Although building work continued apace, it was evident it would not be completed by the official opening date of September 18, and at a meeting of the governors at Shalford Station on September 12 it was agreed to put the first day back to September 29. They also decided to refund £2 of the £30 fees “as a consequence of this postponement”. At the same meeting they completed the arrangements for the official opening on October 12.
A factor in the postponement was probably the delayed opening of the railway between Guildford and Horsham, which had a new station at Cranleigh. The opening, scheduled for the spring, had been put back several times.
By late September the builders handed over the School, although they remained on site for some time. The buildings were limited to the south and east sides of the Quad along with the Headmaster’s house. The rooms on the south of the Quad to the east of the main entrance formed the chapel, the ones to the west were upper-school classrooms. None had windows into the corridor and so were “gloomy and inhospitable”. What is now the Williams Library was first used for dining until Hall was built in 1867, while the Reading Room was the lower-school form room. There was no clock tower – this was not added until 1870 and the clock itself did not appear for another four years after that.
On September 29, the first boys arrived, “some in horse-drawn flies, the majority in a cart from Guildford”. Various histories record that 17 boys were present on the opening day, but the register of entries indicates there were only 12, including James Frood who had been there since August. Others drifted in over the next week, taking the total to 22 by the end of the first week. To look after them there was the Headmaster, Joseph Merriman, the second master, the Reverend Reginald Quick, and a Mr Poore. There was also a visiting drawing master, Mr Pyne, who came from Guildford once a week.
A week before the opening, Albert Napper was appointed to “provide medical attendance” at a rate of £30 for 100 boys with an additional £10 for every 50 boys on top of that. He agreed to visit “daily or three or four times in the week”. Extra visits, which were needed when one of the regular epidemics broke out, were charged at 10 shillings a time.
On the first day, Merriman held morning school where he assessed the abilities of the first Cranleighans. In the afternoon, the three masters played football with the boys on the rough and sloping South Field. That night the small band of pioneer Cranleighans slept in 1 South, the other dormitories remaining, for now, empty.