Radley College

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Radley College
Motto Sicut serpentes, sicut columbae
([Be ye as wise] as snakes, [and as gentle] as doves)
Established 1847
Type Independent school
Boarding school
Public school
Religion Church of England
Warden John Moule
Chairman of the Council Michael Hodgson
Founder William Sewell
Location Radley, near Abingdon and Oxford
DfE URN 123300 Tables
Students c. 670
Gender Boys
Ages 13–18
Houses 10
Colours Red and white
Publication The Radley College Chronicle
Yearbook The Radleian
Former pupils Old Radleians
Boat Club RCBC Radley College Boat Club Rowing Blade.png
Website www.radley.org.uk

Radley College /ˈrædli/[1] is a boys' independent boarding school near Radley, Oxfordshire, England, founded in 1847.[2][3] The school covers 800 acres (3.2 km2) including playing fields, a golf course, lake and farmland. It is one of four boys-only, boarding-only independent senior schools in the United Kingdom, the others being Winchester College, Harrow School and Eton College.


South front of Radley Hall – the "Mansion" – with part of the school's main corridor to the right.

Radley was founded in 1847 by William Sewell (1804–79) and Robert Corbet Singleton (1810–81). The first pupil was Samuel Reynolds who in 1897 wrote his reminiscences of the school. The Founders were inspired by the Oxford Movement in the Anglican Church and aimed to create a school for boys where Christian principles of brotherliness were reinforced by the beauty of the environment and of the furnishings and objects which surrounded them. Daily choral services in a finely decorated chapel were a key aspect of the school, and remain so today. In addition, each boy had his own private space, a study and bedroom from the second year, and an enclosed cubicle within a dormitory in the first year: this was a pioneering innovation which was rapidly adopted by other leading English public schools.

The original idea was to found a school which mirrored the social and administrative structures of a college of the University of Oxford. Thus the Headmaster is called the Warden, and the teaching staff originally called Fellows (Latin Socius), are now known as Dons. The boys were initially affiliated to individual Fellows for pastoral care, and thus became known as Sociales, from which Radley derives the unique name for its boarding houses: Socials.

The school was originally housed in Radley Hall, now known as the Mansion, built in the 1720s for the Stonehouse family. Later in the 18th century the estate passed to the Bowyer family, who commissioned Capability Brown to re-design the grounds. Elements of his design are still visible. After the school was founded, extensive building work took place, beginning with and Chapel, replaced by the current building in 1895, F Social and the Octagon, the earliest living accommodation for the boys, the Clocktower, now the icon of Radley, and the Dining Hall in 1910. Building work has continued throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, with two new Socials, a state of the art weights-room/gym, a new theatre, and a Real Tennis court completed since 2006. The extensive grounds include a lake, golf course and woodland.

In 2005 Radley College was one of fifty of the country's leading independent schools which were found guilty of running an illegal price-fixing cartel which had allowed them to drive up fees for thousands of parents.[4] Each school was required to pay a nominal penalty of £21,360 and all agreed to make ex-gratia payments totalling three million pounds into a trust designed to benefit pupils who attended the schools during the period in respect of which fee information was shared.[5] However, 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."[6]

Academic aspects[edit]

West front and spire of the College Chapel.

The college is an academic institution that achieves very competitive public exam results – an average of 92% As and Bs at A level examinations over the last two years – but music, art, and drama too play an important role in the life of the school, the latter more so than ever after the opening of the 400-seat "New Theatre" in October 2006. Over 20 entrance scholarships are awarded each year by examination and interview – for music, art, drama and all-round skills as well as academic excellence. Sixth Form Organ Scholarships are even awarded, to support the large Chapel Choir and choristership scheme. Recently the school has been attempting to raise funds to expand these schemes. The school was inspected by the independent schools Inspectorate in February 2008. The inspection report rated the school's standard of education as "outstanding", which is the highest rating achievable.[7] There was a subsequent inspection by ISI in 2013.[8]

In 2012, the Independent review of A level results, based on government issued statistics, ranked Radley 31st in the UK, ahead of Malvern (32nd), Harrow (34th), Winchester (73rd), Eton (80th) and Wellington (89th)[9]


Radley College Boat House on the Thames.

Rugby is the major sport of the Michaelmas (Autumn) Term. The school fields 21 rugby teams on most Saturdays of the Michaelmas term and some Thursdays. Radley is widely recognised for its rowing reputation, having won events at Henley Royal Regatta on 6 occasions.[10] Only Eton, Shrewsbury and St Edward's have won more events at the Regatta. In the Lent (Spring) term hockey is the main sport, alongside fives, for those not choosing to row, with cricket, tennis and athletics all popular in the Summer term. Some recent Old Radleians have progressed to play cricket for England or captain county level cricket teams. The cricket grounds have been described as 'arguably one of the best in the country'[11] while the sporting facilities have been described as world class.[12]

Sports such as fives, rackets, sailing, badminton and polo are all represented. A real tennis court opened in July 2008, which made Radley College the only school in the world to have fives, squash, badminton, tennis, racquets and real tennis courts all on campus.[13]

CCF – Combined Cadet Force[edit]

CCF at Radley College is compulsory in the Remove year. Each Remove is expected to attend all training sessions, including Field Weekends, to attend either the Easter or Summer Camp (these last one week and take place in the Easter or Summer holidays respectively – see below). Selection for each Service is made at the end of the Shell year. Boys are given the opportunity to choose which section they join, but unfortunately the sizes of sections are limited and boys may not always be given their first choice. As well as learning specific Section skills, all boys will be given instruction on Navigation, First Aid etc. in the Adventure Training Wing culminating in spending a weekend camping and walking in the Brecon Beacons. On moving to the Vth Form they may then choose to remain in the CCF as an NCO where they are encouraged to continue to the 6.2-year in a leadership role.

Training takes place on Monday afternoons, either in the College grounds or at local military establishments. Each Section runs one Field Weekend (Sat afternoon – Mon evening) each term; this gives the opportunity for extended and enhanced training. Clothing, weapons, ammunition, equipment and Instructors are provided by the regular Services to assist with CCF training.

College Oak[edit]

By the lake, College Oak resides. The Oak tree has been rumoured to date from around 948AD, but this is unsubstantiated.[14][15] Other websites cite the tree as being 400 years old.[16] Either way, the original trunk's interior is rotten and as a result no accurate dating can take place.

Books, articles and periodicals[edit]

Foundation documents include the diary of Robert Corbet Singleton, co-founder and first Warden of Radley has now been published for the first time. It is available on the web.[17] It is a primary resource for the history of educational reform in the mid-19th century and the Oxford Movement.

There have been three official histories of the College, commissioned to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation, the centenary and the sesquicentenary respectively.

‘'Sicut Columbae: fifty years of St Peter’s College, Radley.’’ By T.D. Raikes and other Old Radleians. James Parker & Co., Oxford and London, 1897. Raikes’ history of the first fifty years of the College is primarily based on reminiscences and first-hand accounts of the earliest years, informed by an author who had been schoolboy, prefect, teacher and close family member of several other Old Radleians. The sections on school sports are particularly valuable.

A second edition was produced by Ernest Bryans in 1925 under an amended title Sicut Columbae: a history of St Peter’s College, Radley, 1847–1924. Basil Blackwell, for the Radleian Society, Oxford [1925]. Bryans made a few corrections to the earlier text and added chapters which cover the intervening twenty-five years.

The history of Radley College, 1847–1947. By AK Boyd. Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1948. Boyd's history of Radley was written to celebrate the school's centenary. Like TD Raikes, he had an unrivalled personal knowledge of the school, but he also sought to build on the earlier history with much more documentary material. To this end, he virtually created the school Archives by sourcing all of the extant material from anyone who had any past connection with the school, occasionally commissioning transcripts where the original was retained by the families who owned it. The strength of Raikes' history was the depth of first-hand memoirs; Boyd's in his use of, and extensive quotations from, the source material.

No ordinary place: Radley College and the public school system. By Christopher Hibbert. John Murray, London, 1997. ISBN 0-7195-5176-5. Christopher Hibbert's history of the College was commissioned to celebrate the 150th anniversary of its foundation in 1997. Hibbert, himself a former Radleian, was described as 'the leading popular historian now living in England.' His approach was to place the school's history within the context of public school education in the 19th and 20th centuries. This allows a thematic approach within each chronological section.

The buildings and grounds[edit]

Recollections: the life and travels of a Victorian architect. Sir Thomas Graham Jackson, 1835–1924. Ed. by Nicholas Jackson. With an introduction and gazetteer by James Bettley. Unicorn Press, London, 2003. ISBN 0-906290-72-4. Thomas Graham Jackson was the architect who designed the infirmary and cloisters, chapel, dining hall, H Social, the South African War memorial, and the War Memorial gateway (Mem Arch). Updated version of the 1950 edition edited by Basil Jackson

Looking at Radley: an architectural and historical survey of the earlier buildings. By M.T. Cherniavsky & A.E. Money. Radley College, [1981] Based on three articles and a course on the history of the buildings taught by Michael Cherniavsky whilst on a sabbatical at Radley College in 1979. He describes the exterior views of Radley that would still be recognised by a visitor from the time of Warden Sewell in the 1850s. Tony Money, Archivist at Radley, then wrote about the various interior uses to which the buildings have been put over the years. The book is illustrated from photos in the College Archives.

Radley Hall: the rediscovery of a country house. By Alison Maguire in Architectural History, Vol. 44, Essays in Architectural History Presented to John Newman (2001). Detailed study of the Mansion by a member of the architectural team responsible for its renovation after the fire in 1997

Capability Brown and the eighteenth-century English landscape. 2nd edn. By Roger Turner. Chichester, Phillimore, 1999. ISBN 1-86077-114-9 A brief note in the gazetteer about Brown's work for Sir William Stonhouse at Radley Hall in 1770–1.

Natural history and geology[edit]

The fauna and flora of Radley and the neighbourhood. By the Radley College Natural History Society. James Parker, Oxford, 1906. Pioneering survey compiled from the field notes of the College Natural History Society, organised by classes and genera with locations

The Radley district: its history, botany, entomology and geology. Ed. by T Field. Parker & Son, Oxford, 1912. Individual chapters on history, botany and entomology by the Warden and staff of Radley College, and on geology by M Odling, F.G.S., formerly a boy at the school, who became one of the first Demonstrators in Geology at the University of Leeds. Material was drawn from the College Natural History Society records and excursions


Manly and muscular diversions: public schools and the nineteenth-century sporting revival. Tony Money. Duckworth, London, 1997. ISBN 0-7156-2793-7. Argues that the political and economic stability of the British upper class and, more importantly, the enthusiasm of boys at English boarding schools, was a crucial factor in the spread of contemporary team sports around the world. Draws extensively on material from Radley College Archives.

Football at Radley, 1847–2000. Tony Money. [Radley College, 2000] Study of the development of football in the 19th century as individual schools created their own game, including Radley Football, and the subsequent adoption of Rugby Football as a nationally recognised sport.


The College Archives contain a collection of unpublished memorabilia by Old Radleians. The most significant biographies about specific Wardens and staff are:

A forgotten genius: Sewell of St. Columba’s and Radley. By Lionel James. Faber and Faber, London, 1945. Biography of William Sewell, founder of Radley College, by a former member of staff. Makes extensive use of Sewell’s diaries, letters and sermons

A memoir of the Reverend George Wharton, Precentor of Saint Peter’s College Radley. By Roscoe Beddoes. Oxford University Press, 1931. ‘Kitty’ Wharton was the most eccentric and long-serving of the 19th century schoolmasters of Radley

Thomas Field, D.D.: a memoir. By Harold S. Goodrich. SPCK, London, 1937. Thomas Field was Warden of Radley, 1897–1913.

In addition, biographies and autobiographies by Old Radleians often contain brief accounts of time at the school.

Radley in fiction[edit]

Notable early novels set in Radley:

Jaspar Tristram. By AW Clarke. William Heinemann, London, 1899. ‘ A sad evocation of the torments of adolescent homosexual love.’

The puppets dallying. Greening & Co., London, 1905 and Swan’s milk. Faber and Faber, London, 1924. By Louis Marlow.

Young England. By Douglas Strong. Methuen, London, 1919. Acclaimed when it was published because the novel was written within a year of leaving the school, whilst convalescing from wounds received on the Western Front: ‘he was no blind lover of a system under which he had risen to the top; he longed for its reform, and this book describes his own constructive policy of change.’

Caper sauce. By SPB Mais. Hutchinson, London, c1950. SPB Mais was a part-time teacher at Radley during the Second World War, whilst Eastbourne College was evacuated to Radley. The novel describes the wartime adventures of a family forced to keep moving to find work, with Radley and Eastbourne thinly disguised as ‘Lumbury’ and ‘Sherstin’

Southern Railway Schools Class[edit]

The school lent its name to the thirty-first steam locomotive (Engine 930) in the Southern Railway's Class V of which there were 40.[18] This Class was also known as the Schools Class because all 40 of the class were named after prominent English Public Schools. 'Radley', as it was called, was built in 1934 and was withdrawn in 1962. A nameplate from 930, Radley, is now displayed in the stationery department of Shop (the College's shop)

Radley village[edit]

Radley village supports a flourishing local history society who have produced a number of publications and maintain an archive of local material.[19]

Radley vicarage by Radley History Club, 2005. A report of a 'buildings record' survey and archive research undertaken to determine the history, construction, and later development of this 14th-century building

The history of Radley by Patrick Drysdale … [and others] Radley History Club, 2002. History of the village from prehistory to the present


The College has a long history of journal and pamphlet publication, beginning with The Radleian which has been in continuous production since 1864. Other journals have been Emergency ration and College Block, both produced during WW2; a series of 'alternative' journals particularly The Petreian and The New Radleian, and short-lived satirical works, such as The shrew. Individual Socials and Academic Societies have also produced journals from time to time, most notably the Natural History Society in the 1920s–1940s, and (currently 2009) the Economics journal In Demand. The Radleian is now an annual report on all school activities, supported by The Old Radleian published for the Radleian Society.

The Radley College Chronicle was founded in February 2005. It is edited by a team of pupils in an online Wiki-style model (using Courseforum software) before being redacted into a fixed version and published once or twice a term. Material is contributed by the team of editors, and by other pupils and 'dons'. Original illustrations accompany the articles, commissioned especially from Art Scholars at the College.

The paper has regular columns, including 'A Tutor's Diary' – a spoof diary of a housemaster of the fictional 'I Social'; 'Social Stereotypes' – similar to The Daily Telegraph's regular series, but written about "Radley types that may be seen in a Social near you..."; 'The Rumbler' – a regular opinion piece modelled on The Times' 'Thunderer; and 'Desert Island Dons' – a series of interviews with 'dons' (teachers) at the College in a similar style to Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. There are opinionated articles, as well as reviews and an "Overheard" section, publishing amusing quotes from around college. A lot of the articles are published anonymously and the Correspondence section is a mix of anonymous and signed correspondence from members of the Radley College community.

List of Wardens[edit]

  • R C Singleton (1847–1851)
  • W B Heathcote (1851–1852)
  • W M Sewell (1853–1861)
  • R W Norman (1861–1866)
  • W Wood (1866–1870)
  • C Martin (1871–1879)
  • R J Wilson (1880–1888)
  • Henry Lewis Thompson, (1888–1896)
  • T Field (1897–1913)
  • Gordon Selwyn (1913–1919)
  • Adam Fox (1919–1925)
  • W H Ferguson (1925–1937)
  • J C Vaughan Wilkes (1937–1954)
  • W M M Milligan (1954–1968)
  • D R W Silk (1968–1991)
  • Richard Morgan (1991–2000)
  • Angus McPhail (2000–2014)
  • John Moule (2014–)

Old Radleians[edit]


  1. ^ Wells, John C. (2008), Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd ed.), Longman, p. 665, ISBN 9781405881180 
  2. ^ Joyce Huddleston – freelance technical writer, editor and abstractor
  3. ^ "Radley College". Radley Village. Retrieved 16 April 2010. 
  4. ^ Halpin, Tony (10 November 2005). "Independent schools face huge fines over cartel to fix fees". The Times (London). 
  5. ^ "OFT names further trustees as part of the independent schools settlement". The Office of Fair Trading. Retrieved 16 April 2010. 
  6. ^ "Private schools send papers to fee-fixing inquiry". The Daily Telegraph (London). 1 March 2004. Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  7. ^ "ISI Inspection report 2008". Radley College. 21 February 2008. Retrieved 16 April 2010. 
  8. ^ http://www.isi.net/schools/6818/
  9. ^ "The Top 100 Independent Schools at A-level". The Independent. 26 January 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  10. ^ "Results of Final Races – 1946–2003". 
  11. ^ http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/search/790855.SCHOOL_SPORT__Search_is_on_at_Radley_for_next_Strauss/
  12. ^ "'World class' facilities at Radley and Upton to boost area's Olympic boom (From Oxford Mail)". Oxfordmail.co.uk. 27 November 2009. Retrieved 16 April 2010. 
  13. ^ Smith, Russell (12 June 2006). "School Sport: Search is on at Radley for next Strauss". Oxford Mail. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  14. ^ "Radley Oak". Wikimapia. Retrieved 16 April 2010. 
  15. ^ "The Green Man: The Radley Oak Revisited". Blogspot. 19 September 2009. Retrieved 16 April 2010. [unreliable source?]
  16. ^ "Radley College". Radley Village. Retrieved 16 April 2010. 
  17. ^ Singleton, Robert Corbet. "Singleton's Diary". WordPress. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  18. ^ "Southern E-Group". Retrieved 29 December 2012. 
  19. ^ "Welcome to the Homepage of RADLEY HISTORY CLUB". CommuniGate. Retrieved 16 April 2010. 
  20. ^ "William Burdett-Coutts". Rhodes University Trust. Retrieved 19 August 2012. 
  21. ^ Charles Mosley, ed., Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage (107th edition, 2003), vol. 1, page 641; vol. 2, p. 2289
  22. ^ 'Macnab of Macnab, James Charles' in Who's Who 2012 (London: A. & C. Black, 2011)
  23. ^ "Player profile: Charles Worsley". CricketArchive. Retrieved 19 November 2011. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°41′35″N 1°15′05″W / 51.69304°N 1.25150°W / 51.69304; -1.25150