Carmel College (Oxfordshire)
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Carmel College was a predominantly Jewish co-educational boarding school in England operating between 1948 and 1997. It was first situated at Greenham Common near Newbury and then at Mongewell Park near Wallingford, Oxfordshire. It was Europe's only Jewish boarding school. It also had a very small number pupils who were not of Jewish descent, as day pupils. It was referred to as the "Jewish Eton" and Carmel College alumni were referred to as "Old Carmelis".
Typical boarding fees in 1996 were £10,000 per school term (i.e. £30,000 per year). The selection process was competitive and applicants were required to sit entrance exams as well as demonstrate the ability to contribute to the school ethos and uphold core school values. In 1990 it topped the list of the 20 most expensive boarding schools in the country
The school had a substantial number of international students from Europe and the Americas and an ethos of respect, diligence and social responsibility were instilled in students as part of the pastoral care provided by house masters and tutors.
The school practised a mainstream orthodox Judaism, more orthodox than the practice of most of the pupils' families. The aim was to turn out (where appropriate) Anglo-Jews who were authentically both English and Jewish.
Pupils who attended were generally upper / upper middle class or of a social standing that allowed private schooling.
The school was founded in 1948 by the late Kopul Rosen. In June 1997, the school was closed mainly owing to diminishing pupil numbers and financial difficulties, having been seriously affected by the termination of government assisted places by the Labour government. The grounds were sold to property developers for an undisclosed sum. The sale was overturned by the Charity Commission, however, following significant pressure from parents and former students who claimed the land was undersold. The distinctive concrete synagogue, dining hall, and amphitheatre, designed by local architect Thomas Hancock, are Grade II listed buildings; the Julius Gottlieb gallery and boathouse, designed by Sir Basil Spence, is Grade II* listed.
The principals or headmasters were: the founder, Kopul Rosen, until his death in 1962; David Stamler, 1962-71; Kopul Rosen's eldest son, Jeremy Rosen, 1971-84; Philip Skelker, until the school closed.
The school grounds in Mongewell Park had the straightest run of the River Thames flowing through it, and Oxford University made full use of this during their preparation for the annual university boat race.
It was attended by children from the age of 11 until 18 — although earlier on there was a preparatory school which took children from around the age of 8. Later a girls' school was built — about a mile from the main campus, although the buildings were never actually used for this purpose. Instead, it was turned into a junior school in the late 1960s for children up to the age of 13, when they then moved to the main school. Girls were later admitted into the main school, starting at the sixth form in 1968. However there were daughters of teachers at the school even before this, including the youngest daughter of Carmel's founder Rabbi Kopul Rosen, who was a pupil in the late 1960s. The Junior school was closed down several years before Carmel closed, and the buildings sold.
Carmel had several boarding houses, which changed regularly throughout the school's life. The final boarding houses were as follows:
- Mansion House — 1st, 2nd, 3rd year male.
- Ridgeway House — 4th & 5th year male.
- School House & Sherman House — L6 & U6 male.
- Newnham House — 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th year female.
- River Court — L6 & U6 female.
Earlier house names included Gilbert House, Montefiore House, Alexander House, Raleigh House and others.
Notable people connected with Carmel College
- Spencer Batiste, MP, later Immigration Appeal Tribunal chairman
- Jeremy Coller, financial executive
- Joe Dwek CBE, former chairman of Bodycote plc
- Raymond Dwek, scientist
- Matthew Engel, journalist
- Billy Brown, Musician, Singer Songwriter and fluffer.
- Joshua Gabay, former teacher, later Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party politician.
- Sir Philip Green, British businessman, owner of the Arcadia Group
- Roland Joffe, alumnus, English-French film director
- Edward Luttwak, strategic analyst and historian
- Oliver Polak, German comedian
In popular culture
The Mansion House was an old manor house with particular significance. Agatha Christie (who lived nearby in Wallingford) used it as the basis for the mansion in her 1952 play The Mousetrap. The Headmaster's study was also the room used for the final briefing of the reconnaissance mission following the Dam Busters raid. There is a pillbox in the school grounds, beside the river.
A scene in the 2011 film The Iron Lady, where Margaret Thatcher is perfecting her prime-ministerial voice, was shot on location within the synagogue of Carmel College.
In 2013 and 2014 Kylie Minogue and The Kaiser Chiefs shot videos in the School's gymnasium.
- Carmel College website
- Hey Little Missy, Memories of Carmel College. Semi autobiographical book including memoirs written by a former student,set in Carmel College, Wallingford.
- Seven Years at Carmel College
- Risky Buildings: Carmel College
- Photos of Carmel College in 2006
- We are not the only Jewish School – recollections of Jewish Schools