Ancestry UK

Kneesworth Hall Approved School, near Royston, Hertfordshire

The Kneesworth Hall Approved School was formally certified for operation on 10th June, 1948, at Old North Road, Bassingbourn, near Royston. The School was run by a voluntary committee, with a former School Inspector, Mr M.M. Simmons, as headmaster.

The first admissions to the School took place in June 1949. Kneesworth had the special role of receiving highly intelligent boys, aged from 14 to 18 years, for whom a relatively permissive regime was adopted — corporal punishment was never used, for example. In 1952, the School was redesignated for the accommodation of Intermediate boys, aged from 13 to 15 years at their date of admission.

Kneesworth Hall, near Royston, 2014. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1967, reports of increasing difficulties at the School emerged, largely arising from the high intelligence of the inmates and the permissive style of management. A high level of abscondments and thefts in the neighbourhood carried out by the boys were leading to growing local antipathy towards the School. To coincide with Mr Simmons' impending retirement, it was decided to close the School and re-open it under the management under Cambridgeshire County Council, with completely new staff and inmates. Protests by the existing staff at their dismissal produced unwelcome publicity for the establishment which was then renamed Kneesworth House.

In 1973, the School became a Community Home with Education (CHE) under the control of Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely County Council.

The Home closed in 1986. In more recent times, the property has been occupied by Kneesworth House Hospital.


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  • Simmons, Montague M. and Davis, Russell Experiment at Kneesworth Hall (in British Journal of Delinquency, Vol. 4, Issue 2, October 1953)
  • 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)