Although Cranleigh Prep School formally opened in 1913, its origins date back to 1880, when The House was started on Horseshoe Lane, a preparatory department catering for 24 of the Senior School’s younger boys.
It was run by Isaac Hardy and his wife until 1901, when the Reverend Henry Crawford took charge. By this time the Junior School was increasingly popular and other houses nearby were used as overflow boarding houses.
On arrival as Senior School Headmaster in 1911, Herbert Rhodes made it clear that he planned a proper preparatory school. On Speech Day 1912 he announced the purchase of 17 acres of land opposite the Senior School, on which the new prep would be built.
Cranleigh Prep School officially opened its doors on 19th September 1913, with around 20 boys. It remained The House until 1916, after which it was known as the Preparatory House until 1931 and then the Junior School until 1968, at which time it settled on Cranleigh Preparatory School.
The first Headmaster was the Reverend Reginald Mertens, who stayed for 22 years and earned a reputation as a strict disciplinarian.
The Prep survived both wars unscathed, with the current orchard a lasting legacy of war years. When the Anderson shelters were removed in 1947 Charles Blackshaw (Headmaster 1946-61) decided to plant an apple orchard to cover the mess and bring the community back together. In 2013 many of the trees were replanted, a number by the same boys who had done so 66 years earlier.
In 1955 the first major building work took place and the chapel was built in 1962, replacing the former wooden hut. By the mid 1960s pupil numbers had risen to 130. There was steady progress under a succession of headmasters but the most development came after the appointment of Michael Roulston, who took the School to new heights between 2000 and 2008. He quickly transitioned the School to co-ed and pupil numbers increased to 270.
In 2008 Michael Wilson, returning to Cranleigh for his fourth spell, took over and continued to build on the progress of the previous decade, with numbers rising to 330 by 2015. The links between the schools were made even stronger with the introduction of the 7-18 policy, which allowed the preparatory school to benefit from the Senior School’s expertise in a number of fields, namely Music, Sport and IT.
More information about the foundation and early years of Cranleigh School can be found at www.cranleigh.org/1865