1919: Establishment of Natland House
Following the end of the First World War, an increase in the number of boarders justified the starting of a fourth boarding house at King’s in 1919. Rev. R.J. Whitaker, who had been the school’s chief mathematical master since 1911, took Natland, a large house on the west side of Battenhall Road, which he and his wife conducted as a boarding house for thirteen years.
Mr. Whitaker’s dry, quiet, humour, and his readiness to give his time and his energies freely to any activities – dramatic ventures, chess, gymnastics, debates – that might be afoot, and his faithful attendance on the playing fields, in his early days as a player, later sometimes as spectator but more often as umpire or referee, made him popular with everyone in the School, but especially with his boys in Natland.
However, following the Great Depression, parents began to view school fees as an extravagance at a time of such financial difficulty, and King’s saw a corresponding decline in pupil numbers. The decision was made to sell Natland house in 1932, and the remaining boarders were placed into the three pre-existing houses (School, Castle and Hostel). That September The Vigornian reported: “The boys from Natland started afresh in various houses, and seem to have settled down again, under less hectic conditions. (We are told that the record from Natland to the Edgar Tower, on a bike, was only a few seconds. We have never been about to find the person who performed this feat.)”
Mr. Whitaker subsequently retired from King’s at the end of the summer term of 1935; he and his wife moved to the Vicarage of Cleeve Prior, near Evesham.
Natland House, 49 Battenhall Road, photographed in 1998.
KSW Staff photograph, c.1917
Revd. R.J. Whitaker (Mathematics master 1911-1935, Housemaster of Natland 1919-1932) is seated on the front row, second from right