History and Archive

St Edward’s School was founded in 1863 by the Reverend Thomas Chamberlain, Senior Student and Honorary Canon of Christ Church Oxford and at the time was the Vicar at St. Thomas the Martyr in Oxford.

The School began it’s life at premises in New Inn Hall Street and in 1873, moving to Summertown under the guidance of the owner, second Headmaster and later first Warden, the Reverend Algernon Barrington Simeon. Building had commenced in 1870 and was based on a central quadrangle surrounded by Gothic style buildings with the main focus being the Chapel in the North-East corner.

The School had been one of several educational establishments undertaken by Chamberlain and proved his only one that was successful in the long term, named after Saint Edward, King and Martyr, the great grandson of King Alfred. Edward’s memory is kept alive in the School’s Cup and Dagger emblem, one boarding house being named Corfe and the sporting Alumni referred to as ‘Martyrs’. 

The School’s early intentions were to primarily educate the sons of middle class clergy and to emphasise the teachings of the Anglican faith. Sport was always important and from its earliest days formidable teams played the earliest forms of rugby football, as well as cricket and later rowed on the adjacent canal. Today every conceivable form of sporting activity is partaken in within a highly competitive fixture list against peer schools, both in this country and abroad.

The School has acquired a formidable reputation for war heroes going back to the Boer War but it was in the Second World War and the R.A.F. in particular, that the names of Guy Gibson, Douglas Bader, Adrian Warburton, Arthur Banks, Alec Cranswick and others raised the School’s profile to national fame.

After the Second World War, the School continued to grow and 1982 welcomed the first girl students into the Sixth Form, followed fifteen years later by full co-educational status. In more recent years the school has welcomed an upsurge in academic results and some notable architectural additions to the school landscape. The John Pawson designed Martyr’s Pavilion was built on Upper 1 in 2009, in 2017 the Ogston Music School opened providing practice rooms, ensemble rooms, a recording studio and the Weston Recital Room to transform the School’s music life. In 2020 the impressive Christie Centre and Olivier Hall on the Quad were opened, designed for the modern ways in which pupils learn and providing spaces for all kinds of study, collaboration and academic pursuit.  

Currently there are 730 pupils at the School. 85% of pupils board, and the girl/boy split is around 40%/60%; 15% of pupils are from overseas.

Digital Archive

A new digital archive has recently been created offering direct access to past copies of the Chronicle, Rhubarb and St Edward’s News covering almost the entire history of the School. To browse the digital archive please click here.

The Archives

Wilfrid Cowell, St. Edward’s longest ever serving master, whose fifty-seven years’ service extended from 1880 to 1937 was a man of many roles, one being as the founder of the School’s archives over one hundred years ago.

Since that time a unique and highly valued collection of the School’s past has gradually accumulated. Today the archives are housed under one roof at the School and have recently been completely overhauled, recatalogued, reboxed and relabelled where necessary. As much of the material as possible has also been copied onto digital formatted databases for easier retrieval and to preserve some of the oldest material.

While today’s physical archives include many hundreds of irreplaceable pictures dating back to the earliest days, correspondence of all kinds, accounts books, ephemera, artefacts including china, sports cups, clothing and head gear, school play programmes, records of sporting achievement (both at School and House level) and sound recordings of School choirs and Warden’s speeches, there is always a need for new additions from whatever source.

Nothing is unimportant and every new accession is warmly appreciated. Even a short-term loan to the archives for scanning purposes is very welcome.

The aims of retaining such an archival collection are very clear and include:

  • Availability of historical records for exhibition or immediate reference
  • Education of current School pupils about their School’s heritage
  • Provision of accurate information for biographers, family historians, researchers and other bona fide parties
  • Provision of detailed accurate information for existing staff, parents, OSE and others with close connections to the School
  • One stop source to locate, collect and uncover records of all kinds associated with the School’s 150-year history Preservation of the School’s history both in paper and digital form
  • Safe storage and on-going care of irreplaceable memorabilia which might otherwise be lost or irretrievably damaged

The School archivist, Chris Nathan (OSE), can be reached on 01865 319365 or nathanc@stedwardsoxford.org

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