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Oundle School

Coordinates: 52°28′56″N 0°28′09″W / 52.48218°N 0.4691°W / 52.48218; -0.4691
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Oundle School
, ,
Coordinates52°28′56″N 0°28′09″W / 52.48218°N 0.4691°W / 52.48218; -0.4691
TypePublic school
Private boarding and day school
MottoGod Grant Grace
Religious affiliation(s)Church of England
Established1556; 468 years ago (1556)
FounderThe Worshipful Company of Grocers
Department for Education URN122129 Tables
Chairman of GovernorsRobert Ringrose
HeadmistressSarah Kerr-Dineen
Age11 to 18
Colour(s)Blue and Maroon    
Former pupilsOld Oundelians

Oundle School is a public school (English fee-charging boarding and day school) for pupils 11–18 situated in the market town of Oundle in Northamptonshire, England.[1] The school has been governed by the Worshipful Company of Grocers of the City of London since its foundation by Sir William Laxton in 1556. The school's alumni – known as Old Oundelians – include renowned entrepreneurs, scientists, politicians, military figures and sportspeople.

Oundle has eight boys' houses, five girls' houses, two day houses, a junior house and a junior day house. Together these accommodate more than 1100 pupils, generally between the ages of 11 and 18. It is the third-largest boarding school in England after Eton and Millfield.[2]

The current Headmistress is Sarah Kerr-Dineen, who in 2015 became the first woman to lead the school.[3]

The school is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference and the Rugby Group.[4]

In the 2023 A-Levels, the school saw 62.9% of its candidates score A*/A.[5]



Sir William Laxton, who had been eight times Master of the Worshipful Company of Grocers and was Lord Mayor of London in 1544, died in 1556, and in his will decreed the founding of a school for the local boys of Oundle, which was to be maintained by the Worshipful Company of Grocers. There had been a school on the site since at least 1485, at which Laxton himself was educated, and the school he established was known as Laxton Grammar School. [6]

The size and reputation of Laxton Grammar School rose gradually in the following centuries, and by the mid-nineteenth century many of the school's pupils were being sent to Oundle from around the country to receive their education. In 1876, the decision was made by the Grocers' Company to divide the school into Laxton Grammar School, which was to continue to educate boys from Oundle and its surrounding villages, in accordance with the will of the founder, and Oundle School, which was to be a public school, accepting the sons of gentlemen from further afield as boarders.

The rise of Oundle to prominence can largely be attributed to F. W. Sanderson, who was the school's headmaster from 1892 until his death in 1922. When Sanderson joined Oundle, he found a minor country boarding school; by the time of his death, it had become England's leading school for an education in the sciences and engineering. The success of Sanderson can be attributed to his educational ethos; he believed in teaching pupils what they wanted to learn, and as a result helped to introduce subjects such as the sciences, engineering, and to modern languages to the English public school curriculum.

A major development came about in 1990, when Oundle admitted girls for the first time.

In the year 2000, the decision was made by the school's governing body to re-unite Oundle School and Laxton School as a single educational establishment under the common name Oundle School, with Laxton House becoming the day house of the school.

Present day


Oundle has 835 boarders and 235 day pupils. It is the third largest independent boarding school in England, after Eton in Berkshire and Millfield in Somerset.[2] The various school buildings, some of which date from the 15th century, are scattered around the market town, with the Cloisters acting as the nucleus of the school community.

The Good Schools Guide described the school as a "Popular, well oiled, well heeled co-educational boarding school which is riding high".[7] Pupils obtain strong results at GCSE and A Level. In their 2013 A Levels pupils achieved 89.1% A* to B grades, with over 60% of grades either A* or A. In the year 2016, 28 pupils achieved 10 or more A* results in their GCSE examinations, with 89% of all results awarded being A* or A. Many pupils go on to study at Oxbridge; the overwhelming majority continue to Russell Group universities.[8] In 2019, 48% of pupils scored A*-A for their A-Levels examination, whereas 79% scored A*-A for their GCSEs.[9]

The school promotes the practice of Christian values and maintains links with the Church of England by celebrating the major events of the Christian calendar. All pupils who board are required to attend services in the school chapel three times a week: one midweek lunch time service, Friday hymn practice, and the Sunday service. Pupils of other faiths are free to worship according to their own beliefs but must still attend chapel with the rest of the school.

The school has an extensive programme of voluntary clubs and societies (approaching 50 in number), which range from poetry and debating to croquet and wine tasting.[10] Each academic subject also has its own society which organises evening lectures from guest speakers throughout the year; these can be either directly related to the syllabus or simply to broaden interest in the subject. A new subject, Trivium, gives Third Form pupils timetabled engagement with extension topics for their own sake, using methods of thought drawn from the traditional liberal arts. Quadrivium is also an option for pupils in the Lower Sixth to study, similar to trivium taught in the Third Form. Outside term time pupils are given the opportunity to participate in the countless regular school trips which explore all corners of the globe. These include history trips to major European cities,[11] language exchanges in Europe and Asia,[12] charity work in Africa,[13] AAAS conventions and politics trips in America, natural history expeditions to Antarctica, and many more.

Sport is considered to be an essential part of school life and while there exists a multitude of sports to choose from, the emphasis remains on traditional team sports such as rugby, hockey, cricket, rowing and soccer for boys, and hockey, netball and tennis for girls. Oundle performs particularly strongly in independent school rugby, cricket, and girls' hockey.[6] A large proportion of the school gathers to support the 1st XV rugby team on the Two Acre during the Michaelmas and Christmas quarters. The school's greatest sporting rivalry is with Uppingham School, while other rivalries include Harrow School, Radley College, Stamford School and Rugby School. The school sends regular rugby, cricket and hockey tours to countries all around the world, while the social 'Ramblers' cricket team is known in the school for its tours of the U.K. and the Caribbean. The Oundle Rovers Cricket Club (made up of Old Oundelians) plays in The Cricketer Cup and hosts its own cricket week at the school. The Rovers have won the cup three times and are fourth in the all-time order of merit.[14]

Like sport, music plays a vital role within school life for many pupils,[15] and over 60% of pupils regularly practise a musical instrument while at Oundle. The school offers an extensive range of groups, bands, orchestras and choirs which cater for many musical tastes. Such is the success of music at Oundle that in recent years many pupils have gone on to receive musical or choral scholarships from Oxbridge, while school bands and choirs have gone on to perform concerts across the UK, Europe and Asia.[6] Musical and non-musical pupils are encouraged to get involved in the house shout and part song competitions in the Lent term which are independently judged and contested fiercely. Possibly the greatest success in the practice of music at the school is its rock society, which can count the likes of Bruce Dickinson among its earliest members. 'Roc-Soc' has been running since the 1970s and promotes the independent formation of popular music bands which have their own dedicated concerts towards the end of every term.[16] The experimental/industrial music pioneers Throbbing Gristle played at the school in March 1980.[citation needed] [17]

Oundle School has the largest Combined Cadet Force of any school in the country which plays an important role in both the development of pupils as well as in the community, for example in the annual Remembrance Day service held in St Peter's Church.[18] The CCF offers pupils the opportunity to practise their leadership skills whether on parade at school, on the termly field weekends, or on the annual camps. The school has a strong tradition of serving the community with many pupils opting to provide assistance in the local area, or Community Action as an alternative to CCF. There are a broad range of Community Action options available in the Oundle area which cater not only for the needs of the local community but also for the extra-curricular interests of the pupils.[19] Many pupils choose to undertake the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme which provides an ideal combination of the skills they acquire during CCF and Community Action.[20] Every summer since 1982 sixth formers and former pupils have run the Oundle School Mencap holiday, a residential holiday for children with a range of learning disabilities and now a highly respected charity in its own right.[21]

The school has ties with the Laxton Junior School, for primary school pupils, some of whom continue their secondary education as pupils at the senior school. A modern building for Laxton Junior was completed in 2003, which allowed the school to double its intake.

In November 2005 the school was found to have taken part in a cartel of price fixing among public schools.[22][23] However, Mrs. Jean Scott, the head of the Independent Schools Council, said that independent schools had always been exempt from anti-cartel rules applied to business, were following a long-established procedure in sharing the information with each other, and that they were unaware of the change to the law (on which they had not been consulted). She wrote to John Vickers, the OFT Director General, saying, "They are not a group of businessmen meeting behind closed doors to fix the price of their products to the disadvantage of the consumer. They are schools that have quite openly continued to follow a long-established practice because they were unaware that the law had changed."[24]

Oundle won the Tatler Public School of the Year Award in 2018.[25]


The Cloisters viewed from the spire of St Peter's Church
The Great Hall
The Chapel of St Anthony
The Stahl Theatre

Oundle School's facilities include the following:

  • Teaching Facilities. There are teaching buildings located throughout the town which house classrooms, studios and science and language laboratories. Many lessons take place in the Cloisters which are located in the heart of the town, and other main teaching buildings include the Adamson Centre, the Gascoigne, the Needham, Old Dryden, the Patrick Centre and SciTec.
  • Sporting Facilities. The school has numerous sporting facilities which cater for a wide variety of different sports. Among these are four sand-filled astroturf pitches, a six lane synthetic athletics track, a swimming pool and over twenty tennis courts. The Sports Centre houses two fully equipped sports halls, indoor squash and fives facilities, a climbing wall and well equipped gymnasia. All of these have been rebuilt or refurbished in recent years. There are also extensive playing fields and boating facilities on the nearby River Nene, as well as sailing at Rutland Sailing Club.[26]
  • Various CCF buildings including two shooting ranges. There are a number of Combined Cadet Force (CCF) buildings including the Armoury (the main administrative building and rifle store), and various other smaller buildings used primarily for rifle and first aid training. Situated approximately two miles from Oundle, outside the hamlet of Elmington on the Ashton estate, is Oundle School's full bore outdoor range. At 500 yards (460 m) long, the range is one of the few of its size in the country to be owned by a school. Rifles can be fired from firing points at either 100, 200, 300 or 500 yards (460 m). There is another, smaller .22 shooting range situated next to the school armoury which is used for day to day use.
  • The Great Hall was constructed in 1908, with the North and South Wings added shortly afterwards. The Great Hall is located prominently in the centre of the town adjacent to the Cloisters and School House; it is used for a variety of functions throughout the year including concerts, receptions, lectures, debates and assemblies. The building also houses the offices of the Headmaster and the school admissions department.
  • The Chapel of Saint Anthony, consecrated in 1923, was built as a memorial to the fallen of the First World War. It contains some of the most important and influential stained glass in the country including the John Piper windows of 1954.[27] The Chapel is where the school community meets. It links past and present, and bears witness, both in itself and in its art and worship, to the abiding values of the Christian Faith. The chapel houses two organs, a classical instrument built in 1984 by Frobenius of Denmark has three manuals and pedals, thirty-five speaking stops and mechanical action. It is situated in the Gallery at the West end. An electronic instrument installed by Copeman Hart in 2000 and situated at the East end of the Chapel provides accompaniment for the Chapel Choir, and leads the whole school singing. It has three manuals and pedals with a West end solo division.
  • The Yarrow Gallery is the school's private art gallery, donated in 1918 by the shipbuilder Sir Alfred Yarrow in memory of his son, Eric, who was killed at the Second Battle of Ypres. The gallery puts on approximately half a dozen exhibitions every year.[28] The space is adaptable and suitable for activities such as poetry readings, plays and small concerts as well as exhibitions. The purpose of the museum is that it should house a collection of pictures, specimens and models to illustrate "the history, development and beauty of the various branches of knowledge". The genealogical tree of the aeroplane and the Durham miner were charted and exhibits such as the skeleton of the white horse which used to draw the School ambulance to the Sanatorium were featured. The statue by Kathleen Scott entitled Here Am I, Send Me is erroneously held to be modelled on her son Peter Scott.[29]
  • The Stahl Theatre opened in 1980 and runs from a converted church on West Street; it can seat an audience of over 400.[30] The Stahl Theatre is owned and managed by Oundle School, run by the Drama Department staff, many of whom have a professional theatre background. It houses both the School productions and visiting professional theatre companies.
  • The Patrick Engineering Centre specialises in design technology, automobile engineering and other manual crafts. The school has had a strong reputation for science and engineering since the days of F. W. Sanderson, and this is reflected in the excellent facilities and equipment located within these buildings. Opened in 1998 after a generous donation from an old boy, the Patrick Centre plays an important role in the academic and extra-curricular activities of many pupils. Year after year Oundelians continue to build cars and other forms of automobile, the parts of which are manufactured almost entirely in the workshops.
  • The Cripps Library was opened in 1988. It houses approximately 22,000 books encompassing all subjects.[31] The Library is staffed throughout the school day and is open to the whole school for research, information or borrowing for academic work and leisure reading. The library was completely refurbished in 2011, with study spaces named in honour of inspirational former teachers at the school. The Peter Ling Room houses the new display cabinets for the Greek pots, the Dudley Heesom Room has been equipped with computer projection facilities for classes and meetings, the Rare Book Room now houses the rare book collection in sycamore cabinets.
  • School Archive is located in the old stables at Cobthorne House. It conserves an increasingly wide-ranging collection of photographs, newspaper cuttings, publications and record books relating to the school's history, the most notable being the earliest register of pupils of 1626.
  • OSCAR Radio. The school houses its own radio station which broadcasts from newly converted studios in the Gascoigne Building. Over 2000 pupils and local children have taken part in OSCAR broadcasts since 1998.
  • SciTec. The first phase of a new science and technology centre was completed in summer 2007. In September 2007 it was officially opened by the Duke of Gloucester. The project in total cost around £20 million in total. SciTec was the School's millennium project which upon completion was intended to create a distinctive, new centre to combine the Sciences, Art and Design and Technology. The first stage houses the Chemistry and Biology departments. In 2016, the sci-tec building was extended to house the maths department on the ground floor and first floor, including laboratories for students to use to conduct their own experiments for an EPQ. The Patrick Engineering Centre for Design, Engineering and Technology opened in the same year, marking the completion of the project.

Old Oundelians


Former pupils are known as Old Oundelians and the Old Oundelians Club (known as the OO Club) was founded in 1883.

Former pupils of the school include Professor Maxwell Hutchinson, Past President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Supreme Court Justices of the United Kingdom David Richards, and David Kitchin, evolutionary biologist and science writer Richard Dawkins,[32] rock musician Bruce Dickinson, England rugby players (and twins) Tom and Ben Curry, architect Christopher Alexander, and feminist campaigner, researcher and writer Caroline Criado-Perez.

Victoria Cross winners


Three Old Oundelians were awarded the Victoria Cross for valour in the presence of the enemy during the First World War:[33]



Notable masters


School song


The official school song is Carmen Undeliense[42] (words by R.F. Patterson, music by Clement M. Spurling, published in 1912 by Novello & Company Ltd of London).[43]


  1. ^ "oundleschool.org.uk" (PDF). oundleschool.org.uk. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2009. Retrieved 20 January 2009.
  2. ^ a b "Schools Guide 2011 - Tatler". Guides.tatler.co.uk. Archived from the original on 15 July 2012. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  3. ^ "Oundle School Makes Historic Appointment". Oundle Chronicle. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  4. ^ "Schools Archive". HMC. Retrieved 1 November 2021.
  5. ^ "Oundle School: Reviews, Rankings, Fees, And More". 9 August 2023. Retrieved 1 September 2023.
  6. ^ a b c "Oundle | Senior Only Mixed Independent School | Northamptonshire". Guide to Independent Schools. Archived from the original on 26 May 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  7. ^ "Oundle School | Peterborough | LEA:Northamptonshire | Northamptonshire". The Good Schools Guide. Archived from the original on 4 February 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  8. ^ "oundleschool.org.uk" (PDF). oundleschool.org.uk. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 17 September 2010.
  9. ^ "Oundle School Guide: Reviews Rankings, Fees and More". Britannia StudyLink Malaysia: UK Study Expert. 14 May 2020. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  10. ^ "Extracurricular Activities: Societies". Oundle School. 19 November 2010. Archived from the original on 21 August 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  11. ^ "News Christmas 2009: To Vienna and beyond". Oundle School. 13 November 2009. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  12. ^ "News Trinity 2010: Oundle visits Wild China". Oundle School. 18 May 2010. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  13. ^ "News Michaelmas 2010: From Oundle to Mozambique". Oundle School. 26 August 2010. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  14. ^ "Order of Merit". thecricketercup.com. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  15. ^ "The Arts: Music". Oundle School. 16 June 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  16. ^ "Rikki & The Last Days of Earth debut 7". Mrpibbs.com. 29 May 1977. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  17. ^ "Remembering the Time Throbbing Gristle Played A Private School". www.vice.com. 16 March 2020. Retrieved 31 August 2020.
  18. ^ "Extracurricular Activities: CCF". Oundle School. 1 April 2011. Archived from the original on 6 March 2010. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  19. ^ "Extracurricular Activities: Community Action". Oundle School. 20 January 2011. Archived from the original on 6 March 2010. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  20. ^ "Extracurricular Activities: Duke of Edinburgh". Oundle School. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  21. ^ "Oundle School Mencap Holiday". Archived from the original on 6 February 2009. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  22. ^ "Top 50 independent schools found guilty of price-fixing to push up fees" The Guardian, 10 November 2005.
  23. ^ "OFT issues statement of objections against 50 independent schools - The Office of Fair Trading". Oft.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 3 September 2009. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  24. ^ "Private schools send papers to fee-fixing inquiry". The Daily Telegraph. London. 1 March 2004. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  25. ^ "Oundle wins accolade of Public School of the year". The Northamptonshire Telegraph. Oundle. 12 September 2018. Retrieved 1 November 2021.
  26. ^ "Oundle School: Reviews, Rankings, Fees, and More". 9 August 2023.
  27. ^ [1] Archived 24 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ "The Arts - Yarrow Gallery". Oundle School. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  29. ^ "extract from Peter Scott's autobiography". Westdowns.com. 12 March 2001. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  30. ^ "The Arts: Stahl Theatre". Oundle School. 1 December 2010. Archived from the original on 1 August 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  31. ^ [2] Archived 24 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  32. ^ Hattenstone, Simon (10 February 2003). "Darwin's child". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 24 July 2008. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
  33. ^ The Oundle Society Editorial Team, (Spring 2006), The Oundle Society Spring Newsletter (The Oundle Society), page 7
  34. ^ Sir John George Smyth, (1963), The Story of the Victoria Cross, 1856-1963 (F. Muller: London), page 191
  35. ^ a b c d e Andrew Radd, "The Gentle Hotbed", websds.net, accessed 21 October 2023
  36. ^ "Death of the Rev. Mungo Park", Globe (London), 21 February 1908, p. 3
  37. ^ "OBITUARY DR. KENNETH FISHER", Birmingham Daily Post, Wednesday 3 October 1945, p. 4
  38. ^ Wellington College Register (Wellington College, 1997), p. 35
  39. ^ a b "Oundle Headmaster Charles Bush Retires after 10 Years at the Helm", ukboardingschools.com, accessed 21 October 2023
  40. ^ "Danny Grewcock to leave Bath Rugby for Oundle School". BBC Sport.
  41. ^ "W.G. Grace (jnr)". Cricinfo.
  42. ^ "Domain Registered By Safenames Ltd" (PDF). Oundlesociety.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 August 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  43. ^ Carmen Undeliense: Oundle School Song. Words by R.F. Patterson. Music by Clement M. Spurling. Novello and Co. (1912) ASIN: B0000D3KXX

Further reading