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Monmouth School

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Monmouth School
Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School (coat of arms).png
Monmouth School - Henry Stock's School House 2.jpg
Henry Stock's School House of the late 19th century
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Coordinates51°48′42″N 2°42′40″W / 51.8117°N 2.7110°W / 51.8117; -2.7110Coordinates: 51°48′42″N 2°42′40″W / 51.8117°N 2.7110°W / 51.8117; -2.7110
TypePublic school
Independent day and boarding
MottoServe and Obey
Religious affiliation(s)Protestant[1]
Established1614; 405 years ago (1614)
FounderWilliam Jones
Local authorityMonmouthshire
Department for Education URN402007 Tables
HeadmasterDr A Daniel
Enrolmentapprox. 600
Colour(s)Gold and Chocolate         
AlumniOld Monmothians

Monmouth School is an independent boys' boarding and day school in Monmouth, Wales. The school was founded in 1614 with a bequest from William Jones, a successful merchant and trader. The School is run as a trust, the William Jones's Schools Foundation, by the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers, one of the livery companies, and has close links to its sister school, Haberdashers' Monmouth School for Girls.

The school is situated on the eastern edge of the border town of Monmouth, adjacent to the River Wye. Nothing of the original school buildings from the 17th century remains as the school was completely rebuilt in the mid to late 19th century. Later developments have included the Science Block (1981–1984) and the William Jones Building of the early 21st century. In 2014, the quatercentenary of the school's foundation was celebrated with a service at St Paul's Cathedral.

Established originally as a grammar school, by the early 1870s Monmouth was a member of the recently formed Headmasters' Conference and had acquired the status of a public school. Between 1946 and 1976 it was part of the direct grant scheme, returning to full independence in 1976. A member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, the school has a roll of approximately 650 pupils. The fees for 2017/2018 are £15,354 for day boys, and £28,827 for boarders. The William Jones Foundation's accounts for 2016 showed an income of £22.2M against an expenditure of £23.4M.


William Jones, Haberdasher - The school's founder

Years of foundation: 1613–1616[edit]

In 1613, William Jones, a prominent merchant and haberdasher, gave the Haberdashers’ Company £6,000, followed by a further £3,000 bequeathed in his will on his death in 1615, to "ordaine a preacher, a Free-School and Almes-houses for twenty poor and old distressed people, as blind and lame, as it shall seem best to them, of the Towne of Monmouth, where it shall be bestowed".[2] Jones was born at Newland, Gloucestershire[3] and brought up in Monmouth, leaving to make a sizeable fortune as a London merchant engaged in the cloth trade with the continent.[4] The motivations for his bequest appear partly philanthropic and partly evangelical; the county of Monmouthshire in the early 17th century had a significant Catholic presence[5] and the local historian Keith Kissack noted, "the priority given to the preacher illustrates [Jones's] concern to convert an area in the Marches which was still, when the school opened in 1614, strongly recusant."[6] The order for the establishment of the school was made, retrospectively by James I in 1616 and decreed "for ever in the town of Monmouth, one almshouse and one free grammar school".[7]

The Haberdashers purchased four fields as the site for the school before Jones's death, paying the sum of £100.[8] Royal permission for this charitable purchase was required under the Statute of Mortmain, which was granted in 1614. By Jones's death in Hamburg in 1615, the almshouses, and the schoolroom and headmaster's house had been completed, although nothing now remains of the original school buildings.[3] The bulk of Jones's considerable bequest was used for the purchase of lands at New Cross, in South-East London, and the rent rolls from that estate provided the money for the salaries and running costs associated with the school, as well as the payment of pensions to the residents of the almshouses.[9]

The first headmaster was John Owen, M.A. of Queens' College, Cambridge, appointed on a salary of £60 per annum.[10] Neither Owen, nor many of his 17th and 18th century successors, lasted very long unlike the school day which ran from 7–11 a.m., followed by an afternoon session from 1.30–5.00 p.m.[11]

Years of uncertainty: 1616–1800[edit]

The 17th century school buildings

The mid-twentieth-century historian of the school, H. A. Ward, described its early history as "the precarious years".[12] Continuing religious controversy, coupled with the English Civil War, made the town of Monmouth a divided and uncertain setting for the school. Divisions between staff, and the financial instability, and remoteness, of the Haberdashers Company, which was compelled to make substantial loans to the Parliamentary government that went unpaid for decades, and was then required to finance the rebuilding of their livery hall which was destroyed during the Great Fire of London,[13] contributed to internal weaknesses.[14] These difficulties continued well into the 18th century, and at one point, during the headship of the "morose and tyrannical" John Crowe, who was removed from his post after becoming insane, the school roll fell to just three boys.[15] A source for information regarding the school in the mid-17th century is the diary of the school's usher, More Pye. The diary, extracts from which were published in the Monmouthshire Beacon in 1859 but which is now lost, records Pye's experiences in great detail from the date of his appointment in 1646 until his resignation in 1652.[16]. An example is Pye's entry for February 18, 1647; "Pd (paid) 6d ffor (for) wormeseedes and triacle for ye boys". A less parochial entry for November 11, 1647, records Pye's monarchist sympathies, "Ye King's Magy (Majesty) made an escape from Hampton Court, out of ye Armye's power. Vivat, vivat in aeternum".[16]

Years of controversy: 1800–1850[edit]

Ward described the early 19th century period of the school's history as years of "controversy".[17] These focused mainly on three issues; relations between the school and the town, relations between the school, the town and the Haberdashers Company and the Court of Chancery, which together were responsible for the school's funding and oversight, and attempts to expand the school's curriculum beyond the traditional study of Latin and Greek. The first issue saw the school perceived as part of the faction of the Dukes of Beaufort, the premier landowners in the county, and directors of the town's politics from their regional base at Troy House.[18] Early 19th century Monmouth had a strong Radical tradition led by burgesses such as Thomas Thackwell, and fuelled by the liberal positions of the local newspapers, the Monmouthshire Beacon and the Monmouthshire Merlin.[19] The school's leadership was perceived in the town to be too close to the Beauforts, and Thackwell ran an almost fifty-year campaign against their attempts to defend the established order.[18] The second controversy related to the governance of the school and another long campaign of attrition saw the school's Lecturer lose the responsibility for preparing an annual report on the school, this being transferred by the Court of Chancery to a Board of Visitors.[20] The last area of conflict arose between the school's leadership, which wanted to maintain the tradition of a curriculum that involved the study solely of Latin and Greek,[21] and the Court and the Haberdashers who wanted expansion to cover such areas as writing and arithmetic. In a damming report in 1827 they condemned "the present Masters, though so liberally paid, and having so little to do, consider themselves engaged only to teach Latin and Greek. A school teaching those branches of learning only will never be useful to a place of such confined population as Monmouth".[22] Reforms introduced by John Oakley Hill in 1852, saw the establishment of Upper and Lower Schools, the former continuing to provide a classical education, while the latter had a curriculum focused on writing and arithmetic.[23]

Years of expansion: 1851–1914[edit]

In the early 1850s the Court of Chancery insisted on the appointment of an external examiner. His report of 1852 was not encouraging; "many of the boys appear so ignorant as to be a disgrace to their parents, still more than to their teachers".[24] If the academic outlook remained bleak, the financial position of the school was transformed in this period. The sale of part of the New Cross estate to railway developers, and the vastly increased rents accruing from the development and expansion of London saw the Haberdashers' fortunes dramatically increase.[25] The availability of funds led to the complete rebuilding of the school on its original site between 1864, the school's 250th anniversary, and the end of the century.[26] The school's expansion was undertaken during the long reign of the Rev. Charles Manley Roberts, headmaster for 32 years from 1859 to 1892.[27] During Roberts's time Monmouth became an early member of the prestigious Headmaster's Conference (created by Edward Thring of Uppingham in 1869), a mark of its increasing reputation and status as a public school.[28] The school's reputation for sporting prowess also rose, its rugby teams and rowers enjoying particular success.[29] As a result of continued rising revenues from investments,[30] Monmouth's endowment was one of wealthiest of any school by the mid-19th century, the original foundation was reorganised in 1891 to support a new girls’ school and an elementary school in the town, as well as a boys' grammar school (West Monmouth School) in Pontypool.[31] As importantly for the school's development, the rule that limited applications to boys from Monmouthshire and the neighbouring counties was set aside, and applications were opened to the entirety of Wales and England.[28]

Years of war: 1914–1945[edit]

The school close with the memorial sundial to G. H. Sutherland, Head of School, who drowned in the River Wye in 1921

Monmouth School's Combined Cadet Force was reportedly the last CCF in the country to change its uniforms to khaki from the traditional blue at the outbreak of war in August 1914.[32] The conflict brought the award of the school's only Victoria Cross, to Angus Buchanan in 1916 for conspicuous bravery in the Mesopotamian campaign.[33] Blinded by a bullet to the head the following year, he returned to Monmouthshire and worked as a solicitor in Coleford, unveiling the school's war memorial in 1921.[34] In total, seventy-six old boys from the school were killed in the war.[33] The school's Bricknell Library, founded in 1921, commemorated one of them, Ernest Thomas Samuel Bricknell, who died in October 1916 from wounds received at the Battle of the Somme.[35]

Further loss of life occurred in 1921, when the Head of School, G. H. Sutherland, drowned in the Wye during a rowing match between the school and Hereford Cathedral School. Sutherland is commemorated by the sundial in the school's cloister.[36] The Second World War added the names of a further sixty-one Old Monmothians to the lists of the dead inscribed on the school's war memorial.[37] During the war, the school hosted the entire school and staff from King Edward VI Five Ways School, Birmingham, who were evacuated due to German bombing of the Midlands.[38]

The modern era: 1945–2018[edit]

Internal conflict within the school's management continued in the mid-twentieth century, with the governors sacking two headmasters within three years.[39] This led to the school's expulsion from the Headmasters Conference, and to that body's advising any of its members against applying for the vacant headship.[39] The impasse was resolved in 1959, with the appointment of Robert Glover.[40] Reorganisation of the Haberdashers' endowments also occurred at this time. The elementary school, founded with Haberdashers' funds in 1891, was transferred to County Council control in 1940 with West Monmouth School at Pontypool following in 1955.[41] This left the William Jones's Schools Foundation responsible for Monmouth School and Haberdashers' Monmouth School for Girls – also known as HMSG – both of which joined the Direct Grant scheme in 1946.[42]

Another significant development for the school's location was the building of the A40, which "severed (Monmouth) ruthlessly from the river on which in the past it had depended" and cut off the school from its historic frontage onto the River Wye.[43] This led to the permanent closure of the school's ceremonial entrance, the Wye Bridge Gate, constructed by Henry Stock in the 1890s. The direct impact on the school was perhaps less significant, Ward had recorded an early comment on the entrance, "that ancient gate which never opened is but thrice a year on notable occasions, such as when the coal cart comes".[44]

In 1976, with the ending of the Direct Grant system, the school returned to full independence.[45] Having argued strongly against the ending of the grant system, the headmaster at the time, Robert Glover, gave a warning as to the likely consequences, "if direct grant goes, the school which has served the boys of Monmouth for four hundred years, will suddenly become for many families financially prohibitive".[45] In response, a committee of the Old Monmothian Club, headed by Lord Brecon and Sir Derek Ezra undertook a campaign to raise funding for scholarships which accumulated £100,000 in ten weeks.[46] During his tenure Glover also secured re-admittance to the Headmasters' Conference. To mark the school's four hundredth anniversary[47] a service of thanksgiving was held at St. Paul's Cathedral, on 19 March 2014, attended by some 2,200 pupils and staff from the school and from Haberdashers' Monmouth School for Girls, as well as Haberdashers and friends of the Schools.[48][49]

Histories of the school[edit]

The Monmouthshire antiquarian Charles Heath described the traditional, and almost certainly inaccurate, story of the school's foundation in his Accounts of the Ancient and Present State of the Town of Monmouth, published in 1804.[50] Heath records that William Jones, now established as a successful and wealthy merchant, returned to his home town of Newland disguised as a beggar. Receiving a hostile reception, he travelled to Monmouth, where he was more warmly received and where, as a consequence, he funded the construction of the school and associated almshouses.[51] In 1899, the Rev. W. M. Warlow published his History of the Charities of William Jones at Monmouth and Newland.[52] His fellow cleric and master, the Rev. K. M. Pitt wrote a more focused account, Monmouth School in the 1860s.[50] H. A. Ward published Monmouth School: 1614–1964: An Outline History to commemorate the school's 350th anniversary.[52] In 1995, Keith Kissack published his history, Monmouth School and Monmouth: 1614–1995[53] and in 2014, in celebration of the school's quatercentenary, two masters at the school, Stephen Edwards, who wrote the text, and Keith Moseley, who took the photographs, published a new history, Monmouth School: The First 400 Years.[54]


Interior of Monmouth School Chapel, 1865

William Jones's original foundation provided for a schoolroom, on the site of the present chapel, houses for the Headmaster and Lecturer, and almshouses segregated by sex.[10]. A painting by J.A. Evans, of later date and purchased on behalf of the school by the then Headmaster Lionel James in 1921, shows the buildings and is titled The Old School Room. Built A.D. 1614. Pulled down to make room for the present school room, 1865.[55] Nothing of these buildings remains. The local writer and artist Fred Hando records that the bell, which hung above the schoolroom, was cast at the Evan Evans foundry at Chepstow in 1716.[56]

The rebuilding of the school, funded by the rising fortunes of Jones's bequest on the back of the Victorian expansion of London, was mostly undertaken by William Snooke and Henry Stock, of the firm Snooke & Stock, surveyors to the Haberdashers' Company.[57] Snooke built the chapel, two schoolrooms and a classroom in 1864-1865, followed in the 1870s by the library, Headmaster's House and the buildings which now form Monmouth House and Hereford House. [58] These buildings are all Grade II listed.[59][60][61] The Monmouth Alms Houses, on Almshouse Street, were rebuilt by J. B. Bunning in 1842, and redeveloped by William Burn in 1895-1896.[62] They now form part of the school and incorporate a large inscription panel describing the benefactions of the Jones Foundation.[58] The almshouses are also Grade II listed.[63] The chapel was further extended in 1875.[64] Snooke's work was not universally praised; a report from the School's Commissioner commenting, "the architect has arranged the buildings in a most inconvenient manner, and the ventilation is deficient."[65] School House, with its ceremonial arched entrance and coat of arms facing the Wye Bridge, and the adjacent technology block, were designed by Henry Stock in 1894-1895.[58] They are Grade II listed buildings as of 8 October 2005.[66][67] The style of the School House block mirrors that of the main block of Haberdashers' Monmouth School for Girls, which Stock designed at the same time.[68] The war memorial was dedicated in 1921, Angus Buchanan (VC) attending the ceremony.[33] The memorial is a Grade II listed structure.[66] To the west of Stock's School House block, and set into the wall previously facing the Wye, and now completely overshadowed by the A40 by-pass, is a pair of iron gates, of 18th century date and installed at the school in 1941,[a] that come from the Haberdashers' Hall in London which was destroyed during the Blitz.[66]

The school's building of greatest architectural merit is the Grade II* listed Chapel House.[70] The architectural historian John Newman describes the 18th century building, situated on the Hereford Road away from the main school site, as "the best house in the entire street".[71] More modern developments include the Hall of 1961, redeveloped in the early 21st century and now the Blake Theatre,[72] the Red Lion Block of the same date and the Science Block of 1981–1984.[58] In 1985–1986, two ceramic murals were designed for the chapel by the Polish religious artist Adam Kossowski, a friend and wartime colleague of the school's Head of Art from 1947–1978, Otto Maciag. Executed by Maciag, and another art master at the school, Michael Tovey, [73] the murals were dedicated at a service conducted by the Bishop of Monmouth, the Rt Rev Clifford Wright on 3 October 1987.[74] He described them as "masterpieces of twentieth-century religious art.[75] In November 2008, a £2.3 million sports pavilion was completed[76] and opened by the former Welsh and British Lions captain, Eddie Butler, an old boy of the School. It was designed by the architects Buttress Fuller Alsop Williams. In 2011 the school began the Heart Project.[76] This led to the sale of some outlying sites, such as St. James's House, and the re-organisation of others, to assist in the raising of funds for the redevelopment of the main school site.[72] Further funds came from the Haberdashers' Company, and the first phase was completed with the rebuilding of the Red Lion Block, now renamed the William Jones Building.[76]

The school today[edit]

The William Jones Building

With 650 pupils, the school offers boarding and day places as well as preparatory departments in a single-sex environment. A range of GCSE, A and AS level subjects are offered, with the Sixth Form having some collaborative teaching with pupils from the sister school, Haberdashers' Monmouth School for Girls (HMSG). Tatler magazine's 2017 Schools Guide noted its strong academic performance.[77][78] The school charges fees for attendance. From September 2017, the annual fees are: day pupils, £15,354, boarding pupils, £28,827.[79] The school operates a substantial bursary programme.[80][81][82]


There are three age divisions in the school; lower (forms I and II) middle (forms III, IV, and V) and sixth form (forms VI.1 and VI.2). Within these divisions, the school operates a House system. As at 2018, the houses are:

  • Wye and Dean Houses, the lower school day houses;
  • Severn House, Town House, Monmouth House and Hereford House, middle school day houses;
  • New House, Weirhead House, School House and Chapel House, middle school boarding houses;
  • Tudor, Glendower and Buchanan Houses, which comprise the sixth form centre and VI.2 boarding.[83]

Extracurricular activities[edit]

The school has its own theatre, the Blake, opened in 2004.[84] Funded by Bob Blake, a former pupil, it is used as a venue for performances by both the school and the girls' schools, and by external performers.[72] The Glover Music School has an auditorium and teaching and practice rooms. The strong musical tradition[85] owes much to Michael Eveleigh, director of music at the school from 1950–1986, and his successors,[86] there having been only five directors of music since the Second World War.[87] Other extra-curricular activities include foreign expeditions, music and drama events as well as a newspaper, The Lion, a creative writing leaflet, The Lion's Tale, and an annual magazine, The Monmothian, first published in 1882.[88] The Combined Cadet Force, founded in 1904, which has both Army and RAF sections, is operated in collaboration with HMSG.[89]


The school has a notable sporting tradition,[85] with a high number of successful sportsmen amongst its alumni.[90] The main sports are rugby, rowing and cricket. Facilities include a new sports complex which houses a six-lane swimming pool, indoor facilities including a weights and fitness suite, tennis courts, and a full size astroturf pitch.[91] The Butler sports pavilion, completed in 2008, stands on the playing fields, on the other side of the Wye from the school's main site. In addition to rugby, rowing and cricket, the school offers a range of other sports which include soccer, cross-country, tennis, basketball, golf, athletics, swimming, water polo, canoeing, squash and softball.[92]


The school has an alumni society, the Old Monmothian Club, founded in 1886.[93]

In June 2009, the school paid out £150,000 to settle a landmark pensions rights case brought by female catering and support staff who claimed that, as part-time workers, they had been unjustly excluded from the school's pension scheme.[94]


Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ The CADW listing gives a date of 1941 for the installation of the gates, although Fred Hando records this as happening in 1961.[69]


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External links[edit]