Retirement Village’s Tribute To Former Elmbridge School Caretaker

Retirement Village’s Tribute To Former Elmbridge School Caretaker

A memorial bench has been introduced to the grounds of a retirement village in Cranleigh; in tribute to a former caretaker of the school which once stood on the site.

Ernest ‘Rob’ Butcher was the caretaker at Elmbridge Boys School from 1960 until its closure in 1980, moving into a bungalow on the site with his family at the time of accepting the job.

Rob was a well-known character around the school, and according to his son Mark, was often the first port of call for teachers and the headmaster when wanting to find out what was going on.

Mark recalls: “I spent many hours with my dad, going around the school when the boarders had gone home in the school holidays. He had an allotment at the bottom of the canal – which runs through the village – where he used to grow show Dahlias. The headmaster would often cycle down to us and ask ‘Rob, what’s going in in my school?’

“I think he was held in high regard, and I believe he was one of the longest serving members of staff at the school.”

When Rob passed away a few years ago, Mark wanted to establish a memorial in his honour – and Elmbridge Village seemed the perfect place.

After speaking with village manager Keith Henesey, the idea of a bench was born – and the fitting tribute has just been delivered to the village.

Sadly, the bench arrived too late for Mark to see – as he emigrated to New Zealand just a few days previously – but he was able to meet with Keith at Elmbridge Village and share memories of his father prior to his trip.

Keith said: “It was a great pleasure to meet Mark, who had some wonderful stories to tell about his father, and offer some lovely insights into the village as it was during his time living in the school grounds.”

Elmbridge School was one of only two local authority run boarding schools in the country during its day.

A new housing development now occupies the site of its sister school – Kennilands in Sonning, Berkshire. The schools were hastily built in the late 1930s to offer schooling for evacuees from Essex, with Surrey being seen at the time as a rural location.