Oundle School

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Oundle School
GrocersCompany Arms.gif
Motto God Grant Grace
Established 1556
Type Independent school
Day and boarding school
Religion Church of England
Headmistress Sarah Kerr-Dineen
Chairman of Governors J G Tregoning
Founder The Worshipful Company of Grocers
Location Oundle
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DfE number 928/6007
DfE URN 122129 Tables
Students 1,200~
Gender Coeducational
Ages 11–18
Houses 14
Colours blue and maroon          
Website www.oundleschool.org.uk

Oundle School is a co-educational boarding and day independent school located in the ancient market town of Oundle in Northamptonshire.[1] The school has been maintained by the Worshipful Company of Grocers of the City of London since its foundation in 1556. Oundle has eight boys' houses, five girls' houses, a day house and a junior house. Together these accommodate more than 1100 pupils. It is the largest boarding school in England, after Eton and Millfield. [2]

The current headmistress is Mrs Sarah Kerr-Dineen, who in 2015 became the first female head in Oundle's 450 plus year history.[3]


The original school was known as Laxton Grammar School, and founded by Sir William Laxton. Laxton had been a member of the Worshipful Company of Grocers and was Lord Mayor of the City of London in 1544. After Laxton's death in 1556, his will decreed the founding of a school for the local boys of Oundle, which was to be maintained by the Worshipful Company of Grocers. There had been a school on the site since at least 1485, at which Laxton himself was educated.[4]

The size and reputation of Laxton Grammar School rose gradually in the following centuries such that by the mid-nineteenth century, many of the school's pupils had been sent from around the country to receive their education in Oundle. In 1876 the decision was made by the Grocers to divide the school into Oundle School and Laxton Grammar School. Laxton Grammar School was to continue to educate boys from Oundle and its surrounding villages while Oundle School was to accept only the sons of gentlemen from further afield.

It is during this period that Oundle rose to prominence as an English Public School, which can be largely attributed to F. W. Sanderson in his role as headmaster from 1892 until his death in 1922. When Sanderson joined Oundle he found a minor country boarding school; by the time of his death the school had become the leading establishment for science and engineering education. The success of Sanderson can be attributed to his educational ethos; he believed in teaching students what they wanted to learn and as a result helped to introduce subjects such as science, modern languages, and engineering to the English independent school system.

The major development came about in 1990 when Oundle admitted girls for the first time. In the year 2000 the decision was made by the school's governing body to re-unite Oundle School and Laxton School as a single educational establishment under the common name Oundle School, with Laxton House becoming the day house.

The school today

Oundle has 835 boarders and 235 day pupils. It is the third largest independent boarding school in England, after Eton and Millfield.[2] The various school buildings which date from the 15th century are scattered around the market town, with the Cloisters acting as the nucleus of the school community.

The Good Schools Guide described the school as a "Popular, well oiled, well heeled co-educational boarding school which is riding high."[5] Pupils obtain strong results at GCSE and A Level. In their 2013 A Levels pupils achieved 89.1% A* to B grades, with over 60% of grades either A* or A. Many pupils go on to study at Oxbridge; the overwhelming majority continue to Russell Group universities.[6]

The school still promotes the practice of Christian values and maintains strong links with the Church of England by celebrating the major events of the Christian calendar. All pupils who board are required to attend services in the school chapel three times a week, one midweek lunch time service, Friday hymn practice, and the Sunday service. Pupils of other faiths are free to worship according to their own beliefs but must still attend chapel with the rest of the school.

The school places a strong emphasis on extra-curricular activities which encourage pupils to develop interests outside the classroom. One of the ways in which the school fosters extra-curricular interests is through its extensive programme of voluntary clubs and societies (approaching 50 in number), which range from poetry and debating to croquet and wine tasting.[7] Each academic subject also has its own society which organises evening lectures from guest speakers throughout the year; these can be either directly related to the syllabus or simply to broaden interest in the subject. A new subject, Trivium, gives Third Form pupils timetabled engagement with extension topics for their own sake, using methods of thought drawn from the traditional liberal arts. Outside term time pupils are given the opportunity to participate in the countless regular school trips which explore all corners of the globe. These include history trips to major European cities,[8] language exchanges in Europe and Asia,[9] charity work in Africa,[10] AAAS conventions and politics trips in America, natural history expeditions to Antarctica, and many more.

Sport is considered to be an essential part of school life and while there exists a multitude of sports to choose from, the emphasis remains on traditional team sports such as rugby, hockey, cricket, rowing and soccer for boys, and hockey, netball and tennis for girls. Oundle performs particularly strongly in independent school rugby, cricket and girls' hockey.[4] A large proportion of the school gathers to support the 1st XV rugby team on the Two Acre during the Michaelmas and Christmas quarters. The school's greatest sporting rivalry is with Uppingham School, while other rivalries include Harrow School, Radley College, Stamford School and Rugby School. The school sends regular rugby, cricket and hockey tours to countries all around the world, while the social 'Ramblers' cricket team is known in the school for its tours of the U.K. and the Caribbean. The Oundle Rovers Cricket Club (made up of Old Oundelians) plays in The Cricketer Cup [3] and hosts its own cricket week at the school. The Rovers have won the cup three times and are third in the all time order of merit.

Like sport, music plays a vital role within school life for many pupils,[11] and over 60% of pupils regularly practise a musical instrument while at Oundle. The school offers an extensive range of groups, bands, orchestras and choirs which cater for many musical tastes. Such is the success of music at Oundle that in recent years many pupils have gone on to receive musical or choral scholarships from Oxbridge, while school bands and choirs have gone on to perform concerts across the U.K., Europe and even Asia.[4] Musical and non-musical pupils are encouraged to get involved in the house shout and part song competitions in the Lent term which are independently judged and contested fiercely. Possibly the greatest success in the practice of music at the school is its rock society, which can count the likes of Bruce Dickinson among its earliest members. 'Roc-Soc' has been running since the 1970s and promotes the independent formation of popular music bands which have their own dedicated concerts towards the end of every term.[12]

Oundle School has the largest Combined Cadet Force of any school in the country which plays an important role in both the development of pupils as well as in the community, for example in the annual Remembrance Day service held in St Peter's Church.[13] The CCF offers pupils the opportunity to practice their leadership skills whether on parade at school, on the termly field weekends, or on the annual camps. The school has a strong tradition of serving the community with many pupils opting to provide assistance in the local area, or Community Action as an alternative to CCF. There are a broad range of Community Action options available in the Oundle area which cater not only for the needs of the local community but also for the extra-curricular interests of the pupils.[14] Many pupils choose to undertake the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme which provides an ideal combination of the skills they acquire during CCF and Community Action.[15] Every summer since 1982 sixth formers and former pupils have run the Oundle School Mencap holiday, a residential holiday for children with a range of learning disabilities and now a highly respected charity in its own right.[16]

The school has ties with the Laxton Junior School, for primary school pupils, some of whom continue their secondary education as pupils at the senior school. A modern building for Laxton Junior was completed in 2003, which allowed the school to double its intake.

In November 2005 the school was found to have taken part in a cartel of price fixing amongst public schools.[17][18] However, Mrs. Jean Scott, the head of the Independent Schools Council, said that independent schools had always been exempt from anti-cartel rules applied to business, were following a long-established procedure in sharing the information with each other, and that they were unaware of the change to the law (on which they had not been consulted). She wrote to John Vickers, the OFT Director General, saying, "They are not a group of businessmen meeting behind closed doors to fix the price of their products to the disadvantage of the consumer. They are schools that have quite openly continued to follow a long-established practice because they were unaware that the law had changed."[19]


The Cloisters viewed from the spire of St. Peter's Church
The Great Hall
The Chapel of St. Anthony
The Stahl Theatre

Oundle School's facilities include the following:

  • Teaching Facilities. There are a number of different teaching buildings located throughout the town which house classrooms, studios and science and language laboratories. Many lessons take place in the Cloisters which are located in the heart of the town, and other main teaching buildings include the Adamson Centre, the Gascoigne, the Needham, Old Dryden, the Patrick Centre and SciTec.
  • Sporting Facilities. The school has numerous sporting facilities which cater for a wide variety of different sports. Among these are two sand filled astroturf pitches, a six lane synthetic athletics track, a swimming pool and over twenty tennis courts. The Sports Centre houses two fully equipped sports halls, indoor squash and fives facilities, a climbing wall and well equipped gymnasia. All of these have been rebuilt or refurbished in recent years. There are also extensive playing fields and boating facilities on the nearby River Nene.
  • Various CCF buildings including two shooting ranges. There are a number of CCF buildings including the Armoury (the main administrative building and rifle store), and various other smaller buildings used primarily for rifle and first aid training. Situated approximately two miles from Oundle, outside the hamlet of Elmington on the Ashton estate, is Oundle School’s full bore outdoor range. At 500 yards (460 m) long, the range is one of the few of its size in the country to be owned by a school. Rifles can be fired from firing points at either 100, 200, 300 or 500 yards (460 m). There is another, smaller .22 shooting range situated next to the school armoury which is used for day to day use.
  • The Great Hall was constructed in 1908, with the North and South Wings added shortly afterwards. The Great Hall is located prominently in the centre of the town adjacent to the Cloisters and School House; it is used for a variety of functions throughout the year including concerts, receptions, lectures, debates and assemblies. The building also houses the offices of the Headmaster and the school admissions department.
  • The Chapel of Saint Anthony, consecrated in 1923, was built as a memorial to the fallen of the First World War. It contains some of the most important and influential stained glass in the country including the Piper windows of 1954.[20] The Chapel is where the school community meets. It links past and present, and bears witness, both in itself and in its art and worship, to the abiding values of the Christian Faith. The chapel houses two organs, a classical instrument built in 1984 by Frobenius of Denmark has three manuals and pedals, thirty-five speaking stops and mechanical action. It is situated in the Gallery at the West end. A romantic instrument installed by Copeman Hart in 2000 and situated at the East end of the Chapel provides accompaniment for the Chapel Choir, and leads the whole school singing. It has three manuals and pedals with a West end solo division.
  • The Yarrow Gallery is the school's private art gallery, donated in 1918 by the shipbuilder Sir Alfred Yarrow in memory of his son, Eric, who was killed at the Battle of Ypres. The gallery puts on approximately half a dozen exhibitions every year.[21] The space is adaptable and suitable for activities such as poetry readings, plays and small concerts as well as exhibitions. The purpose of the museum is that it should house a collection of pictures, specimens and models to illustrate "the history, development and beauty of the various branches of knowledge". The genealogical tree of the aeroplane and the Durham miner were charted and exhibits such as the skeleton of the white horse which used to draw the School ambulance to the Sanatorium were featured. The statue by Kathleen Scott entitled "Here Am I, Send Me" is erroneously held to be modelled on her son Peter Scott.[22]
  • The Stahl Theatre opened in 1980 and runs from a converted church on West Street; it can seat an audience of over 400.[23] The Stahl Theatre is owned and managed by Oundle School, run by the Drama Department staff, many of whom have a professional theatre background. It houses both the School productions and visiting professional theatre companies.
  • The Patrick Centre specialises in design technology, automobile engineering and other manual crafts. The school has had a strong reputation for science and engineering since the days of F. W. Sanderson, and this is reflected in the excellent facilities and equipment located within these buildings. Opened in 1998 after a generous donation from an old boy, the Patrick Centre plays an important role in the academic and extra-curricular activities of many pupils. Year after year Oundelians continue to build cars and other forms of automobile, the parts of which are manufactured almost entirely in the workshops.
  • The Cripps Library was opened in 1988. It houses approximately 22,000 books encompassing all subjects.[24] The Library is staffed throughout the school day and is open to the whole school for research, information or borrowing for academic work and leisure reading. The library was completely refurbished in 2011, with study spaces named in honour of inspirational former teachers at the school. The Peter Ling Room houses the new display cabinets for the Greek pots, the Dudley Heesom Room has been equipped with computer projection facilities for classes and meetings, the Clive Jacques Rare Book Room now houses the rare book collection in sycamore cabinets. It also contains an increasingly wide-ranging School Archive in the form of photographs, newspaper cuttings and record books, the most notable being the earliest register of pupils of 1626.
  • OSCAR Radio. The school houses its own radio station which broadcasts from newly converted studios in the Gascoigne Building. Over 2000 pupils and local children have taken part in OSCAR broadcasts since 1998.
  • SciTec. The first phase of a new science and technology centre was completed in summer 2007. In September 2007 it was officially opened by the Duke of Gloucester. It is set to be completed in three phases costing around £20 million in total. SciTec is the School's millennium project which upon completion will create a distinctive, new centre to combine the Sciences, Art and Design and Technology. The first stage houses the Chemistry and Biology departments.


The school has 14 boarding houses in total. There are eight boys' boarding houses (Bramston, Crosby, Fisher [formerly Laxton House], Grafton, Laundimer, School, Sidney and St Anthony), five girls' boarding houses (Dryden, Kirkeby, New House, Sanderson and Wyatt) and a junior house (The Berrystead). Laxton House (formerly Laxton School) caters solely for day pupils.

Oundle's Boarding Houses differ greatly in character, customs, and traditions and there has always been a healthy rivalry between them. House Masters and Mistresses live with their families in private accommodation located within the boarding houses. The House Master/Mistress plays a crucial role in the every day running of the house and is supported by a deputy as well as a head of house and a team of prefects from the sixth form. In addition, each house has a number of house tutors who take care of approximately eight pupils each. Each house also has a resident matron who not only cares for the unwell but also plays an important pastoral and administrative role within the house. Student accommodation varies between houses, most houses contain a mixture of dormitories and bed-sits which are usually allocated according to seniority. Each house has its own library, computer room, recreation room, and dining room as well as living facilities such as kitchens, bathrooms and changing rooms.

The Boarding Houses are divided into two categories, Town and Field. The Town Houses front onto Oundle's central streets and have extensive grounds at the rear. The buildings were converted from a mixture of large private residences and shops and as such tend to possess highly individual, sometimes even labyrinthine layouts. The Field Houses provide accommodation in grand buildings which were purpose-built (mostly around the time of Sanderson) and are located slightly further from the town among the sports pitches and the school's other recreational facilities.

Boys' houses

House Housemaster Boys Founded Town/Field Colours
Bramston Mr A.J. Sherwin c. 60 1916 Town             
Crosby Mr H.R. Roberts c. 60 1907 Field             
Fisher (formerly Laxton) Mr N.J.T. Wood c. 60 1869 Field             
Grafton Mr W.W. Gough c. 60 1902 Field             
Laundimer Mr J. Hammond-Chambers c. 60 1916 Town             
School House Mr A.E. Langsdale c. 60 1887 Town             
Sidney Dr. C. J. Quiddington c. 60 1882 Field             
St. Anthony Mr P.J. Kemp c. 65 1928 Town             

Girls' Houses

House Housemistress / Housemaster Girls Founded (Converted to girls' house) Town/Field Colours
Kirkeby Mrs A.E. Meisner c. 65 1990 Field             
Wyatt Dr N.M. Mola c. 65 1990 Field             
New House Mrs M. Smith c. 60 1907 (1997) Town             
Sanderson Mrs. S. Ratchford c. 60 1938 (2000) Town             
Dryden Miss K. Francis c. 60 1938 (1993) Town             

Junior house

House Housemistress / Housemaster Children Founded Town/Field Colours
Berrystead Mrs S. Fonteneau c. 40 1901 Town             

Day house

House Housemistress / Housemaster Children Founded Town/Field Colours
Laxton Mrs N.S. Guise c. 250 1556 Town             

Old Oundelians

The school has a list of alumni. Arguably the most well known of these today are the heavy metal musician Bruce Dickinson and the evolutionary biologist and science writer Richard Dawkins. A full list of notable alumni is available in the List of Old Oundelians.

Former pupils are known as Old Oundelians. The OO Club was founded in 1883 and, to this day, keeps its original objectives very much in mind:

To foster union and good fellowship among Old Oundelians, to promote OO matches and reunions, and to further the interests and prosperity of the School.

Victoria Cross winners

Three Old Oundelians were awarded the Victoria Cross for actions during the First World War:[25]

Notable masters

  • Dr Maximilian von Habsburg-Lothringen[27]
  • F. W. Sanderson (Headmaster b.1857 d.1922)
  • John Olver (England Rugby International)
  • Kevin Walton GC DSC taught workshop engineering at the school
  • Terry Cobner (Wales and British Lions rugby union player)
  • W. G. Grace Jnr[28] (eldest son of W. G. Grace)
  • Ian Hepburn (1902–74), botanist, ecologist and author. Master for 39 years; Housemaster of Laxton House; Second Master; retired 1964. The Hepburn Music Competition is named after him.
  • David Carpanini taught Art at the school.

School song

The official school song is Carmen Undeliense[29] (words by R.F. Patterson, music by Clement M. Spurling, published in 1912 by Novello & Company Ltd of London).[30]

Carmen Undeliense

Quid quid puerorum est
Hic literatorum,
Quid quid magistrorum est,
Carmen det Canorum;
Alma mater floreat
Tempus in aeternum;
Tellus carmen resonat
Et regnum supernum
Floreat Latinitas,
Literae Graecorum;
Floreat divinitas,
Usus calculorum.
Floreat scientia,
Omnes bone artes;
Crescat et prudentia
Undeli per partes
Lusiones floreant
Aut remis aut pilis;
Pueri que gaudeant,
Gaudeant in illis:
Vindicent plus gloriae
Ludi et labores;
Praemi a victoriae
Ferant digniores
Laxtonis prudentia
Ludum hic fundavit;
Domini clementia
Ad huc conservavit.
Floreat Undelium,
Hoc Deum oramus;
Et per omne saeculum
Idem concinamus

See also


  1. oundleschool.org.uk
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Schools Guide 2011 - Tatler". Guides.tatler.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-08-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Oundle School Makes Historic Appointment". Oundle Chronicle. Retrieved 17 August 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Oundle | Senior Only Mixed Independent School | Northamptonshire". Guide to Independent Schools. Retrieved 2011-08-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Oundle School | Peterborough | LEA:Northamptonshire | Northamptonshire". The Good Schools Guide. Retrieved 2011-08-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. oundleschool.org.uk
  7. "Extracurricular Activities: Societies". Oundle School. 2010-11-19. Retrieved 2011-08-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "News Christmas 2009: To Vienna and beyond". Oundle School. 2009-11-13. Retrieved 2011-08-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "News Trinity 2010: Oundle visits Wild China". Oundle School. 2010-05-18. Retrieved 2011-08-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "News Michaelmas 2010: From Oundle to Mozambique". Oundle School. 2010-08-26. Retrieved 2011-08-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "The Arts: Music". Oundle School. 2011-06-16. Retrieved 2011-08-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Rikki & The Last Days of Earth debut 7". Mrpibbs.com. 1977-05-29. Retrieved 2011-08-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Extracurricular Activities: CCF". Oundle School. 2011-04-01. Retrieved 2011-08-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Extracurricular Activities: Community Action". Oundle School. 2011-01-20. Retrieved 2011-08-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Extracurricular Activities: Duke of Edinburgh". Oundle School. Retrieved 2011-08-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. http://www.oundlemencap.org.uk
  17. "Top 50 independent schools found guilty of price-fixing to push up fees" The Guardian, 10 November 2005.
  18. "OFT issues statement of objections against 50 independent schools - The Office of Fair Trading". Oft.gov.uk. Retrieved 2011-08-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "Private schools send papers to fee-fixing inquiry". The Daily Telegraph. London. 1 March 2004. Retrieved 8 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. [1] Archived 24 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  21. "The Arts - Yarrow Gallery". Oundle School. Retrieved 2011-08-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "extract from Peter Scott's autobiography". Westdowns.com. 2001-03-12. Retrieved 2011-08-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "The Arts: Stahl Theatre". Oundle School. 2010-12-01. Retrieved 2011-08-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. [2] Archived 24 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  25. The Oundle Society Editorial Team, (Spring 2006), The Oundle Society Spring Newsletter, page 7, (The Oundle Society)
  26. Sir John George Smyth, (1963), The Story of the Victoria Cross, 1856-1963, page 191, (F. Muller:London)
  27. thepeerage.com
  28. W. G. Grace Jnr
  29. "Domain Registered By Safenames Ltd" (PDF). Oundlesociety.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 August 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. Carmen Undeliense: Oundle School Song. Words by R.F. Patterson. Music by Clement M. Spurling. Novello and Co. (1912) ASIN: B0000D3KXX

Further reading

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Black, Edward "The Avondale Case" Lulu, Amazon, B&W March 2014

External links