Lord Williams's School

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Lord Williams's School
Lord Williams's School Crest RGB HIRES.jpg
Coordinates51°44′48″N 0°59′30″W / 51.746666°N 0.991777°W / 51.746666; -0.991777Coordinates: 51°44′48″N 0°59′30″W / 51.746666°N 0.991777°W / 51.746666; -0.991777
MottoSic itur ad astra a tous venaunts
(thus the way to the stars for all comers)
FounderJohn Williams, 1st Baron Williams of Thame
Local authorityOxfordshire
Department for Education URN138667 Tables
ChairMike Underwood
HeadteacherMr Jon Ryder
Age11 to 18
Enrolment2,200 approx.
Colour(s)  Blue  Maroon

Lord Williams's School is a co-educational secondary school with academy status in Thame, Oxfordshire, England. The school takes children from the age of 11 through to the age of 18. The school has approximately 2,200 pupils.

In September 2001 the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) designated the school as a specialist Sports College.[1]

Jon Ryder has been head of the school since September 2019 after taking over from David Wybron.

In 2006, together with Thame leisure centre, the school opened a new astro-turf pitch. The official opening featured a team decathlon by the students, after which the ribbon was cut by the women's England hockey captain. The mayor of Thame was also present on the day.[citation needed]



The school opened in 1570,[3] having been founded at the bequest of John Williams, 1st Baron Williams of Thame, after his death in 1559. A building with a single classroom, two rooms for the Master and Usher, and a dormitory for boarders was erected in 1569 close to St Mary's Church and adjacent to the almshouses (all can still be seen today). In 1575, the Statutes were published which not only laid out how the school should be run but established the connection with New College, Oxford that lasts to this day.

It was an Endowed grammar school supported by income from John Williams's bequests (an endowment) and fees paid by scholars. The first headmaster was Edward Harris, born in 1534 and a native of Thame. A note on one copy of the Statutes states: "On the Day before the feast of St Andrews [November 29] 1570, Edward Harris who had previously been elected master, took up his office of teaching in the newly completed school."

Across the seventeenth and eighteenth century, it had a history of educating scholars who went on to have significant national influence (as listed below). However, by the middle of the 19 century, its fortunes had declined and, in 1872, it was decided to temporarily close the school and make a fresh start on a site on the Oxford Road, Thame. The new buildings opened in 1879. Records show that by 1890 the school had 57 boarders and 7 day boys; over the next thirty years, the number of day boys increased and, by 1920, there were 61 boarders and 52 day boys on the roll.

From 1895, the school started to receive grants from the local educational authority to supplement its income and the school began to lose its independence. In the 1930s almost all the school's income was coming from the local authority. By the mid 1940s it became clear that the school could no longer remain independent. In 1947 it became a state school under the direction of the Oxfordshire Education Committee.

The roll increased rapidly and reached bursting point in 1960 when it stood at 200 and the school had to turn away pupils. The Education Committee announced that it would institute a building programme and double the school's size. The Committee also accepted the Governor’s recommendation that to preserve the essential characteristic of the school, the size of the Boarding House be increased to 90. In late 1963, these new buildings were opened and the roll increased again.

In 1966, the Education Committee privately announced that it was planning to turn Lord Williams's Grammar School into a single-sex comprehensive to be called Lord Williams's School and that a separate girls' comprehensive school would be built alongside the existing buildings.

However these plans were amended and in 1971 it became a co-educational comprehensive school when it merged with the Wenman School.[4] The site of which became one part of the lower school, known as Lower School East, while Lower School West was established on the Oxford Road site alongside what was known as the Upper School. In 1995 Lower school west merged into another part of Upper school and lower school east became the one site for years 7-9.

Currently, the school is still dual-site and the long awaited plans to have a single site on the Oxford Road have yet to be reached.


Boys boarded at the school for over 400 years. When the new school opened in 1879 they boarded at Main House on the site of the current school. As their numbers increased in the 1960s, the older boys also used two residential houses close to the school – Greenacres and Highfield. In 1992, the boarding facility was closed and since then the school has admitted day students only.


  • 1575: Edward Harrid
  • 1597: Richard Bouchier
  • 1627: Hugo Evans
  • 1647: William Ailiff
  • 1655: Hugo Willis
  • 1675: Thomas Middleton
  • 1694: Henry Bruces
  • 1727: William Lamplugh
  • 1727: James Fussel
  • 1729: Robert Wheeler
  • 1729: John Kipling
  • 1773: William Cooke
  • 1786: William Stratford
  • 1814: Timothy Lee
  • 1841: Thomas
  • 1879: George Plummer


  • 1891: Benjamin Sharp
  • 1899: Alfred Shaw
  • 1920: Walter Bye
  • 1929: Arthur Dyer
  • 1948: Hugh Muslims
  • 1957: Jon Nelson
  • 1965: Geoffrey Goodall
  • 1979: Peter Wells
  • 1985: David Kenningham


  • 1997: Pat O'Shea
  • 2000: Michael Spencer
  • 2005: David Wybron
  • 2020: Jon Ryder

Drama Studio Fire[edit]

On the 30th of June 2007 a fire broke out at the drama studio of the Lower School campus of Lord Williams School. The emergency services received a 999 call at 9.42pm although it is currently believed the fire had started at 8.30pm.[5]

65 fire fighters from across the county were able to control the blaze and stop it from destroying a neighbouring building with fire fighters from Thame, Wheatley, Watlington and Slade Park, as well as teams from Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue coming from Aylesbury, Brill, Princes Risborough and Waddesdon attending the blaze.[6]


Originally it was believed that arson was the cause but an electrical fire was not ruled out. However, in February 2008, a 23-year-old man called Craig Ford[7] was found guilty of arson and sentenced to five years in prison.[8]

The Phoenix Project[edit]

In early 2008, a project began to raise up to £1m in order to replace the drama studio with a new, state-of-the-art, drama and dance studio, including a box office and permanent seating for the popular Thame Youth Theatre, based at the studio.

Notable Old Tamensians[edit]

Former pupils of the school are called Old Tamensians.

Old Tamensians's Association[edit]

Alumni of the school are known as Tamensians and the Old Tamensians's Association (OTA) was formed in 1909 and celebrated its centenary in 2009. It was not the first group to be formed by former pupils: there had been one in the late 1800s but this had disbanded. However, in 1908, eighteen old boys met in London, agreed to reform, and the OTA was established at the beginning of 1909. Within a few weeks of its inception membership stood at 45. Since then it has thrived, thousands have joined over the years, and today it is a flourishing Association with over 2000 members.[9]


  1. ^ "Specialist Schools Home". DfES. Archived from the original on 18 December 2008. Retrieved 25 April 2007.
  2. ^ "School History 1872 – 2014 » Old Tamensians Association". oldtamensians.info. Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  3. ^ Howard Brown, John (1927). A Short History of Thame School. School Archives: Hazell, Watson & Viney. p. 29.
  4. ^ "The Wenman School 1960 – 1971 » Old Tamensians Association". oldtamensians.info. Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  5. ^ "Thame School Fire Was Arson!". ThameNews.net. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2 July 2007.
  6. ^ "Police Investigate Fire At Thame School". ThameNews.net. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 3 July 2007.
  7. ^ http://www.thame.net/archives/3878
  8. ^ "Two More Arrests In Thame School Arson Attack". ThameNews.net. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 4 July 2007.
  9. ^ "Old Tamensians Association » OTA". oldtamensians.info. Retrieved 21 June 2015.

External links[edit]