Rutlish School

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Rutlish School
Rutlish School Shield Crest Present Modeste Strenue Sancte.jpeg
Watery Lane

Greater London
SW20 9AD

Coordinates51°24′33″N 0°12′29″W / 51.4092°N 0.2081°W / 51.4092; -0.2081Coordinates: 51°24′33″N 0°12′29″W / 51.4092°N 0.2081°W / 51.4092; -0.2081
TypeComprehensive Voluntary controlled school
MottoModeste, Strenue, Sancte
FounderJohn Innes
Local authorityMerton
Department for Education URN102679 Tables
co-headteachersHeather Ford and Kevin Curran [1]
Age11 to 16
HousesArgonauts, Carthaginians (formerly Crusaders), Kelts, Parthians, Romans, Spartans, Trojans and Vikings
Former pupilsOld Rutlishians
Publication(s)The Rutlishian

Rutlish School is a state comprehensive school for boys, formerly a grammar school with the same name originally located on Rutlish Road, Merton Park, and relocated in 1957 on nearby Watery Lane, Merton Park, in southwest London. It is particularly noted for its most famous former pupil, the former Conservative politician and British Prime Minister Sir John Major, in its grammar school period in the 1950s.


The school is named for and honours the benefactor William Rutlish, embroiderer to Charles II. Rutlish was a resident of the parish of Merton and is buried in the churchyard of the parish church of St Mary. Rutlish died in 1687 and left £400 for a school (about £64 thousand today)[2] for the education of poor children of the parish.[3]

By the 1890s the charity had accumulated a considerable excess of funds and John Innes, a local landowner and chairman of the board of trustees, used some of the excess to establish a school.

Grammar school[edit]

The first school building, established as a grammar school in the 1890s, was located in what is still designated Rutlish Road, off Kingston Road, by Merton Park station. After World War II the school had outgrown its Victorian buildings (and the science block, built in the 1930s, had been destroyed as a result of enemy action) so in the early 1950s, buildings off nearby Mostyn Road were converted for use as the Junior School.

Though the work was not completed and the heating system was not installed, this opened after a delay, in late September 1953. A new building was planned for the rest of the school, on the present site south of Watery Lane. The new school buildings opened in September 1957.

Both this and the Junior School were on land that had belonged to John Innes and which had been occupied until 1945 by the John Innes Horticultural Institution (now the John Innes Centre in Norwich). The original buildings in Rutlish Road were later temporarily used as a girls' school (Surrey County Council, Pelham County Secondary Girls School) and then a Middle School (London Borough of Merton, Pelham Middle School, until 1974), buildings subsequently demolished to be replaced by a mix of retirement and warden-assisted flats.

School buildings[edit]

The 1957 school buildings are arranged around three sides of a quadrangle. To the north is a four-storey main entrance block (which contained the school library on the top floor, and a CCF rifle range in the roof space) and a three-storey central block of general purpose classrooms facing Watery Lane. To the west is a two-storey science block and to the east a two-storey block containing the canteen on the ground floor and the school hall on the first floor. Attached to the rear of the east block is the school gym. Also in the middle of the two buildings is a maths block on the second floor.

Among the existing school buildings is one which has ties to John Innes. The "Manor House" adjacent to the school entrance on Watery Lane was Innes's home; a blue plaque records his association.

Now demolished were school buildings next to the playing field; these were once the library and offices of the John Innes Institution and had ranges of greenhouses attached. In the 1950s and early 1960s these old buildings were used by the first and second year classes (known as forms 2A, 2B, 2C, 3A, 3B, 3C and 3D) and the long greenhouse was used as a lunchtime canteen and a cloakroom. Later, in the 1980s, they were art and music rooms. A little-known feature of the old building was a warren of hidden crawlspace passages, accessible from the second floor music room, from where clandestine spying operations on other classes could be undertaken.

In the 1970s, part of the roof-space housed the 4 mm scale model railway layout. To the southeast aspect of the buildings was the Croquet Lawn, elegantly laid on a slope comparable to that of Yeovil Town Football Club, a small allotment area for the Gardening Club adjoined as well. There was also a pair of 'Fives' courts (Fives is a game like squash, but played with the hands not rackets). As part of the CCF, during the 1970s the school also had a bungie launched glider.

A number of additional buildings have been constructed over the years to supplement the facilities of the 1950s buildings.


Following the education reforms of the late 1960s, the school became a comprehensive although it retained many of its grammar school traditions long after the conversion - school houses (named after ancient warrior nations or groups), uniforms with house and school colours, a Combined Cadet Force, and prefects. For many years the school maintained a croquet lawn for the use of the headmaster and the prefects. The school also operated an exchange programme with Eton College for a number of years.

Three-tier system[edit]

In the 1970s the education system in Merton was altered to use a three-tier structure (primary, middle and high school) in place of the former two-tier structure and Rutlish lost the first three of its years. The school still retained the old year names; however, so that pupils starting at the school began as "fourth" years. The following years were named "remove", "fifth", "transitus" and "sixth" (actually a pupil's fifth year at the school if he remained that long). Transitus and sixth-form pupils had their own common room on the first floor of the main block.

School motto[edit]

  • The school motto is: Modeste Strenue Sancte; meaning: "Be modest, be thorough and pursue righteousness".[4]

School houses[edit]

Additional to division into classes and years, the pupils of the school have been for most of the school's history allocated to one of eight school houses. Although, in recent years the system has been unused, it was reinstated in January 2010 with the houses:[5]

Unusually, Rutlish pupils did not, as a matter of course, wear the school badge on their uniforms, instead house membership was identified by a multi-coloured "house braid" which was affixed to the top edges of blazer pockets. In the transitus or sixth form it was common for pupils to be awarded "house colours" as an indication of achievement (often sporting). "School colours" were additionally awarded to those who had shown outstanding achievement. Recipients of house or school colours were entitled to wear the house or school badge on their blazers. School colours took precedence over house colours and the two were not worn together. Some houses, but not all, also had house ties which could be worn as an alternative to the school tie and, for a while, a school scarf was also available.

Throughout the school year, various inter-house competitions are held, often of a sporting nature, at which pupils compete individually or in teams as representatives of their houses.

Old Rutlishians' Association (ORA)[edit]

Since 1906 the Old Rutlishians' Association ("Old Ruts") has existed as an Old Boys sports and social club linked to the school which former pupils of the school were eligible to join. With the former loss of the sixth forms the number of former pupils joining the association fell and membership has been opened to all-comers.

This change has seen membership numbers at the Club go from strength to strength, gaining notoriety in the area for being a highly inclusive and friendly Club. There are three main sports' sections: Old Ruts Rugby (ORRFC), Old Ruts Cricket (ORCC) and a football section that is relatively new. Social memberships are also welcome.

The Clubhouse, located in Poplar Road, Merton Park was refurbished in 2015 after receiving a generous donation from a local businessman and member. It has a large hall with dedicated bar area that attracts many other local clubs and societies.

Notable Old Rutlishians[edit]


  1. ^ "Rutlish School - Staff". Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  2. ^ UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  3. ^ Students of Rutlish schools should be thankful to William Rutlish as he is the main reason why the school had started and that is why students are having free education currently at Rutlish.British History Online, A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 4 (1912), 'Parishes: Merton', pages 64-8
  4. ^ Times Online, 28 June 2007
  5. ^ "December 2009 Newsletter" (PDF). Rutlish School. December 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 March 2012. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  6. ^ Obituary

External links[edit]