Why Government chief medical adviser Chris Whitty and film maker Guy Ritchie are forever linked to Sussex’s South Downs

He’s the top Government official currently leading the country through the coronavirus crisis - and he has his roots firmly in Sussex.
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Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical adviser to the UK Government and head of the public health profession, began his education at a school in the South Downs.

He is a former pupil of the oldest prep school in the UK - Windlesham House School in Washington - the village between Steyning and Storrington.

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But Professor Whitty is far from being the school’s only famous alumni - film maker Guy Ritchie, former husband of Madonna, is also an old boy.

Professor Chris WittyProfessor Chris Witty
Professor Chris Witty

Other famous past pupils at the school - which has just appointed a new headmaster - include actor Tom Hiddleston and Olympic swimmer Duncan Goodhew to name but two.

In fact past pupils include a raft of judges, Bishops, distinguished sports personalities, diplomats, foreign royals, Army officers, Admirals and more.

Windlesham House, an independent day and boarding prep school, welcomed new head Ben Evans this month, taking over from longstanding predecessor Richard Foster.

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He said: “In a short time I’ve learned that Windlesham House is a very unique and special place.

Guy Ritchie, pictured with former wife Madonna, is a former pupil at Windlesham House SchoolGuy Ritchie, pictured with former wife Madonna, is a former pupil at Windlesham House School
Guy Ritchie, pictured with former wife Madonna, is a former pupil at Windlesham House School

“Both staff and pupils are warm, kind and enthused by everything they do, so it has been easy to feel at home here.

“My immediate goal is to continue to get to know the children and teachers and to understand the character and personality of the school’s richly diverse community.

“As we move towards the future, my goal is to provide a truly unique educational experience that goes far beyond the delivery of the simple curriculum.”

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He is former head at Hertfordshire prep school Edge Grove and was previously head of The British School in Colombo, Sri Lanka,

Windlesham House School, WashingtonWindlesham House School, Washington
Windlesham House School, Washington

Mr Evans takes over, ironically, when old boy Chris Whitty is leading the fight against Covid-19.

He said: “Starting a new school is always exciting and even though making this transition during a pandemic has had its challenges, in many ways, it’s also given me a much deeper understanding and robust knowledge of the school’s processes and procedures, far more quickly than would normally be the case.

“We have to ensure the safety of the whole school community and so a number of stringent changes have been necessary to ensure that happens.”

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Meanwhile, in a bid to support parents amid the current economic crisis, the school has capped its boarding and day fees for children in Year 7 and 8 and has reduced fees for children in Years 3, 4, 5 and 6 for the academic year 20/21.

Bren Evans, new head at Windlesham House School, WashingtonBren Evans, new head at Windlesham House School, Washington
Bren Evans, new head at Windlesham House School, Washington

“We want to give back and support our community while continuing to provide a first class education for our pupils.

“After such a long period of school closure, like other heads across the region I’m looking forward to our schools being full of the sounds of children’s voices again and to providing a happy environment that instils a passion for learning, one that stays with children for the rest of their lives,” said Mr Evans.

Set in 65 acres of grounds in the West Sussex countryside, the school was established in 1837 as the first ever UK prep school. It was also the first to admit girls in 1967 and is still one of the few prep schools in Britain today not to have a school uniform.