Events included a Centenary Fun Run, Founders Day, A Masked Ball and a celebratory dinner for Old Durlstonians.


The Governors bought the freehold of the land and buildings ensuring the long-term future and stability of the school. 


Durlston Court was recognised as No. 46 in the 'Sunday Times Top 100 Prep Schools List'.


Mr Richard May became Headmaster. Facilities at Durlston were further extended to include a Design Technology Centre equipped with 3D printers, laser cutter and laptops, a Ceramics Studio and Outdoor Art Terrace and Multi-purpose hard courts for tennis, hockey, football and netball.

Present Day

Durlston Court Preparatory School continues to grow and expand facilities, moving forward with ongoing requirements of a modern Prep school without losing the strong tradition of the school's history.

If you are interested in reading more about the history of Durlston Court School please visit our Memories from Old Durlstonians page.

aerial photo of Durlston Court School