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17 April

From the Archives: History of Hostel House

1902: Establishment of Hostel House

Hostel’s first Housemaster was Reginald Castley, a bachelor aged 28 and engaged to be married.  “The Hostel” was the name given to a house in College Green when William Haighton Chappel (Headmaster 1896-1918) rented it from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1899 and put bachelor masters in it, with the elderly Miss. Bates as housekeeper.  At the end of 1902 Miss. Bates left The Hostel and the house was opened for 15 boarders.  To begin with, Mr. Castley’s mother kept house for her son.  Mr. Castley took his first boys in the summer term and married in the Christmas holidays.  Husband and wife moved in during January 1904.  King’s celebrated the occasion of their marriage with a half holiday.

Mr. Chappel was very pleased with himself when he brought Mr. Castley on to the staff in January 1903.  Mr. Castley had been educated at the King’s School, Canterbury, where he was captain of cricket for three seasons.  He had gained a Second in Classics from Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge and was teaching at Galway Grammar School in Ireland.  Mr. Castley for his part was delighted to return to a cathedral close.

By 1899 King’s had eight assistant masters, mainly bachelors, and the problem of their accommodation was becoming acute.  A house on the south side of College Green happened to fall vacant, and was rented from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and opened as a Masters’ Hostel under the charge of Miss. Bates.  In 1901 School House had begun to overflow, and as a temporary measure a few boys were boarded out here with the masters.

In the winter of 1902 the King’s School numbered 109.  After recording this fact with pride, The Vigornian went on to remark: “We understand that Miss. Bates is vacating the Hostel in College Green and that it will be opened as a new boarding-house next term.”  The new house, The Hostel, was opened by Mr. Castley, who had recently joined the staff, in the summer term of 1903.  Mr. Castley married a few months later, and in the Easter term of 1904 Mrs. Castley came to join him in the House which for 30 years was to be their life work and their home.

College Hall was the scene of the annual House PT Competition that had replaced the old Gymnastics.  The Hostel VI made this cup their speciality and practised for months in their big dormitory before Lights Out.  In terms of showmanship it was a help that there were six letters in “Hostel”.  Each boy wore one in green on his singlet and the six paraded as H O S T E L.

In the summer of 1906, Mr. Castley erected behind the Hostel what the editors of the Vigornian called “an external structure to be inhabited as a study” and the Head Master, with less gravity, described as “a temporary tabernacle in the garden”.  In the following year the Dean and Chapter took over this house from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and this “structure” was replaced by a permanent enlargement of the house, incorporating part of the Canons’ stables.

Mr. Castley handed The Hostel over to Mr. Franklin at the end of thirty years in January 1934 and moved to 3 College Yard.  But Mr. Castley had inherited a cousin’s estate in Bampton, Westmorland; he retired and went north in July 1934.  Formal goodbyes were said on successive days on Speech Day and at the OV Dinner.  For 30 years the Hostel had been Mr. and Mrs. Castley’s home and constant care, and it was with great regret that the King’s School said goodbye to them.

Hostel photos Mr Castley

Photo of College Green in 1935

The Hostel and College Green, as shown in the c.1935 King’s School prospectus.