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History of the School

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Port Regis School is now synonymous with the mansion in which many of the boarders live, known historically as Motcombe House.

In the early 13th century, King John (of Magna Carta fame) had a hunting lodge amidst the thick woodland between Shaftesbury and Gillingham. The hamlet of Motcombe, chronicled in the 1244 Dorset Assize Rolls, derives its name from the 'combe' or valley where the 'moot' or local government meeting was held, so it must have been of some importance, lying as it did on the verge of a royal forest. In 1825, Robert, the 2nd Earl Grosvenor, bought Motcombe House along with another 10,000 acres including the hilltop town of Shaftesbury. Motcombe House itself was rebuilt in 1894-1895 but the original stables and walled garden remain.

Meanwhile in London, Dr Alfred Praetorius had in 1881 opened a new day and boarding school for boys complete with kindergarten at 45 Weymouth Street and named it Praetoria House. It was later bought by a certain Mr and Mrs Roderick who moved it to Folkestone. In 1921, when the Rodericks retired, Sir Milsom Rees incorporated the school’s pupils and staff into his own school at Kingsgate, Broadstairs, which he named Port Regis (‘Gate of the King’).

On 13 May 1940 a landmine dropped by a German plane landed too close to the school for comfort. Sir Milsom decided to evacuate from Broadstairs to Bryanston, just south of Blandford Forum. Port Regis never returned to Broadstairs, but the property continued to be known as Port Regis School and until 1993 operated as a convent school for disadvantaged children by The Daughters of the Cross.

After a two-year stay at Gorhambury House near St Alban’s, Port Regis moved to Motcombe House in the winter of 1947 - one of the coldest winters on record in the UK. The 150-acre freehold to Motcombe Park was purchased in 1972. In 1976 the school admitted its first intake of girls with two E Formers, one D Former and one C Former.

After becoming co-educational, Port Regis very quickly became one of the most successful prep schools in England and embarked on an ambitious programme of development. HRH Princess Anne opened the Jowett Sports Hall in 1980 and ten years later Queen Elizabeth II opened Queen’s Hall. Since that time the school has added astro turf pitches, the Farrington Music School and the Upward Academic Centre to its estate.

Since 1933 the school has had just five Headmasters: John Upward (1933-1968), David Prichard (1969-1993), Peter Dix (1994-2010), Benedict Dunhill (2010-2015) and the current Headmaster, Stephen Ilett.


It’s difficult to find fault with Port Regis.
Good Schools Guide