As the future of the 400-year-old Eagle House - Wimbledon’s second oldest building - remains unknown after being empty for two and half years, the Wimbledon Society has just acquired a photograph of the last headmaster from the days when it was a prestigious private school for boys.

Dr Arthur Malan succeeded his father-in-law as headmaster in 1874. Said to have a “magnetic” influence on the pupils, he taught classics, mathematics, science, drawing and religion, coached them in cricket and football, and wrote stories for the popular journal, “The Boys Own Paper” in his spare time.

His picture will now be added to the extensive collection of the Museum of Wimbledon at 22 Ridgway which is run by the Wimbledon Society.

In his day, the school prepared pupils for entry to Eton, Harrow and other top public schools. It had only been known as Eagle House since 1860 when an existing school of that name moved there.

But it had been taking pupils since 1790 when a local parson and former schoolmaster, Thomas Lancaster, had bought the building.

Originally known as Wimbledon School for Young Noblemen and Gentlemen, it had been renamed Nelson House School after a visit by Lord Nelson in 1805, shortly before the Battle of Trafalgar.

In the 1840s it had become a Military Academy for future army officers heading for Sandhurst.

Then in 1860, Dr Malan’s father-in-law, the Rev Edward Huntingford, had moved Eagle House School there from its former home in Hammersmith.

In 1886, at the end of the summer term, Dr Malan announced the school was moving once more, this time from Wimbledon to Camberley and although Eagle House School has continued to the present day elsewhere, the building in Wimbledon Village has never again been used for this purpose.

It was saved from demolition after the school’s departure and was restored as a family home by the architect Sir Thomas Jackson.

After the Second World War it was used for offices and from 1988-2009 was an Islamic Heritage and Cultural Centre.

Since that too moved elsewhere, Eagle House has been awaiting the next phase in its ever colourful history.

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