Built by Nathaniel Kemp c1792

Ovingdean Hall - built in 1792 by Nathaniel Kemp
Kindly loaned by Mr J G Davies
The lodge of Ovingdean Hall School today
Kindly loaned by Mr J G Davies
Rottingdean path. In approx 1921 this was made into what is now known as Ainsworth Avenue." alt="The lodge of Ovingdean Hall - c1900 - the 'white' path in the foreground was the Ovingdean to Rottingdean path. In approx 1921 this was made into what is now known as Ainsworth Avenue. | Kindly loaned by Mr J G Davies of Ovingdean" />
The lodge of Ovingdean Hall - c1900 - the 'white' path in the foreground was the Ovingdean to Rottingdean path. In approx 1921 this was made into what is now known as Ainsworth Avenue.
Kindly loaned by Mr J G Davies of Ovingdean
'Flints' - situated at the rear of Ovingdean Hall - built by Nathaniel Kemp c1792 and known then as 'The Bailiff's House'. It is a Grade II listed building - its walls are seventeen and a half inches thick. When Ovingdean Hall was a boys preparatory school in 1891 the house was used as a sanatorium.
Kindly loaned by the owners Mr & Mrs J G Davies of Ovingdean

In 1788 Nathaniel Kemp, then aged 27 years, bought a block of 350 acres in the centre of Ovingdean parish. Records tell us that at around this time Ovingdean was a hamlet containing one medium sized yeoman’s farmhouse (now The Grange), in which six rooms had fireplaces; a ‘mean thatched rectory’ and some labourer’s cottages.

Brighton – a fashionable resort
Brighton on the other hand was fast becoming very fashionable due to the interest of the Prince of Wales (later George IV) who had leased a farmhouse in 1784 and later converted it into today’s Royal Pavilion in 1786-7. Nathaniel Kemp was the uncle of Thomas Read Kemp who founded and built Kemp Town.

The Kemp family and Ovingdean Hall
Kemp built Ovingdean House, as it was then called, in the spring and summer of 1792. The builder’s estimate, which is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, states that the price would be ‘£2653-10s-0d an there abouts as nigh as I can tell’. Nathaniel Kemp also built a farm complex close to the house; this was farmed for him by a bailiff who lived in the house now called ‘Flints’ but then known as ‘the bailiff’s house’.

Charles Eamer Kempe
Kemp’s first wife died childless in 1821, but in 1823 he remarried a woman 41 years his junior and proceeded to father seven children between 1824 and 1837. One of his children was Charles Eamer Kempe (1837-1907) who was the renowned Victorian stained glass artist and church decorator. A great deal of his work is in St. Wulfran’s Church Ovingdean.

A young gentlemen’s school
Nathaniel Kemp died in 1843 and the house was then let out until Elliot Macnaghten, retired Chairman of the East India Company, bought the estate in c1858. Macnaghten died in 1888 and the estate was bought by Mr. F. Charsley who open ‘a young gentlemen’s school’ in 1891. At that time it contained 13 principal and four servants’ bedrooms. The name was changed to Ovingdean Hall and by 1897 many extra school buildings had been added. In 1910 most of the field adjoining the house (c323 acres) were sold leaving the school and the buildings originally constructed as part of Kemp’s farm.

Brighton Institution for the Deaf and Dumb School
The preparatory school lasted almost exactly 50 years until 1941 when it moved to Devon because of the war. During WWII the Canadian Army and its tanks took over the school and its grounds. In 1945 the hall and its walled grounds, covering approx 26 acres were sold to the ‘Brighton Institution for the Deaf and Dumb School’. The institution opened a school for deaf and partially hearing children in 1947. Today the school provides secondary education for hearing impaired children from 10-16yrs and also offers further education opportunities for up to 19 year olds.

Tiles and tales
Ovingdean Hall is a Grade II listed building; its front is covered with yellow mathematical tiles. The sides were originally also tiled but when they began to rot, permission was granted in the 1970s to remove them. It has a wide porch with Doric columns and pediment; it is two storied and has a cellar.  There is an unproven story that the Hall was used for French prisoners during the Napoleonic wars of 1793-1815, but there may be truth in the belief that it was used to house Russian prisoners in the Crimean War c1853-56.

Comments about this page

  • Fascinating! My grandfather was born in Ovingdean Lodge in 1915 and I was very interested to see the photo of it in 1910. My great-grandfather, Isaac Sayers, retired from being a stoker in the Royal Navy on the grounds of ill-health before 1914. His occupation on my grandfather’s birth certificate is Electrical Engineer, but by the mid-1930s he was a gardener. I am trying to find out if he worked at Ovingdean Hall, and if so, doing what?

    By Liz Cox (31/10/2004)
  • As the great, great, great grandson of Nathaniel Kemp, I found your history of Ovingdean Hall fascinating and educational. This was the first time I had heard about the Hall possibly housing prisoners during the Napoleonic and Crimean wars. I did learn from my uncle, who was in England during WWII, that Ovingdean housed Canadian troops. I’ve visited the Hall and grounds twice.

    By John R. Kemp (USA) (04/11/2004)
  • Would Mr. Kemp email me on jennifer@mybrightonandhove.org.uk – I would be very interested to hear from him. Best wishes – Jennifer

    By Jennifer Drury (07/11/2004)
  • I am 12 and a pupil of Ovingdean Hall school. It was very interesting to find out about the history of this school. Many thanks.

    By Nadia Bajwa (08/12/2004)
  • As the youngest son of the current priest of Ovingdean (Andrew Mayes), I am very interested in the history of our village. I find the history very fascinating and much like the picture of the lodge taken in 1900. I live just a couple of 100 yards from where the cabbage patch is!

    By Adam Mayes (age 11) (22/01/2005)
  • Hello Adam – thank you for posting your comment. I am glad you like my history of Ovingdean and as an ex-Ovingdeanian I have met your father on many occasions. Sorry I could not answer personally, but you did not leave your email. If you would like a copy of the picture you mentioned you can email me at jennifer@mybrightonandhove.org.uk and I will arrange to send you a copy. Best wishes – Jennifer

    By Jennifer Drury (22/01/2005)
  • Nathaniel Kemp’s daughter, Augusta, married into the Crump family (Charles Wade Crump) December 10th, 1856. He died the following September. I have never been able to find out what happened to Augusta. I have greatly appreciated this history of her family and hope to visit one day soon.

    By Lynn Crump (08/04/2005)
  • I used to go to this school from 1976 to 1981. I had a great time in Ovingdean Hall School and still remember the history.

    By Gaby Dreher (14/10/2005)
  • I work at Ovingdean Hall School and was very interested to look at your site, and agree it is of great historical interest to the community.

    By Sam (02/12/2005)
  • l went to Ovingdean from 1970 until 1980; I remmber it like it was yeterday. Also have a book that my mother gave me to read about Daisy Noakes, I admire her work there, it must have been hard in those days. Keep up the good work.

    By Tracey Phillips (16/03/2006)
  • I have a silver cup inscribed ‘FIVES’ F. Eglington. Easter ’92 Ovingdean Hall. The ’92 I assume is 1892. I know that the game of Fives is played at Eton but would like to hear if anyone knows anything about this cup.

    By Patsy Floyd-Spong (26/03/2006)
  • I went to Ovingdean Hall from 1962 (the year the school was renamed to Ovingdean Hall for Partially Deaf Children) until 1965 when I went to Mary Hare Grammar School. I’ve been a trustee governor of the school for just over a year, and I am now teaching Citizenship and Culture there part-time, so the wheel has indeed turned full circle. Your website is very interesting, Jennifer – the school has changed so much since my days there

    By Joanna Rowland-Stuart (08/10/2006)
  • I was a pupil at this School from 1974 until 1979 and have long memories of my duration there. I understand from a teacher at that time who was reading the log book and stated that Ovingdean Hall became a Deaf school in 1948, not 1947, upon relocation from a temporary wartime accommodation at Wivlesfield Green Farm. I am now one of the Executive Committee members of the Ovingdean Reunion Association and we shall be organising a 60th Anniversary Reunion for the original pupils including those who attended the Brighton Institute for the Deaf and Dumb at Eastern Road before the war.

    By Colin Whitmey (12/01/2008)
  • As researcher on Ireland’s first school for deaf children, which is covered by my book “The Avenue: The History of the Claremont Institution”, I take particular interest in Ovingdean Hall, as one of Claremont’s former pupils – Jean Osborne – had been moved to Brighton Inst. for the DD in the 1920s. I’d love to be put in touch with anyonewho may know her. Thanks, Rachel Pollard (denzillepress @ yahoo.ie)

    By Rachel Pollard (02/07/2008)
  • Old School Records/Reginald Henry Gill
    I am researching the background to Reginald Gill. This man was killed in the First World War and his papers show that he attended Ovingdean school. He was born in 1883, so I assume that he was among the first to attend the school. I am most anxious to try and trace any registers or old school records. If anyone has any idea where these might be then I would be very grateful for their assistance. michael.oakland@sky.com

    By Michael Oakland (27/08/2008)
  • My great-aunt Mabel Bletsoe, born in 1884 in Godstone and later moved to Brighton, was born ‘deaf and dumb’. I really have to say that I hate those words!  I know very, very little about her. Would like to know where she went to school. Are there any records of the Ovingdean School that go that far back?

    By Engelina Schuurmans (14/10/2008)
  • I am currently researching my family history. I am a member of the Chatfield family and I believe that my grandfather, Rev Allen Chatfield of Much Marcle, was a cousin of Nathaniel Kemp’s Son, Charles Eamer Kempe. If anyone has any information I would be very grateful. timandvicky@gmail.com

    By Victoria Day (nee Chatfield) (21/04/2009)
  • I remember I came to school in 1963 and left in 1969. I was trying to be brave at school one night. I was sick late at night and I had to get a mop from the kitchen. I didn’t tell anyone and kept quiet. I felt something touch me and I ran upstairs, quickly cleaned the floor, then went back. I thought I should leave the mop beside the stairs and said to myself ‘oh no, I’d better put it back in the kitchen’ when I came down.  Oh my god where  did the mop did go? and there was a shadow coming along. I had to go back upstairs. I knew there were ghosts in the school.  I love Ovingdean Hall School.

    By Susan Jones (12/06/2009)
  • I was called Elizabeth Burrows when I attend  the school in 1960 when I was seven years old. I have ginger hair. I remember this school and love the school very much. I know it has been mentioned that the place was haunted but it never bothered me that much. I shall not forget the good times at the school with friends and the school teachers were great, and the housemothers, they had for girls and boys too. Names I remember are Mr. William, headmaster of the school, Mr. Phillip mr Jones, Miss Wittaker, Mr Grant, Mrs Glendson, Miss Jackson, Mr Bee, and the housemothers Miss Chitworth and Miss Hughes for girls. They were good old times and I learnt alot from it too.

    By Elizabeth Margaret Vowan (28/07/2009)
  • It breaks my daughter Tara’s heart to learn of all this beautiful history when, as a student at Ovingdean, for the past two  years has to face the grim reality that in July this year 2010 Ovingdean Hall will close its doors to her and her deaf friends! Where do we find another Ovingdean? If there is anyone out there with some love in your heart, please help us save our school!

    By Julie-Ann Wilkinson (27/04/2010)
  • Julie-Ann – I really feel your pain - I am an ex pupil of Ovingdean and I would say that a majority of us who left do work and have good jobs. So I know and realise how much I learnt from this experience and education. It’s very sad for us all.

    By Lisa Baldock (07/05/2010)
  • Refer to Engelina Schuurmans re: Mabel Bletsoe. Mabel was listed as no.663, born on 22.8.1884, admitted to the Brighton Institution on 12.12.1892. The Guarantee was Brighton Board of Governors who paid £12-10s-0d per year. No date of leaving was given. Any chance for a photo or an artefact at the Instutition that I would like to see? Hope this helps. G.Eagling, BIDD Historian

    By Geoffrey Eagling (08/06/2010)
  • An invitation to all those who have a connection with the school and ex- pupils and would like to join us on Saturday 10th July 2010 from 12 noon for this final farewell reunion, to see the school and grounds for the very last time. Roy Sims (pupil from 1960-1965) Ovingdean Reunion Association committee member.

    By Roy Sims (18/06/2010)
  • In doing the family history I discovered that Douglas Norton born 1914 in Lisbon, Portugal, attended Ovingdean Hall. He died serving in the British Forces in 2nd World War in Monte Cassino.

    By Joan Harrison (31/08/2011)
  • I actually have an original settlement between Charles Wade Crump and Augusta Kemp. it is dated December 9th 1856 and has wax stamps on it. Does anyone know anything about this?

    By Shawn (13/02/2012)
  • Elliot MacNaghten, mentioned above as having bought Ovingdean in 1858 and living there till he died in 1888, was my great great grandfather. His daughter Fanny actually died there in 1882. Her husband, Alfred Abercromby Dick, was a Bengal lancer, and their son, Dighton Hay Abercromby Dick, was my grandfather. Another of Elliot MacNaghten’s many children was Sir Melville MacNaghten who worked at Scotland Yard. He became Assistant Commissioner. He investigated the Jack the Ripper murders.

    By Torquil Dick-Erikson (29/03/2015)
  • Does anyone have any further up to date information about the building & grounds, if taken over or put to good uses – reason all ex- pupils would love to have an reunion on the grounds in the foreseeable future?

    By Roy Sims (01/07/2020)

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