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Announcements > OBITUARY > John Vernon, Hordle House Headmaster, 1972-1994

John Vernon, Hordle House Headmaster, 1972-1994

Obituary of John Vernon 1932-2015

12 Jan 2016
John Vernon
John Vernon
The former headmaster of Hordle House School died peacefully at home on Sunday 20th December 2015, aged 83, after a long illness.

Born on July 22nd 1932 in Ascot, Berkshire, his father James was a GP whose grand clients included Princess Helena Victoria, and his mother taught sport at the prestigious St George’s School, Ascot.

He was educated at St Peter’s School, in Seaford East Sussex but evacuated to Devon during the Second World War. He then went on to attend Radley College in Oxfordshire from 1946 to 1951.

He undertook national service with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment before going up to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, to read English in1952, where he developed a specialist interest in Thomas Hardy.

Both at school and university he was a keen sportsman, playing in Radley’s 1st XV rugby team, but it was rowing at which he excelled. In 1955 he made the Blue Boat for the annual University Boat Race, beating Oxford by an impressive 16 lengths. He also won the Visitor’s Cup at Henley Royal Regatta in 1955 with the Trinity Hall IV.

After graduating, he went on to help coach rowing for his university throughout the 1960s, while teaching at St Edward’s School, Oxford, and his 1964 Cambridge crew won the Boat Race by four-and-a-half lengths.

It was through his younger sister Tessa that John met his wife Elizabeth Ryder who also lived in Ascot. They married at St Peter’s Cranbourne in 1959 and went on to have four children Michael, Julia, Peter and William.

Their youngest son William has followed in his father’s footsteps to become a headmaster and Michael is an extra equerry to HM the Queen.
John taught at St Edward’s for 17 years and became head of English as well as contingent commander of the Combined Cadet Force (CCF) with the rank of wing commander.

In 1972 he took up the post of headmaster of Hordle House, in Milford, where he remained until his retirement in 1994. Throughout these 22 years he was closely supported by Elizabeth and a dedicated team of teachers and staff.
When he joined the school there were just 99 boys on the roll but by the mid-1980s John had raised this number to over 300. He also opened up the school to girls, with his daughter Julia the first to enrol, and in 1976 he started a pre-prep department allowing children to join from the age of four.

Other facilities opened during his tenure were a new dining room and kitchen facilities, a new art and DT department, new classrooms, science laboratories and a music school.

He also nurtured the school’s reputation for academic excellence and was proud that many pupils attained scholarships to top public schools such as Winchester College.

John’s son William remembered his parents working as a formidable team to make Hordle House a much-loved ‘home-from-home’ for generations of Hordleians. Some years after his retirement it merged with Walhampton School and the combined school continues to flourish at Walhampton.

Outside his school life, John was a qualified glider pilot and also enjoyed travel. He spoke German and Russian and enjoyed visiting Austria, New Zealand, South Africa,  India and Nepal with Elizabeth.

Throughout his life John was a regular church goer and, at one point, considered taking up the cloth but opted to serve his church, St Mary’s South Baddesley, as a warden and lay reader.

During his years with Hordle House, John and Elizabeth lived on site at the school and on his retirement, they moved to East End, near Lymington.

John was buried following a private family service on Wednesday 23rd December. There will be a memorial service at 2.30pm on Monday February 15th at St Mary’s Church, South Baddesley, followed by a reception in the neighbouring primary school.  Former parents, pupils, colleagues and friends are welcome to attend. Please confirm via

Many thanks to the Lymington Times for kind permission to use the above.

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