Alumni News

Princethorpe College Applauds Old Princethorpian And England Great Ian Bell MBE As He Announces His Retirement

Old Princethorpian, Warwickshire and former England batsman Ian Bell, MBE, has announced his retirement from professional cricket. His decision brings to a close an outstanding 22-year professional career.

Over the course of his career Ian has had a wealth of achievements to his name, he helped his home county Warwickshire win six trophies and during his 11 years as an England player, he won five Ashes series, played 118 Tests and scored 22 Test centuries. He now intends to pursue a coaching career.

Ian who attended the College in the 1990s is remembered well by all at Princethorpe College and especially by former Director of Sport, Gwilym Price, MBE, who commented, "I know I speak for many others when I say that it was a true pleasure and privilege to teach and support Ian throughout his time at Princethorpe. It was a special moment when he and his family approached me about joining the College. He was already a promising sportsman but had shown a huge talent in the game of cricket having being involved with Warwickshire at the tender age of 10 and had set his sights on playing at the very highest levels.... it proved to be his destiny!"

He continued, "Like many youngsters arriving at the College he offered levels of play that enhanced our team performances, and he was always an inspiration to the aspiring players around him, setting a good example with both his work ethic and good sportsmanship. Ian proved that to reach your true potential you must show discipline, determination, dedication and an emotional maturity. He always impressed me with the way he handled success, how he encouraged those around him both on and off the field of play and how he became a respected player at all levels. It has been of no great surprise to anyone that Ian has received huge worldwide plaudits from fellow international players, coaches, managers, media and fans (even the opposition too) at the announcement of his retirement. The praise for his remarkable talents as a batsman and fielder and for his wonderful personal qualities is well deserved. Quite simply he is one of England’s ‘greats’ and a true servant and legend in the game. I know that the next chapter in his life as a coach or manager will be equally as successful and I look forward to following his contribution to the further development of the game. Thank you so much Ian, for being such a great ambassador for Princethorpe College, Warwickshire and England too! Being a true Princethorpian we are so proud of all you have achieved so far and we wish you every success in the exciting years to come."

Headmaster, Ed Hester, added, "It will be the ambition of many schoolchildren to represent their school, the county and even their country in their favourite sport. Old Princethorpian Ian Bell did this and more. A test batting average of 42.3 (anything over 40 is truly special) and a major contributor to five Ashes victories is remarkable, but for many, including myself, it will be the style and finesse with which he scored his runs which makes him a true great of the game. Ian Bell made batting look easy, but what many will not appreciate is the hard, hard work that he put in behind the scenes to achieve his successes. As a teenager, he was found in the Princethorpe College Sports Hall one Christmas Day in the nets facing a bowling machine – having wangled the key off one of the staff. One small example of the dedication and commitment that helped him to success. Ian scored the last 90 of his 20,440 first-class runs last week. He will be sorely missed by all his fans but I hope will continue to work within the game. We offer our congratulations and best wishes for the future from all of us here at Princethorpe."

Ian last visited the Foundation in June 2019 when he ran a masterclass for Crackley Hall’s young cricketers. It was a unique opportunity to be coached by the England and Warwickshire cricketing legend and we were grateful for the generosity and patience he offered the awestruck boys. His focus on the basics and attention to detail was obvious to all and will no doubt stand him in good stead in his new coaching career.

Princethorpe College applauds you Ian, we are proud of you and all your achievements and wish you the very best with your future career.

(Ian Bell is pictured here with Gwilym Price presenting him with his Ashes shirt)

The Princethorpe Connect Community Just Keeps On Growing

Since the last edition of the Old Princethorpian newsletter, Princethorpe Connect, the Foundation’s online alumni community, has continued to grow. In June the mebership topped the milestone of 500 online members and it was OP Melissa Scott who won the 500 members prize draw.

Melissa, who left Princethorpe in 2016, joined PC Connect towards the end of May and we randomly selected her from the last 100 members to join. Since leaving Princethorpe Melissa has completed a Law degree at the University of Leicester in 2019 and is now in the process of doing her Legal Practice Course (LPC) combined with an MSc in Law and Business in Birmingham.

Then in September the alumni community reached another milestone when it hit the 600 members marker. The community's 600th member was no other than Fr Teddy O’Brien MSC and we were delighted to present him with a bottle of brandy which he was very pleased to receive! 

Aimed at past pupils, past parents and former staff, Princethorpe Connect allows the Foundation's alumni to find and network with old friends and former colleagues from across the Foundation schools and to keep up with all the news and events.

The College is keen to re-engage with all former pupils, parents and staff so please do encourage those you know to register. They can do this easily themselves by going online to and you never know they might be the lucky winners in our next membership prize draw.

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Princethorpe Offers A Virtual Heritage Open Day Tour

On Sunday 13 September Princethorpe was delighted to take part in this year's Heritage Open Day, England’s biggest heritage and culture festival.

It's a popular date in the calendar and the College always enjoys opening its doors to the local community and over the years has had hundreds of visitors attend. This year, however, because of the social distancing restrictions, Princethorpe decided to offer a virtual interactive Google 360˚ Heritage Day Tour instead.

The Heritage Open Day virtual tour included 13 different scenes of Princethorpe, with each scene combining a 360˚ photo with either narrated or written information. Visitors were able to explore the chapel and take a behind the scenes look at what was once St. Mary’s Priory. It included the quintessential Quad that has featured in BBC period productions, the stunning stained glass in what is now the Library, the nuns’ final resting place in the Roundhouse, the hidden secrets of Little Switzerland and so much more.

It was a rare opportunity to get under the skin of one of Warwickshire’s iconic landmarks. Whether you attended the school, are a history enthusiast or have just always wanted to visit, it was a fascinating insight into the history of the school.

Many thanks to the Foundation’s Archivist, Janette Ratcliffe, and to Assistant Head, Alex Darkes, for putting together the interactive tour.

The tour has been very popular with over 650 views so far and the great news is, that even if you missed Heritage Open Day this year, you can still take the tour yourself, just visit

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Its Back To School In Style For OP Nigel Bromley

Old Princethorpian and former parent, Nigel Bromley returned to Princethorpe on Monday 7 September to reaffirm his long-standing connections to the school. Pictured here with Assistant Head, Alex Darkes, a fellow self-confessed ‘petrolhead’, and his one-time Form Tutor and Physics Teacher, Nigel brought with him a very special car.

The immaculate Voodoo Blue Lotus Evora GT410 Sport drew many admiring glances as it roared up the College drive.

Nigel, who still lives locally, landed his dream job as Head of Brand Marketing at Lotus Cars in January this year. A role that combines his love of all things ‘motor’ with over two decades of experience in the automotive and creative industries. He attended Princethorpe College back in the eighties and credits the school’s formative role in developing the skills and interests that led him to a career in the demanding world of advertising and design.

He enjoyed his time at Princethorpe so much that he chose to send his daughter, Grace, to the school and over the years has contributed to the Princethorpe community in many different ways. Whether leading sessions at the College’s Careers Fair, supporting the school's Bursary Fund activities or just taking part in the school’s annual Motoring Festival, Nigel has always kept his old school close to his heart.

Comments Nigel, “My time at Princethorpe was hugely influential, the ideas, the energy, the empathy that my teachers taught me, were the stepping stones to my career today. They are the backbone of the Princethorpe community and why I love coming back and am always delighted to be able to support the College.”

Nigel is just one of many connections the College has to the car industry, situated as it is right in the heartlands of the UK automotive industry. Earlier this year we welcomed former parent and CEO at Lotus Cars, Phil Popham, alongside world-famous British Jaguar car designer, Ian Callum CBE, to the school to meet with Design and Technology pupils.

Another Lotus connection is former Managing Director Derek Waelend whose sons, James and Mark, were pupils at Princethorpe College in the nineteen-nineties.

Other notable automotive industry names include former parent, Mike Loasby, who was Director of Product Engineering at DeLorean in Northern Ireland, his two sons, Jonathan and Simon also attended the College until the mid-nineteen-eighties. Simon has followed in his father’s automotive footsteps and is now Head of Hyundai Styling Group, based in this country.

Many current parents continue to work within the automotive industry today and the College also supports industry initiatives, including hosting the regional heat of the Jaguar Primary School Challenge, working with local schools to inspire the next generation of engineers.

Alex was delighted to welcome his former pupil and fellow ‘motor’ enthusiast back to school and even more so to have the opportunity to sit in the Lotus Evora. He commented, “Many thanks to Nigel for bringing the Lotus in today. It was a real treat and it was great to catch up and swap stories. His appointment at Lotus is well deserved, it is always inspiring for us to hear of our pupils’ successes, even though he still owes me some Physics homework from 1982!”

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An International Gathering For Virtual VSOP Reunion

On Saturday 12 September, we held the biennial (virtual) reunion for the former pupils of St Mary’s Priory, who were at school here at Princethorpe prior to 1966 and are known to us as VSOPs (Very Special Old Princethorpians). It was our first ever virtual reunion – hosted on Zoom – and we were joined by 14 former pupils who were all at school here in the 1950s and 1960s.

It was a truly international gathering, with former pupils joining the call from as far afield as Miami, Pennsylvania and Dinklage in Germany. Hosted by Assistant Head, Alex Darkes, they enjoyed two hours of reminiscing, a virtual school tour, a look into Princethorpe’s archives, a Princethorpe-themed quiz, and a special Mass led by Fr Teddy O’Brien MSC from the Princethorpe Chapel.

It was a fascinating session and as always, we enjoyed hearing stories and facts from Princethorpe’s past. The event was so well-received that we will be hosting future VSOPs reunions in a hybrid format – to allow those who can’t be there in person to join us as well.

Assistant Head, Alex Darkes, said, "Princethorpe friendships continue to be strengthened and renewed. Our Very Special Old Princethorpians (VSOPs) express enormous enthusiasm for their school days at the Priory. Their stories help us to fill in missing pieces of the jigsaw and the VSOPs are also keen to celebrate the College’s ongoing success, we have 920 pupils in 2020 compared with only 60 back in the 1960s. This is all so fascinating for me, having spent nearly 49 years of my life here, as a pupil and as a member of staff! Sadly, because of Covid, this year the reunion had to be virtual, but it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good – four of our attendees were from overseas this year and there is no way that they could have journeyed to be with us in person at Princethorpe. With this in mind, we are already busy planning a hybrid event for next year."

We have rescheduled the in-person meet up to next year, on Saturday 11 September 2021, and we hope to see many of our wonderful VSOPs again then.

Keeping In Touch Survey Provides Fascinating Feedback

Over the summer of 2020 the Foundation conducted its largest ever keep-in-touch initiative with the schools' alumni community. The email survey circulated included a variety of questions on topics such as our alumni communications, the types of events we organise and even the choice of OP merchandise available. The survey results have made fascinating reading and will allow the Foundation to align its activities with the needs of our alumni community.

The results overwhelmingly showed that former pupils feel that Princethorpe has had a significant impact on their lives and that reunions were what people most look forward to. It also showed that the OP e-newsletter is very well read and that our alumni are fascinated by the work of the archivist in recording the schools’ long histories.

In summary:

  • Nearly 500 responses
  • 70% of responses were from former pupils, with the rest being from former parents, former staff and others
  • Most (but not all!) former pupils remembered which House they were in – 95%
  • The sector/industry in which most OPs work is surprisingly education
  • 90% of respondents have either a moderate or high level of interest in Princethorpe
  • Two thirds of respondents have been to a Princethorpe event in the last five years
  • The majority of respondents said that Princethorpe has been significantly important in their/their families lives
  • Reunions and special events (such as Balls) are amongst the most popular types of event people would like to see in the future
  • A Spirit of Family: The First Fifty Years of Princethorpe College book is the most popular item of merchandise, if you haven’t already be sure to purchase your copy online here.

All the responses to the survey were entered into a prize draw and OP Phil Thompson was the lucky winner. As his prize Phil received an Amazon voucher.

Phil was delighted when we contacted him with the news and we asked him for an update.

He said, “I was at Princethorpe a long time ago back in 1974 and have fond memories. I was more arty than academic, and more cheeky than geeky. I was very sporty though and loved cricket, hockey, football and athletics.  I now own a big hair salon in Bath called BA1 Hair. You are all very welcome to come and see us! You can find us here: I love my work and my family. I’m married and am lucky to have three gorgeous children, one grandchild and a fluffy dog called Harry.”

Congratulations go to Phil and huge thanks to everyone who completed the survey. It was great to hear from you all.

St Joseph's One Time Teacher Sister Felicity Retires

We were fascinated to read a Shropshire Star news report on the one time St Joseph’s teacher Sister Felicity.

It announced that Sister Felicity, the head at St Winefride's Independent School in Shrewsbury, for 36 years had taken her last register and was finally retiring.

Originally from Cork, Sister Felicity left St Joseph’s to go to Shrewsbury in 1984 having been appointed head of the school by the Sisters of Mercy. She had originally qualified as a teacher in 1964 and taught in Swansea as well as Kenilworth, before finally taking up her role as Head of St Winefride's.

Foundation Archivist, Janette Ratcliffe, told us, “Sister Felicity appears to have taught the Transition class/Juniors at St Joseph’s from at least 1978 (she may have been there earlier but I haven’t got anything to prove it) until 1984 when she went to her new role in Shrewsbury. In the Crackley Hall 70th anniversary memories Sister Felicity was mentioned specifically by Emma Hughes and noted as being very kind."

You can read the Shropshire Star report here and Janette would welcome any information or memories of Sister Felicity from our St Joseph's alumni to add to our collections. You can contact her on

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OP Friendly Faces Helps The Next Generation Of OPs

Since A-level results day in August we have been busy matching the Upper Sixth leavers of 2020 with OP Friendly Faces across the UK, this year 11 freshers at universities ranging from Oxford to York and Bristol to Liverpool are benefiting from the scheme. 

OP Friendly Faces aims to link past pupils established at university with first year OP students. Providing a friendly, familiar face to (socially distant) meet up with over a coffee (compliments of the OPs) or having someone to call in their new uni town or city, does, we know, make for a smoother experience in those first few weeks away from home. 

It has been a difficult start to the term for all students, as many institutions have cancelled freshers' week and are delivering a large proportion of their lectures and tutorials on line.

Comments OPs Secretary, Melanie Butler, "We are delighted that we have been able to match up more of our leavers with OP Friendly Faces. Providing a friendly face to meet up with over a coffee (compliments of the OPs) or having someone to call in their new uni town or city will, especially in these socially distanced times, make for a smoother experience in their first few months away from home."



OP Summer Video Replaced Annual Supper Reunion

Every summer, towards the end of the Trinity Term, we host our Summer Supper Reunion, warmly welcoming Old Princethorpians back to the College. We always enjoy catching up with all their news and reminiscing over times gone by. This year we were particularly looking forward to meeting OP leavers from the Classes of 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010 as they celebrated their 50th, 40th, 30th, 20th and 10th anniversaries respectively.

Sadly because of the continuing COVID-19 restrictions we had to postpone this year’s Summer Supper Reunion. Instead, we put together a special video compilation. It included, a welcome by the OP Chairman, Peter Rollason, a virtual tour of the College and its grounds, a selection of archive photography from the anniversary years and a special guest appearance by Princethorpe legend, Alex Darkes.

Commented, OP Chairman, Peter Rollason, “We hope to rearrange the event or to have a ‘Super Summer Supper Reunion’ next year including the leavers with a 0 and a 1 in their leaving year. In the meantime, I know that all OPs will enjoy the video compilation and the chance to revisit the College from the comfort of their own homes.”

You can watch the video here:

Work Experience Available For Computer Science Graduate

David Lomas, a Princethorpe parent and great friend of the College, is on the lookout for a recent Computer Science graduate who would be interested in some work experience.

Head of Computer Science, Adam Depledge, put David in touch with recent OP Sam Wycherley (Class of 2020) and Sam has been completing some short term coding projects for David before he heads off to university in January.

David explains, “Sam’s help has been great but we have a number of different pieces of work, growing in complexity from a very simple data analysis script (just reading text output from some logs and calculating summary values, etc.), through to a pretty complex application. We've also got a web development project which might need to be in PHP. Then one of our most pressing jobs is to update a 'project management simulation game' which actually runs inside a 3D VR-type environment. The simulation code is relatively complex, and it has to integrate with the 3D system (which is not built in Python, but has an API). We're very much interested in finding someone with experience to work on these sorts ofprojects. I would be happy to talk to anyone who thinks they could help.”

If you would be interested in finding out more about these opportunities please do email and we will put you in touch with David.

OP Merchandise - The Perfect Christmas Gift!

Stuck for Christmas present ideas for the OPs in your life? Look no further as items from the OP range of merchandise make the ideal gift for Christmas, birthdays or anniversaries!

Popular items include:

  • Socks with the distinctive Tower design on dark blue background with thin diagonal stripe - priced £9.00 + postage
  • A university style scarf (in 100% wool with navy blue, red and gold stripes) - priced  £31 + postage
  • T-bar cufflinks with a gold Tower design - priced £26 + postage
  • The Old Princethorpian tie. A classic 100% silk tie with a repetitive gold Tower design and thin red diagonal stripes on a dark blue background - priced £19 + postage and packing.
  • Tower pin badge. The 2cm high badge in nickel with recessed metal detail is based on the Tower logo - priced £11 + postage
  • A Spirit Of Family: The First Fifty Years Of Princethorpe College - produced to mark the College's Golden Jubilee this beautiful keepsake is a relflection on the first fifty years of Princethorpe College written by Nick Baker and Alex Darkes, it was published on 1 September 2016 - priced £21 + postage.

Stocks are now available to order online from Princethorpe Connect, please click here, or alternatively email Old Princethorpians.

New to our shop this autumn are fine art prints and cards of a new painting by local artist, Debbie McLaughlin - The Soaring Redbrick Tower. For more information please the separate article in this edition here.

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