When Joseph Orford was looking for a site on which to set up his long envisaged Preparatory School he settled on the village of Winchester in South Canterbury, an area he had been repeatedly drawn to on his travels about New Zealand in the early 1900’s.
Even then Winchester had a rather English charm to it with its tree lined lanes and fishing streams so he purchased a 15 acre block just over a kilometre from the village. His piece of land was rather more windswept than Winchester itself was and the land was covered in stones, broom and gorse. However closes proximity to the railway station made it the perfect choice.
Photos of the school at the time show how bleak the site was but over the years Joseph Orford planted wind breaks in an effort to combat the winds that used to roar and gust through the grounds as well and many trees and shrubs, some of which are still standing today. These days you would never know how open the area was to the weather and it appears to be just as English as the village Orford was drawn to in the first place with a lush setting of beautiful trees and hedges and views across to the plains and mountains beyond.
In 1907 construction was begun on his School House. It was completed on 5 September the same year and welcomed its first 3 pupils. The building was constructed of wood with room for the Orford family and the classrooms as well as a dorm room and basic boarding facilities. The family rooms were separated from the School rooms by a curtain. The building grew over the years and more buildings appeared on site.
These days the original house area is for offices and administration. It’s a beautiful old building which still retains its original charm and lends an established air to the school. Smartly painted, it’s in great condition, and presents an appealing presence as you drive into the school from the Main Highway entrance.
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