Wimbledon College

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Wimbledon College
College Crest
Motto Latin: Cor numinis fons luminis
("The heart of the divine is the fount of light.")
Established 18 January 1892; 130 years ago (18 January 1892)
Type Voluntary aided comprehensive
Religion Roman Catholic
Head Master Mr Adrian Laing
Location Edge Hill
SW19 4NS
England, UK
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Local authority Merton
DfE URN 102681 Tables
Ofsted Reports
Students 1250~
Gender Boys
Ages 11–18
Houses 8
Colours Maroon, Dark Green, Gold and Dark Blue
Affiliations Archdiocese of Southwark and the Society of Jesus
Former pupils Old Wimbledonians (OW)
Publication(s) The Wimbledonian
Website wimbledoncollege.org.uk

Wimbledon College is a government-maintained, voluntary-aided, Jesuit Roman Catholic Secondary School for boys aged 11 to 19. The school is based at Edge Hill, Wimbledon, London. It was founded in 1892 "for improvement in living and learning to the greater glory of God and the common good." Its seal says in Latin, "College of the Sacred Heart, Wimbledon". It is affiliated with the Sacred Heart Church and Donhead Preparatory School, its main feeder preparatory school.


On the 18 January 1892, in the parlour of a newly founded church's presbytery at No.3 Cranbrook Road, Thomas Lloyd started at Wimbledon College. He was the first-ever student, and on that day he was to be alone. His brother William was meant to attend alongside him, but fell ill. After the first academic year, six more students joined the Lloyd brothers. In this time the school had moved twice, once to a property on Darlaston Road and once to a building adjoining the All England Lawn Tennis Courts. In 1893 the college moved to a recently abandoned building on Edge Hill, the former site of Wimbledon School, and has never moved since. By 1900, 100 pupils were in attendance. In 1898 the Wimbledon College Army Department was established. This trained young men for entrance into Sandhurst or Woolwich.[1]

During the First World War, the college was to lose a total of 129 former pupils. On 18 February 1922 the War Memorial at the rear of the chapel and the memorial stained glass window at the front, behind the altar, were unveiled. The memorial inscription reads: "To the greater glory of God and in the triumphant and loving memory of those who went from the College to die for King and Country."[2]

In 1921 the Prefect of Studies (Head Master), Fr John Manning SJ, oversaw the transition from Oxford Local Examinations to Oxford and Cambridge Joint Board Examinations, allowing the college to compete with the top public schools. This quelled the tendency for the brightest 15 to 16-year-old students to leave the college for the more established Catholic schools.[2] Also in 1921, the house system was introduced with three houses (Fisher, More, and Campion). Later would be added Southwell. In 1929, 8 acres of field beside Coombe Lane was bought for sporting purposes.[2]

In 1933, due to the growing number of pupils, the decision was made to buy Donhead Lodge (a building across the road from the college) and establish a preparatory school there. The 72 pupils from Lower Preparatory, Preparatory, and Elements were taken from the college and settled at the new Wimbledon College Preparatory School (known as 'Donhead").[2]

Fr John Sinnott SJ (OW) arrived as Prefect of Studies in 1937. A previous student at the college,[2] he immediately sought to improve the college's reputation with the Board of Education, to allow acceptance of scholarship boys from elementary schools. After a favourable inspection in 1938, he implemented their suggestions by giving inter-house competitions a more academic, less sports character, with prizes in all main subjects. Elocution lessons were organised, boys were encouraged to play the violin, and a Careers Bureau was established. He also made plans for further development of the site, but was frustrated by the outbreak of the Second World War, when tight restrictions were placed on the use of steel and timber.[2]

During the Second World War, the functioning of the college was much more disrupted than in the Great War. Fortunately, the Wimbledon College and Donhead buildings both had cellars which, with minor adjustments, were approved by local Air Raid Wardens. Sandbags were brought in and timber frames used to reinforce the ceilings. Since the college and Donhead were outside the evacuation area, school was allowed to proceed. Three weeks after the outbreak of war on the 3 September 1939, the new school term began.[2] Unfortunately, because the games pitch was distant from the bomb shelters, games lessons were cancelled during the war and break was shortened.[2]

Such was the disruption to lessons by increasingly frequent passings over of German bombers, that boys were required to take their books down to the cellars where lessons would continue amid the sounds of bombs exploding and anti-aircraft fire.[2] The college acted as an emergency feeding post, first aid centre, and the college swimming pool provided valuable water for the local fire brigade.[2]

On the 18 February 1944, a bomb exploded on the Convent of the Sisters of Mary, situated on the Downs (a road not far from the college), killing five nuns and wounding several others. Numerous windows in the college shattered, doors broke, and the roof of the college swimming pool caved in. During all this time, Fr Sinnott was looking to the future of the college. He had concluded that the independent school model was not suitable and had applied to the Surrey County Council (at the time Wimbledon was contained within the borders of Surrey, these moved in the 1960s) for Deficiency Aided School status in January 1942 and this was granted later that year. This allowed the college to be funded by the local education authority while retaining its religious character. In March 1945, fees were abolished at the request of the Surrey Educational Committee. This marked the beginning of the process of the college becoming a Voluntary Aided Grammar School, which was formally recognised in July 1948.[2]

The college lost 58 old boys as a result of the Second World War. They are commemorated by a memorial above the door of the college chapel.[2]

In 1969, the college became a Voluntary Aided Comprehensive School.[3]

As of 2009, the Sixth Form had partnerships with the nearby Ursuline High School and Holy Cross School and Richard Challoner School in Kingston upon Thames.[4]


The college stands on a site where in 1860 John Brackenbury had purchased two large meadows below the Ridgway known as Tree and Boggy Fields. Brackenbury had helped to run Nelson House School, in Eagle House, Wimbledon High Street. His success there was such that in 1859 he took out a mortgage on the land below the Ridgway and founded the Anglican Preparatory Military Academy in 1860, also known as Brackenbury’s. The grounds of this college were so attractive that the school was opened to the public once a week. Among the alumni of Brackenbury's were rugby union international Henry Bryden and Alfred D'Orsay Tennyson Dickens, son of Charles Dickens. Although initially successful, Brackenbury's declined under the control of the Rev. Charles Wynn, and closed in 1887.

In 1892 the buildings of the Anglican Preparatory Military Academy were purchased by the Jesuits and reopened as Wimbledon College (though Wimbledon College had existed at other sites earlier that year).[3] During the summer holidays in 1977 the main college hall burned down. It is not clear what caused the fire but the kitchens were located in the basement of the hall and it was supposed that the fire started there.[citation needed]

Fr Michael Holman SJ became Head Master in 1995 and his main contributions to the school included an entire renovation of the old gym and swimming pool into a new Sports Hall, Learning Resources Centre (LRC), and IT Suite. Since Fr Adrian Porter's appointment as Fr Holman's successor, the college has undergone further changes, including a new visitors' entrance, refurbished classrooms, the addition of an electronic registration system which is used in parallel with the traditional registration system, and the movement of the LRC and IT Department to the location of the Sixth Form Centre. The centre has been relocated to the former LRC/IT Department site.[citation needed]

College Chapel

The Wimbledon College Chapel was opened on the 9 April 1910. It serves for lunchtime Mass, held once a week, and on occasions is used for minor assemblies.[citation needed]

On 18 February 1921 the War Memorial commemorating the 129 boys of the college lost in the First World War was unveiled. Later, another memorial was unveiled for the 58 boys of the College lost in the Second World War.[citation needed]



Within English Jesuit schools, year groups are referred to as named "lines", rather than being given a number. These names are: Figures (Y7), Rudiments (Y8), Lower Grammar (Y9), Grammar (Y10), Syntax (Y11), Poetry (Y12) and Rhetoric (Y13). Figures and Rudiments are sometimes shortened to "Figs" and "Ruds". Boys in Figures, Rudiments, and Lower Grammar are in "Lower Line". Boys in Grammar or Syntax are placed into "Higher Line". There is a Lower Line Deputy and a Higher Line Deputy, who control their Lines. Each Line (year group) has a "Head of Line" who runs the line (so there are three "Heads of Line" within the Lower Line and two within the Higher Line). Sixth Form has its own "Head of Sixth Form", with Poetry and Rhetoric within that VI form.

Prefectorial System

Every new school year, the school appoints 19 Prefects for different roles. Only those in the VI Form are able to hold a position as a Prefect. The Head Boy, Deputy Head Boy, House Captains, Chapel Prefect, Music Prefect, and Captain of Rugby are all Prefects. Beside all these positions you also have 8 regular Prefects. Prefects wear a blue tie patterned with the College shield.[citation needed]


At the top left and bottom centre of every piece of work boys must write "AMDG (for Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, "For the greater glory of God") and LDS (Laus Deo Semper, translating to "Praise God always"). Again, this is a tradition with most Jesuit secondary schools in England and Ireland.

House System

When boys join the college they are assigned to one of eight houses. Each house is named after a saint.[5]

House Abbr. Founded Colour Saint
Fisher House F 1921 Red St John Fisher
More House M 1921 Blue St Thomas More
Campion House C 1921 Green St Edmund Campion SJ
Southwell House S Unk* Yellow St Robert Southwell SJ
Owen House O 2011 Dark Green St Nicholas Owen SJ
Hurtado House H 2011 Orange St Alberto Hurtado SJ
Loyola House L 2011 Dark Blue St Ignatius of Loyola SJ
Xavier House X 2011 Purple St Francis Xavier SJ

Every house has a "Head of House" and a "House Captain".

The houses also act as forms. Each year group – Figures (Y7), Rudiments (Y8), Lower Grammar (Y9), Grammar (Y10), Syntax (Y11), Poetry (Y12), Rhetoric (Y13) – has 8 forms, the names of which are simply the house they are in, added to the name. So "Grammar, More" is one form and "Poetry, Campion" would be another.

*= founded shortly after 1921


The college specialises in sports (especially rugby), extracurricular activities, and drama. A new music department was constructed in 2005. It is notable for its school productions, and to assist in these a revolving stage has been built in the auditorium. At least one dramatic or musical show has been produced every year since 1972. The Strings Project was activated in 2005 to give 50 boys in Figures the opportunity to learn the violin, viola, cello, or the double bass.[6]

The college encourages students to take part in at least two of its wide selection of extracurricular activities. These range from a Drama Club to the Chess Club, and also from a Debating Society to numerous optional school trips over the year. The college also has a selection of major and minor sports. Rugby is the biggest major sport and is played until Christmas. In 2010, Wimbledon College U13 won the Rosslyn Park Schools Seven Tournament, which is their biggest honour in the sport.[7] During the lent term rugby is still played along with football.[citation needed]

In the summer term rugby is no longer played. Instead cricket and athletics become the major sports. Athletics is practised at Wimbledon Park athletics track, and cricket is played on the usual playing field at Coombe Lane. During the last week of the academic school year there is House Cricket tournament where all the best cricketers from the eight different houses play. Also in the last week of the school year there is a Sports Day; all students participate. Years 7 and 8 have their sports day one day before years 9 and 10. The sports take place at Wimbledon Park athletics stadium. Most track and field events are practised. The winners of the "A" team races get medals. The boy with the most medals on the day also gets the "Victor Ludorum". On 4 May 2012, the U14A football team won The Collingwood Trophy, 3-2 in the final.[citation needed]

Army Cadet Force (ACF)

The college has a detachment of the Army Cadet Force belonging to the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (Infantry, British Army) called 136 Detachment RRF, Army Cadet Force. The ACF offers boys the opportunity to partake in activities such as field-craft, survival, map reading, first aid, weapons training, drill, sports, and the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme (Bronze, Silver, and Gold).[6]

Guild of St. Stephen

The Guild of St. Stephen was started to recognise boys who had been regularly altar serving at college Mass. Members of the Guild are eligible for a bronze medal which they may hang around their neck while serving in school.[6]

College Choir

The College Choir sing at school liturgies and concerts. Boys of all ages are permitted to apply for an audition, which they must pass to become members of the choir.[6]


Intermediate Colours

Intermediate Colours are generally awarded in Syntax but occasionally in Grammar for outstanding achievement and commitment to a college activity. Staff in charge of school activities – such as major sports, music, drama, and service – nominate boys for colours each term. Nominations are confirmed or rejected by the Colours Committee, ensuring uniform standards across all activities.[8] Boys who have been awarded Intermediate Colours are given a different tie, similar to the regular school tie but with the gold stripe wider.

Half Colours and Full Colours

Half Colours are generally awarded in Poetry but occasionally in Syntax. Full Colours are generally awarded in Rhetoric but occasionally in Poetry. Both Half and Full Colours reflect the highest levels of commitment, performance, and leadership in major school activities.[8] Boys who have been awarded Half or Full Colours are given a different tie, for Half Colours a Green tie patterned with the college shield and stripped gold (one stripe and then a space filled with shields, then another stripe, etc.) and for Full Colours it is the same but with two stripes rather than just one.

The College Prayer

Lord, teach us to be generous:  to serve you as you deserve;  to give and not to count the cost;  to fight and not to heed the wounds; 
to toil and not to seek to rest;  to labour and to ask for no reward;  save that of knowing we do your will. Amen.[9]

Old Wimbledonians Association (OWA)

The Old Wimbledonians Association came into being in 1905 and was originally founded by old boys of its Alma Mater, Wimbledon College. Members of the OWA can be old boys of either Wimbledon College or Donhead Preparatory School (Donhead is the Wimbledon College Preparatory School).[10]

Notable Old Wimbledonians


Science and medicine


Entertainment, media and the arts


Politics, public service and the law


Notable Staff

  • Herbert Thurston SJ (Prefect of Studies, 1893-1894), prolific scholar liturgical, literary, historical, and spiritual matters. Also a friend of George Tyrrell[18]
  • Fr Bryan Gavan Duffy SJ (Prefect of Studies, 1923-1926), son of Sir Charles Gavan Duffy[19]
  • Fr Conyers D'Arcy SJ (Prefect of Studies, 1926–1936), brother of Martin D'Arcy[18]
  • Fr John Sinnott SJ (OW) (Prefect of Studies and Head Master, 1937-1950), made contributions to the college while in charge, including overseeing the College becoming a Grammar School in 1944[2][18]
  • Richard Milward (OW) (History Master, 1945-1985), Historian[11]
  • Fr Michael Holman SJ SJ (OW) (Head Master, 1995-2004), Principal of Heythrop College, London
  • Fr Adrian Porter SJ (Head Master, 2004-2011), Provincial Delegate for Education within the Society of Jesus and Director of the Jesuit Institute[20]

Head Masters

A list of Prefects of Studies (before 1944) and Headmasters (after 1944) with the years they were in the role.[18]

See also


  1. Beginnings from WimbledonCollege.org.uk, retrieved 18 September 2015
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 The college during the wars from WimbledonCollege.org.uk, retrieved 18 September 2015
  3. 3.0 3.1 Conservation Areas – Edge Hill
  4. 2009 Ofsted Report on Wimbledon College at school website
  5. College House System from WimbledonCollege.org.uk, retrieved 18 September 2015
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Curriculum from WimbledonCollege.org.uk, retrieved 18 September 2015
  7. Past Winners Rosslyn Park National Schools Sevens; retrieved 20 January 2013
  8. 8.0 8.1 Recognition of Achievement from WimbledonCollege.org.uk, retrieved 18 September 2015
  9. A Guide for New Parents from WimbledonCollege.org.uk, retrieved 26 September 2015
  10. Old Wimbledonians, retrieved 18 September 2015
  11. 11.0 11.1 Obituaries from The Guardian, 12 February 2007, retrieved 18 Sept
  12. David Allison from CSVascular.com, retrieved 29 June 2015
  13. Tom Connors from National Centre for Biotech Information, retrieved 29 June 2015
  14. Centre for Plastic Electronics, Imperial College London, retrieved 18 September 2015
  15. Joseph James Joe McPartlin from The Scotsman, retrieved 29 June 2015
  16. Mgr Nicholas Hudson appointed as new auxiliary bishop for Westminster from Archdiocese of Westminster, retrieved 6 August 2015
  17. Provincial for the Society of Jesus in Great Britain; accessed 19 March 2005
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 Head Masters from WimbledonCollege.org.uk, retrieved 18 September 2015
  19. Sir Charles Gavan Duffy biography, adb.anu.edu.au; accessed 22 September 2014.
  20. Profile from Jesuit.org.uk, retrieved 18 September 2015

External links