The Oratory School

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For similarly named schools in the United Kingdom and the United States, see Oratory School (disambiguation).
The Oratory School
Motto Cor ad Cor Loquitur (Latin)
Heart speaks to Heart
Established 1859
Type Independent day and boarding school
Religion Roman Catholic (Oratorian)
President Lord Judge the Lord Chief Justice
Head Master Clive Dytor MC
Chairman of the Governors M. H. R. Hasslacher
Founder Cardinal Newman
Location Woodcote

Coordinates: 51°31′57″N 1°03′30″W / 51.532562°N 1.058421°W / 51.532562; -1.058421
Local authority Oxfordshire
DfE number 931/6034
DfE URN 123282 Tables
Students 407
Gender Boys
Ages 11–18
Houses      Faber
     St. John
          St. Philip
Publication The Oratorian
The Buzz
Former pupils Old Oratorians

The Oratory School is an independent Roman Catholic boarding and day school for boys aged 11 to 18 in Woodcote, Oxfordshire, England. Founded in 1859 by Cardinal John Henry Newman, it has historical ties to, but is not officially affiliated with fellow Oratorian schools, the London Oratory School and the Brompton Oratory in London. Although a separate entity from the nearby Oratory Preparatory School, it shares a board of governors and a common history. Newman founded the school with the intention of providing a classical education to Roman Catholic boys and it has since been known as "the Catholic Eton".

According to the Good Schools Guide, 70% of pupils achieve A/B grades at A Level and that the school "enjoys inspirational leadership, has achieved GSG 'overall best in UK' for three years running and is consistently at the top of the tree", with "state-of-the-art" boarding facilities and an ongoing refurbishment programme under way.[1]


The Oratory School was founded under the supervision of John Henry Newman in 1859 and the first boys arrived before work began on the first day of May that year, "Sunday 1 May New School began." [2] The purpose was to provide a Roman Catholic alternative to Eton College, particularly for the sons of converts from Anglicanism who considered existing Catholic schools culturally and socially inferior.[3] The idea of founding a school had been in Newman's mind for some time before that and education of the young was an abiding interest. In the early 1850s he had been invited by the Irish Catholic bishops to establish a Catholic university in Dublin, but it did not prove a success, though he was able to formulate the principles published as The Idea of a University. When the Irish project came to an end, he was approached by a group of Catholic laymen, principally converts to Roman Catholicism from the Oxford Movement, to set up a Catholic boarding school for boys run on English public school lines, rather than the monastically based Catholic schools that already existed such as those run by the English Benedictine Congregation. The original school was opened next to the house of the Oratory Fathers in Edgbaston, Birmingham.

The Oratory School moved from Edgbaston to Caversham Park, Caversham and, in 1942 (when Caversham Park was requisitioned to become a BBC listening station, now BBC Monitoring), after a short sojourn in exile at Downside, finally removed to its present location at Woodcote Estate, Berkshire. The Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory handed over control of the school to a Governing Body in 1931, but links with the Birmingham, London and Oxford Oratories remain strong.


The school has four senior (13-18) houses and one junior (11-13) house. The senior houses are: Faber, (house colour is yellow), FitzAlan (black), Norris (green) and St. John (red). The junior house is known as St. Philip (sky and navy blue).



The school has an orchestral and choral tradition, with former choristers of Westminster Cathedral among the pupils. The school choir, known as 'Schola Cantorium', has over 60 pupils, and around half the pupils across the school play a musical instrument or attend singing lessons. Several pupils have recently joined the National Youth Choir of Great Britain.[1]

Extracurricular activities[edit]

Real tennis[edit]

The Oratory is one of only three schools in the United Kingdom to possess a real tennis court (the others being Canford and Radley) and plays this sport, hosting championships and international tournaments. The court is home to the Oratory Tennis Club, a club primarily made up of paying members of the public, but also of boys from the school. Every boy in the School has a chance to experience the game. The School has produced two national players in Richard Greenland and Paul Knox.

It was the first location in the United Kingdom to construct a Real Tennis court for 80 years, finishing the building in 1990. Over recent years the UK Professional Singles Tournament has been held at the court, and in April 2006 the World Championships were held there in which world no. 1 Rob Fahey (Australia) beat USA player Tim Chisholm.[4]

ISI Inspection Reports[edit]

The Independent Schools Inspectorate says: "Pupils and staff show deep and committed support to the Catholic values that underpin the school", and "genuine excitement and enjoyment shine through in sporting, musical and creative activities. Individual pupils and teams have achieved distinction in a wide range of activities, particularly in sport", and pupils "have recently represented Great Britain in rowing, shooting and real tennis, England in cricket and Ireland in rugby".[5]

Notable former pupils and masters[edit]

Former masters[edit]

Notable former pupils (Old Oratorians)[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. Cardinal Newman's School:150 years of The Oratory School, Reading by Tony Tinkel

External links[edit]