Carmel College, Oxfordshire

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Mongewell Park, where the school was situated

Carmel College was, from 1948 to 1997, a British, Jewish boarding school, modelled on British public schools. It was first situated at Greenham Common near Newbury, Berkshire, and then at Mongewell Park near Wallingford, Oxfordshire. Founded as a boys' school, in later years it was, to some extent, co-educational. It was one of the UK's only three Jewish boarding schools, the others being in Gateshead and Whittingehame College in Brighton.[1] It also had a very small number of pupils who were not of Jewish descent, as day pupils. Carmel College alumni are known as "Old Carmelis"; in 1973 the school was referred to as the "Jewish Eton"[2] by The Observer correspondent, Chaim Bermant. An entire book was also published about the school in 1973: Carmel College in the Kopel Era: A History of Carmel College, September 1948-March.[3]

Typical boarding fees in 1996 were £10,000 per school term (i.e. £30,000 per year). From 1990 it was the most expensive boarding school in the country. There were many students from abroad, especially in later years, and some scholarships.

The school practised a mainstream Orthodox Judaism,[4] more Orthodox than the practice of most of the pupils' families.

History[edit]

The school was founded in 1948 by Rabbi Dr Yaacov Kopul Rosen; "there were about 25 pupils." By the time it moved to Mongwell Park, Wallingford it had "about 200 pupils."[5]

It was closed in July 1997,[5] mainly owing to diminishing pupil numbers and severe financial difficulties, having been seriously affected by the termination of government assisted places by the Labour government and the rise of the Jewish Day School Movement. 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, with its stained glass windows created by Israeli artist Nehemia Azaz, the dining hall, and the 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.[6]

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; and Philip Skelker, until the school closed.

Upon closure of the school, many pupils were transferred to another boarding school in Bristol, Clifton College, which had, until May 2005 a Jewish boarding house, Polack's House.

In October 2015 former housemaster Trevor Bolton was convicted of abusing boys at the school over a period of 20 years.[7]

Location[edit]

The school grounds in Mongewell Park[5] had the straightest run of the River Thames flowing past it, and Oxford University made full use of this during their preparation for the annual university boat race.

Structure[edit]

It was attended by children from the age of 11 to 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 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 daughter of 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.

Notable people connected with Carmel College[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

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.[citation needed] 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 on 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 in the synagogue of Carmel College.

In 2013 and 2014 Kylie Minogue and the Kaiser Chiefs shot videos in the school's gym.

In the 2016 film, Mindhorn, the Carmel College synagogue is used as the location for scenes depicting the exterior and interior of fictional civic hall offices on the Isle of Man (approx timestamp 00:53:40 and 01:08:40).

Also in 2016, The Darkest Dawn on IMDB, the mansion house and gardens feature in the final 10 minutes of the film.

The science fiction film, Annihilation (2018), starring Natalie Portman, uses the Carmel College swimming pool and other areas for scenes involving the Fort Amaya military base (approx timestamp 00:42:05-00:49:05).

In 2017, the library of the mansion house was used for filming interior scenes of Stalin's living quarters in the film The Death of Stalin.

In 2018, the art room in the teaching block, the interior of the Julius Gottlieb Gallery, the exterior and interior of the mansion house, the lake and the ruined church were used in scenes from BBC's production of John le Carré's The Little Drummer Girl.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Breuer, Yael (19 August 2019). "Brighton college goes old school with reunion for ex-pupils". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 19 August 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Bermant, Chaim (23 October 1973). "The Jewish Eton" (PDF). The Observer Magazine. pp. 40–47. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 21 December 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Simons, Chaim (1973). Carmel College in the Kopel Era: A History of Carmel College, September 1948-March 1962. Urim Publications. ISBN 978-965-524-236-2.
  4. ^ Rosen, Jeremy (18 November 2013). "Little Boxes". The Jewish Press. Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  5. ^ a b c Resnick, Elliot (6 September 2017). "A Jewish Eton, Pre-1948 Transfer, And Chinese Esrogim – An Interview With Rabbi Dr. Chaim Simons". The Jewish Press.
  6. ^ Historic England (9 December 1999). "Julius Gottlieb Gallery and Boathouse at former Carmel College (1379942)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  7. ^ Carmel College sex abuse: Boarding school teacher jailed for 19 years BBC News, 23 October 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  8. ^ "Faith". Greater London Lieutenancy. 30 July 2017.
  9. ^ Hill, Andrew; Felsted, Andrea (18 September 2015). "Philip Green on building a retail empire: 'I don't regret anything I haven't done'". Financial Times. Retrieved 6 May 2020.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  10. ^ Round, Simon (4 December 2008). "Interview: Houda Nonoo". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 6 May 2020.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°35′07″N 1°07′16″W / 51.5853°N 1.1212°W / 51.5853; -1.1212