Ancestry UK

Court Lees Boys' Farm Home / Hays Bridge School, South Godstone, Surrey

In 1937, the former Church Farm School at East Barnet relocated to a new site at Byers Lane, South Godstone, and became known as the Court Lees Farm Home. Like its predecessor, Court Lees was designated as an Approved School for Intermediate Boys. The School's new purpose-built premises could accommodate 160 boys aged from 13 to 15 years at their date of admission. Court Lees was described as a 'country school' and the industrial training it provided was predominantly farming and carpentry.

Court Lees Approved School, 1967.

Court Lees Approved School art room, 1967.

In March, 1967, the School became embroiled in a major scandal when an anonymous letter to The Guardian from a teacher at a boys' Approved School expressed his concerns about the state of affairs at the unnamed establishment. He claimed that he frequently heard boys screaming while being punished, and that pupils and staff were on the verge of revolt. The Daily Mail then printed photographs of the badly bruised bottoms of boys from the school, supplied by the author of the Guardian letter. An investigation by the Home Office soon determined that the school in question was Court Lees and that the letter writer was named Ivor Cook. An official inquiry ascertained that school's Headmaster, Mr Denis Haydon, had broken Approved School rules on corporal punishment in a number of respects. He had been very free with his use of the cane, sometimes as the initial response to misbehaviour. His cane exceeded the authorised thickness and boys being caned had been made to remove their trousers. Punishments on a few occasions had been excessively severe, and on many occasions had not been recorded in the school's punishment book. Following the report, the then Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins, ordered the dismissal of the Headmaster and his Deputy, and the closure of the school. The 115 boys at Court Lees were either transferred to other schools or given an early release.

Court Lees Chairman of Managers, Judge Cohen (left), and Headmaster, Denis Haydon, 1967.

A The establishment was reopened by Surrey County Council in 1968 as the Hays Bridge Approved School. The Home Secretary said that the school's former headmaster, Mr Haydon, and deputy headmaster, Mr Draycon, would not be allowed to be employed at new school or be appointed as headmaster at any other approved school.

The lengthy controversy stirred up by the events at the school undoubtedly played its part in the decision in 1969 to replace Approved Schools by a new type of institution, the Community Home with Education (CHE), for which local councils had responsibility. In 1973, the establishment then became the Hays Bridge Community Home, again under the control of Surrey County Council.

The Home closed in 1977. The building is now the Jehovah's Witnesses' Surrey Assembly Hall.


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  • Surrey History Centre, 130 Goldsworth Road, Woking, Surrey GU21 6ND. Holdings include: Pupil records (admission, licensing etc.)(1948-67); Pupil licensing (1968-70); Log book (1969-76); Punishment book (1968-77); Medical records (1954-1967).


  • Higginbotham, Peter Children's Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain's Young (2017, Pen & Sword)
  • Hyland,Jim Yesterday's Answers: Yesterday's Answers: Development and Decline of Schools for Young Offenders (1993, Whiting and Birch)
  • Millham, S, Bullock, R, and Cherrett, P After Grace — Teeth: a comparative study of the residential experience of boys in Approved Schools (1975, Chaucer Publishing)