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Ampleforth College in North Yorkshire, Englandmarker, is the largest private Catholic co-educational boarding school in the United Kingdommarker, it is otherwise known as SHAC by the pupils and it is occasionally referred to as the "Catholic Etonmarker", a sobriquet also attached at different times to Beaumont (no longer open) and Stonyhurst Collegemarker (both Jesuit schools) and which was Cardinal Newman's aim in founding the Oratory Schoolmarker as an alternative to junior seminaries and monastic schools. It first opened in 1802 and is run by the Benedictine monks of Ampleforth Abbeymarker, the Community of St Laurence (a House of the English Benedictine Congregation), who trace their origins back nearly 1000 years to medieval Westminster.Although there are more than 90 monks in Ampleforth, only about 10 are in contact with the students, and another 2 in St. Martin's Ampleforth.
Ampleforth Abbey

The school is situated in a picturesque valley with many sports pitches, forests and lakes. There are three lakes remaining of the original five constructed by the Fairfax Family centuries ago. The middle lake is stocked with trout (mainly brown and rainbow, although the occasional blue back has been seen).

The current headmaster is Father Gabriel Everitt OSB, a convert to Catholicism from the Church of England.The current Deputy Headmaster is John Brown.

In 2005 the school was one of fifty of the country's leading private schools which were found guilty of running an illegal price-fixing cartel which had allowed them to drive up fees for thousands of parents. Each school was required to pay a nominal penalty of £10,000 and all agreed to make ex-gratia payments totalling three million pounds into a trust designed to benefit pupils who attended the schools during the period in respect of which fee information was shared.


The Good Schools Guide called the school an "Unfailingly civilised and understanding top co-educational boarding Catholic school that has suffered from time to time as a result of its long liberal tradition." The Guide adds also that there is "A refreshing openness and honesty about the place these days."

The school's primary concern is to educate its pupils in the principles of the Benedictine tradition - providing a thorough and broad-based education. It is notable that its academic admissions policy isn't as exacting as that exercised by some other English public school. As a result, the school is typically between 150 - 200 in the annual league tables of public examination results, although it was ranked 6th nationally in the 2004 "value added" table. The school's administration claims that by looking at the top 50% of candidates (those who would probably have been able to get into more selective schools had they wanted to) the school's teaching appears to score just as well as, if not better than, other famous English public schools.

It maintains a strong scholarship set, with about 5% of pupils gaining the offer of a place at Oxford or Cambridge, although it aims to increase this number to 8%; over 90% go on to university.

There is a famous anecdote of Fr Paul Neville, the school's headmaster in the 1940s, boasting of record offers from Oxford to a prospective parent. "And what of those boys who don't go to Oxford?" asked the parent. "Oh, they run the companies that employ the boys who do." replied Fr Paul.

(This remark is actually attributed to Abbot Herbert Byrne around the same time)

School life

Though originally only a boys' school, over recent years the school has moved from accepting day girls in the sixth form to the present situation with girls attending throughout the school.

The college is colloquially known as "SHAC": the popular explanation for this is that the acronym stands for "Senior Houses, Ampleforth College". although this is likely to be a backronym. It is believed that it was originally referred to as "the shack" in the early 20th century because of the parlous state of the old school building at that time; the phrase was coined when the then head monitor welcomed the school "back to the old shack" one September. School monitors play an important role in the smooth running of the school and are known as "shaccies" to all in the college.At Ampleforth the students play most sports throughout the academic year, the boys play rugby, their biggest rival is Sedbergh.

Religious life

As a result of the school's association with the monks, religion is central to the life of the school. All pupils are expected to take religious education all the way through school. Mass is attended by all pupils twice a week, once on a weekday in the house, and once on Sunday in the Abbey Church. In addition, each house has prayers each morning and evening.

The school has a choir, the Schola Cantorum, which sings at High Mass on Sunday and also at a choral Mass on Friday nights during term time. The choir has made various recordings, broadcasts and tours throughout the world. There is also now a girls choir, Schola Puellarum, which was recently noted in both newspaper and magazine. They sing a service every Thursday, and they sing on Holy Days of Obligation in high mass on Sunday. They recently went on a tour to Dublin, and sang in many of the well-known churches there.


The school is arranged into ten house, with students living in the separate houses, eating together as a house and playing sport together as a house in inter-house competitions. Each House is named after a British saint:

  • St Aidan's (Sixth Form Girls) Housemistress: Dr. Victoria Fogg
  • St Bede's (Girls) Housemistress: Mr Brendan & Victoria Anglim
  • St Cuthbert's (Boys) Housemaster: Mr David Willis
  • St Dunstan's (Boys) Housemaster: Fr Oswald McBride OSB POM
  • St Edward-Wilfrid's (Boys), originally two houses, Housemaster: Mr Adrian Smerdon
  • St Hugh's (Boys) Housemaster: Mr Hugh Codrington
  • St John's (Boys), Housemaster: Fr Wulstan Peterburs OSB
  • St Oswald's (Boys) Housemaster: Fr Chad Boulton OSB
  • St Margaret's (Girls) Housemistress: Mrs Gaelle McGovern
  • St Thomas' (Boys) Housemaster: Mr Paul Brenan

Some of the houses are paired into buildings named after people who have been instrumental in the school's history:

  • Hume House - St Cuthbert's and St Edward-Wilfrid's - Named after Cardinal Basil Hume (although originally Saint Edward's house on one side and Saint Wilfrid's house on the other)
  • Nevill House - St Dunstan's and St Oswald's
  • Bolton House - formerly St Edward's and St Wilfrid's before their merger in 2001
  • Fairfax House - St Margaret's and St Hugh's

St Martin's Ampleforthmarker is the Prep School for Ampleforth, situated a few miles across the valley in Gilling Castlemarker.


Sport is a large part of school life, with pupils participating in a wide variety of sports including rugby, shooting, tennis, cricket and football. As well as many rugby and cricket pitches set in the 2000 acres (8 km²) of the valley, the school runs the St Alban's Centre (SAC), a sports centre with a large hall (also used for school assemblies and official ceremonies), a 25-metre swimming pool, three squash courts, and a fitness suite. SAC is also open to the general public for a fee.

The school has a coloured sporting history, mostly regarding arch rivals Sedbergh School and Stonyhurst College both of whom play Ampleforth in about twenty (boys and girls) sports annually. The highlight of the sporting year however, is the annual rugby matches between Sedbergh and Ampleforth. Sedbergh in recent years proving to be superior, not having lost a 1st XV game against "the old enemy" since 1998.

Ampleforth has produced some top class sportsmen, especially in Rugby, such as Lawrence Dallaglio, Simon and Guy Easterby and Dan McFarland

St Thomas's House

The school also sports a large wall to the south of the Abbey, popularly known as "the Bounds". It is approximately 10 m tall by 15 m wide and constructed from local sandstone. It is speculated that the wall was constructed to play an Amplefordian version of Fives; the exact nature of this game and its equipment was unearthed in a marginal doodle in a book in the monastic library by Dr Galliver, a school history master, in the 1990s. Nowadays it is often used by members of the school to brush up on their tennis skills, and by the cadet corps for drill.

Press coverage

Ampleforth and the Valley from the Air
one of the leading Catholic schools in the country, Ampleforth's occasional problems make the news - including the accusation that several monks and three members of the lay teaching staff molested children in their care. In 2005 Father Piers Grant-Ferris admitted 20 incidents of child abuse. This was not an isolated incident. The Yorkshire Post reported in 2005; "Pupils at a leading Roman Catholic school suffered decades of abuse from at least six paedophiles following a decision by former Abbot Basil Hume not to call in police at the beginning of the scandal." Around the same time, it was indicted as having taken part in a cartel of price fixing amongst public schools. The school has periodically experienced a drugs problem due to its location (and lack of nearby entertainment) and the relative affluence of the children who attend.

The school was the subject of a light-hearted ITV documentary made by director Dan Barraclough shown in 2003 and entitled Ampleforth: My Teacher's A Monk. The aim was to show off the school to a wider audience, although it also highlighted large-scale breaking of the school rules on smoking, and what some regard as the lax rules on alcohol. However he did report that he did not witness a single act of bullying, something that used to form the image of the stereotypical English public school.

In September 2005, Ampleforth was one of the leading British schools (including Charterhousemarker, Etonmarker,Radleymarker Gresham'smarker, Harrowmarker, Haileyburymarker, Marlboroughmarker, Rugbymarker, Sedbergh School, Shrewsburymarker, Stowemarker, Wellingtonmarker and Winchestermarker) which were considered by the Office of Fair Trading to be operating a fee-fixing cartel in breach of the Competition Act of 1998. All of the schools were ordered to abandon this practice.

In the 2007 film 'St Trinians', Ampleforth were represented as the losing side in the fictional School Challenge quiz show.

Daughter abbeys

In 1955, at the invitation of prominent Roman Catholic laypersons in Saint Louis, Missourimarker, a group of Benedictines from Ampleforth established the Priory of Saints Mary and Louis and the corresponding Saint Louis Priory Schoolmarker in Saint Louis. The Priory became independent from Ampleforth College in 1973, and was elevated to abbey status, becoming the Saint Louis Abbeymarker in 1989.

Notable Old Amplefordians


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