Headmaster’s strong will led to school being moved

'Henry' Mills, former headmaster of the Southern Grammar School for Boys in Portsmouth
'Henry' Mills, former headmaster of the Southern Grammar School for Boys in Portsmouth
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This picture is of HJ Mills, the headmaster of the old Southern Grammar School for Boys in Portsmouth.

He was head for more than 20 years and was universally and affectionately known by the boys as Henry.

Old boy Alf Pink says: ‘Many boys will remember Mr Mills sweeping into the hall for morning assembly, wearing his gown and with a look on his face that made it quite clear to everyone that this was not a headmaster to be trifled with.

‘His strong will and continued pressure and persistence led to the school being moved to a new state-of-the-art building at Eastern Road in 1956, later becoming a comprehensive and now Portsmouth College.’

The picture was one of many on display at the recent annual reunion dinner of the Old Secundrians’ Association at the Brookfield Hotel, Emsworth, attended by 130 former pupils and staff.

Alf, the group’s treasurer, adds: ‘The association, which has more than 500 members, is still going strong despite the fact that government reforms saw the demise of many grammar schools, including the Southern Grammar School for Boys in 1975.’

The school was formed in 1888 as the Portsmouth Higher Grade School and, despite the name change to Southern Grammar School for Boys, the school remained much the same throughout its 87 years.

During the Second World War the school was evacuated to Brockenhurst in the New Forest for five years and a group of Old Secundrians from that time still meet up in Portsmouth to recall those days.

In January 1941 the school’s Victoria Road premises were badly damaged in an air raid and the school returned from Brockenhurst to temporary premises at Highland Road, where it remained for 11 years.

Next year will see the 125th anniversary of the school’s opening and this will be remembered at the annual dinner to be held on Friday, May 10, 2013, again at the Brookfield.

The association runs a website at southerngrammar.com covering a range of the school’s activities including its history, people, the evacuation, sport, music and drama and a nostalgia section containing amusing anecdotes and hundreds of old photographs.

Former pupils and staff can contact Chris Wrein at chris.wrein@hotmail.co.uk or 07789 105734. Membership is free.