Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School

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Sir Joseph Williamson's
Mathematical School
Motto Sub Umbra Alarum Tuarum
("Under the shadow of thy wings")
Established 1701
Type Grammar School;
Headteacher Mr Eliot Hodges
Founder Sir Joseph Williamson
Location Maidstone Road
Coordinates: 51°22′13″N 0°29′55″E / 51.3703°N 0.4987°E / 51.3703; 0.4987
DfE number 887/4530
DfE URN 136662 Tables
Ofsted Reports
Students c1100
Ages 11–18
Houses Bridge, Castle, Gordon, Pitt, River, Thetford
Colours Yellow, Blue, Navy and Black
Alumni Old Williamsonians
Alumni Network
The school after it was rebuilt in 1895.
The oldest known photograph of the Mathematical School. Free School Lane is in the distance. Taken c 1880.

Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School (SJWMS) is a boys' grammar school with academy status in Rochester, Kent, also referred to either as Rochester Math or The Math.

The school was founded by the 17th-century politician Sir Joseph Williamson, who bequeathed £5,000 to set up the school and another in Thetford in Norfolk. The school was termed a mathematical school because it specialised in teaching navigation and mathematics to the sons of Freemen of the City of Rochester, the Chatham Naval Dockyard being nearby.


The school was originally in Rochester High Street, within the city wall. The building was demolished in the late 1960s and the site is now a car park next to a nightclub. It is said that the local authority did not know part of the old city wall with a small tower ran through the school buildings, and as a result no further development of the site was allowed. The school's playing fields and swimming pool were originally by the River Medway off Rochester Esplanade; they are now off Maidstone Road, Rochester, next to the area known as Priestfields (not to be confused with Gillingham FC's stadium, Priestfield). An annexe (now known as P block) was built at the Maidstone Road site in the 1950s, housing all the first forms, and two classes each from the second and third years. In autumn 1968, the whole school moved to a new building the site. Initially this featured a main block, hall, sports hall, gymnasium, 25-metre indoor swimming pool and science block. The school's music block was expanded in 2005 to include a new teaching room and several new practice rooms.

In the 1990s a sixth-form centre was constructed and at the turn of the century a maths block was created upon the old staff car park. The sixth-form centre houses a series of classrooms for the use of pupils throughout the school. There are still two sets of temporary classrooms. The school also has extensive sports facilities, including an artificial turf pitch for hockey, two cricket pitches, tennis courts, football and rugby pitches as well as the swimming pool, gym, and sports hall.

A new mathematics centre was opened in 2002, in line with the Math's new status as a specialist school for maths and computing. The incorporation of a computing discipline contrasted markedly with the school's attitude towards computing as an educational discipline in the late 1980s, where it was stated that "there's no future in software". In 2005 the school scrapped its A-level computing course, this despite having received specialist funding to teach the subject. After a six-year gap A-level computing was reinstated as an 11-pupil pilot subject in 2011, After positive results achieved by the pilot group, the option to take computing at A-level and GCSE was reintroduced for 2013.

In the 1990s, girls were admitted to the school for the first time, but only to pursue sixth-form education. The school was granted an "outstanding" status in its Ofsted report in 2006 and then again in 2008, and was given specialist status for humanities, focused on history and geography.

The school is a National Support School and Dr Holden, the executive principal, a National Leader of Education. The school was also one of the first 100 schools in the country to have been designated a National Teaching School. The school became an academy in April 2011.

Former pupils are known as Old Williamsonians and there is a thriving Old Williamsonian Club.

Founder's Day is held on the first Saturday of July: pupils attend Rochester Cathedral for a morning service and in the afternoon return to the school for sports and other activities. The following Monday is a school holiday.

An art and design technology block – called the Da Vinci Block after a competition to decide its name – opened in 2012. Food Technology is now part of the technology curriculum. The English department has since been rehoused in the old art and technology classrooms opposite the hall.

House system[edit]

The school has seven academic years, from ages 11 to 18, and each year group contains six houses: Bridge (green), Castle (red), Gordon (blue), Pitt (yellow), River (purple) and Thetford (light blue). River and Thetford were formed in the late 20th century as the school expanded: River house in 1993 and Thetford in 1996. Another house, Tower — named after Jezreel's Tower in Gillingham and intended for boys from that borough — was disbanded between the Wars.

Cock House Cup[edit]

All houses compete for the Cock House competition, a scholastic and athletic annual contest.

Events in the Cock House Cup include, but are not limited to:

  • Rugby
  • Football
  • Cricket
  • Table Tennis
  • Hockey
  • Swimming
  • Athletics
  • Music
  • Art
  • Creative Writing
  • Chess
  • Computing
  • Merits (for academic achievements)

Bridge – named after Rochester's Medway crossing – won the Cock House cup from 1999 to 2006. Castle, named after the city's medieval fortification, tied first place for the Cock House in 1999. Gordon, named in honour of General Charles Gordon has won more times than any other house. Pitt house, named after William Pitt, the 1st Earl of Chatham, was founded in 1916. River, named after the Medway that runs nearby, was founded in 1993. Thetford, named after the Maths's sister school in Norfolk, won Cock House in 2007. And, in the most recent Cock House Cup competition, River overcame Castle and Gordon to win the Cock House Cup for the first time in many years.

Founder's Day[edit]

Founder's Day takes place on the Saturday closest to 7 July, to honour the founder and other school benefactors. Attendance is compulsory and the next Monday is taken off as a day in lieu. The day begins with a service in Rochester Cathedral, followed by inter-house sports in the afternoon.

The Rochester Math School Association (RMSA) puts on a variety of stalls at the school and a cricket game is played between the school's first XI, and Old Williamsonians' first XI.


Prefects are elected from Year 12 and hold office until the December of Year 13, when new prefects are elected by staff and Year 12 pupils. All prefects wear a plain navy blue tie with the school's crest below the knot. The prefect hierarchy has four main levels:

  • The Top Three: the school captain and the two deputy school captains; these pupils have overall control of the prefect system and act as liaison between the prefects and staff.
  • Senior prefects: seven prefects are elected to ensure that junior prefects are doing the correct thing at the correct time.
  • Prefects: these junior prefects are accountable to their relevant senior.
  • Specialist prefects: a small number of pupils have been appointed subject prefects, so far, in drama, mathematics, ICT, geography, history, music, languages and technology. There are also library prefects.

Notable former pupils[edit]

External links[edit]