Prior Park College

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Prior Park College
PPC Logo.png
Prior Park College.jpg
Ralph Allen Drive

, ,

Coordinates51°21′52″N 2°20′35″W / 51.364444°N 2.343056°W / 51.364444; -2.343056Coordinates: 51°21′52″N 2°20′35″W / 51.364444°N 2.343056°W / 51.364444; -2.343056
TypeIndependent school
Public school
Day, full boarding & weekly boarding school
MottoLatin: Deo Duce Deo Luce
(God our Guide, God our Light)
Religious affiliation(s)Catholic
Established1830; 190 years ago (1830)
FounderCongregation of Christian Brothers
Department for Education URN109347 Tables
ChairMr A M H King
HeadmasterBen Horan
Age11 to 18
  • Allen
  • Arundell
  • Burton
  • Clifford
  • English
  • Fielding
  • Roche
  • St Mary's
  • Baines
  • Brownlow
Colour(s)Navy and Cyan         
PublicationPrior Knowledge
AlumniOld Priorites

Prior Park College is a mixed Roman Catholic public school for both day and boarding students. Situated on a hill overlooking the city of Bath, Somerset, in southwest England, Prior Park has been designated by Historic England as a Grade I listed building.[1]

The adjoining 57-acre (23 ha) Prior Park Landscape Garden was donated by Prior Park to the National Trust.

The Prior Foundation consists of Prior Park College, the Paragon Junior School (Bath) and Prior Park School Gibraltar.[2]


Founded in 1830 to be England's first Catholic university, Prior Park College has remained a Roman Catholic school. It was established by the Benedictine, Bishop Baines, as a seminary, and provides co-educational schooling for students aged 11 to 18 in the Catholic tradition and ecumenical spirit.

In 2008, students achieved the best A-level results in the history of the school, with over one-fifth of all students getting three A's and 77% receiving A and B grades.[3]

In July 2009, Giles Mercer retired. He had been head teacher since 1996, and with his previous position as head of Stonyhurst College, he became the "longest serving Catholic senior school headmaster in England".[4] His successor was James Murphy-O'Connor, nephew of former Prior Park pupil Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor. Since 2019, Ben Horan has been the headmaster,[5] after James Murphy-O'Connor took up a new position at the Monmouth Schools.[6]

The school is part of the Prior Park Foundation which includes the Paragon Junior School, also in Bath.


The Palladian hillside mansion housing Prior Park College was designed and built by John Wood, the Elder in 1742. He was commissioned by Ralph Allen: "To see all Bath, and for all Bath to see".[7]

One wing of the mansion includes a chapel of our Lady of the Snows, built in 1863 by Scoles and Son, which is Grade I listed; there is also a chapel in the original house.[8] The chapel is unfinished, with the pillars at the back remaining unsculpted as they were in 1863.

Landscape architecture[edit]

Prior Park Landscape Garden was laid out between 1734 and 1744, with the Allens benefiting during the first phase from the advice of their friend Alexander Pope. The Palladian bridge and the lake that it spans were added in 1755; the final phase with the green slopes from the house to the lake is thought to have been planned by Capability Brown in the 1760s.[9][10] The garden is now owned by the National Trust.


In 1828, Bishop Baines purchased the mansion for £22,000 and used it as a seminary named the Sacred Heart College.[11] Renovations were made according to designs by H. E. Goodridge in 1834. The seminary was closed in 1856 after a fire in 1836 caused extensive damage and subsequent renovation caused financial insolvency. The estate was later bought by Bishop Clifford who founded a Roman Catholic grammar school.[12]

The Chapel was designed by J. J. Scoles in 1844 but not completed until 1863, following 18th-century French models such as Chalgrin's St. Philippe-du-Roule in Paris. Pevsner describes it as "without any doubt the most impressive Chapel interior of its date in the county".[13]

The grammar school closed in 1904 and the estate was occupied by the army during the First World War and by a series of tenants until 1921; the Christian Brothers founded a boys' boarding school in 1924. Prior Park College continues to occupy the main house. In 1993, 11.3 hectares (28 acres) of the park and pleasure grounds were acquired by the National Trust and have been extensively restored.

The mansion has been victim of fire twice. The 1836 event left visible damage to some stonework.[14] A 1991 fire gutted the interior, except for parts of the basement;[15] rebuilding took approximately three years. Unusually, the blaze started on the top floor, and spread downwards.


Prior Park leases The Monument Field from the National Trust. The field is named after a triangular Gothic building with a round tower erected by Bishop Warburton, demolished in 1953;[16] it had a circular staircase and contained a tablet inscribed in Latin in honour of Ralph Allen.[17]

Since 2000, improvements include an indoor swimming pool,[18] an Information and communications technology centre, and classroom extensions including the Mackintosh Dance Studio and Theatre (2006), the Design Centre (September 2016)[19] and the Bury Sports Centre (April 2015).[20] All sports facilities are located on site.

Former preparatory school[edit]

In 1946 the Congregation of Christian Brothers opened a preparatory school linked to Prior Park College, at Calcutt Street, Cricklade, Wiltshire. The school's main building was the late-19th century Manor House, with extensive grounds.[21] At first a boarding school for boys, the school admitted day boys in the 1970s. After the Brothers left Bath and Cricklade in 1980, the school was sold and came under lay management but kept its name, Prior Park Preparatory School. Later, girls were admitted, and the school catered for ages 3 to 13, with boarding available from age 7.[22][23] In January 2015 there were 205 pupils.[24]

Since September 2017, the school is no longer a member of the Prior Park Schools Educational Trust, although it retains strong links with the college. Its name changed to Cricklade Manor Prep and it is one of the Wishford Schools group of preparatory schools.[25]

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ Historic England. "Prior Park College (1394453)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  2. ^ "The Prior Foundation". Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  3. ^ "Education League Tables — Performance results from Prior Park College". BBC News – Education. 15 January 2009.
  4. ^ "Pupils, parents and staff honour longest-serving headteacher". Bath Chronicle. 8 July 2009. Archived from the original on 21 July 2015. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
  5. ^ "Appointment of new Head". Prior Park Schools.
  6. ^ "Monmouth Schools Appoint New First Principal". Archdiocese of Cardiff.
  7. ^ "Ralph Allen Biography". Bath Postal Museum. Archived from the original on 7 June 2009. Retrieved 21 August 2009.
  8. ^ Historic England. "Church of St Paul, with West Wing (1394459)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  9. ^ "Green Priorities for the National Trust at Prior Park". Retrieved 20 August 2009.
  10. ^ "Prior Park Landscape Garden". National Trust. Archived from the original on 13 April 2009. Retrieved 7 April 2009.
  11. ^ "Brief History". Diocese of Clifton. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  12. ^ "Prior Park, Bath, England". Retrieved 9 June 2013.
  13. ^ Pevsner N, 1958, North Somerset and Bristol, page 115
  14. ^ Colvin, Howard; Mellon, Paul (2008). A biographical dictionary of British architects, 1600–1840 (4 ed.). Yale University Press. p. 1143. ISBN 978-0-300-12508-5.
  15. ^ Gillie, Oliver (6 April 1994). "Craftsmen restore country house to former glory: Sculptors use delicate skills to recreate rococo ceiling destroyed by fire". London: The Independent. Retrieved 7 April 2009.
  16. ^ Lunt, Tim (2018). "Monument Field, Prior Park, Bath" (PDF). Bath and Counties Archaeological Society. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  17. ^ Tunstall, James (1847). Rambles about Bath, and its neighbourhood. p. 128.
  18. ^ "Prior Park College on". Independent, Private, Boarding, Special, Day and International School directory. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  19. ^ "New art and design centre at Prior park College is full of big artistic visions". Bath Chronicle. 22 January 2015. Archived from the original on 30 June 2015. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  20. ^ "Prior Park College opens £5 million sports centre". Bath Chronicle. 22 April 2015.[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ Historic England. "The Manor House (1356093)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  22. ^ "Prior Park Preparatory School, Cricklade". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  23. ^ "Prior Park Prep School". Prior Park Educational. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  24. ^ "EduBase details for Prior Park Preparatory School". Department for Education. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  25. ^ "Cricklade Manor Prep". Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  26. ^ "Stephen comes home in glory after Brit Award". 26 September 2011. Archived from the original on 5 April 2012. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  27. ^ Fairall, Barrie (3 February 1995). "Cronin reborn as the demolition man". London, UK: Retrieved 25 August 2009.
  28. ^ "Psalm of Lydia Sweeps". 28 January 2008.
  29. ^ a b "Prior Park College". Retrieved 25 August 2009.
  30. ^ a b "Prior Park Gossip Bowl 2007" (PDF). Retrieved 15 March 2008.
  31. ^ "Sir Cameron opens the Macintosh Studio at Prior Park College". cliftondiocese. Archived from the original on 11 December 2007. Retrieved 25 August 2009.
  32. ^ Thomson, Alice; Sylvester, Rachel (14 February 2009). "Cardinal Comac Murphy-O'Connor:Recession may be jolt that selfish Britain needs". London, UK: Retrieved 25 August 2009.
  33. ^ "Former prior park students win bafta". 14 February 2011. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  34. ^ Stanford, Peter (28 March 2007). "The Rt Rev John Ward". London, UK: Retrieved 25 August 2009.

External links[edit]