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Oundle School is a co-educational English public school located in the ancient market town of Oundlemarker in Northamptonshiremarker, Englandmarker. The school has been maintained by the Worshipful Company of Grocersmarker of the City of Londonmarker since its foundation in 1556, making it one of the oldest surviving public schools in the country. Oundle has eight boys' houses, five girls' houses, a day house and a junior house. Together these accommodate over 1100 pupils. The current headmaster is Charles Bush.


Oundle School was founded as a grammar school in 1556 by a prosperous local man, Sir William Laxton. Laxton had been a member of the Worshipful Company of Grocersmarker and was honoured with the role of Lord Mayor of London in 1544, during the reign of Henry VIII. Laxton used the prosperity which his new life in London had granted him to establish a school for the local boys of Oundle which was to be maintained by the Worshipful Company of Grocersmarker.

The size and reputation of the school rose gradually in the following centuries such that by the mid-nineteenth century, many of the school's pupils had been sent from all around the country to receive their formal education in Oundle. In 1876 the decision was made by the Grocers to divide the school into two different establishments, Oundle School and Laxton Grammar School. Laxton Grammar School was to continue to educate boys from Oundle and its surrounding villages while Oundle School was to accept only the sons of gentlemen from further afield.

It is during this period of the school's history that Oundle rose to real prominence as an English Public School, a feat which can be largely attributed to the successes of F. W. Sanderson in his role as headmaster from 1892 until his death in 1922. When Sanderson joined Oundle he found a minor country boarding school, by the time of his death the school had become the leading establishment for science and engineering education. The success of Sanderson can be attributed to his educational ethos, he believed in teaching students what they wanted to learn and as a result helped to introduce subjects such as science, modern languages, and engineering to the English independent school system.

The most major development in the recent history of the school came about in 1990, when Oundle opened its doors to girls for the first time. In the year 2000 the decision was made by the school's governing body to re-unite Oundle School and Laxton School as a single educational establishment under the common name Oundle School, with Laxton House becoming the day house.

The school today

Oundle has 835 boarders and 235 day pupils. It is the third largest independent boarding school in England, after Etonmarker and Millfieldmarker. The various school buildings which date from the 17th century are scattered around the market town, with the Cloisters acting as the nucleus of the school community.

The Good Schools Guide described the school as a "Popular, well oiled, well heeled co-educational boarding school which is riding high." Pupils obtain strong results at GCSE and A Level. In 2007 91.1% of grades awarded to students at A Level were A or B grade and 83.9% of grades awarded to students at GCSE were A* or A grade. Sixty pupils went on to Oxbridge in the last two years; the vast majority of pupils go on to study at Russell Group universities.

The school places a strong emphasis on extra-curricular activites which encourage pupils to develop interests outside the class-room. Oundle School has the largest Combined Cadet Force of any school in the country and performs strongly in independent school Rugby, Rowing and Cricket. A large proportion of the school gather to support the 1st XV rugby team on the Two Acre during the Michaelmas and Christmas quarters. The school's greatest sporting rivalry is with Uppingham Schoolmarker; other rivalries include Harrow Schoolmarker, Radley Collegemarker and Rugby Schoolmarker.

The school has a strong tradition of community service with many pupils opting to provide assistance in the local area as an alternative to CCF. There are a broad range of Community Service options available in the Oundle area which cater not only for the needs of the community but also for the extra-curricular interests of the pupils. Every summer since 1982, sixth formers and former pupils have run the Oundle School Mencap holiday — a residential holiday for children with a range of learning disabilities, now a charity in its own right.

The school has close ties with the Laxton Junior School, for primary school pupils, many of whom continue their secondary education as pupils at the senior school. A modern building for Laxton Junior was completed in 2003, to cater for increased demand and to grow out of the labyrinthine building used beforehand, now the Oundle School English department.

In November 2005 the school was found to have taken part in a cartel of price fixing amongst public schools.


Oundle School's facilities include the following:

  • Teaching Facilities. There are a number of different teaching buildings located throughout the town. Many lessons take place in the Cloisters which are located in the heart of the town, other main teaching buildings include the Scott, the Gascoigne, the Needham, Old Dryden and Scitec.

  • Sporting Facilities. The school has numerous sporting facilities which cater for a wide variety of different sports. Among these are two sand filled astroturf pitches, a six lane synthetic athletics track, a swimming pool and numerous tennis courts. The Sports Centre houses two fully equipped sports halls, indoor squash and fives facilities, a climbing wall and well equipped gymnasia. All of these have been rebuilt or refurbished in recent years. There are also playing fields and boating facilities.

  • Various CCF buildings including two shooting ranges. There are a number of CCF buildings including the Armoury (the main administrative building and rifle store), and various other smaller buildings used primarily for rifle and first aid training. Situated approximately two miles from Oundle, outside the hamlet of Elmington on the Ashton estate, is Oundle School’s full bore outdoor range. At long, the range is one of the few of its size in the country to be owned by a school. Rifles can be fired from firing points at either 100, 200, 300 or . There is another, smaller .22 shooting range situated next to the school armoury which is used for day to day use.

  • The Great Hall was constructed in 1908, with the North and South Wings added shortly afterwards. The Great hall is located prominently in the center of the town and is used for a variety of functions throughout the year including concerts, receptions, lectures, debates and assemblies. The building also houses the offices of the headmaster and the school admissions department.

Chapel interior
Chapel exterior
  • The School Chapel, consecrated in 1923, was built as a memorial to the fallen of the First World War. It contains some of the most important and influential stained glass in the country including the Piper windows of 1954. The Chapel is where the school community meets. It links past and present, and bears witness, both in itself and in its art and worship, to the abiding values of the Christian Faith. The chapel houses two organs, a classical instrument built in 1984 by Frobenius of Denmark has three manuals and pedals, thirty-five speaking stops and mechanical action. It is situated in the Gallery at the West end. A romantic instrument installed by Copeman Hart in 2000 and situated at the East end of the Chapel provides accompaniment for the Chapel Choir, and leads the whole school singing. It has three manuals and pedals with a West end solo division.

  • The Yarrow Gallery is the school's private art gallery, which puts on approximately half a dozen exhibitions every year. The space is adaptable and suitable for activities such as poetry readings, plays and small concerts as well as exhibitions. The purpose of the museum is that it should house a collection of pictures, specimens and models to illustrate "the history, development and beauty of the various branches of knowledge". The genealogical tree of the aeroplane and the Durham miner were charted and exhibits such as the skeleton of the white horse which used to draw the School ambulance to the Sanatorium were featured. The statue by Kathleen Scott entitled "Here Am I, Send Me" is erroneously held to be modelled on her son Peter Scott.

  • The Stahl Theatre opened in 1980 and can seat an audience of over 400. The Stahl Theatre is owned and managed by Oundle School, run by the Drama Department staff, many of whom have a professional theatre background. It houses both the School productions and visiting professional theatre companies. It acts as the local community theatre used by the local junior and middle schools for their annual productions, by the Oundle Literature and Organ Festivals and by groups such as the Gilbert and Sullivan Society.

  • The Patrick Centre specialises in design technology, automobile engineering and other manual crafts. The school has had a strong reputation for science and engineering since the days of F. W. Sanderson, and this is reflected in the excellent facilities and equipment located within these buildings. Opened in 1998 after a generous donation from an old boy, the Patrick Centre plays an important role in the academic and extra-curricular activities of many pupils. Year after year Oundelians continue to build cars and other forms of automobile the parts of which are manufactured almost entirely in the workshops.

  • The New Cripps Library was opened in 1988. It houses approximately 22,000 books encompassing all subjects. The Library is staffed throughout the school day and is open to the whole school for research, information or borrowing for academic work and leisure reading. A secure, air-conditioned Muniment Room contains the School's collection of rare and valuable books. It also contains an increasingly wide-ranging School Archive in the form of photographs, newspaper cuttings and record books, the most notable being the earliest register of pupils of 1626.

  • OSCAR Radio. The school houses its own radio station which broadcasts from newly converted studios in Old Dryden. Over 2000 pupils and local children have taken part in OSCAR broadcasts since 1998.

  • SciTec. The first phase of a new science and technology centre was completed in summer 2007. In September 2007 it was officially opened by the Duke of Gloucester. It is set to be completed in three phases costing around £20 million in total. SciTec is the School's millennium project which upon completion will create a distinctive, new centre to combine the Sciences, Art and Design and Technology. The first stage houses the Chemistry and Biology departments.


The school has 14 boarding houses in total. There are eight boys' boarding houses (Bramston, Crosby, Fisher (formerly Laxton House), Grafton, Laundimer, School, Sidney and St Anthony), five girls' boarding houses (Dryden, Kirkeby, New House, Sanderson and Wyatt) and a junior house (The Berrystead). Laxton House (formerly Laxton School) caters solely for day pupils.

Oundle's Boarding Houses differ greatly in character, customs, and traditions and there has always been a healthy rivalry between them. House Masters and Mistresses live with their families in private accommodation located within the boarding houses. The House Master/Mistress plays a crucial role in the every day running of the house and is supported by a deputy as well as a head of house and a team of prefects from the sixth form. In addition, each house has a number of house tutors who take care of approximately eight pupils each. Each house also has a resident matron who not only cares for the unwell but also plays an important role within the house. Student accommodation varies between houses, most houses contain a mixture of dormitories and bed-sits. Each house has its own library, computer room, recreation room, and dining room as well as living facilities such as kitchens, bathrooms and changing rooms.

Boys' Houses

The Boys' Boarding Houses are divided into two categories, Town and Field. Town Houses, as their name implies, front onto Oundle's town streets, but all have extensive grounds at the rear. The Field Houses are located slightly further from the centre of the town among the sports pitches and many of the school's other recreational areas.

House Housemaster Boys Founded Town/Field
Bramston Mr D.R.K Robb c. 60 1916 Town
Crosby Mr H.R Roberts c. 60 1907 Field
Fisher (formerly Laxton) Mr N.J.T Wood c. 60 1869 Field
Grafton Mr W.W.Gough c. 60 1902 Field
Laundimer Mr J. Hammond-Chambers c. 60 1916 Town
School House Mr Adam .E Langsdale c. 60 1887 Town
Sidney Mr C.W Symes c. 60 1882 Field
St. Anthony Mr I.D Clark c. 65 1928 Town

Girls' Houses

House Housemistress / Housemaster Girls Founded (Converted to girls' house)
Kirkeby Mrs A.E Meisner c. 65 1990
Wyatt Mrs L.E Kirk c. 65 1990
New House Mrs M. Layden c. 60 1907 (1997)
Sanderson Mr D. A. Turner c. 60 1938 (2000)
Dryden Mrs V. Nunn c. 60 1938 (1993)

Junior House

House Housemistress / Housemaster Children Founded
Berrystead Mr N.J Aubury c. 40 1556

Old Oundelians

The OO Club was founded in 1883 and, to this day, keeps its original objectives very much in mind:

to foster union and good fellowship among Old Oundelians, to promote OO matches and reunions, and to further the interests and prosperity of the School.

Membership is open to all past pupils of Oundle and Laxton Schools. Currently the Club has around 9,000 members, at home and abroad, and there are Old Oundelians in most countries of the world who are more than willing to provide help, guidance and hospitality to fellow OOs.

Victoria Cross Holders

At least three Old Oundelians have been awarded the Victoria Cross. Among them are:

Notable Masters

Headmasters (in chronological order)

  • William Ireland (1556-)
  • John Sadler (-1573)
  • Ralph Wilkinson (1573-1583)
  • William Pamphlon (1583-)
  • Richard Spencer (-1613)
  • Richard Pemberton (1613-)
  • Anthony Death
  • Samuel Cobb (-1637)
  • Thomas Johnson (1637-1646)
  • William Hicks (1646-1650)
  • William Griffiths (1650-1657)
  • William Taylor (1657-1672)
  • William Speed (1672-1689)
  • Rev Edward Caldwell (1689-1718)
  • John Jones (1718-)
  • Richard Jones
  • Samuel Murthwaite (-1778)
  • John Evanson (1778-1794)
  • Rev Thomas Bullen (1796-1809)
  • Rev John James (1809-1829)
  • Rev John Shillibeer (1829-1841)
  • David Pooley (1841-1848)
  • Rev John Fortunatus Stansbury (1848-1876)
  • Henry St. John Reade (1876-1883)
  • Rev T.C. Fry (1883-1884)
  • Rev Mungo Park (1884-1892)
  • Frederick William Sanderson (1892-1922)
  • Dr Kenneth Fisher (1922-1945)
  • Graham H. Stainforth (1945-1956)
  • R.J. "Dick" Knight (1956–1968)
  • Barry M.W. Trapnell (1969–1984)
  • David B. McMurray (1984–1999)
  • Dr Ralph D. Townsend (1999–2005)
  • Charles Bush (2005-2009)

School song

The official school song is Carmen Undeliense (words by R.F. Patterson, music by Clement M. Spurling, published in 1912 by Novello & Company Ltd of London.)

Another school song is Floreat Undelium by B.J. Benson (1864)

A favourite hymn is Jerusalem, with words by William Blake and music by C. H. H. Parry.

Carmen Undeliense
Quid quid puerorum est
Hic literatorum,
Quid quid magistrorum est,
Carmen det Canorum;
Alma mater floreat
Tempus in aeternum;
Tellus carmen resonat
Et regnum supernum

Floreat Latinitas,
Literae Graecorum;
Floreat divinitas,
Usus calculorum.
Floreat scientia,
Omnes bone artes;
Crescat et prudentia
Undelimarker per partes

Lusiones floreant
Aut remis aut pilis;
Pueri que gaudeant,
Gaudeant in illis:
Vindicent plus gloriae
Ludi et labores;
Praemi a victoriae
Ferant digniores

Laxtonis prudentia
Ludum hic fundavit;
Domini clementia
Ad huc conservavit.
Floreat Undeliummarker,
Hoc Deum oramus;
Et per omne saeculum
Idem concinamus
Floreat Undelium
Long ere the cruel marauders of many a Danish band
Rowed up the broad Nenemarker valley, and plundered the fertile land,
Here in our town of Oundlemarker, high over the river-side,
Wilfred of York once rested, and founded a school, and died.

Oundlemarker, long may she flourish,
Wax and grow in the land
Go on her path down the ages
Guided by God's good hand!

The Light that he lit was tended, when struggled the tiny flame,
By good Sir William Laxton (all honour to his name!)
Through a Guildmarker that is great in Londonmarker, which took the gift in his will,
To this giving toil and treasure, maintaining and tending still.

Good is the fruit of its labours, the School as she stands to-day,
Second to none in endeavour, whole-hearted in work and play;
Ours be it, oldest to youngest, to strive with a loyal heart,
Lest to the past rise and reproach us, when we in our turn depart.

So like a tree of the forest may she flourish and spread and stand,
Stretching her boughs to the heavens, her roots in the Motherland,
And may the fruit of her branches be men with an upright heart,
Dauntless and pure, well fitted to play their appointed part.


  5. "Top 50 independent schools found guilty of price-fixing to push up fees" The Guardian, November 10 2005.
  7. extract from Peter Scott's autobiography
  8. The Oundle Society Editorial Team, (Spring 2006), The Oundle Society Spring Newsletter, page 7, (The Oundle Society)
  9. Sir John George Smyth, (1963), The Story of the Victoria Cross, 1856-1963, page 191, (F. Muller:London)
  11. Carmen Undeliense: Oundle School Song. Words by R.F. Patterson. Music by Clement M. Spurling. Novello and Co. (1912) ASIN: B0000D3KXX

See also

External links

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