IT IS a sad day for a family-run North Yorkshire boarding school which is closing after 50 years.

Howsham Hall Preparatory School, near Malton, will close at the end of the summer term in July due to falling rolls which will result in the school being too small to be financially viable.

The school was established in 1958 as an independent boarding preparatory school for boys between the ages of five and 14 by husband-and-wife team John and Maureen Knock with only 19 pupils.

Housed in a Jacobean mansion alongside the River Derwent, the school's motto is Potentes Virtute (Strength In Courage).

In recent years boarding girls and day children have also been added to the list of pupils and there are currently 54 youngsters at the school.

From September this year, however, that number would drop to around the low-30s which would mean the school could not carry on.

John and Maureen's son, Simon Knock, 56, is the current headmaster having been a pupil himself when the school started.

He said: "It is a sad day, but we have had 50 good years and many staff and pupils will have numerous memories of happy times as part of a vibrant and successful school family.

"We have sent a letter out to the parents and have told the pupils and, although the news was a shock to them, they are resilient and will rise up. I have also promised a big party at the end of next term and the pupils seemed to like that idea."

A particular feature of Howsham is that not only is the house a school but also a home.

Members of the Knock family help to administer the school and organise pupils very much as a family.

The decision to close means the loss of about 22 jobs with eight full-time teaching staff, eight part-time teachers and six ancillary staff including cooks and cleaners.

In 2004, The Press reported the death of Mr Knock's brother, Anthony Knock, 56, a teacher at the school, who died after losing a battle with cancer.

He was a pupil at the school in the 1950s, and won a scholarship to Ampleforth College in 1960. After attending Trinity and All Saints' College, Leeds, he returned to Howsham Hall in 1969 and remained there the rest of his life.