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Crest & Coat of Arms of St Edmund's College

St Edmund's College is the oldest post-Reformation Roman Catholic school in Englandmarker. It is a normal public school set on in Ware, Hertfordshiremarker.


Douay: 1568-1793

St. Edmund's College, the oldest Catholic school in England, is a continuation on English soil of the English Collegemarker that was founded by Cardinal William Allen at Douaymarker in Flanders in 1568. Originally intended as a seminary to prepare priests to work in England to keep Catholicism alive, it soon also became a boys' school for Catholics, who were debarred from having such institutions in England. Many of its students, both priests and laymen, returned to England to be put to death under the anti-Catholic laws. The College includes amongst its former alumni 20 canonised and 133 beatified martyrs.

Silkstead, Twyford, Standon & Old Hall Green: 1662-1793

Later on, sometime during the second half of the 17th century, a small Catholic school was begun in Hampshire. It was opened by a priest at Silkstead prior to 1662, and then transferred to Twyfordmarker, near Winchestermarker. It was conducted in great secrecy, and was for boys or preparatory school age, intending to proceed to the English College to complete more advanced studies. The poet Alexander Pope was a student at this school, although he did not proceed to Douay. Twyford was closed in 1745 on account of anti-Catholic feeling caused by the Jacobite rebellion, but Bishop Richard Challoner re-established the school in Hertfordshire at Standon Lordship in 1749, in a property owned by the Aston family. In 1769, Bishop James Talbot moved the school to its current site at Old Hall Green, near Puckeridgemarker, and it became known as Old Hall Green Academy.

Old Hall Green: 1793 - present

The work of the English College in Douaymarker was brought to an end by the French Revolution. In October 1793 the College property was confiscated. Professors and students came back to England where, as a result of the Relief Acts, the penal laws against Catholics were considerably relaxed. Bishop John Douglass, Vicar Apostolic of the London District, realised that the time had come to replace the English College, and the earliest refugees joined the students at Old Hall Green Academy.

On 16 November 1793 - the feast of Saint Edmund, Archbishop of Canterbury - a new College was instituted.

Aerial view of St Edmund's College

The establishment of St Edmund's College was the beginning of the restoration of Catholic colleges and seminaries throughout England. The remaining staff and students arrived from Douay by 1795, not before students from the North had left and established a separate foundation which is now Ushaw College, near Durhammarker. A gift of £10,000 from John Sone, a Hampshire Catholic, enabled St. Edmund's to be established in new buildings designed by James Taylor of Islington, who had himself been a student at the Old Hall Green Academy.

The fortunes of the College varied throughout the 19th century, and at times it seemed as if the school might have to close. In 1853 a chapel designed by Augustus Welby Pugin was completed. This took place during the episcopate of Bishop Thomas Griffiths, who had been the College's President from 1818 until 1834, and had done much to give the College a sound financial basis.

The era of Vicars Apostolic ended in 1850 with the restoration of the Hierarchy. In 1869, the Archbishop of Westminster, Henry Edward Manning, set up a seminary in Hammersmithmarker, and for the first time St Edmund's ceased to be a theological college. In 1874, the junior boys were separated from the rest of the College into St Hugh's Preparatory School, in a house originally built by Pugin for the Oxford convert W. G. Ward.

In 1893 his son, Bernard Ward, was appointed President, and he started a scheme of rebuilding and improvements. Numbers in the school increased significantly, and in 1904 Archbishop Francis Bourne decided to return the seminarians to the College. A new wing was built to house them, and this part of the College eventually became known as Allen Hallmarker, after Cardinal William Allen the founder of the English College at Douaymarker.

The College became considerably run down during the First World War. However, a legacy of money became available to Cardinal Bourne, and this was used to carry out badly needed repairs and new additions.

The College celebrated the quatercentenary (i.e. the 400th anniversary) of its foundation in 1968. 1975 saw the departure of the seminarians for the second time: they moved to Chelseamarker but retained the name of Allen Hall. The school expanded considerably during the 1970s. In 1974, girls from the nearby Poles Convent and elsewhere were admitted into the sixth form as the first step towards complete coeducation, which was accomplished with the closure of Poles Convent in 1986.

In 1996 the Infants' Department was opened in St Hugh's, which now means that the College can educate students from age 3-18.

Today the students of St Edmund's are split into five 'houses', named after Challoner, Douglass, Pole, Poynter and Talbot.

List of Presidents List of Headmasters
  • Bishop Gregory Stapleton DD (1795-1801)
  • Bishop William Poynter DD (1801-1813)
  • Fr Joseph Kimbell (1813-1817)
  • Fr John Bew DD (1817-1817)
  • Bishop Thomas Griffiths DD (1818-1834)
  • Fr Richard Newell DD (1834-1837)
  • Fr John Rolfe (1838-1840)
  • Canon Edward Cox DD (1840-1851)
  • Bishop William Weathers DD (1851-1868)
  • Canon Frederick Rymer DD (1868-1870)
  • Monsignor James Laird Patterson MA (1870-1880)
  • Canon George Akers MA (1880-1882)
  • Monsignor Patrick Fenton (1882-1887)
  • Monsignor Canon John Crook (1887-1893)
  • Bishop Bernard Ward (1893-1916)
  • Canon Edwin Burton DD FRHistS (1916-1918)
  • Archbishop Edward Myers MA (1919-1932)
  • Monsignor Canon Francis Bickford VG MC (1932-1946)
  • Monsignor Canon John Bagshawe (1946-1952)
  • Monsignor Reginald Butcher MA (1952-1964)
  • Monsignor Canon Maurice Kelleher (1964-1968)
  • Bishop Christopher Butler OSB VG MA LLD (1968-1986)
  • Cardinal Basil Hume OSB OM MA STL (1986-1999)
  • Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor DD STL PhL (2000-present)
The post of Headmaster was created in 1926.

  • Fr Francis Healy MA (1926-1929)
  • Fr Albert Purdie PhD MA OBE (1929-1936)
  • Fr Thomas Sherlock BSc (1936-1940)
  • Hal "Rex" King TD KSG MA (1940-1949)
  • Canon Denis Britt-Compton MA (1949-1968)
  • Fr Michael Garvey MA (1968-1984)
  • Donald McEwen KSG KCHS MA FRSA (1984-2002)
  • Mark Loughlin PhD (2002-2004)
  • Christopher P Long BA (2004-present)

O Beate mi Edmunde

The College anthem was composed by Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman for the solemn enshrinement of the Relic of St Edmund in the College Chapel. The song has a total of 30 verses arranged into three decades, the first and third decades are each preceded and concluded with the following chorus, and the second decade with a variation of it. It is sung every year on the 3 days before November 16th, St Edmund's Day, when St Edmund is remembered. Ten verses are sung each day in chapel of what is called the Triduum.
O Beate mi Edmunde,
O Beate mi Edmunde,
Sic pro me ad Filium Dei,
Cum Maria preces funde,
Cum Maria preces funde,
Ut per vos sim placens Ei.

The Edmundian Association

The Edmundian Association was founded in 1853 and has members throughout the world. Its aim is to maintain a bond between the College and its alumni, and among members. Membership is available to past pupils of the College and their parents, parents of current pupils, and current and past members of staff.

Notable alumni




  • David J. S. Kay, The Buildings of St Edmund's College (St Edmund's College: 2000) ISBN 0-9538316-0-4
  • David J. S. Kay, The People of St Edmund's College (The Edmundian Association: 2003) ISBN 0-9546125-0-7
  • David J. S. Kay, St Edmund's College Prayer Book (The Edmundian Association: 2006) ISBN 0-9546125-1-5

External links

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