Rutlish School

Coordinates: 51°24′33″N 0°12′29″W / 51.4092°N 0.2081°W / 51.4092; -0.2081
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Rutlish School
Watery Lane

Greater London
SW20 9AD

Coordinates51°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
HeadteacherLaura Howarth[1][2]
Age11 to 18[2]
HousesArgonauts, Carthaginians (formerly Crusaders), Kelts, Parthians, Romans, Spartans, Trojans and Vikings
Colour(s)   Blue & Yellow
Former pupilsOld Rutlishians
The school in 2021

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.


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 £88,000 today)[3] for the education of poor children of the parish.[4]

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 (now a tram stop). 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, John Innes 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. The Manor House was used as the staff room and headmaster's office on the ground floor, and sixth form rooms on the first floor.

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, alternating each year with either a three or four form intake) 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).

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 (CCF), 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 find righteousness".[5]

School houses[edit]

For most of the school's history, the pupils of the school have been assigned to houses. Although discontinued for some years, the system was reinstated in January 2010 with eight houses:[6]

  • Argonauts
  • Carthaginians (formerly Crusaders),
  • Kelts (a deliberate misspelling of Celts to differentiate the initial from Carthaginians)
  • Parthians
  • Romans
  • Trojans
  • Spartans
  • Vikings

Various inter-house competitions, often of a sporting nature, are held.

Notable alumni[edit]

Victoria Cross holders[edit]

Two Old Rutlishians, George Edward Cates and John Dimmer, have been awarded the Victoria Cross.[8][9]


  1. ^ "Rutlish School - Headteachers welcome". Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d "Rutlish School". Get information about schools. Gov.UK. Retrieved 23 February 2021.
  3. ^ 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 7 May 2024.
  4. ^ British History Online, A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 4 (1912), 'Parishes: Merton', pages 64-8
  5. ^ a b "The Times & The Sunday Times".
  6. ^ "December 2009 Newsletter" (PDF). Rutlish School. December 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 March 2012. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  7. ^ John Major (1999). John Major: The Autobiography. Harper Collins. p. 14.
  8. ^ "George Edward Cates VC: biography". Retrieved 29 April 2022.
  9. ^ "John Dimmer VC: biography". Retrieved 29 April 2022.

External links[edit]