Verbum Tuum Veritas
Monkton Combe School was founded as a Senior School in January 1868, by Reverend Francis Pocock. Returning from West Africa due to ill health, Pocock came to Monkton Combe via a shipwreck and temporary posts elsewhere, as the local vicar, and founded the school. Most of his early pupils were the sons of missionaries who came largely to be trained to follow the same vocation.
From the earliest days, the school had a strong Christian ethos. By 1875, there were 18 pupils, all boys of course, in the school, and by the time the Junior School started in 1888, the total number had grown to 51.
During the tenure of Rev J W Kearns, Headmaster of the Senior School from 1900-1925, the number of pupils grew from 54 to 150, and the school grew physically, with the purchase of land and buildings, including Longmead, and the site of the Prep School, both bought in 1901. The Chapel was also built during Kearns' tenure.
A similar period of growth took place while Derek Wigram was Headmaster, from 1946-1968, during which time the number of boys grew from 177 to 307, and many of the buildings pupils would recognise today, including the Assembly Hall, the Art and Design Technology Departments, the Hockey Block and the original elements of the Maths and Science Centre, were constructed.
Over the School's 148 years, there have been 12 Headmasters. Of these, three have been referred to as the Principal, The Rev RG Bryan (1875-1895), Richard Backhouse (2005-2015) and the current Principal, Christopher Wheeler.
Visit our galleries for images and dates of each of the heads from the three schools by clicking on the image below.
In the Senior School Dining Hall there are currently 9 portraits of past Heads of the School. Below is a key to each one and the dates which they were in charge.
The Pre-Prep building August 2016
Monkton Pre-Prep, founded in 1937, is situated on the edge of the Monkton Prep site and caters for over 120 children, boys and girls, between the ages of 2 and 7 years. Up until August 2016, the Pre-Prep was situated in Glenburnie, 159 Church Road, Combe Down which also had a chapel known as St George's where children would attend assemblies.
In September 2016 the Pre-Prep moved to a new purpose-built building on the Prep School site. In June 2016, staff, parents and OMs held a service in St George's Chapel to bid farewell to both buildings. Roland Symons (ex Prep School History teacher) wrote a summary of the history of St George's and Glenburnie.
We know exactly when Glenburnie was built because it was originally named Alma Villa after the Crimean War battle of 1854.
With the expansion of the Junior School another boarding house was needed, so the renamed ‘Glenburnie’ was bought in 1922. ‘There will be sleeping room for 22 boys, two masters, a matron and a staff of servants’.
There was a coach house behind the building and this acted as a dining room. This coach house had originally been a non-conformist chapel, so it was appropriate that it was later to become The Chapel of St George, but not before it had been commandeered during the 2nd World War and used as a food store!
In 1937 Glenburnie was given a new function, that of being the Pre-Preparatory department of the school ‘for boys between the ages of six and nine.’ The first ‘Superintendent’ of the house was to be Miss M Campbell in charge of 12 boys. The ‘dining room’ now became a playroom-cum-skating-rink.
When Bryan Morris became Headmaster he felt that the Junior School ought to have its own chapel. On a Sunday, the boarders would have to walk to and from the Senior School for services in its chapel. The old ‘dining room’ at Glen was ideal for the purpose and in March 1952 was dedicated by Bishop Bradfield of Bath and Wells. Everything in the chapel was a donation from old boys, parents, staff and well-wishers. Perhaps the most moving item was the inscription in the pulpit which greeted every preacher – ‘Sir, we would see Jesus’.
Glen saw numbers increase and the number of forms increase. Junior boarders were ‘evicted’ and the space they had occupied was converted into classrooms. But a building dating from 1854 was not ideal for a Pre-Prep department and nursery of 70 children. A more convenient and welcoming environment was demanded, hence the new Pre-Prep being built at the Prep School. Sadly, too, St George’s Chapel, despite enlargements, was no longer fit for purpose. The Junior School ceased to use it for its services and instead, Glen used it as chapel, play room and social centre – almost full circle!
The Prep School
Monkton Combe Junior School was founded in 1888, 20 years after the Senior School. The school occupied two large Victorian houses in Church Road, Combe Down near to where Ralph Allen had his stone quarries. The first Headmaster was Mr Charles Howard whose wife was the daughter of The Rev R Bryan, the Principal of the Senior School. Initially, there were 4 boys all told!
On 5th June 1907, the school moved across Church Road into purpose-built premises, which were opened by Col. Robert Williams MP. By this time, Mr Edward Easterfield was Headmaster presiding over 66 boys and 5 members of staff.
The School has had eleven Headmasters, four of whom give their names to the school houses: Easterfield, Howard, Jameson and Kearns. In 1937, a pre-prep department was opened and this is situated in one of the former boarding houses, Glenburnie. Since 1951, the Pre-Prep school has been co-educational. The Junior School itself has been fully co-educational since 1993.
The school has never disguised its Christian foundation. Many of its children have been the sons and daughters of missionaries. Some of its most famous old pupils, such as Graham Leonard, Maurice Wood and Charles Claxton, have been Bishops in the Church of England. In 1952, the school's own Chapel of St George was dedicated, so saving the boarding pupils a walk down to the Senior School twice on a Sunday! Since 1970, the school has taken part in the annual Wells Walk on behalf of Save The Children Fund and has raised over £400,000.
The School Prayer: O God and Father of us all, from Whom alone we have the desire and the power to live aright: Grant that the clean page of this new day may remain unspotted to its end; and that whatsoever is recorded upon it by our lives may prove worthy to be treasured in our memories: so that at the day's closing we may present it unashamed to Thee.
The Senior School
The Senior School was founded in 1868 by Reverend Francis Pocock, the then Vicar of Monkton Combe, when six boys arrived in the Lent Term to be taught in his home. Most of his early pupils were the sons of missionaries who came largely to be trained to follow the same vocation.
From its very beginnings the school had a strong Christian ethos. In 1875 the Reverend Reginald Bryan became Headmaster and by then the roll had grown to 18! There are now 400 pupils - boys and girls - at Monkton Senior.
A full history of Monkton Combe School can be found by reading "A Goodly Heritage" by Mr A F Lace.
Clarendon School was started in a semi-detached house called Clarendon in North Malvern (pictured left) in January 1898 by Miss Amy Flint, assisted by her sisters, Annie and Mary. Apart from some time as pupil teachers, they had no teaching qualifications whatsoever. Seven boarders, aged between six and sixteen, were admitted. The Miss Flints' father had been a travelling preacher, their mother an invalid. The three sisters were of sterling Christian character and endowed with remarkable vitality and these qualities enabled the new school to prosper, thrive and grow. The Miss Flints were Great Aunts to Roger William James Young who attended Monkton Combe School in the 1950 /60s.
Miss Amy Flint was headmistress until 1930, by which time there were 46 pupils. More and more houses had been taken over to accommodate them all. In 1914 one of these houses, 'Little Clarendon', was established for the 8 - 11 year-olds (from 1938 housed in Westbury). In 1917 Miss Edith Swain (EG) joined the staff, and she was to take over as Clarendon's second head. Inspected by the Board of Education in 1932, the school was recognised as efficient.
The 2nd World War saw a growth in school numbers. Malvern was considered a safe haven from the Blitz. By 1947, the school had grown to 150, living in eleven different houses. Among these girls were several members of the Ethiopian Royal Family who had begun to arrive in 1938, and that link still continues. The end of the War focused Miss Swain's mind on the need for new premises. The school could not carry on efficiently in such a gaggle of buildings. Many large houses had become available, and after visiting several, and thanks to the generosity of Sir John Laing, Kinmel Hall, Abergele (pictured left) in Denbighshire was selected. Twenty Pickfords vans moved Clarendon there in April 1948 - the School's Golden Jubilee year.
1956 saw the setting up of the Clarendon School Trust, so that the school was no longer in private hands. For the Inspection of 1956, Miss Swain laid down the aim of the school as follows : 'Our ultimate aim and great desire is that girls leaving Clarendon shall go out into the world with a vital personal experience of Our Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and as Master and shall become in due course Christian leaders in many spheres and the founders of Christian homes.'
Miss Swain retired in 1965 and Miss Sheila Haughton took her place. On September 29th 1975 fire swept through the centre of the main building. At the same time, a school in Bedfordshire, Hawnes House in Haynes Park (pictured left), had just gone bankrupt and its fine buildings became available. At the beginning of 1976, Clarendon moved for the third time. The move was providential, for at Abergele, the school was very much on the fringe when economic survival was becoming ever harder. A new headmistress took over, too, in the form of Miss Jean Howell. She was followed in 1990 by Mrs Marjorie Crane and finally by Mrs Molly Dawson in 1991.
With exclusively girls' schools becoming fewer and farther between and with boarding numbers declining, Clarendon's fourth and final move took place in 1992, when it merged with Monkton Combe School in Bath; a school which shared the same aims as Clarendon and held the Christian faith at its heart. Monkton was becoming fully co-educational that same year. So, Clarendon continues to flourish as a girls' boarding house at Monkton.
The Clarendon Merger
The early 1990s were a difficult time for small boarding schools. Smaller girls' schools were particularly at risk from falling numbers; smaller boys' or partly co-ed schools were not far behind. Mergers could be a way forward, and so it proved for Clarendon and Monkton Combe, which had been informally linked for many years. In June 1991, the Monkton Combe Chairman of Governors agreed to approach his opposite number at Clarendon about a possible merger, on exactly the same day that the Clarendon Chairman was writing to him with the same proposal! Another example of that divine providence which has punctuated Monkton Combe's story at critical times...
Over the summer, agreement was reached over the main principles of merger. An announcement was made at the beginning of the September term, and then an enormous amount of hard and detailed planning work began! A new Girls' Boarding House, Clarendon House, had to be designed and built; a merger committee discussed issues ranging from uniform (about which everyone, inevitably, had a view) to curriculum changes to changes in the School Rules; arrangements for girls (and some staff) to visit and to transfer had to be made. Then March 1992 brought a significant crisis: Clarendon would have to close at Easter, a term earlier than envisaged; there was a major doubt (later resolved) over the transfer of funds for the construction of Clarendon House; most of the girls would be coming a term earlier than expected. The merger team moved into overdrive and all was sufficiently ready (just) for the beginning of the Summer Term 1992.
Difficulties there may have been at the time - and pain, of course, for many Clarendon staff and pupils. However, over a longer perspective many have come to recognize the benefits: the strengthening of Monkton Combe's Christian ethos and coeducational practice; the support and prayer of so many former Clarendon staff and pupils; the balancing of Monkton Combe's motto with Clarendon's. Both mottos are engraved, so appropriately, on the glass entrance doors to the Chapel: Thy Word is Truth and Not to be Served but to Serve. What good twin themes for a Christian school......
Michael J Cuthbertson
Head Master, Monkton Combe School, 1990-2005
To arrange a visit, or for any other enquiries regarding admissions at the Senior School, please contact our Head of Admissions, Mrs Carole Heritage on 01225 721 133
To arrange a visit, or any other enquiries at the Pre-Prep and Prep please contact our Deputy Heads of Admissions Nicky Davis or Katie Hiscott on 01225 831 238.
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