Alumni News

A Very Warm Welcome To Fernham For The VSOPs

A small group of former St Mary’s Priory Old Girls, or VSOPs as we like to call them, received a very warm welcome when they visited the former convent of the Benedictine nuns in Fernham, over the recent Bank Holiday weekend.

The community of 33 nuns, led by Mère Benedict, moved to Fernham in 1966 after they sold the estate at Princethorpe to the MSCs for £160,000. Over the years they extended the property to include a Chapel and additional nuns’ cells, but as the property became too large for their needs, the decision came to sell the property and around 2003 the remaining sisters joined various other communities, including Minster Abbey in Ramsgate, Benedictine Abbey in Chester, Oulton Abbey in Staffordshire and Boarbank Hall in Cumbria. We are delighted to keep in touch with Srs Mary Bernard OSB, Mary Catherine OSB, Mary Lucy OSB and Mary Stephen OSB.

The house, still named St Mary’s Priory, has undergone significant changes since the nuns were in residence and is now the family home of well-known impressionist Rory Bremner and his talented sculptor wife, Tessa Campbell Fraser. The Bremners could not have been more welcoming and friendly and were delighted to show the group around the grounds, the nuns’ graveyard (where 24 of the nuns are buried) and inside their beautiful property.

With its private setting and wonderful views over the Vale of the White Horse, the party, some of whom had visited during the nuns’ tenure, could easily understand why the house had appealed so much to the community all those years ago and what a wrench it must have been when the time came to leave.

Over coffee and cake outside in the sunshine, the group who had been taught by the nuns during the 50s and 60s, reminisced about their experiences and swapped stories with the Bremners, whose current postman used to deliver to the nuns.

After thank yous and farewells, the visit organised by Foundation Assistant Head, Alex Darkes, was rounded off with a delicious pub lunch nearby.

The party comprised, Biddy Allen (whose father, Princethorpe home farm bailiff, Lewis Baines had helped the nuns find the property and moved them in 1966), sisters Mary Holgate and Liz Hughes, Marianne Horne, Judy Povey and Mary Wheildon. Supported by Loretta Curtis (Princethorpe), Alex Darkes (Princethorpe) and Melanie Butler (Old Princethorpians Secretary, Princethorpe).

Comments Alex Darkes, “This was very much something of a highlight for me. Meeting our VSOPs from the days of St Mary’s Priory always enables us to add more pieces to the Princethorpe jig-saw puzzle. These past pupils hold very dear the Princethorpe ethos and friendships as we do and this was a marvellous opportunity to enjoy a reunion with the wonderful hospitality of the Bremners, in a house which is still central to the Princethorpe story.”

The day was very much enjoyed by the VSOPs:

Marianne Horne, said, "Thank you very much for arranging the outing to Fernham on Saturday. It was a most enjoyable day - the Bremners were so hospitable and the weather was perfect."

Liz Hughes, added, "Many thanks for organising our trip to Fernham. It was such a great day - far beyond the expectations of any of us I’m sure." 

Mary Holgate, agreed, " Thank you all so very much for organising our visit to St Mary’s Priory last Saturday. It was really interesting to see the house and garden and we had such a welcome from Rory and Tessa. We were also very blessed with such good weather."

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OP Clemmie's Dance Troupe Wows Britain's Got Talent Judges

Many congratulations to OP Clemmie Milnes, her fellow directors and students at the Born to Perform Dance School.

Fans of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent will have seen Born to Perform’s amazing audition last Saturday which earned them a golden buzzer and a ticket through to the live Semi-Finals. Dancing to Hairspray’s You Can’t Stop The Beat, the troupe of young performers aged 14 to 24 absolutely wowed the judges with their performance.

Born to Perform is an inclusive dance and performing arts school specialising in disability and SEND, based in Northampton. The sessions the school runs aim to improve its students’ confidence, communication and overall mental and physical wellbeing.

One of three directors at the dance school, Clemmie, who left Princethorpe in 2008, has worked in the Performing Arts industry for over 12 years. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Choreography, specialising in Contemporary Dance and also worked towards a Master’s Degree in 'Drama and Movement Therapy' whilst studying at the Royal Central School for Speech and Drama in London. Whilst there she worked on placements within the SEN sector and found her passion for bringing the best out of people with disabilities with her unique and personalised approach.

Comments Clemmie, “We are overwhelmed with pride for our students and school! It’s a huge achievement and the group are working endlessly now on their semi–final piece.”

We wish them all the best and can’t wait to see them dance again!

To watch Born to Perform's audition click here.

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College Honours Boards Updated

What with all that has been going on, it has been several years since the school’s Honours Boards have been updated, but that changed over the Easter holidays when the names of recent Heads of School, Deputy Heads of School and the Games Captains were added.

Situated in the Refectory, the Honours Boards celebrate the achievements of students past and present and are a grand sight along the walls watching over generations of pupils as they make their way through the school.

In the gallery we have included photos of all the Boards from the 60s to the present day in the Refectory and on the Main Corridor – can you spot your name in lights?

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New London Club On Princethorpe Connect

We have just launched a London Club on Princethorpe Connect giving our London based OPs the opportunity to network, build contacts, find opportunities, socialise and meet others. There is always a good turnout for our London OP meets as we have a thriving community of Old Princethorpians living and working in the capital city.

We would be particularly interested in hearing from any London based OP who is interested in joining the OPs Committee, even virtually, in order to help us organise our London event and be a link person for anyone new to London.

The London club joins our club groups for Old Princethorpians in Hong Kong, USA and North America and Spain.

If you would like to join one of these Clubs, visit Princethorpe Connect, go to Clubs and click Join Now, then get connecting with your fellow Club members and share your news!

If you would like us to set up a Club for your group please let us know by emailing

The Bluebells Are In Bloom

Springtime is the season for wildflowers and here at Princethorpe that always means bluebells. The bright violet-blue perennials carpet the woodlands around the College site every year from late April to late May. They are at their best now, so we had to share a few pictures for you all to enjoy.

For many of our Old Princethorpians the bluebells are a reminder of their time at Princethorpe, and we hope that they enjoy the photos. It's always a joy to see them bloom and, as always, they look just magical.

If you would like to see them in person there's still time to do so, simply click here to sign up for our OPs Bluebells and Brunch event on Saturday 14 May.

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Foundation Bursar And OP Eddie Tolcher Donates Beech Trees

Foundation Bursar and OP, Eddie Tolcher, took time out of his busy schedule on Tuesday 29 March, to plant two new beech trees. Helped by Foundation Grounds Manager, Edd Robertson, the five-year-old trees were soon in the ground ready to be watered in.

The trees are replacements for two that Eddie originally helped to plant nearly fifty years ago when he was a pupil at Princethorpe College.

Running along the Coventry Road on the College’s sports field, the row of 10 beech trees were planted back in 1973 and 1974 by former Biology Teacher Richard Whittle and pupils attending the College at the time. They were part of the British Government sponsored scheme, ‘Plant A Tree In ‘73’, that encouraged the population to plant trees to replace loses across the country from a virulent new strain of Dutch Elm disease.

Eddie said, “Over the years I have watched these trees mature and always taken great pleasure from the sight of them. I wanted to replace the two that hadn’t survived and was delighted to personally donate the cost of purchasing the new trees. I hope they give future generations of pupils just as much pleasure as they have always given me.”

75th Anniversary Celebrations A Great Success!

Former pupils of St Joseph’s Convent School were welcomed back to St Joseph’s Park in Kenilworth on Saturday 19 March, some two years later than originally planned, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the founding of a school on the site.

Now known as Crackley Hall School, the current Headmaster, Rob Duigan, and staff and pupils from Years 5 and 6 were on hand to help celebrate the anniversary.

The Open House was well-attended with pupils and teachers from across the generations including former Headmistresses Sr Philomena Bowers and Lesley Cox, and teachers Maureen Hazelwood, Rachel Taylor and Brigitte Wood, whom old pupils were delighted to see. While many of the visitors were local, a number travelled from afar including Mary Taylor, née Darby, who had made the journey from Spain to attend.

On their arrival the guests were treated to a performance by Crackley Hall’s talented Chamber Choir in the new school hall. They sang a series of specially prepared pieces to an appreciative audience and provided a magnificent start to the morning. The visitors were able to admire the beautiful stained-glass window and ceiling boss relocated from the original school Chapel. Then, Mr Duigan welcomed them formally speaking of the long history of the school and its ethos that remains to today, nurtured by the latest generation of staff and pupils. Father Kevin Hooper then led the gathered guests in a celebratory St Joseph’s Day Mass to give thanks for the anniversary.

With the formalities over and the sun shining, visitors headed outside to the top lawn where a group photograph was taken. They were then invited to explore the site. Crackley Hall’s young pupils were on hand to guide the guests and throughout the school the classrooms were filled with displays, and there were whole school photos and honours boards displayed on the corridor walls to the delight of visitors. There was also a display of memorabilia from the Foundation’s archives and many were delighted to see old school magazines and other treasures from the past. Refreshments were laid on in the dining hall offering a perfect opportunity to sit and reminisce.

Feedback on the day has been extremely positive with visitors commenting:

“It was lovely to see the old haunts and also the new buildings. The schoolchildren were so polite and confident and delightfully enthusiastic when we went on our tour - a credit to the school. All the staff we met were so welcoming and any initial nerves I might have had about ‘going back to school’ were immediately dispelled.“

“Two young ladies and one young gentleman showed me round your warm and busy school and pointed out their favourite classrooms and best artwork.  I enjoyed my tour very much, and it was heartening to hear my guides enthusiasm and supportive comments. Thank you too, to you and Mr Duigan for taking the time to host and organise the event. 75 years is a splendid milestone.”

Our sincere thanks go to all the current staff, pupils and parents who contributed to the celebrations and also to all the past pupils and teachers who attended and made the event such a great success. We do hope they enjoyed their walk down memory lane and look forward to welcoming them in 2025 when the school will celebrate its 80th Anniversary!

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Our Popular OP Local Meet Returned

Our annual local meet took place in Rugby on Friday 4 March.

We had a good turnout for our first face to face Local OPs Meet at Inside the 22 in Rugby.

A lovely mix of OPs from across the generations attended plus a sprinkling of Old Crescentians for good measure.

All enjoyed great company, delicious tapas and a drink or two, courtesy of the OPs Committee.

It was great to see everyone and we are delighted to finally be able to return to our normal schedule of events.

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The Latest News From Princethorpe Connect

Princethorpe Connect, the Foundation's online alumni community portal, was launched back in the summer of 2019 and some three years later now has over 1000 members. Aimed at past pupils, past parents and former staff, Princethorpe Connect enables you to find and network with old friends and former colleagues from across the Foundation schools and keep up with news and events.

Princethorpe Connect is an exclusive social network for those in the Princethorpe community, giving us all the chance to share news and stories, photographs, connect with old friends, send and receive individual or group messages with other alumni, sign up for Old Princethorpians and Development events, pay for tickets, make a donation, order merchandise through our online shop, and access exclusive content such as behind-the-scenes and archive photographs.

Over recent months we have been developing the portal to meet the needs of our growing alumni community. The news pages have had an overhaul with new sub-sections added to allow our alumni to find the news stories that interest them the most. As well as Top Stories and Most Read, there are now news sections dedicated to Old Princethorpian News, Foundation Archive news, School News, Events News, Support Us News, Old Crescentians News, Old St Joseph’s News and even Landscape and Nature News. We are also working on an In Memoriam News section as well as a section on our regular OP Interviews.

There is also a new Publications section which can be found on the main site tabs. In recent years we have introduced annual reviews for all the schools and electronic copies are now available within the Publications tab. Over the years they will build into a wonderful collection providing a lovely memento of school life. Within the Publications tab you can also find copies of the recent anniversary reviews the Foundation has produced.

We have more plans too, such as a new videos section to add to the Photo Galleries so do take a look at Princethorpe Connect. Your membership brings with it many benefits, in addition to the termly OP e-newsletter including the latest news and events, you can also view private photo galleries, connect with other online members and access our Careers and Networking pages.

Why not have a quick look at what Princethorpe Connect has to offer here.

Winner Of Princethorpe Connect Easter Prize Draw Announced

Congratulations go to OP Lizzie Watson (Class of 2018) who was randomly selected as our Easter Princethorpe Connect Prize Draw winner.

A host of chocolate treats were dispatched to her in time for the Easter weekend.

We touched base with Lizzie to let her know of her win and this is what she had to say.

“I am absolutely delighted to have won the Easter hamper and can’t thank Princethorpe enough! After finishing Sixth Form in 2018, I went on to study Automotive and Transport Design at Coventry University where I achieved a 2:1 and graduated in May 2021.

Within three weeks of finishing my degree I packed my bags and moved to London to start a job at Savills Head Office within the client services team. I have been in the role almost a year, creating relationships with clients and colleagues while dealing with the craziness of the property market - which hasn’t stopped!

Having built up my LinkedIn network, I was recently offered a new role within Savills as a Prime Sales Assistant within the St John’s Wood Team, which I start on Monday 11 April. I look forward to keeping in touch with all those at Princethorpe.“

We now know who to contact when we need a new home in London and wish Lizzie all the very best with her new role!

Alumni Merchandise - Gifts For Everyone

Stuck for a gift idea for the OPs in your life? Look no further as items from our alumni range of merchandise make the perfect present for birthdays, anniversaries or even just for yourself!

If you are looking for a gift with a difference you could consider sponsoring a Brick, Paver or Element in the new Science Centre click here for more details.

Other popular items on our online shop 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.
  • Zani hats and neadbands - priced £18 and £15 respectively + postage
  • 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.
  • The Soaring Redbrick Tower Fine Art prints and cards sized at A2 for £40, A3 for £25 and as an A5 greetings card for £3. 
  • St. Joseph's Convent and School Fine Art print for £12.

Stocks are available to order online from Princethorpe Connect, please click here.


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Looking Forward To Crackley Hall And St Joseph's Diamond Anniversary Gala Ball

As part of the school’s postponed 75th Anniversary celebrations we are looking forward to Crackley Hall and St Joseph's Convent School's Diamond Anniversary Gala Ball on the evening of Saturday 14 May 2022.

This event was originally scheduled for March 2020 but due to the outbreak of COVID-19, it was postponed. Two years later we are pleased to be able to host the event at Crackley Hall to celebrate this milestone. The event will give past pupils, current and former parents and staff the perfect opportunity to celebrate the school’s success and rich history.

The Gables will be transformed into a party venue for the occasion and guests will enjoy a red-carpet welcome, champagne and canapes, a delicious hot gala buffet, with a choice of desserts, cheese and tea and coffee, followed by speeches and live music and dancing. There will be a pay bar with the facility to pre-order drinks. The fun will kick off with a reception at 7.00pm and carriages will be at midnight.

Heading up the evening’s entertainment will be Revolver, a versatile five piece Midlands-based band who perform classic rock and pop covers from the 50s to the present day.

The dress code for the evening will be black tie and the equivalent for ladies.

It's going to be a wonderful event and we look forward to sharing photos from the evening with you in the next edition of the OP e-newsletter!


OP Friendly Faces Gears Up To Help The Next Generation Of OPs

Our OP Friendly Faces scheme aims to link new first year university students to past OP pupils already established at university. Providing a friendly, familiar face to 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.

We have just contacted our current Upper Sixth with more information, to introduce them to the OP Friendly Faces scheme and to the benefits of joining Princethorpe Connect and the Old Princethorpians Association.

Comments OPs Secretary, Melanie Butler, "We have OP Friendly Faces in around 30 university towns and cities now and would like to expand on that this year and get more of our leavers matched up for the next academic year."

We are always on the look out for OPs at University who would be happy to be a friendly face so if you think you could help then do please email