The site at Compton Place Road, Eastbourne, offers so many opportunities for the students at Gildredge House.
“We couldn’t believe our luck when we found this site. It truly complements our traditional curriculum, vision and ethos for the school. The fact that the site was previously an educational establishment was the icing on the cake!”
Mrs J King, Trustee and first Chair of Governors
Until the 1870s the site was grazing land. The site was acquired in 1877 for the construction of New College boys’ school and the main school building was built. In 1891 the Master’s House was built and so called because the top floor was an apartment for the Headmaster.
Parts of the main school, the Master’s House and the sanatorium (converted during the 1990s into a conference centre now named the Oasis Centre) remain from these original school buildings.
The site was taken over by Temple Grove Preparatory School in 1907 and has been known as Temple Grove ever since. Temple Grove School remained on site until 1935 when it moved to Heron’s Ghyll near Uckfield. During its time in Eastbourne famous Temple Grove students included Brian Johnston, the cricket commentator, and Douglas Bader, the Battle of Britain fighter pilot.
The site remained empty until the outbreak of the Second World War. In September 1939 the buildings were taken over by the National Amalgamated Approved Society (NAAS) who evacuated from their London offices. This organisation administered National Insurance payments and remained until the Dental Estimates Board (DEB) was set up on 5th July 1948 – the first day of the National Health Service.
The DEB’s prime role was accurate and prompt payment to over 15,000 NHS dentists in England and Wales and monitoring the quality of NHS dental treatment.
At its peak the DEB (latterly DPB – the Dental Practice Board) processed 35 million dental claim forms per year, and employed up to 2,000 staff at this site and other offices in the town. Along with Birds Eye Foods, it was the town’s biggest employer and nearly everyone in Eastbourne seems to know at least one person who worked here!
The playing field was reopened in 1957, after being turned over to agriculture during the war years, and a cricket pavilion was built during the 1970s.
To accommodate staff and the increasing workload a major extension (the 1952 building) was added. In the 1960s a computer block and prefabricated buildings for records storage were added to the Western Wing of the old school building.
Increased computerisation and changes to the method of payments to dentists led to a steady reduction in staff numbers. In 2006 the DPB became part of the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) with its headquarters in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. The NHSBSA combined a number of NHS organisations including the Prescription Pricing Authority and the NHS Pensions Agency.
Increased work with private sector partners together with the benefits of sharing services such as HR and finance led to a further reduction in staff numbers in Eastbourne, and the remaining staff relocated to new offices in the town centre in July 2012.