A history of the Berkhamsted School

A history of the Berkhamsted School

In the past 130 years there have been many different schools in Red Deer

In the past 130 years (i.e. since 1887) there have been many different schools in Red Deer.

The very first was a tiny one-roomed log structure on the northwest corner of what is now West Park. More recent ones have been multi-million dollar edifices with a wide array of learning opportunities and diverse facilities.

One of the most unique places of learning over the decades was the Berkhamsted School.

It operated from the turn of the last century until the First World War, on what is now the southeastern edge of Red Deer (Vanier Woods area),

Berkhamsted was a unique educational initiative started by Rev. Thomas C. Fry, headmaster of the Berkhamsted School in Hertfordshire, England. The original Berkhamsted had been founded in 1541. Over the centuries, it became well-known as an independent educational institution for both young men and women.

In 1900, Rev. Fry made a visit to Red Deer.

He was impressed by the tremendous agricultural potential of the area. He decided that this would be a great place to establish a special agricultural school, primarily for students of the Berkhamsted School back in England. He began to buy up land in the district until he had some 1,120 acres.

Once back in England, Rev. Fry began to select the students who he thought would be good candidates for the new school at Red Deer. These students had to have good marks and be capable of strenuous physical labour. They had to agree to cover their passage to Canada out of their own pockets, and pay room and board for up to two years.

However, Fry also agreed to give them a small wage for their work on the farm.

Unfortunately, the Berkhamsted School and Farm attracted far fewer students than expected. As a result, finances were tight. The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 caused the remaining students to leave, mainly to enlist for the War. The school consequently came to an end.

John and Gertrude Eversole had been hired by Fry to manage the Berkhamsted Farm while it was still a school. They continued to farm much of the old school property until after the Second World War.

Two of the alumni of the Red Deer Berkhamsted School distinguished themselves during the First World War. One was George Pearkes, He had attended the Berkhamsted School in England before enrolling in the Red Deer School with his brother Ted.

In 1909, George took out a homestead in the Dovercourt area, in West Central Alberta. In 1913, George decided to try a new adventure and enlisted with the Royal North West Mounted Police.

In 1915, he enlisted with the 2 Canadian Mounted Rifles and was soon in the trenches of the Western Front. He was wounded five times. In 1916, he was awarded the Military Cross for his gallantry.

In 1917, he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his outstanding valour during the horrific Battle of Passchendaele. At the end of the War, he also received the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.).

George remained in the military after the War and became an officer in the P.P.C.L.I. During the Second World War, he attained the rank of Major General.

After the War, he went into politics and eventually became the Minister of National Defense. He ended his career as the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia.

Another distinguished alumnus of Berkhamsted was Lionel Page. He briefly farmed in what is now the Rosedale subdivision of Red Deer. He then went into the real estate and stockbroker business.

In 1915, Page enlisted for services overseas with the 5 Infantry Battalion.

He was wounded twice. In 1917, he was awarded the D.S.O. for conduct under fire. He was later awarded two bars to his D.S.O.

After the War, Page became the commanding officer of the Lord Strathcona Horse.

During the Second World War, he became a Major General and was eventually the Commander in Chief of the Canadian Army’s Atlantic Command. He was also made a Companion of the Order of Bath (C.B.) the fourth highest rank in the British Orders of Chivalry.