Carmel College, Oxfordshire

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For other colleges of this name, see Carmel College (disambiguation).

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 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"[1] by The Observer correspondent, Chaim Bermant (a phrase that would probably not be used by 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 and through to 1995 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 was instilled in students as part of the pastoral care provided by housemasters 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 young international students who were authentically both secular and had an appreciation of religion.

Pupils who attended were generally upper/upper middle class or of a social standing that allowed private schooling. During the school summer holidays some students would spend time in Europe, Asia or the Middle East at private villas and residences of their parents or friends, forming extremely close friendships that would often last a life time.

Many students progressed to Oxbridge type universities across the world including INSEAD, Harvard, London Business School and of course Cambridge and Oxford. A significant number of students also went on to finishing school before returning to Europe / Far East and assuming significant responsibilities in their families' businesses.

Very few scholarships were provided and where they were granted they went to students who were exemplary in academic studies. Students who received scholarships went on to contribute significant funds to the school when they had succeeded in professional life.

The school was strong in science subjects, with a chemistry department developed by the innovative chemistry master Romney Coles, author of Chemistry Diagrams, a book illustrating industrial chemical processes. Coles had the position of Headmaster when Kopul Rosen was Principal.


The school was founded in 1948 by the late Kopul Rosen. It was closed in June 1997, 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, with its stained glass windows created by Israeli artist Nehemia Azaz, 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.[citation needed]

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.

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, Polacks House.


The school grounds in Mongewell Park 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.


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 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.[citation needed]

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 within the synagogue of Carmel College.

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bermant, Chaim (23 October 1973). "The Jewish Eton" (PDF). The Observer Magazine. pp. 40–47. Retrieved 21 December 2015. 
  2. ^ "Obituary – Joshua Gabay". The Gibraltar Chronicle. 23 March 2010. Archived from the original on 23 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 

External links[edit]

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