The Old Philologians Association
In 1792, the Philological Society was founded at 1 Mary Street, Fitzroy Square under the patronage of Thomas Collingwood of St Edmund’s Hall, Oxford, a nephew of the admiral. The Philological School was established shortly after and under the Rules of the Society subscribers of larger sums of money or substantial annual contributions were entitled to nominate boys for immediate admission to the school and lesser contributors could nominate boys in rotation as vacancies occurred. The original aim was that there should be forty scholars, ten for the Ministry, ten for the navy, and twenty for mechanics.
Boys were not admitted unless they were capable of reading and were normally bound by affidavit to remain until they were fourteen years of age, although those who were destined for the Ministry stayed until they were nineteen. At fourteen the boys were called upon to choose their occupation and the Board would take steps to help them find a placement. Those who were staying to join the Ministry were expected to assist in instructing the younger pupils.
In these early days the finances of the school were sound due to generous subscribers many of whom were well known in various fields. Other fundraising endeavours such as charity sermons and appeals from the pulpits of local churches helped swell the funds. Special collectors were employed to gather in the subscriptions and there were several cases of imposters who were caught by the police fraudulently collecting subscriptions.
The boys’ health was well cared for with apothecaries, physicians, surgeons and surgeon-dentists being appointed. In 1800, the school finances were in somewhat of a disarray with debts of more than £1000 and there was a need of change amongst the governors. Amongst the replacements was William Wilberforce M.P. who had a farm at St John’s Wood.
The first master whose name we know was Jarman, who was Resident Master but the first Headmaster appears to be the Reverend Fancourt who was appointed in 1801 and left in 1803. The next appears to have been a Mr Garnett who was appointed in 1813 but died a year later. He was succeeded by Mr Fay. In December 1817 he was dismissed for grossly neglecting his duty and being unfit for his office. It is interesting that the next Headmaster was Mr Pullen who had been master of the National School of Hendon, which was founded on the Plan of Pestalozzi and, once appointed, the School Board allowed Mr. Pullen to have a paid visit to Ireland to observe the Plan in action. The Board’s future Treasurer, John Turner, also visited the Pestalozzi School at Yverdon in Switzerland. This system did not apparently work too well in that seven boys were examined after one year and were asked to calculate the cost of 23 yards of cloth if 272 yards of the same material cost £15-7-8. Three boys using the old system were able to correctly establish the cost but the four using the new system failed dismally, as probably most of us would today without the help of a pocket calculator!
Subsequently, the school was served by various headmasters but, in 1827, a turning point was reached in the fortunes of the Foundation. It acquired the patronage of the sovereign, George IV and also that of the Duke of Wellington. More importantly it appointed a new Headmaster, Edwin Abbott, a former pupil of the school, who remained in office for the next forty-five years. The amazing thing was that at the time of his appointment he was just under nineteen years of age. In fact the next two Headmasters had been pupils at the school and subsequently served under Abbott as masters. Another important event also took place in 1827, when it moved to its final site on the corner of Marylebone Road and Lisson Grove where it would remain for just over another 150 years.
By 1834, the reputation of the school was sufficiently high for it to be received in union with King’s College, which enabled pupils to continue their education by being admitted to the Higher Department of the College. Twenty years later, in 1854, William Moore who had been head boy was appointed Junior Assistant and eighteen years later was to become Headmaster. The names of Abbott and Moore were both perpetuated as the names of two of the five school houses to which all pupils later were allocated on joining the school and competed in sports and cultural pursuits in the future. By 1840, on the accession of Queen Victoria she too had become a patroness of the institution.
In 1842, the year of the school’s 50th Anniversary, it was decided to launch an appeal for an Endowment Fund, to finance the expansion of the school and other capital projects. The Queen’s approval was sought and it was also mooted that perhaps a name change to Queen’s School would be appropriate. However, Lord Portman, yet another school house name, advised against it. The public appeal went ahead but ran into difficulties when HRH the Duke of Cambridge who had agreed to chair a dinner for the purpose fell ill. The appeal was supported by the Queen, the Queen Dowager, and the Duchess of Gloucester. Unfortunately it is not recorded what precisely was the amount raised nevertheless many improvements and alterations were subsequently carried out. Taxation is always an important factor in any commercial enterprise and in this same year the school was exempted from Window Tax. I wonder whether our present Chancellor of the Exchequer would be so understanding?
In 1855, the need arose for the school premises to be rebuilt and as the Endowment Fund stood at £2400 and the estimated costs were £4300 there was a clear requirement to raise more money to meet the difference. Some hard negotiation and a change of architects reduced this amount to £3700 and by 1856 the foundation stone was laid by John Turner on 3rd October and the premises were ready for occupation by June 1857. Prince Albert declined an invitation to open the school on the grounds that it was not a new school so the Archbishop of Canterbury officiated.
After 45 years service to the school and having brought it to a high state of excellence, Edwin Abbott decided to retire and as no pensions were awarded in those times continued as Secretary to the Board of Governors and was also awarded an annual payment of £150. He died in May 1882.
As stated earlier, William Moore was appointed Headmaster in 1872 and the school finances were in good order.
However, profound changes were occurring in the field of education and over the next forty years saw a number of administration and legal changes with an emphasis on technical education. The introduction of chemistry within the curriculum at the school took place in 1865. In London, Sidney Webb became Chairman of the London County Council (L.C.C.) and it is an odd coincidence that one of his first decisions was to appoint H. Llewellyn Smith, the father of a future Headmaster, to survey the whole field of London education. One of his recommendations that was adopted was a scholarship system for prospective pupils. The school governors welcomed this move and by the end of 1883 there were three L.C.C. scholars on the school books.
As early as 1889 further subjects were being added to many schools’ curricula including modern history, economics, geography and commercial subjects. This represented a threat to the school and it was necessary to promote the school by advertising it to the general public. Posters were placed in tube stations at St John’s Wood, Baker Street, Swiss Cottage, West Hampstead, Brondesbury and Willesden Green. Advertisements were also placed in local newspapers. Competition had hit The Philological School with a vengeance even though that year’s prize giving was made by Princess Christian, née Helena, daughter of Queen Victoria. The financial strain in competing with other schools meant that the school became ever more dependent on grants but this was not totally recognised at the time. In fact in 1876 the school treasurer wrote in answer to an enquiry to the Charity Organisations Society that the school had almost become self-supporting. This same treasurer was declared insane in 1878! Finances had become very tight and when in March 1894, a letter arrived from a Dr Garnett of the Technical Education Board suggesting that a grant of £100 could be obtained together with £300 representing 50% of the costs of a new chemistry laboratory this was accepted readily. The sting in the tail was that ten free places had to be reserved for the Technical Education Board’s own scholars. Little did the governors appreciate that this eventually would lead to the school’s demise some eighty years later. But more of that anon.
During 1895 and 1896, further offers of grants were made which again were conditional on certain improvements being made to the teaching and facilities for the teaching of science but the school’s finances did not improve. However, the efforts on the teaching side must have had some effect in that in 1904 two young scientists, L.A. Levy and H.G. Willis published a work “Radium and Other Radio-Active Elements”, both were Old Philologians and part of their work was written whilst they were still at school.
For several years the school’s struggle with the Technical Education Board continued and even the death of Queen Victoria, the school’s patron, passed almost without comment other than a passing reference to mourning stationery and an Old Boys’ scheme to commission a memorial window which was placed at the southern end of the library.
On the accession of Edward VII an assurance was given that the school would continue to receive Royal Patronage and a cheque for twenty-five guineas duly arrived. By July 1902, some sort of rapprochement had been reached between the school and the T.E.B. and at this point the Headmaster, William Moore, chose to resign. He was nearly sixty-four years of age and had entered the school as a boy of ten in 1848.
The poor financial situation continued during the period 1902 to 1906 and at one time there were only 76 boys in the school and although possibilities of grants were promoted the position was grim with annual deficits of £450 being forecast. There was even at one stage the idea of amalgamating with Regent St Polytechnic. With the abolishing of the T.E.B. in 1902, as a result the 1902 Act, and being succeeded by the London County Council (LCC) in 1906 the proposal was made that the school should be administered by that body. After a further three years of negotiations a scheme was drawn up and on 1st January 1909 the L.C.C. took over the school’s administration.
The opening years of this new regime were comparatively uneventful with Charles Houseman remaining Head Master. The King and the Bishop of London continued their patronage and in 1910 King George V agreed to continue the Royal Patronage. Strangely there appears little to say regarding the more momentous events that took place between the years 1914 and 1918. By the end of 1919 Charles Houseman retired after forty-six years service and there is no doubt that without his determination that the school might not have survived, albeit not independent, but with some measure of self-governance. School numbers had risen, one might say dramatically, from the 91 in 1910 to 160.
In January 1920, a new Headmaster was appointed, G.S. Penney, who had been public school educated, obtained a first in Classical Tripos at Cambridge and had been teaching at St Paul’s School. He made small but innovative changes by introducing a prefectorial system and pressed for its own playing fields. The school by then were using pitches on Wormwood Scrubs. Fees were still being charged (£15 pa) and the academic standards of the school were rising; twelve boys passed the General Schools’ Certificate out of the fifteen, who sat the examination, and a year later the first candidates sat the Higher Schools’ Certificate.
Then on the 7th April 1923 tragedy struck. Penny after a struggle with his wife threw his three year old daughter and then himself from the balcony of their flat in Elgin Avenue. He had served in the Great War in Mesopotamia and had contracted malaria. He was in debt to money lenders and six months prior had threatened suicide. In June he appeared at the Central Criminal Court charged with murder and a psychiatrist who had examined him whilst in Brixton Prison said that he was suffering from ‘confusional insanity’ due to exhaustion psychosis, depression and insomnia. The verdict of the jury was guilty, but insane, and he was sentenced to be detained at Broadmoor. An odd sidelight was that when serving in Salonica during the War he had found the unit to be very undisciplined and one of his corporals had been charged with murder after a drunken fight. He too had been sent to Broadmoor and Penney found himself on the same working party as his former corporal. In due course, Penny was released and wrote a book about his experiences Guilty But Insane under the pen-name of Warmark
In the October of 1923, the governors appointed P.A. Wayne as Head Master at an annual salary of £650 per year. He was not quite 35 years of age and it could be said reasonably that this was the start of the golden age of St Marylebone Grammar School. Philip Wayne, known affectionately as "Dicky" Wayne, was Headmaster from 1923 to July 1954. Those who worked under him and those that had the privilege, probably not recognised at the time, of being taught by him, were left with an indelible impression of a unique personality. There was at times something Churchillian about him, with his gift for words, his patriotism for the British way of life and in particular the love for HIS school. He was a semi-polymath with his love of English and German literature, his full appreciation of music and specifically string quartettes, which he found difficulty in enthusing one member of the school. he enjoyed cricket and sport, was brisk in all he did, and worked with gusto. He did not suffer fools gladly and was a man to whom correct standards of behaviour, dress, or in the boys’ case school uniforms, were important. He was a disciplinarian and school rules were not to be broken. Many a pupil will avow to the strength of his arm after straying out of bounds, to the west of Lisson Grove, and duly collecting ‘six of the best’, with school’s serjeant, or caretaker, holding his legs.
He was fortunate to have great support from Lord Rothermere, a Press Baron of the time and an Old Philologian. He was a benefactor to his old school and funded many of Wayne’s plans for the school. His greatest was a gift of £10,000 which enabled the purchase of the camp at Forest Green in Surrey. Philip Wayne recounted the circumstances of this gift soon after his retirement in 1954. "On 13th March 1929 Lord Rothermere telegraphed me asking me to take tea with him at Claridge’s Hotel, where he was then living. He there offered me a muffin and, partaking heartily himself, he told me he was going to give me some money. What should I do with a thousand pounds? I said that, in a comparatively poor school, it would be my duty to invest it for modest purposes much needed. His Lordship then said : "Invest it be damned. What should you do if I gave you five thousand pounds?" I mentioned several things, including a permanent country camp and a printing press. Lord Rothermere then asked if there were not anything more that I lacked. I said that I lacked experience in spending thousands of pounds at short notice. His Lordship then said bluntly “Well, I shan’t give you five thousand pounds.” This I regretted as pleasantly as I could, when Lord Rothermere called aloud "Clark" and a secretary at once entered, to whom he said : "Write Mr Wayne a cheque for ten thousand pounds.” Lord Rothermere was no great lover of the London County Council and, after a suggestion from Wayne that something be put in writing regarding this gift, said that if there was any intention of the cheque finishing up in the coffers of the L.C.C. he would rescind the money. This magnificent gift was primarily spent on purchasing the school camp at Forest Green, which always remained in the school’s possession and was outwith the ownership of the LCC. Part of the gift also went towards financing further school tours abroad, another part purchased a printing press which produced in time the school magazine, and over the years further improvements included climbing plants in the quadrangle, the installation of cinematograph equipment and in 1929 the fives court. Outside the major public schools I know of no other fives court. This was the place where probably unknown to the staff the settling of old scores between two individuals took place.
The Forest Green camp attracted quite considerable coverage in the national press, no doubt prompted by Wayne himself, as it provided the opportunity for city boys to experience life under canvas, cooking over open fires, self-help opportunities like digging their own swimming pool and the laying of a concrete cricket strip. All of the school forms visited the camp for one week stays and during the time spent there followed projects on geography, biology and surveying. In the forties and fifties there was one evening devoted to 'the scheme' which involved one half of the boys defending the tower on Leith Hill and the others being the attack force. Good relations were built up with the local population and there was for the senior boys a cricket match most weeks against the village side. For some youngsters it provided their first introduction to cider and other strong beverages at The Parrot, where occasionally the staff were in one bar and the boys in the other! The flood of gifts from Lord Rothermere continued and after he was appointed both to the Board of Governors and its Chairman in 1936 he gave £2000 to be spent and not invested. He followed this in 1937 with another £1000 for the maintenance of Forest Green camp. Perhaps his most generous offer was to give the school a Rembrandt self-portrait. Unfortunately the school and the LCC declined the gift even though insurance for £12000 was offered. The portrait in question is now part of the Burrell Collection in Glasgow.
By 1935, the Headmaster was able to report to the Governors that the school was full with 477 pupils on the roll. Progress was being made academically and high standards were being achieved in public examinations despite the fact that the General Schools’ Certificate was being taken after four years rather than the previous five.
But clouds were on the horizon, the two events that loomed were the Second World in 1939 and a battle of a different kind, the post-war fight with the London County Council.
A member of staff recalled in 1956, that within a few weeks of the outbreak of war the school was paraded every day for a week, each lad complete with haversack, iron rations and a toothbrush prepared for evacuation. Finally they were all marched through a line of weeping parents to Paddington Station where in locked carriages they were conveyed to Redruth with outposts in Portreath and St Day. The school being divided was a fundamental handicap and after arriving with 246 pupils, eventually rising to 286, the numbers did not decrease below 230 until three years later, in 1943, when the "old" School partially re-opened. An account of the school’s time in Cornwall may be found in Ted McNeal’s book "The School at War" which may be purchased via the link to publications from the Home page of this site.
The reason for the return of some of the pupils to London was the result of growing discontent among the parents and eventually a parent’s emergency committee was formed and at a public meeting an overwhelming vote was passed, by the 300 parents present, for the school to be moved from Redruth. A mass return was not really a practical proposition as the school’s premises was occupied by the Fire Service and any that did return would be sent to other schools. By Easter 1943 sufficient pupils, around 100, had returned and the school was officially reopened but only partially. In May 1944 saw the death of Charles Houseman, Headmaster from 1902 to 1920, and the deaths in action of Peter Maclean, Senior English master, and the son of Mr Bluett, senior French master, and also Michael, the only son of the Headmaster.
By 1945 the school was beginning to return to some normality, the air raid shelters in the quad were removed and the windows in the gymnasium cleared of protecting bricks and in 1947 the School’s dramatic Society visited Belgium. The Parents’ Committee remained as a pressure group chasing the authorities on many subjects including the army’s occupation of the playing fields at Sudbury Hill and at the Forest Green camp. However, as mentioned above the L.C.C. were creating problems. 1947 saw the publication of the London Education Plan proposing that Bell St School and St Marylebone Grammar School, hereon SMGS, be bracketed together with a joint governing body, In June 1947 the inaugural meeting of this body took place and a year later two Governors proposed that a sub-committee be formed to investigate the possibilities of shared resources and common enterprises for a comprehensive school into which the two schools would eventually merge. This proposal was defeated. The original London Plan had called for the closure of S.M.G.S. and the establishment of a new school for around 1250 boys in the St John’s Wood area. In order to carry out any merger or any other plan the L.C.C. had to obtain full control over the school, so in 1950, the Governors were 'invited' to apply for County status. The gloves were now well and truly off!
Philip Wayne conducted a masterly campaign to preserve the integrity of the school and with the support of the governing body countered the L.C.C.’s proposals by applying direct to the Minister for Voluntary Controlled status above the head of the L.C.C. who argued that there was no right of access to the Minister except through them. The deviousness of this body can best be illustrated by the fact that if the school had gone through what the L.C.C. considered to be the correct channels i.e. via the L,C.C.’s Schools sub-Committee, the time limit for a resolution for any other submission would have expired. By early 1951, the cause of S.M.G.S. had become one of national interest and was taken up by the press whose coverage included leading articles in Times Educational Supplement, New Statesman, the Evening Standard and The Times. The T.E.S. stated that in the matter of its disputed status S.M.G.S. was clearly in the right. The matter rumbled on for two more years and eventually on 1st August 1953 the Minister of Education accepted the Governors’ application and designated the school as Voluntary Controlled. Philip Wayne, satisfied that the future of the school was safe, retired in July 1954 and, maintaining an old tradition of appointing headmasters who knew the school, chose Harold Llewellyn Smith as his successor.
During Llewellyn Smith’s fifteen years as Headmaster there were those who felt that they were not particularly memorable. No real spectacular changes were made probably because his philosophy was to improve the opportunities for each individual boy. The school continued in academic excellence as well as enjoying musical and sporting successes.
However, whilst the school’s normal activities continued the future of the school continued to be very cloudy. The school had been granted voluntary controlled status in August 1953, which gave it protection from any change of character. The Instrument of Government and the Articles of Government of the school were issued two years later and the administration of the foundation formalised by the Ministry of Education in 1957. However, earlier in 1955, a meeting of head teachers for the area had been called to consider the reorganisation of secondary education in the division. The award of voluntary controlled status to S.M.G.S. had, it was reported, vitiated the proposal to establish a Marylebone Comprehensive School. It was intended to take advantage of slum clearance and a new school (Rutherford) built. S.M.G.S. might cooperate on lines agreed by the two Headmasters. For the next few years the condition of the fabric of the school occupied the Education Authority and certain works were carried out such as the renovation of the library and consideration was given to renting other premises to accommodate the inadequate laboratories. In May 1963, it was still thought that the school was safe in its voluntary controlled status but new premises would be required and the probability was that it would be on a site in Cosway Street.
In 1957 the school’s crest incorporated for the first time the motto "Ex animo, tamquam Deo", which was the original suggestion of Kenneth Crook, the second master.
In May 1963 Philip Wayne died at the age of 74, and was buried at Cranleigh, not far from his beloved Forest Green, followed by a memorial service in June. In 1966 a memorial to him was unveiled at the camp by his daughter Jenifer. Those who were privileged to have been taught and led by him were left with a memory which even over 40 years after his death is indelible.
Optimism was still high in 1963 that the future of the school was safe and the Chairman of governors stated that he had included in a report to the Education Committee that the school should continue indefinitely as a three-form entry school. There was even talk of the school being rebuilt on a site in Cosway Street and that it could be completed in 1972. But others had different ideas and a Marylebone Labour Party councillor, Illtyd Harrington, who by profession was a schoolmaster declared in 1966 that schools such as S.M.G.S. should be abolished and `not allowed to bask in dubious and specious traditions .....content to help the perpetuation of an obsolescent educational separation.’
More worrying was the meeting held in 1966 between Llewellyn Smith, the Headmaster, and Dr Payling, the Chief Inspector of Schools regarding the future of the school, as part of the overall policy of education in the area. Llewellyn Smith stated bluntly that he saw no reason for changing the former L.C.C.’s plan to rebuild SMGS and as he had devoted the greater part of his life to the service of London grammar schools he saw no point in cooperating in any process whose aim was to destroy what he had being trying to build. He was prepared to discuss hypothetically the manner in which the school could be included in a comprehensive scheme but in his view any such policy was illegal.
In fact to achieve such a scheme, which would change the character of the seven voluntary controlled schools in Inner London, would require legislation. Later in 1966 the Divisional Officer sent a proposal to Llewellyn Smith that merger take place between the school and Rutherford school. This specific proposal led to a flurry of activity with meetings being convened by a number of parents and also the Old Philologians with the object of forming an organisation to defend the status of the school. The staff and governors at both schools considered the proposal of a merger between the two schools and for differing reasons did not find them acceptable. During late 1966 and early 1967 the Inner London Education Authority launched a series of public consultation meeting regarding the merger of the two schools and the local paper "The Marylebone Mercury" headlined its opinion that "The Grammar School is doomed".
However, in April 1967, it appeared that a white knight had ridden to the rescue. The Conservative Party won the London local elections and took control of the GLC and the ILEA For some schools the election came too late as plans were too far advanced but SMGS was informed that the amalgamation with Rutherford School would not take place and it would remain a grammar school but working in close association with Rutherford School. This regrettably was merely a reprieve.
In 1968, Llewellyn Smith decided to retire and fixed the date as 31st August 1969. In January 1970 the governors met to make arrangements for the appointment of a new Headmaster and in April various candidates were interviewed but no appointment made. Llewellyn Smith was asked to reconsider his retirement decision which eventually was postponed until the December. Later in the year Patrick Hutton was appointed Headmaster and would take up his position from January 1970.
Patrick Hutton had entered a minefield and whilst he was prepared to recognise the high standards and achievements of the school and to defend them, he also knew there had to be changes and regarded these as a challenge. The reason for this change of approach was that in April 1970 the local London elections saw Labour being returned to power and the ILEA immediately gave notice of its intention to reinstate the amalgamation of the two schools. To further complicate matters the Conservative Party was returned to Westminster and it was not until March 1974 that there was to be a dual Labour control both centrally and locally. Hutton was mainly concerned with the need to ensure any changes in the organisation of the two schools was matched by the provision of adequate facilities which clearly included new buildings. Following a meeting at County Hall in June 1970 between Patrick Hutton and Dr Payling it was proposed that the amalgamation would take place in September 1971 as an eight-form entry comprehensive school. Due consultation would take place with the Secretary of State and there would be time for consideration of any public objections. There was still the question of the legality of such a merger. Whilst Patrick Hutton expressed the view that he would enjoy the opportunity of organising the merger, he also began to realise that the fears of the staff and parents were based on solid grounds and not just prejudice. In fact, the proposed timetable for the merger was being carried out in almost indecent haste and realistically could not be carried out in the time scale proposed. September 1972 was considered to be the very earliest date possible.
At the suggestion by Llewellyn Smith, Patrick Hutton consulted various other grammar school headmasters and one thought that as SMGS was voluntary controlled it would be in an even stronger position than his own. After conveying this information to the governors in September 1970, and, taking into consideration the views of the staff the governors met in October and accepted the ILEA’s proposals. However they agreed that no firm decision on the date of the merger would be made as very real concerns were expressed on the availability of new buildings.
A public meeting of parents of children in Westminster was called on 19th October 1970 to which over 11,000 were invited. The meeting was chaired by Lady Lucan but only a fraction of the invited parents actually attended. The parents of SMGS pupils were not satisfied with the way the meeting was conducted mainly because a considerable amount of time was devoted to written questions. The situation was then clouded when later in the month the ILEA withdrew all its proposals for London due to an offer made by a developer to purchase the site of Westminster City School and rebuild a new school at Nine Elms. This would impact on the total London education plans.
Meanwhile the Parents’ Association continued to conduct a vigorous campaign against the merger proposal and complained vociferously that there had been a lack of proper consultation and the ILEA had not given satisfactory answers to reasonable questions. At the end of January 1971 the Parents Association presented a lengthy document to the governors, the ILEA and Patrick Hutton. The Headmaster also tabled a document that had come to him via his professional organisation in which it was stated that it was unlikely that the Secretary of State would approve any amalgamation that resulted in schools working in three separate buildings..
Patrick Hutton then began a campaign that sought support for the school’s cause and wrote to a number of M.P.s all of which were somewhat guarded in their replies other than promising to speak to Kenneth Baker MP whose constituency was St Marylebone. On June 17th 1971 the statutory Section 13 notices appeared in the press and parents were urged to write to their MPs, the Secretary of State and the press. The Old Philologians Association also conducted a public meeting at the Porchester Hall with Lord Avebury (Eric Lubbock) in the chair. The meeting was somewhat one sided as no representatives of the ILEA were present. Further action and other meetings took place but on August 17th 1971 the public notices expired and within a few days Margaret Thatcher, the Secretary of State for Education, had agreed three mergers in London but had turned down four. It was not until April 1972 that her decision to reject the ILEA’s plan was formally announced and her reasons for doing so.
The ILEA were not going to accept any decision contrary to their own views and in June 1972 they convened another meeting of head teachers in Divisions 1 and 2 to review the provision of secondary education. In the light of demographic changes with fewer pupils to educate, there were two alternatives to consider for SMGS. Under Plan A the school would cease to recruit in 1974 and in 1975 would close and the remaining pupils transferred to Rutherford School. Plan B envisaged an amalgamation by 1976 as a six-form entry school in the Rutherford premises. Again more meetings and consultations. The staff at Rutherford like that of SMGS rejected Plan A.
In 1973, Dr Briault, the Education Officer produced a report on the reorganisation of secondary education in north and north-west London, which broadly recommended that schools should be kept open despite smaller number of pupils and to accept smaller comprehensive schools. In the case of SMGS the proposal suggested that the amalgamation with Rutherford School go ahead with 900 pupils in years 1 to 5. In January 1974, an assistant Education Officer spoke to the staff and assured them that this amalgamation would not go ahead unless the building programme had been completed and that this would not be likely until September 1978. That was of course assuming that no building delays occurred or there was a lack of funds.
In March 1974, the General Election returned a Labour Government and Reg Prentice was appointed as the New Secretary of State for Education. At the September 1974 governors’ meeting, Peter Newsam, Deputy Education Officer, outlined the ILEA’s plans and the governors approved the proposed enlargement of the school as well as the transfer of admissions procedure from the head master to the Divisional Officer. They also approved the policy of recruiting two form groups per year for three years before the amalgamation in 1978. These last two items created some anger with the Parents’ Association in October 1974 and at one time considered legal action. Section 13 notices were eventually published in November 1974. The parents’ association published a glossy booklet entitled ‘St Marylebone Grammar invites your interest’. The only problem was when the first batch arrived the spelling was a little awry ‘St Marylebone Grammer ..... ’
Another public meeting took place in January 1975 at the Porchester Hall at which Ashley Bramall of the ILEA chose not to appear but he did send the Deputy Education Officer, Peter Newsam. His reason for non-attendance was that he did not wish to give the impression that the ILEA’s decision could be changed! The meeting was chaired by Professor Bruce Patterson, of London University’s Education Department, the parents’ opposition case was put by Anthony Taylor, and also present was Rory Hands, Headmaster of Chiswick School and also an Old Philologian. Incidentally, Rory Hands was President of the Old Philologians Association for a number of years. Reverting to the meeting Kenneth Baker MP for St Marylebone and Norman St. John Stevas, the Conservative shadow Education Secretary were also on the platform. The meeting concluded with passing the resolution that it was not satisfied that all of the proposed new site of the school was actually available, the school would be too large and that the spending of a million pounds with the destruction of two schools could not be justified. The campaign against the proposals became more intense and in some way suffered because it became identified by the press as a fight to save grammar schools in general. The minority of the school’s governors submitted their objection to the scheme as did the Parents’ group, who also backed their letter with a petition containing 6000 signatures. In addition, a statutory objection, as the law required, signed by ten local rate payers was sent to the Secretary of State. The signatures included amongst others :- Dr Martin Sullivan, Dean of St Paul’s, Professor Leonard Schapiro, three Members of Parliament, Sir Keith Joseph, Clement Freud, and John Pardoe, and Professor R.J. Ball (later Sir James Ball) Principal of the London Business College and an old boy of the school.
The pupils of the school organised a protest march from Lincoln’s Inn to the Department of Education and Science. This did not receive the press coverage that it deserved. In April 1975 another stalwart of the school, Harold Llewellyn Smith, whilst on holiday in France, died of a heart attack.
In May 1975, further consultations took place between the heads of Rutherford School and SMGS with officers from County Hall at which there was a large measure of agreement on the amalgamated school’s buidings and its organisation. In August, Fred Mulley, the Secretary of State approved the ILEA’s plans for the enlarged school which would accommodate 1100 pupils. In the September the governors accepted the Secretary of State’s decision for the new school by a majority of 7-3. However the Parents’ Association took a different line, after taking legal advice, of which the gist was that the Secretary of State could not validly approve the ILEA’s plans as they constituted a transfer of the school to a new site within the meaning of Section 16 of the Education Act and not significant enlargement of the school under Section 13 (2) of that Act. Therefore his approval was nul and void so to speak. Further reports were produced,, more consultations, and many ad hoc discussions but the outcome was in January 1976 the Parents’ Association took their case to the High Court. Mr Justice Goulding heard the case and the parents’ barrister was Anthony Lincoln Q.C. Basically the case was that the changes to the school were so fundamental that the school after its amalgamation would be a totally different school and the Secretary of State had used his powers of transfer improperly. Mr Justice Goulding found in favour of the parents insofar as granting them an interim injunction.
A meeting was then arranged between the parties, their legal representatives and the ILEA at which a report was tabled which gave as its conclusion the choice of either the parents withdrawing their objection or the ILEA would cease to fund the school. In fact a classic example of heads I win and tails you lose!
In June 1976 the proposal was formally made that the school would be closed at the end of the summer term of 1981 and that no further pupils would be admitted after the September 1976 intake. Again Section 13 notices would be issued and objections heard. There was a six month wait for the decision and on January 31st 1977 the new Secretary of State, Shirley Williams, announced her decision to approve the closure of the school. Kenneth Baker declared that this was the first case where a school was being closed for purely political reasons. The press pointedly reported that both Sir Ashley Bramall and Shirley Williams had chosen to have their children educated privately.
The matter was not finished as, in June 1977, the parents returned to the High Court arguing that the ILEA and the Secretary of State had exceeded their powers under the 1944 Education Act. After five days in court the parents were granted an interim injunction restraining the ILEA from implementing their proposals until a full trial was held. The ILEA said immediately that it would appeal. The appeal was heard in July before Lord Denning, Master of the Rolls, Lord Browne and Lord Lane. The ILEA’s appeal was upheld on the basis that if the case went to a full trial the parents were unlikely to win it. Lord Denning was very sympathetic to the parents’ case and remarked that “Search as I might - and it is not for the want of trying - I cannot find any misuse of power by the ILEA ...... the fate of the grammar school is sealed .... the school is under sentence of death .... a sentence pronounced by the ILEA and confirmed by the Minister of Education.” The ILEA as a final barb requested costs but the court ruled there would be no such order.
This situation left the school with three choices :
(1) To accept the decision and for the school to close in 1981
(2) The Parents’ Association to take their case a step further with an appeal possibly to the House of Lords
(3) To consider whether the school could seek independent status as had other schools.
If the ILEA ceased to maintain the school, as their ultimatum had threatened, then the premises and the school’s assets would revert to the governors of the school as trustees. The governors’ body was made up of five foundation governors and ten appointed by the ILEA. Under normal circumstances the ten ILEA representatives were allocated under a gentleman’s agreement in proportion to the political representation on the GLC (Greater London Council). At the last local election the Conservative party had increased its representation but had not won control of the GLC, which would have meant that six Labour governors and four Conservative governors would have been appointed. Therefore the Labour governors would have lost their overall majority on the school’s governing board. This might have resulted in the governors deciding to pursue independent status for the school using the school’s assets as a form of collateral. Sir Ashley Bramall admitted that the ILEA decided to break the aforementioned gentleman’s agreement by appointing eight Labour governors to prevent this occurring.
In March 1978, Patrick Hutton, the Headmaster announced his intention to resign, as he had been appointed to the headship of Wolverhampton Grammar School, but still felt that something could be done to save the school. The something that was on the table was independent status and a feasibility study was presented by Arnold Gentry, the representative of the Old Philologians, which included reports from legal and financial experts and assessments of need from the heads of some London independent schools. This, if achieved, would restore the school’s position to what it had been prior to 1908 when the London County Council had taken control over the school. This feasibility study was countered by a different one by Alec Grant that argued that under Section 9 of the 1944 Education Act the school could not be conducted as a voluntary school unless it was maintained by the Authority. Further as it would become a fee paying school this would change significantly its character. At the next governors’ meeting an eight to six vote saw all the school’s assets transferred to the ILEA.
Following Patrick Hutton’s departure Roy Mansell was appointed Headmaster who proved to be a very popular choice.
Forest Green camp had its own charitable status with different trustees. They had a far simpler task. Three schools were invited to spend a week at the camp and if interested to submit proposals as to how they would use it if it were transferred to them. After consideration and a submission to the Charity Commission it was agreed to transfer the benefit of Forest Green camp to William Ellis School. In 1983 the charity changed its name to the St Marylebone Camp of William Ellis School. The Charity continues to own Forest Green camp, now known as "the Mill" and through their good offices the Old Philologians have a reunion there each year. The Mill is used throughout the year, principally by William Ellis School, but also by an increasing number of other schools and youth groups.
The school’s buildings had been valued by Richard Ellis, property consultants, and offers for the main building were in the order of £250,000 and an offer by the ILEA was received for the Science block for £500,000. The leasehold for the main building was bought back by St Bartholomew’s Hospital for £250,000.
By June 1981 the school’s activities, after the examinations were completed, were wound down. Other schools were invited to come and remove any items that could be of use to them. As Ted McNeal wrote, it was rather like a swarm of locusts descending and anything that was not screwed down disappeared.
The last week for the school had a full programme for every evening. On the Monday there was a service of thanksgiving in the Parish Church. On the Tuesday a drama evening which both the staff and boys performed. The parents threw a party on the Wednesday at which several hundred guests attended and suitable presentations were made to both Roy Mansell and Ted McNeal. On the Thursday a musical evening took place at which no doubt the benevolent shadow of Philip Wayne looked down and applauded. On the last day, Friday, there was a Final Assembly at which around seventy boys were present. After the boys departed there was normally a special lunch for the staff at which goodbyes were said to those leaving. The lunch was held as usual but this time no farewell speeches as all were leaving.
In 2003, following the sale of the premises Abercorn School now occupy the old part of the school building and in March 2004 the Old Philologians Annual General Meeting was held there. It was interesting to see that a number of old photographs and paintings were on display and it is hoped that this will continue to be the venue for future AGMs.
Former pupils include Jerome K. Jerome, author of Three Men in a Boat, Patrick O’Brian, then known as Richard Patrick Russ, author of the Napoleonic naval novels, Len Deighton, and Benny Green the broadcaster, cricket afficionado and jazz musician,. On the sporting scene English rugby football international V.S.J. Harding, Association Football star John Barnes, Middlesex and England cricketer J.S.E. Price and Mike Lindsay, Olympic field athlete. In the performing arts field feature Bertram Mills, the circus proprietor and seventies pop idol Adam Ant. In other fields can be included William Willett the inventor of British Summer time and Ian Travis Smith DSO the Commanding Officer of the Tornado Squadron during the Gulf War. The school also has had its Knights of the Realm and its fair proportion of ne’er-do-wells.
This is an abbreviated history of the school poorly paraphrased from E.G.B. McNeal’s two part history of St Marylebone Grammar School. I acknowledge with thanks his kindness in allowing me to so mangle his elegant text and hope that anyone who has had the patience to read as far as this will purchase his other books on St Marylebone Grammar School details of which and an order form are elsewhere on this website.
Ted McNeal was a Master at the school from 1952-1981 and at the closure of the school in 1981 was Deputy Headmaster.
Another school history can be found by clicking on this link. Another School History