he Old Benny, the affectionate name for the former Old Beneficial School in Portsea, is a beautiful grade II listed building, dating back to the Georgian period.
In 1754 a Beneficial Society was created by John Shakespear and 5 colleagues with the aim of supporting each other in times of need. with each member contributing one shilling per month. It was agreed that any spare money collected would be donated to pay for the education of poor children from the local area. This concept was further enhanced by membership being extended in 1755 to both Beneficial and Honorary members who gave an annual subscription to what had become an educational charity.
Consequently the building still remaining today was constructed in 1784, with the downstairs floor serving as the classroom and the upstairs being used by the Society for meetings, concerts and theatre. The school applied a very disciplinarian attitude to education and, indeed, a hook to which children were tied to receive punishment by the birch is still present amongst many of the original features.
It was not until 1837 that the previously boys only school, was opened to girls and a junior school was also formed in 1873. The school had to be closed in 1939 due to the outbreak of WW11 and it is said that a Nazi
sympathiser used the roof of the school to direct, through a torch, bombers seeking to hit the Portsmouth Dockyards.