|Motto||Latin: Porta Vacat Culpa|
(The gate is free from blame)
|Founder||Sir John Port|
|Local authority||Derbyshire County Council|
|Department for Education URN||113009 Tables|
|Colour(s)||Navy, Maroon and yellow|
|Preparatory school||Repton Preparatory School|
Sir John Port of Etwall, on his death in 1557, left funds to create a grammar school which was then established at the Repton Priory. For its first 400 years, the school accepted only boys; girls were admitted from the 1970s, and the school was fully co-educational by the 1990s.
Repton is a school which has "had very varying fortunes. It was founded as a local school, it had always shown a tendency to become one receiving boys from a wide area of the Midlands, but the prestige of the school had constantly fluctuated".
The school was founded by a 1557 legacy in the will of Sir John Port of Etwall, leaving funds for a grammar school at Etwall or Repton, conditional on the students praying daily for the souls of his family. The social mix of the early school was very broad. Among the first twenty-two names on the register of Repton there are five gentlemen, four husbandmen, nine yeomen, two websters, or weavers, a carpenter and a tanner. During the 17th century the school educated the sons of the first Earls of Chesterfield and of Ardglass and Thomas Cromwell, John Aungier, a son of the Treasurer of Gray's Inn, who was reputed to be "very learned and wealthy" but also son of the local blacksmith who went on to be Master of Ashby-de-la-Zouche Grammar School, a farmer's son who become Professor of Physics at Gresham College and the son of a poor tallow chandler, Richard Neile, who became Archbishop of York.
Buildings at the site of Repton Priory were granted for the school in 1559 by Gilbert Thacker. Not long after this, lawsuits began between the school and the Thacker family. These focused on access issues, and relations with the Thackers deteriorated to the extent that, by the 1650s, the school and the family were embroiled in litigation: the school commenced an action against the Thacker family in 1642; the family also brought an action against the school which was settled out of court. The atmosphere around the conflict was sufficiently aggressive that the Thackers diverted drains into the school's buildings by constructing dams, and in 1670, a wall was built to keep the parties apart.
18th and 19th centuries
At its peak in the first hundred years, numbers rose to 200, but they had fallen by 1681 to twenty-eight boys, and in 1705, to "a few ragged children". As the school was free until 1768 it is unclear how teaching was afforded, though the headmaster kept cattle in a room within the school around this period. A pupil's letter home in 1728 relates to his father that the headmaster, George Fletcher, would withhold meals from the boys if they were unable to recite scripture.
The school's reputation and operation declined in the 1700s and the 1800s, and pupil numbers were under 50 by 1833, with a former pupil recalled after leaving:
"even more than the paucity of its numbers, was the almost total absence of all those facilities... cricket ground we had none. Football was played upon the gravel, between the Arch, and the broken pillars...No gymnasium, no fives court, no racquet court...No French, no German, no Music, no Natural Science... No chapel, no master's house beyond the Arch, no bridge (at first) across the Trent, no railway.... Why did even 50 boys resort to Sir John Port's old School?"
By the 1830s some of the changes of reforming schoolmaster of Rugby School, Dr. Thomas Arnold, were being implemented at the school, however there was period of decline further in the following decades. The Victorian decline was addressed by headmaster Steuart Pears, who worked hard to raise the school's status and reputation. A major effort was made, with the Charity Commissioners and the Clarendon Commission, to have the school accepted as one of the great public schools. Repton was excluded from their 1864 report, however, which included only nine schools, and the school was thus excluded from the Public Schools Act 1868 and hence the status of being one of the major seven public schools. Nevertheless, in Evidence to the Taunton Commission the headmaster said in 1868:
"For some time past the school has been claiming, and has virtually attained, the position of a public school; that is, we have boys of the same rank as the public schools; our system is the same"
In the early centuries of the school's development, a pupil-conferred role called "Cock of the School" was accepted within the pupil body, a boy would be identified as the holder of this office after fighting between likely candidates; once a boy was incumbent in this role, the younger boys were regarded as his slaves and customarily required to defer to him and to do his work; writing in 1907, G. S. Messiter described the practice as an "ancient custom".
In 1874 a new basis for the running of the school was set up, which, among other things, removed the right of local children to be freely educated at the school, setting up a new school for such boys. This social mix had been causing issues: evidence to the Taunton Commission from the headmaster said that despite a sincere attempt to break down the barriers between the local boys and the boarders, he had had little success, and a substantial number of applications from "persons of good standing... and good fortune" had been withdrawn when told the boys were "of all classes down to the sons of blacksmiths and washerwomen". These less advantaged village boys were deliberately separated out of school "mainly for the sake of the village boys... [to mitigate a] constant fear of their being ill-treated".
In 1884 a chapel was added to the school's buildings.
Recent research published in Picturing the closet: male secrecy and homosexual visibility in Britain, by Dominic Janes, found that between 1900 and 1914, the "Black Book" (the school discipline record) recorded 38 instances of immorality within the pupil community; punishments for this activity ranged from caning to expulsion, most of the activity was performed in groups, with Janes concluding "what we are seeing here is [not] the victimisation of couples, but the periodic purges of small cadres of peers".
Immediately after this period, when Geoffrey Fisher became headmaster in 1914, an account was as follows: "homosexuality was rife. Fisher immediately expelled two senior boys and began to rule with a very firm hand". Fisher would go on to become Archbishop of Canterbury, but his tenure as headmaster has been linked to "blithe.. extraordinary violence and psychological cruelty".
Harold Abrahams CBE, the Olympic champion in the 100m sprint in the 1924 Paris Olympics, depicted in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire, joined the school in 1914. Recalling his time at the school, Abrahams said he encountered antisemitism, often feeling bullied and alone.
In 1907 a gymnasium was added. This building is now grade II listed. In this decade the chapel was enlarged, and the Science Block, the Gymnasium, Armoury, Shooting Range and Swimming Bath were built, and the Priory ‘Tithe’ Barn turned into the Art School.
A reforming master, Victor Gollancz, established evening class in political education for the boys in the early 1900s. The school considered that this tended to "undermin[e] the authority of the teachers by encouraging the pupils to ask questions" and work with the boys in a collaborative way, so he was termed a "traitor" and a "pacifist" and was dismissed form the school.
1,912 former pupils of the school served in the First World War, of whom 355 died in service. A war memorial was unveiled on Major General Sir John Burnett-Stuart, GCB KBE DSO DL, Director of Military Operations and Intelligence, and dedicated by the Rt Rev Edwyn Hoskyns DD, Bishop of Southwell on 1 November 1922.
In 1917 the writers Christopher Isherwood and Edward Upward began their time at Repton. They formed a friendship which continued when they both at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. They revolted at school against everything associated with the establishment, which they called "the other side", and Upward reflected after leaving that "everyone was homosexual, up to a point, at Repton". In the 1920s, the poet Vernon Watkins was sent to Repton. His gentle character provoked regular bullying in his early years. When he died, the school claimed him as "perhaps the best poet Repton has had".
The writer and painter Denton Welch was a pupil in the 1930s, and his account of running away from the school, subsequent return and miserable final term there is first part of his autobiographical novel Maiden Voyage (1943).
In 1924 George Gilbert Stocks, a director of music at the school, set it to the hymn Dear Lord and Father of Mankind to the tune Repton for use in the school's chapel. He took the melody from Hubert Parry's 1888 contralto aria "Long since in Egypt's plenteous land" in his oratorio Judith.
The writer Roald Dahl attended in the 1930s. His experiences are related in his semi-autobiographical book Boy, in which he describes an environment of ritual cruelty, fagging and beatings, later stating "I was appalled by the fact that masters and senior boys were allowed literally to wound other boys, and sometimes quite severely... I couldn't get over it. I never have got over it." An account of a beating of boy called Micheal, in Roald Dahl's 1984 autobiographical book Boy,[note 1] was attributed by Dahl to Fisher. But Dahl's biographer, Jeremy Treglown, has pointed out he was mistaken: the beating was in May 1933, a year after Fisher had left Repton, and headmaster concerned was John Christie, Fisher's successor. In his 1984 autobiography, Dahl states that when he was a young fag, he was instructed to warm toilet seats for older boys at the school. He was also, along with other boys at the school, used as a product tester for Cadbury who were located close by, and it has been speculated that this helped to inspire Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Second World War and after
The headmaster from 1937 to 1943 was H.G. Michael Clarke, he left the school to pursue an ecclesiastical career and became Provost of Birmingham Cathedral. He led the school during one of the most difficult periods of its history, when mounting debts and falling numbers, together with the effects of the war, led to questions as to the continuing viability of the institution; Clarke was obliged to close departments and two houses (The Cross and Latham). The school owed £50,000 (around £3.5 million at today's prices) and, in 1941, the Board of Education said its "future is doubtful".
The total number of pupils was 353 at the outbreak of war, which fell to 273 in 1943. To record these losses, a tablet extension to the war memorial was commissioned in 1948 and inaugurated in a ceremony lead on 10 July 1949 was unveiled by Lt Gen Sir Charles Gairdner, GBE KCMG KCVO CB and dedicated by the Most Rev Dr Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury.
Numbers attending the school recovered in the late 1940s, such that The Cross was able to reopen in 1945 and Latham House in 1947, and by 1957, the school was in better health: full with 470 pupils.
1957 saw the 400 year centenary of the school, celebrated with a Royal visit from The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh. A new Chemistry Block and new workshops within the Precinct, as well as extensive alterations to the Science Block. John Gammell took office as headmaster in 1968 and during his tenure girls began to be educated at Repton. It started with the arrival of two girls in 1970. By 1979 the first purpose-built girls’ boarding house was opened.
I suffered many terrible things. I was thrown on an hourly basis into the ice plunge pool, dragged from my bed in the middle of the night and beaten, made to lick the lavatories clean and all the usual humiliations that... turn a small boy into a gibbering, sobbing, suicidal wreck... they glued my records together, snapped my compass, ate my biscuits, defecated in my tuck box and they cut my trousers in half".
He was later expelled for “drinking, smoking and generally making a nuisance” of himself. In the 1980s. Chris Adams was at the school and subsequently observed, "The ingrained hierarchy whereby the older boys would subject the younger pupils to a lot of misery through the system of fagging. It was basically a system of slavery and I hated seeing the young lads literally trembling with fear".
In the early 1980s, the old Sanatorium was converted into a Music School. Another fall in numbers in the 1990s required Graham Jones, headmaster from 1987 to 2003, to close two boys boarding houses (Brook House and The Hall) taking their occupants and forming a new house, School House.
In 2011 the 1957 400 Hall theatre was remodelled, by Avery Associates Architects, following a £3.3 million upgrade. In 2013 a £9 million science block was built. During the preparations for the building work, archaeological digs were undertaken which indicated the site had been occupied in the Roman period. Around this time, the old Squash Courts were made into a new gallery and textiles studio for the Art department.
The period 2015–2019 saw some rapid cycling of leadership of the school. Nevertheless, a new teaching block, the Lynam Thomas Building, in the Precinct and a major refurbishment programme being undertaken. In November 2019 Adam Peaty opened a newly redeveloped £6m sports centre at the school. Alastair Land was headmaster from 2016 to 2019, leaving to become headmaster at Harrow, and was succeeded as Headmaster by Mark Semmence. The building has since been nominated for a design award.
Fees and inspection
In 2019/20, fees were £36,783 for boarders and £27,207 for day pupils per year.
The school is inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate. An integrated inspection took place in March 2014, finding the school to be "exceptionally successful in achieving its aims... the quality of the pupils' achievements is excellent".
An emergency inspection in January 2015 was ordered by the Department for Education reviewing welfare and safeguarding compliance under the Independent School Standard Regulations (ISSRs) and the National Minimum Standards for Boarding (NMSB). The school failed to meet these national minimum standards at that inspection.
A regulatory Compliance Inspection took place in 2018 which found that the school met all of the minimums and associated requirements.
Houses and pastoral arrangements
A little over two-thirds of pupils are boarders. Former houses that have renamed or redeveloped include: The Hall (at one time divided into A-K and L-Z) – now known as School House; and Brook House.
The school currently has 10 houses: six for boys and four for girls. The houses and their colours are:
|The Abbey||white and green||Mrs Laura Bispham||girls|
|The Cross||black and red||Mr Matthew Wilson||boys|
|Field House||purple and white||Mrs Claire Watson||girls|
|The Garden||red, yellow and white||Miss Kate Campbell||girls|
|Latham House||blue and white||Mr Martin Hunt||boys|
|The Mitre||pink and navy||Mrs Claire Jenkinson||girls|
|New House||green and blue||Mr James Wilton||boys|
|The Orchard||red and white||Mr Ian Pollock||boys|
|The Priory||black and blue||Dr Nathaniel Pitts||boys|
|School House||black and white||Mr Will Odell||boys, built in 1884,|
The school has a Combined Cadet Force and a music school, as well as various after-school clubs. All pupils are enrolled in CCF for one year; involvement thereafter is voluntary. Pupils can also choose to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.
The school competes in various sports. Main sports are: for boys, football, hockey and cricket and for girls, hockey, netball and tennis. Repton School has produced more than 150 first-class cricketers, 11 internationals and three Test captains.
Notable sporting former pupils include the 1932 Wimbledon tennis finalist, Bunny Austin, and several first-class cricketers. In 2013, six former pupils played together in an international hockey match. Adam Peaty, the Olympic swimmer, attended the school for a period on a scholarship after his potential was identified.
In October 2018, Repton announced a complete £6 million renovation of the school's sporting facilities, including a new sports hall and a new strength and conditioning gymnasium.
In January 2019, Repton announced Chris Read, former England cricketer, as the school's director of cricket. In 2019, the first ever all-girls Lord’s Taverners "Wicketz Festival", three days of celebration, education and cricket was held at the school.
Repton's hockey teams have won a number of national school titles over the years. In 2019, the U18 girls (outdoor), U16 girls (outdoor and indoor), U16 boys (outdoor) and U14 girls (outdoor) won national titles.
Repton's art programme currently features two artists-in-residence: visual artist Louisa Chambers, and fine art media specialist Maria Georgoula.
Repton opened their 400 Hall theatre in 1957. In 2011, the theatre reopened after a £3.3 million renovation. A studio theatre was added in 2003 and the complex extended and fully refurbished in 2011 by architect Bryan Avery.
The school has been hosting a literary festival in October for some years. There is an annual Plowright lecture, with the 2020 lecture being on serial killers. One of the students won Ayn Rand Essay Competition prises in consecutive years.
The school set up Repton International Schools Ltd (RISL) in 2013 to establish, develop and maintain British international schools. The overseas schools are owned and funded by local investors, which can be education businesses, real estate corporates, private equity firms or wealthy philanthropists. They are licensed to use the Repton School "brand" and enter into a services agreement with RISL, which provides a full range of educational services and academic oversight. RISL remits its profits to Repton School Trust in the UK, which helps fund capital projects and bursaries.
The portfolio of overseas schools comprises:
- Repton School Dubai (opened in September 2007), situated on a site in Nad al Sehba
- Repton School Abu Dhabi, which has two campuses on Al Reem Island, Abu Dhabi (2013 and 2017)
- Foremarke Dubai (2013), located in Al Barsha South
- Repton Schoolhouse Singapore (2019), which is a kindergarten chain
In early 2020 it was announced that Repton School would be merging with Foremarke Hall School from September 2020 into a single school called Repton. Shortly after, St Wystan's School announced it was in exploratory talks to join the Repton group of schools.
- Thomas Whitehead (1621–1639)
- Philip Ward (1639–1642)
- William Ullock (1642–1667)
- Joseph Sedgwicke (1667–1672)
- Edward Letherland (1672–1681)
- John Doughty (1681–1705)
- Edward Abbot (1705–1714)
- Thomas Gawton (1714–1723)
- William Dudson (1723–1724)
- George Fletcher (1724–1741)
- William Asteley (1741–1767)
- William Prior (1767–1779)
- William Bagshaw Stevens (1779–1800)
- William Boultbee Sleath (1800–1830)
- John Heyrick Macaulay (1830–1840)
- Reverend Thomas Williamson Peile (1841–1854)
- Steuart Adolphus Pears (1854–1874)
- Henry Robert Huckin (1874–1882)
- William Furneaux (1883–1900)
- Hubert Burge (1900–1901)
- Lionel Ford (1901–1910)|
- William Temple (1910–1914)
- Geoffrey Fisher (1914–1932)
- John Christie (1932–1937)
- H.G. Michael Clarke (1937–1943)
- Theodore Lynam Thomas (1944–1961)
- John Thorn (1961–1968)
- John Gammell (1968–1978)
- David Jewell (1979–1987)
- Graham E. Jones (1987–2003)
- Robert Holroyd (2003–2014)
- Sarah Tennant, (acting head, 2014–2016)
- Alastair Land (2016–2019)
- Mark Semmence (from March 2019)
Alumni of Repton School are known as Old Reptonians.
This article's list of alumni may not follow Wikipedia's verifiability policy. (November 2020)
- Harold Abrahams, Olympic gold medallist (100 m, Paris 1924)
- Bunny Austin, tennis player and Wimbledon finalist in 1932
- Jeremy Clarkson, journalist and presenter
- Brian Cook, later Sir Brian Batsford, graphic artist
- Roald Dahl, writer and children's author
- Blair Dunlop, musician
- Sir Christopher Frayling, former Rector of the Royal College of Art
- C B Fry, sportsman and writer
- Graeme Garden, writer and performer
- David Hodgkiss OBE, cricket administrator
- Will Hughes, footballer
- Christopher Isherwood, writer and activist
- Andrew Li, former Chief Justice of Hong Kong
- Shona McCallin, hockey player and Olympic gold medallist
- Adrian Newey, Formula One technical director
- Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury 1961–1974
- Richard Hutton, Donald Carr and Chris Adams, cricketers
- Basil Rathbone, Nicholas Burns, George Rainsford and Tom Chambers, actors
- Georgie Twigg, hockey player and Olympic gold medallist
- Laurence Wyke, footballer
- Henry Justice Ford, illustrator
Notable former masters
A number of headmasters of Repton went on to senior Church of England positions in the 20th century.
- William Furneaux was headmaster from 1882 to 1900, and, after retiring from Repton, he became Dean of Winchester.
- Lionel Ford was headmaster from 1901 to 1910, and he went on to be Dean of York.
- Hubert Burge was headmaster between 1900 and 1901, after leaving the school he would become Bishop of Oxford.
- William Temple was headmaster for four years from 1910 to 1914, and he went on to become Archbishop of Canterbury in 1942.
Culture and cultural references
Alexander Wilson, novelist, a spy and serial bigamist with four wives lied about being an alumnus of Repton School, which he was not; Fred Perry also lied about having attended Repton School, which he did not do either.
The "Stig" character in Top Gear is said to have been named after the school's pejorative slang term for new boys, a private reference with the producer Andy Wilman, who attended Repton with Clarkson.
There was a steam locomotive called "Repton" named after the school in 1934: Southern Rail, class V, Schools No 926).
The school's motto, Porta Vacat Culpa ("the gate is free from blame"), is a quotation from Ovid's Fasti. "The gate" (Porta) refers to the school's arch and, by a synecdoche of pars pro toto, the school itself, whilst also being a pun on the name of the school's founder, Sir John Port.
The school has twice, in the 1930s and 1980s respectively, represented the fictional Brookfield School in a 1939 film and a 1984 BBC version of Goodbye, Mr. Chips. Around 200 pupils were extras in the 1939 film. Similarly, pupils appeared as extras in the 1984 BBC version.
The school has had the following royal visits:
- The Queen and Prince Philip made an official visit to the school on 28 March 1957, to mark the 400 year anniversary of the school's establishment. The welcome was led by former headmaster Geoffrey Fisher and the Queen planted a mulberry tree.
- The Duchess of Kent visited the school in June 1985.
- The school received a visit from The Duke of Kent in September 2013.
- The school marked its 450th anniversary in 2007 with a royal visit from Prince Edward.
Coat of arms and flag
In May 2016, the school made defibrillators on its site available to the local community. Some of the staff at the school have been vocal about the issue of speeding traffic in the village of Repton and have participated in public speed gun enforcement.
The school's facilities are used by the wider community from time to time. The Olympic gold medal and world record holder Adam Peaty used Repton's swimming pool as a training facility. His coach, Melanie Marshall, taught swimming at the school.
Repton School and Repton village combine every year for a charity event known as Sale of Work. Funds raised are distributed to a range of local and national charities chosen by representatives of both communities.
The old priory
Repton Priory was a 12th-century Augustinian foundation. It was dissolved in 1538. After dissolution, the Thacker family lived at the priory until 1553. One of this family, Gilbert Thacker, destroyed the church, almost entirely in a day; he did this during the time of Queen Mary, fearing the priory would be recommissioned as part of the Counter-Reformation.
Only parts of the original buildings remained when the school was established. These comprised: the footings of areas of the priory remain in some areas, uncovered during construction work in 1922; the bases of a cluster of columns of the former chancel and chapels; fragments of an arch belonging to the former pulpitum, moved to their current position in 1906; fragments of the door surrounds of both the chapter house and warming room. and largest surviving portion of the priory known as "Prior Overton's Tower", which is post 1437; largely altered, it has been incorporated into a 19th-century building.
The Charity Commission expressed "serious concerns" about safeguarding in 2018 after it received a sequence of serious incident reports from Repton School early in that year, specifically:
- A former head of physics, John Mitchell, who was found to have abused a position of trust contrary to s.16(1)(a) of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 on 6 December 2014 when he engaged in sexual activity with a female between the age of 13 and 17 and he did not believe that she was 18 or over. He also communicated in a sexual way and with sexual motivations to this same pupil. He was disqualified from teaching indefinitely by the National College for Teaching and Leadership, following a finding that this was unacceptable professional conduct.
- In October 2017, a former pupil began proceedings against the school, claiming negligence on the school's part, in connection with an alleged rape of that pupil by another pupil in 2014, when a 17-year-old pupil was arrested on suspicion of carrying out two rapes at the school; in this action it is understood that it was claimed that the school failed to supervise or discipline its pupil. The claimant made a request of the Derbyshire Constabulary for the papers from its investigation, which the police refused to provide without a court order.
- In 2018, four members of the school's staff were subject to police investigation for inappropriate sexual conduct towards children. In August 2018, one of these individuals, Jeremy Woodside, a 28-year-old former organist at the school, was placed on the Sex Offender's Register. The chronology of those issues emerging in early 2018 was as follows:
- on 29 January 2018, police arrested a member of staff on suspicion of attempting sexual contact with a child;
- on 14 March 2018, a second police investigation into a staff member, relating to safeguarding concerns, was launched;
- on 26 March 2018, allegations against a further two members of staff were reported.
In April 2019, a 53-year-old former teacher appeared in court after being charged with a number of nonrecent sex offences against underage girls, including indecent assault and gross indecency with a child. The offences are alleged to have taken place in the 1990s.
He will now stand trial for 11 charges in June 2021 (the trial date has been moved back on two occasions).
In 2014, Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court fined the school £10,000 following a guilty plea to a health and safety charge after an incident of negligence. In April 2019, a teacher tested positive for drink-driving after police saw his vehicle mount a kerb and then enter the school grounds. He was subsequently convicted and banned from driving for 20 months. Two months later a chemical spillage at the school's sports centre resulted in nine individuals needing precautionary treatment, as a result of a chlorine leak.
Fee fixing and gender pay gap
In September 2005, the school was one of fifty independent schools operating independent school fee-fixing, in breach of the Competition Act, 1998. All of the schools involved were ordered to abandon this practice, pay a nominal penalty of £10,000 each and 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 had been shared. The Bursar at the time was Carl Bilson.
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- "... he was ordered to take down his trousers and kneel on the headmaster’s sofa with the top half of his body hanging over one end of the sofa. The great man then gave him one terrific crack. After that there was a pause. The cane was put down and the headmaster began filling his pipe from a tin of tobacco. He also started to lecture the kneeling boy about sin and wrongdoing. Soon, the cane was picked up again and a second tremendous crack was administered upon the trembling buttocks. Then the pipe-filling business and the lecture went on for maybe 30 seconds. Then came the third crack of the cane ... At the end of it all, a basin, a sponge and a small clean towel were produced by the headmaster, and the victim was told to wash away the blood before pulling up his trousers."
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