Carmel College (Oxfordshire)
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Carmel College was a predominantly Jewish co-educational boarding school in England operating between 1949 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 alumnus were referred to as "ex Carmelli"
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
Very few scholarships were provided and where they were granted they went to students who were exemplary in academic studies and showed an exceptional amount of academic potential. It is common knowledge that students who received scholarships went on to contribute significant funds to the school, by way of sponsorship, once they had succeeded in ordinary business life.
The school had a substantial number of international students from Europe and the Americas and an ethos of respect, diligence and social belonging were instilled in students as part of the pastoral care provided by house masters and tutors.
Pupils who attended were generally upper / upper middle class or of a social standing that allowed private schooling. During the school summer holidays students would often spend time in Europe, Asia or the Middle East at private villas and residences of their parents or friends which formed extremely close friendships that would often last a life time
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 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. The first reconnaissance aircraft over the target was a Spitfire PR IX from 542 Squadron, flown by Flying Officer Jerry Fray. He had left nearby RAF Benson at 07:30hrs to ensure that he could be at the Dams in good light. Two other sorties were flown over the Dams that day. The resulting photographs were the first to be published in the press. Up until then all reconnaissance tasking had been carried out under the strictest secrecy.
The 2011 film, 'The Iron Lady' featured a scene where Margaret Thatcher is perfecting her prime-ministerial voice, which was shot on location within the Synagogue of Carmel College.
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 the early 1970s. 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.
At the time the school closed, the headmaster was Philip Skelker.
In its earlier period, the school was strong in science subjects, with a chemistry department developed by the innovative chemistry master Romney Coles, author of a book called "Chemistry Diagrams" which were illustrations of industrial chemical processes.
Notable people connected with Carmel College
- Jeremy Coller, financial executive
- Joe Dwek CBE, former chairman of Bodycote plc
- Raymond Dwek, scientist
- Matthew Engel, journalist
- Joshua Gabay, headmaster of Carmel College and 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
- de:Oliver Polak, German comedian
- Ronald Evans 1918 - 2012, In 1952 Ron taught Maths at St Bartholemew's Grammar School Newbury, when approached by Kopul Rosen to establish a Maths department for Carmel at Greenham Common. At that time Kopul knew Carmel had to re-locate but did not know where. Ron requested Kopul to approach him again when he knew where Carmel would finally be established. Kopel did, both Ron and Mary, his wife, joined the staff of Carmel College in 1954 - 1955. Ron was Head of Mathematics at Carmel from 1954 to Retirement - Senior Master - Acting Headmaster. He was a Member of The (University of) Southampton Maths Project and Author, with Prof. Brian Thwaites, of the SMP Mathematics text books (the first texts to embrace computing in the Maths syllabus). The texts books were used by secondary schools around the world. Mary Evans taught Maths from 1956 until her retirement in addition too being Girls Housemistress for periods and coaching both Hockey and Tennis throughout her career.
- "Obituary - Joshua Gabay". The Gibraltar Chronicle. 2010-03-23. Archived from the original on 2010-03-23. Retrieved 2010-03-23.
- 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