High School History

Founded in 1997, Cedar House School has enjoyed 19 years of providing a high quality education to several generations of high school students. Some of our past students have become engineers; others have gone on to become artists, business executives or nature conservationists. The school, although young, is already highly recognized by the educational fraternity in the Western Cape.

Where did the Cedar House story begin? In 1995 schools were in crisis: teachers were leaving the profession and many parents sought other avenues for the education of their children. A small group of educators recognised the need for a whole new kind of teaching and decided to form a small independent school. Among the founding teachers were Dave Campbell, Barbara Hughes, Gill Hass, Lizelle Maclachlan and Brian Jacoby. It was a brave move – and something of a leap of faith – but it succeeded! For a year, many meetings were held, ideas were exchanged and foundations were set down. Then, in 1997, the school opened its doors – to its first intake of 54 students. The name “Cedar House” was chosen because of its association with life, fortitude, a spirit of abundance and growth.

By 2004 there were over 100 students. The school had moved from the initial phase and was maturing into an institution with its own unique ethos and style. It was reaching adulthood. Dave Campbell, our pioneer principal, was succeeded by Frank Rumboll, a born innovator, and Cedar House entered an exciting new stage. The founding teachers, who owned the school, felt that the time was right to hand over ownership to a trust in 2004. This was done to introduce to the team to a wider variety of ideas and new vision for the future.

Our school building (known originally as Ascot House) is over 100 years old. The magnificent double-storey house, situated on leafy grounds with a huge pecan nut tree of the same age, is a grand old lady. Early records reveal that there was a close association between Ascot House and the Kenilworth Racecourse. Horses were stabled in the outer buildings, one of which is now our science laboratory.

There is some suggestion that the house was built by Sir Herbert Baker, but this is disputed. A string of genuine Baker houses built in the 1890’s can be found in the streets around Ascot Road. The style of our school building, Ascot House, is similar. Some suggest that it was built by one of Baker’s partners, Milne or Sladdin.

In 1902, the property was transferred by the Wynberg municipality from one H.G Cloete to W.C Fricker. An unpublished memoir by Joan Norton tells of her grandmother, Eileen. Was Eileen a Fricker? In 1907, at the age of 19, Eileen moved into Ascot House with her parents, who rented then later bought it. Eileen used to ride her pony across the road to exercise him on the racecourse.

In the 1900s, a family by the name of Gorfinkel lived here. The stables had been turned into garages for the several expensive cars owned by Mr Gorfinkel. The groundsman was Mr Wawane Danti, who served the family faithfully for twenty years, assisting the elderly Mrs Gorfinkel until she was killed in a car accident in Rosmead Road in 1997. An interesting anecdote is that the niece of the family hoped that Ascot House might be used as a school. Prophetic words, indeed!

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