Vanbrugh Castle School

Alexander Duckham

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Alexander Duckham

Gifts to the RAFBF

Alexander Duckham gave (on trust) his home, Vanbrugh Castle, to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund in 1921 hoping that the fund would use it as a home for the sons of airmen killed while serving with the RAF in World War One. There was some discussion amongst the board members of The Fund whether or not the gift should be accepted.

After much to-ing and fro-ing and balloting of the widows of the airmen, it was finally decided to use The Castle as a boarding school for the boys as Alexander Duckham had hoped.

A plaque in the entrance hall to the Castle said that the castle was given in memory of Duckham's 18 month old daughter.

In 1939 he gave another house to the Fund to be used as a home for the under 7 year old sons of airmen. This house, Rooks Hill, was set in 200 acres in Kent. Duckham also gave an annual endowment of £1000.

Alexander Duckham & Louis Bleriot at Vanbrugh Castle 1934

The Alexander Duckham Memorial Schools Trust

The Trust is named after Alexander Duckham, who founded Duckham's Motor Oils in 1899. As well as being a successful businessman, Alexander Duckham was an early aviation pioneer and close friend of cross-channel aviator Louis Bleriot. Indeed it was Duckham who paid for the stone memorial in Dover that marks the spot where Bleriot landed after his famous flight. Duckham generously donated his home, Vanbrugh Castle, to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund for use as a school for boys whose fathers had been killed in the First World War. Vanbrugh Castle was later sold after the number of pupils declined but the funds raised continued to be used to educate RAF children in need at the Duke of Kent School in Ewhurst Surrey. Following advice from the Charity Commission, the funds were transferred to a new trust, the Alexander Duckham Memorial Schools Trust, established by a Charity Commission Scheme dated 1 September 1997.

The Scheme was amended in February 2010 after it became obvious to the Trustees that there was no realistic prospect of a significant number of RAF children in need being educated at the Duke of Kent School in years to come.

The Scheme no longer requires the Trust to maintain a boarding school for RAF children in need but permits it to promote the education and welfare of RAF children in need.

The Trust and the Duke of Kent School now operate entirely independently of each other, with the Trust leasing the land and buildings at Ewhurst to the School.

Death of Alexander Duckham - The Chronicle and Courier February 9 1945

Death of Alexander Duckham - Sevenoaks Chronicle Friday September 28 1945.jpg