Welcome to the thirty-sixth issue of The Old Princethorpian, the Princethorpe Foundation's termly e-newsletter for past pupils, staff and parents, old and new and 'Happy New Year' to all our alumni celebrating in Hong Kong and the Far East this weekend.

Our newsletter aims to keep the Foundation's alumni in touch with each other and with news, developments and events across the Foundation. This issue includes the latest Foundation and College news, updates from OPs across the decades and news from some of the Foundation's legacy schools.

If you have any comments on the e-newsletter or news to contribute to the next issue, which will be published in early May, please email us at oldprincethorpians@princethorpe.co.uk.

In the diary we have our our local Pub Meet at Inside the 22, in Rugby, on Friday 14 May, and we are very much hoping that this event can go ahead.

Stay safe and stay in touch this spring and we hope to see many of you at events later in the year.


Alumni News

Fr Teddy O'Brien MSC Goes High-Tech With Virtual Mass

Fr Teddy O’Brien MSC, Director of Boarders in the 1970s and currently the Parish Priest at St Anne’s, Wappenbury was delighted when so many OPs were able to join him virtually for the Christmas Eve Mass.

Never willingly giving up an opportunity to keep in contact with any OPs, Fr Teddy enlisted the help of the College IT and maintenance teams to set up the College Chapel for the Mass. Pews were re-arranged to be socially distanced and Covid secure and IT equipment and wide-angle webcam were positioned to best advantage. It was disappointing not to have the Chapel full for the celebration. However, parishioners who had reserved a seat in good time were able to participate.

Looking forward to the season of Lent, Fr Teddy has prepared a calendar of virtual events. If you would like to keep up to date with the parish the Weekly Bulletin can be found at https://stanneswappenbury.wordpress.com/weekly-bulletin/

Fr Teddy also celebrates a virtual Mass every day from the Prayer Room at St Anne’s at 9.30am via Facebook. You can also use the link fb.me/stanneswappenbury to take part.

Fr Teddy sends best wishes to all the OPs and looks forward to offering everyone Mass in the College Chapel as soon as it is safe to do so.


Princethorpe Reconnects With Old Friends In Hong Kong And The Far East

On Tuesday 17 November the Old Princethorpians Association hosted a virtual reunion for former pupils from Hong Kong and the Far East. Joined by Princethorpe College Headmaster Ed Hester, former Headmaster Father Alan Whelan MSC, former Director of Boarders Father Teddy O’Brien MSC, former Director of Boarders and long-serving and much loved teacher Sean Philpott and lifelong Princethorpian and teacher Alex Darkes – the virtual reunion included Mass from the Princethorpe Chapel, a virtual tour of the school, a Quiz and a delve into the Princethorpe archives.

The evening began with a welcome from the Headmaster and from Alan Young, who heads up Old Princethorpians in Hong Kong. We were joined on the call by OPs from Hong Kong, mainland China, Singapore, Cambodia and Australia, as well as the staff team dialling in from a drizzly and overcast Princethorpe College.

Alex Darkes’ Princethorpe Quiz proved a hilarious highlight – with the unofficial prize being announced as an all-expenses paid afternoon tea courtesy of and in the company of Sean Philpott (presumably post-COVID restrictions!).

Old Princethorpians excitedly shared their news and caught up – with many telling of their lifelong and lasting friendships from their time at Princethorpe.

Melanie Butler, Old Princethorpians’ Secretary said, “The reunion was a wonderful chance to catch up with our friends from Hong Kong and the Far East again. The warmth of feeling towards their former teachers and the school, after all these years is testament to the experiences and friendships they made here. It was a pleasure for us to organise and the many messages of appreciation and thanks we’ve received from the attendees have been a real delight.”

Here are just some of the comments received:

“Thank you all for a treasurable evening. It never ceases to amaze me that much of the school grounds remain so familiar after all these years. Thanks for bringing this nostalgia to life for us.”

“Many thanks for hosting today’s virtual reunion. I look forward to visiting Princethorpe when I am next in the UK.”

“Thanks to Alex for the virtual tour, especially the store room in the Tower, it brought back many memories of the band practices we had there!”

“What a lovely catch up, thanks to all you guys who organised it. The Princethorpe spirit at its best!”

“Thank you everyone, wonderful chatting on Zoom with you all, it certainly brings back some fond memories. Never thought I would attend Mass at Princethorpe again!”

OP Jordan King Gives Sixth Formers An Insight Into His Life In Motorsport

Professional racing driver, Jordan King, returned to his old school, Princethorpe College, on Thursday 14 January. It was a virtual visit, because of the lockdown, but the welcome Sixth Form students and staff gave Jordan was just as warm.

Jordan attended Princethorpe’s Sixth Form and left the College back in 2012 to pursue a career in motor racing, a sport that he said ‘has put a smile on my face’ from the day he first sat in a go-kart at Mr Karting on Harbury Lane, just south of Leamington Spa.

Jordan’s talent and indefatigable drive have taken him from Karting through Formula 3, on to GP2, then IndyCar, World Endurance and the heights of the Indy 500 and Le Mans. An incredible career for a 26-year-old.

Interviewed by College top motor sport fan, Head of Maths, Sharon McBride, who could scarcely contain her excitement, Jordan spoke to Sixth Formers and staff about his life in the competitive world of motor racing. He answered questions with generosity and candour and his anecdotes helped students understand the preparation, practice, determination and resilience required to be so successful in his chosen sport.

Jordan spoke about the importance of the wider racing team, a close-knit community who work alongside him and the hard work and attention to detail that goes in to preparing cars and drivers for a race. He explained his work ethic, how he ‘always wanted to forge his own career’, how ‘his life is his work’ and ‘the days are long but thoroughly enjoyable’. He also talked about the fitness and endurance required to compete at this elite level and about how he manages mentally with the dangers drivers face.

Jordan clearly enjoyed his enthusiastic audience and the questions that came thick and fast, commenting, “It was really great to reconnect with Princethorpe, I am still in touch with many of the friends that I made there. The teachers were always supportive and friendly and I enjoyed all the subjects I studied but I particularly enjoyed the sport – it appealed to my competitive nature. I remember Mr McCollin once asking me ‘Do you play tennis?’ and when I replied yes, he said, ‘Great you’re in the team’ and that was it, off I went to Warwick to play in a match!”

Our thanks go to Jordan for such an informative session and for answering our students’ questions. The College has many connections with the automotive industry. Last term Head of Brand Marketing at Lotus Cars and OP, Nigel Bromley visited the school, and last year we welcomed the CEO of Lotus Cars and former parent, Phil Popham, together with world-famous British Jaguar car designer, Ian Callum CBE. Such visitors are great role models for our students, inspiring and encouraging our young people to follow their dreams.

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OP Jonathan Gullis Speaks To Sixth Formers About His Journey To Becoming An MP

Old Princethorpian Jonathan Gullis MP joined us virtually on Friday 3 December to talk to Sixth Form students about his journey to becoming a Member of Parliament. From the inspiration of his former History teacher, Dr Simon Peaple, through his experiences as a local councillor and then on to the process of selection and finally election success, his talk gave an interesting insight into the ambition, dedication and hard work required to achieve his ‘dream’.

Jonathan also took time to answer Sixth Form Politics students’ questions, gamely facing our very own trainee Paxmans with fortitude. A whole range of topics were discussed from the ‘levelling up’ agenda so important to his own constituency, to the COVID tiers, the impact of COVID on the parliamentary process, the impact of the party whip on democracy, mental health, who his favourite Prime Minister was and lastly his own plans for the future.

Politics and History Teacher, Abi Adams, said, “Huge thanks go to Jonathan for taking the time to speak to the students and for sharing his fascinating insights into the work of a politician. It was such a good session that we ran out of time before we ran out of questions.”

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In Remembrance of St Joseph's Convent School, Kenilworth Facebook Group

St Joseph’s Convent School is one of the legacy schools of the Princethorpe Foundation and is much beloved by its former pupils. St Joseph’s was a girls’ school that catered for pupils across both the Primary and Secondary age, and it has a long history with its origins going back to the nineteenth century. After losing their Coventry home in the Second World War the community was offered Crackley Hall by Lieutenant Colonel Cyril Davenport Siddeley, and in January 1945 St Joseph’s Convent and School moved to Kenilworth.

St Joseph’s merged with Princethorpe College in 2001 forming the Warwickshire Catholic School’s Foundation and the older girls moved across to the Princethorpe site. St Joseph’s focused on Nursery to Year 6 pupils and became co-educational and in 2004 the school was renamed Crackley Hall, reflecting the original heritage of the school site.

The In Remembrance of St Joseph's Convent School, Kenilworth Facebook Group was formed in May 2007 as a place to remember St Joe’s. Originally intended only to enable a reunion between the 1993 leavers the Facebook Group has grown over the years and at the start of the year hit the milestone of 700 members.

Community admin Kathy, commented on Facebook

“As we welcome our 700th member tonight I'm reflecting that this group was originally created around 13 years ago to simply enable a reunion of our year group (1993 leavers) and to share the loss of The Gables and senior school. One after another of us added someone from a close year and now, here we are today. Over the years I've been pleased to reconnect as old friends joined and absolutely amazed to see old girls here from as far back as the 1940s. It's been a real gift to see your photos and read your memories. Thank you so much for sharing.”

The Facebook group provides the St Joseph’s alumni community a place to remember and celebrate their school’s heritage. Members include teachers and parents as well as old pupils. It also offers our Foundation archivist Janette Ratcliffe a super source of information for her work to preserve the history of all the legacy schools.

New members are most welcome and you can find the Facebook group here. The group is private but anyone with a connection to the school can join, you just have to complete a few questions first.

Kathy continues, “In the last few years we have been getting requests from children of ex-pupils and staff wanting information and memories of their parents. I am fascinated by their stories but realise that we actually now hold a significant archive of photographs. I believe that we should offer more information about the history of St Jo’s, and have contacted the Foundation Archivist to see if we can work collaboratively.”

It really is fantastic to have such a strong source of history for this much beloved school. Do please share details of the Facebook group with anyone you know who may be interested in joining the community.

College Artists Recognised In Prestigious ISA Regional Art Competition

Recent Upper Sixth leavers, Dominic Turner-Burr and Sebastian Lloyd-Thomas have been awarded prizes in the Independent Schools’ Association’s prestigious Midlands Regional Art Competition.

Dominic’s winning work, titled Fighting Back, was part of his A-level portfolio. It took first place in the Key Stage 5 Photography category. His striking image explores the challenge of managing the negativity that people experience in their daily lives. It depicts how using numbers and codes helps people to identify and label different coping strategies.

Sebastian’s stunning painting, Interpreting The Signs took second place in the Key Stage 5 3D Class. Sebastian investigated ‘Vanitas’, still-life paintings including symbolic objects designed to remind the viewer of their mortality. Building on his studies his work comments on the world in the wake of COVID.

Princethorpe College Head of Art, Paul Hubball, applauded the prize winners, “These results reflect the depth of talent we have within our school. This year we were limited to only one entry per category, so we were especially pleased that two of the four works we submitted received a prize.”

Dominic’s work has gone forward to the ISA National Art Competition, the judging for which takes place this month.

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OPs To Play A Central Role In College Careers Fair 2021

The College's Careers Fair 2021 will provide a ‘one stop careers shop’ thanks in part to the support of the Old Princethorpian network.

The event, postponed from last year, and now taking place virtually, will take place on the morning of Saturday 20 March.  Current parent, Dr Charlotte Cowie, Head of Medicine at the Football Association, has kindly agreed to be the keynote speaker and a host of careers and professions will be represented.

Comments Head of Careers, Jacqui Quinney, "We have had a great response from Old Princethorpians, who alongside our parents are forming the backbone to the Fair. We have some speakers from previous events who have kindly agreed to speak again and new speakers helping us for the first time.”

Thanks to the many OPs involved including Liam Jarrett, Dan Lane, Nigel Bromley, Joel Stephenson, Laura O'Hanlon, Lucy Williams (née Coulson) and Tom Cross. 

There will also be a number of universities speaking who will be providing ideas and advice.

Headmaster, Ed Hester comments, "We are really indebted to all the OPs who have volunteered their time and energy to make the Careers Fair a success for our current Year 10 to Sixth Form pupils and their parents."

If you would be interesting in helping with future Careers events, please email jacquiquinney@princethorpe.co.uk.

OP Friendly Faces Support The Next Generation Of OPs

Despite the restrictions of the pandemic we were delighted to be able to introduce ten new students to an OP Friendly Face during the Michaelmas Term. In universities across the country, including Liverpool and Bristol, the students enjoyed the benefits of a friendly face whilst settling into their first year.

The scheme links past pupils established at university with first year OP students. 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. So we are looking to get more OP Friendly Faces on board to widen the support network of OPs in universities across the country for the leavers of 2021.

Many of our current Upper Sixth are receiving offers and will shortly be choosing their first and second choice destinations, so it would be good to know soon who is willing to give them on the ground advice and tips. We are hoping that many of those who were helped last year will be prepared to be a Friendly Face this year, and that many of those already signed up to help will also be prepared to continue.

Comments OPs Secretary, Melanie Butler, " We now have OP Friendly Faces in around 35 university towns and cities and would like to expand on that again this year so we can get more of our leavers matched up for the new academic year."

If you are interested in becoming an OP Friendly Faces for this year's Upper Sixth leavers please email oldprincethorpians@princethorpe.co.uk.



The Princethorpe Connect Community Just Keeps On Growing

Princethorpe Connect, the Foundation’s online alumni community, now has 687 members and we are hoping it won't be long before we hit the 700 membership milestone and can hold another membership milestone prize draw!

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 Foundation's news and events. 

The Foundation is keen to re-engage with all former pupils, parents and staff from all of the Foundation's legacy schools so please do encourage those you know to register. They can do this easily themselves by going online to connect.princethorpe.co.uk and you never know they might be the lucky winners in our next membership milestone prize draw!

New Mentoring Platform For OPs Goes On-Line

A new mentoring platform, has gone online within Princethorpe Connect. The platform allows Old Princethorpians to connect with other alumni and the wider Princethorpe Community to network and seek professional advice.

The mentoring platform currently features over 150 featured mentors who are happy to provide advice to others in the Princethorpe Community. Those looking for a mentor can search based on industry area or employer and send a mentoring request through the platform.

We hope the mentoring platform will be of help to recent Old Princethorpians, but also to those already established in their careers who are looking to expand their professional network.

The mentoring platform is free to use and you can find out more here.

New App For Princethorpe Connect

The Foundation has developed a new app for Princethorpe Connect. It is available to download from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for iOS and Android devices and brings all of the features of Princethorpe Connect to your smartphone or tablet.

You can connect with old friends, share your news, sign-up to events and receive updates from Old Princethorpians. For now, you will already need to have an Online Profile to use the app and sign in. You can register for a profile through the main website here: https://connect.princethorpe.co.uk/

Version 2 of the app is being rolled out early in 2021 and which will include new features such as: registration through the app and integrated online payment options (for events, donations and the online shop).

To download simply search ‘Princethorpe’ in the search bar of the App Store or Google Play Store to download to your device. The app is brand-new and although it has been thoroughly tested, please do report any user issues to oldprincethorpians@princethorpe.co.uk.

College News

Oxbridge Offers For High-Flying Princethorpe Sixth Formers

Four Princethorpe College Sixth Form students are thrilled to have received offers for places at Oxford and Cambridge University.

Deputy Head Girl, Lauren Mason, will be reading Natural Sciences at Selwyn College, Cambridge, Deputy Head Girl, Grace McGrory, will be reading Law at Pembroke College, Oxford, Deputy Head Boy, James Gallagher, will be reading Law at The Queen’s College, Oxford and former Deputy Head Girl, Hannah Porter, will be reading History at Trinity College, Oxford.

Oxbridge places are highly oversubscribed and increasingly competitive, so these talented students will have faced a tough selection process consisting of pre-tests, intensive scrutiny of their academic and personal achievements and rigorous interviews.

Their success is not achieved without a great deal of hard work from the students, as well as hours of dedicated support and encouragement from their teachers, parents and even former students, who have provided individual guidance and support over the past few months. Our thanks go to amongst others, OP James Fletcher who is currently studying at Oxford who supported James' preparations.

Princethorpe College Head of Sixth Form, Ben Collie, commented, “These four students have earned this success. During their time at Princethorpe College they have applied themselves to their academic studies and to developing themselves as confident and mature young people. Applying to Oxbridge is an extremely rigorous and character-testing experience that seems to get tougher every year.  We were delighted to support them with their applications and are exceptionally proud of their achievement.”

We are very proud of these talented young people and of all our Upper Sixth students applying to study at University next year, the majority of whom have now received offers through the UCAS system.

Prize Giving Performances By The College Orchestra And Choir

This year’s Prize Giving featured two stunning performances by Princethorpe’s talented musicians. The Orchestra performed Earth by Hans Zimmer while the Choir sang Seize The Day from the musical Newsies.

Music making in the Michaelmas term involved rehearsing in year group bubbles and then recording performances at home. The dedication shown by the College’s musicians was inspirational, especially as it was balanced alongside a full-time school curriculum. Once recorded all the audio mixing and video editing to pull the pieces together was carried out by Director of Music, Gil Cowlishaw.

Earth by Hans Zimmer was composed just last year and is a celebration of the amazing planet we all live on. The background footage that accompanies the orchestra’s performance is taken from the International Space Centre and is freely available from the NASA website.  Combined with a slow zoom into Princethorpe, courtesy of Google Earth, it provides a fitting backdrop and gives a real sense of perspective to Princethorpe’s place in the wider world, even if it is a huge part of our pupil’s lives.

You can watch Earth performed by Princethorpe’s Orchestra here.

Seize The Day was chosen for its lyrical themes ‘Wrongs will be righted/If we’re united/Let us seize the day’, composed by Alan Menken, it is a really uplifting song for what is always an uplifting occasion.

You can watch the Choir perform Seize The Day here.

Restoration Work Begun On Old Woodland Walk

The Grounds team are in the process of restoring and revitalising an old woodland path known as the Nut Walk. Running along the back of the Orchard wall, the overgrown path originates from Princethorpe’s days as a Priory and connects the sports field entrance to Mile Walk to the car park by the Grounds shed.

Such was the dilapidated state of the path, that very few of Princethorpe’s current pupils and staff would have ever thought that there was ever a path there but as our very own Mr Princethorpe, Assistant Head, Development, Alex Darkes, reveals, “When I was here as a pupil (1968-75) the Nut Walk was less overgrown and made a diversion from the Mile Walk as another place to explore! The Nut Walk hugged the back of the Orchard wall from the Games field side and was bordered by a ditch. I recall seeing hazelnuts, with their distinctive husks, no doubt the reason for its name. My strongest memory is of the carcass of an old black car which was close to the Orchard wall and well hidden by the undergrowth. It might have been a Standard or even a Hillman, I remember that it had a ‘wind out windscreen’ for ventilation. Even in 1968 the car was in a pretty forlorn state. It must have pre-dated Princethorpe College and it was always a bit of a mystery as to how it got there, as the nuns were incredibly orderly in terms of looking after the place.”

So far, the Grounds team have been hard at work clearing away the undergrowth, brambles and other invasive species with Grounds Assistant, Alan Husband, spending many long hours cutting the ivy ready for it all to be pulled off. The team have now begun the process of re-establishing the path. They have discovered old roses and even uncovered the remains of the old car! The team are aiming to have completed their work by the end of February, so hopefully once we all return to school the lost path will nearly be ready to explore. It will be wonderful to see its mysteries revealed once again.

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Progress Update On Plans For The New College Science Centre

It’s been a few months since our last update on the Science Centre, and we wanted to let you know how things are progressing.

All the preparatory planning for the building is now nearing completion, including the detailed technical design of the building and the Bill of Quantities. This means that the project will be ready to go forward to tender, the stage where we appoint the main building contractor, as soon as we judge the time to be right.

Of course, it will come as no surprise that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has, inevitably, meant that we are taking time to consider the financial situation, as well as seeking expert advice on when it would be best to advance the project to the tendering stage.

The good news is that we anticipate that our Trustees will be in a position to finalise the timeline for the Science Centre build within the next 12 months.

Comments Headmaster, Ed Hester, "We remain totally committed to the project and are very excited about the campus-wide benefits it will bring. The additional time we now have will allow us to firm up plans for other improvements, including enhanced dining facilities, new department homes for Art, Economics, Business Studies and Geography and the removal of the last portacabins."

We will continue to keep you updated on the project over the coming months. If you want to read more about our plans for the new Science Centre and other campus developments, further information is available on our Science+ Campaign webpage.

Princethorpe Sixth Former Stan Brocklebank Awarded Prestigious Arkwright Scholarship

Princethorpe Lower Sixth Former, Stan Brocklebank has been awarded an Arkwright Engineering Scholarship. The accolade, which comes from The Smallpeice Trust, the UK’s leading STEM Education Charity, is the most prestigious scholarship of its type in the UK. The scholarships support high calibre students while they study for their A-levels, inspiring and encouraging them to pursue careers in the fields of engineering, computing and technical design.

The scholarships are awarded to students through a rigorous selection process, Head of Design and Technology, Paul Scopes, explains, “The Arkwright Scholarship is for talented Year 11 pupils who are interested in a career in Engineering. Pupils are nominated by their teachers, and submit an application focused on their engineering activities, interests and future plans. Applicants then take a two-hour examination where their problem-solving skills and engineering potential are put to the test and if successful they attend a rigorous interview at University. Pupils must be studying Design Technology and must plan to take Maths at A-level. Last year the College nominated five pupils, and Stan and, former Year 11 pupil, Carys Burchell were both successful and awarded scholarships. This was the first time the College had participated in the scheme and as these scholarships are really tough to get, we are very pleased to have two awarded in the first year.”

Paul continues, “Stan is currently studying A-level DT, Maths and Physics. He has always stood out as a focused and talented engineer. He has been a member of the College’s Robotics team, competing in Holland and Italy where he took a leading role as well as mentoring younger pupils. He was appointed DT Subject Leader in Year 10. His GCSE DT project was a new suspension set up for Autograss race cars and he completed it to an excellent standard. He has a bright future ahead of him in engineering and it really is a pleasure to teach him.”

Those lucky enough to be awarded a scholarship, receive a financial award and the support of a mentor who works with them throughout their time in Sixth Form. They are also given the opportunity to take part in courses and events for Arkwright Scholars. They benefit from networking opportunities with like-minded students, gain confidence and knowledge in their subjects and often relevant work experience. They are ideally positioned to pursue Engineering, Computing or Technical Design at university or a higher-level apprenticeship before moving into industry to progress their career.

On receiving the news, Stan said, “These scholarships are one of a kind for people who are young and aspiring engineers, there is nothing to lose going for one of these awards and the rewards are incredible.”

Stan plans to go on to study Automotive Engineering at university, and is hoping to then work in the Automotive industry, he would like to work for a World Rallycross team.

He continued, “The most challenging part of the application was the online part where you described yourself and your out of school interests in engineering. I had so much to talk about and I needed to be succinct. I felt really pleased and proud when I heard the news that I had received an award.”

Head of Sixth Form, Ben Collie, comments, “Arkwright Scholarships are highly sought after as they provide exceptional support. Pupils who successfully obtain an award have access to unparalleled opportunities. Arkwright Engineering Scholars achieve excellent academic success and are known to make enviable career progress. Stan has done incredibly well to receive this accolade and we congratulate him on his success.”

More information on the Arkwright Scholarship is available at www.arkwright.org.uk


Princethorpe Sixth Former Narrates Local History Documentary

Princethorpe College Upper Sixth Former, Charlotte Fitzpatrick, is one of a small number of local school pupils selected to narrate Leamington History Group's latest video Leamington’s Victorian Legacy that was released on Friday 23 October.

A sequel to their first video: Birth of a Spa Town, the film tells the story of Leamington’s development during the second half of the 19th Century.

Charlotte is the opening narrator and features alongside local experts telling the story of Leamington's development.

She said, “I decided to audition for the Leamington History Group documentary because I love learning about the history of places and I also like performing, so I thought that I might make a good candidate for a narrator for the documentary. I was asked to read two extracts in a Zoom audition with the maker of the film, Mark Ellis, and was delighted to find out that I was one of three local students selected to take part. At the end of September, I received the full script and then went into the recording studio to record my part.”

Charlotte, who is studying Maths, English and Drama and Theatre Studies at A-level, has made an excellent job of the narration, delivering her lines in a confident and informative manner.

The video is now available to watch on Leamington History Group's website https://leamingtonhistory.co.uk/ and gives a fascinating insight into the history of the town.

College Prize Giving Celebrates Pupils’ Exceptional Achievements

Another exceptional year of achievement, progress, creativity and contribution was celebrated at Princethorpe College’s annual Prize Giving Ceremony on Friday 20 November. This year the ceremony took place virtually, with the Class of 2020, their parents, staff and friends of the College coming together through Zoom.

Hosted by Headmaster, Ed Hester, members of the community from 165 locations logged on to join in the celebrations. Before the ceremony started, Peter Rollason, Chair of the Old Princethorpians Committee welcomed the newest OPs sharing his insights into the support the network can provide.

In his formal address the Headmaster, Ed Hester, gave thanks to all those who make Princethorpe the special place it is. In this year of all years his warm words paid tribute to all that is done by so many in support of the College, underpinning the success stories of all the Upper Sixth leavers and not just those who received prizes on the evening.

The atmosphere all evening was joyful and celebratory and there were superb musical interludes from the school Orchestra, who, accompanied by stunning graphics, performed a mesmerising rendition of Earth and the school choir who inspirationally sang the very appropriate Seize The Day.

Then it was time for the presentation of the awards. Listening to the citations was truly inspiring and humbling. The talent in evidence, the grit and determination, the passion, enthusiasm and commitment were all applauded and honoured.

Finally, we came to the main award, the Princethorpe Shield, the oldest and most prestigious College award presented annually to the student who is seen to embody the spirit and ethos of the College in many facets of their school life.  It was a very popular decision, with the audience cheering a delighted and surprised Katie Shorten who was thrilled to receive the Shield.

Then to close the proceedings current Head Girl, Abbie O’Carroll-Bailey, and Head Boy, Jack Neale, gave an eloquent vote of thanks before the evening finally came to an end with the enthusiastic singing of the College Hymn, Here I Am Lord by the online assembled throng.

The full list of Prize Winners can be found in the Prize Giving Programme here.

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2019/20 Tower Review

The latest edition of the College’s magazine, The Tower Review, was published just before Christmas.

It tells the story of the school year, term by term, reflecting on the whole host of activities, achievements and successes that pupils from Year 7 through to Upper Sixth took part in.  It includes highlights such as Prize Giving and the College production as well as reviews of sporting events, House competitions and school trips. 

2019/20 was an incredible year, one like no other in the College's long history, and yet there were many wonderful and memorable moments to reflect on.

The magazine was mailed to current parents and the Leavers of 2020 during the Christmas holidays, you can download a copy here and if you would also like to receive a hard copy then please email marketing@princethorpe.co.uk with your name and address.

Development News

Are You Interested In Two Weeks Paid Work At Easter?

Calling all recent leavers - you could earn £500 this Easter working at home for Princethorpe College.

In April we’re running a two-week telephone campaign, calling alumni and current parents, to raise funds for our new Science Centre and for our bursaries programme and we’re looking for 13 callers to help us.

This is a great opportunity for you to earn some money whilst being able to work remotely in a professional fundraising role. As well as a great rate of pay of £8.81 per hour (including holiday pay) there are also the following benefits:

  • Two-week commitment only (6 – 20 April, coinciding with Easter holidays)
  • You can work from home or your student accommodation
  • No previous experience required, full training (paid) will be provided
  • Evening work only on weekdays, full days with one-hour breaks on Saturdays and Sundays. Two full days off during the campaign.
  • Prizes for excellent results
  • Great for bolstering CV/LinkedIn experience
  • Working in a professional fundraising role

If you are interested in the role and have further questions please feel free to contact chrislee@princethorpe.co.uk 

You can apply for the role here.


New Fine Art Print Of Princethorpe’s Tower Goes On Sale

Fine art prints of a new painting by Debbie McLaughlin - The Soaring Redbrick Tower - are now available to buy from the Princethorpe Connect online shop.

Local artist Debbie has a long association with the College having worked closely with the Marketing Department on all its design work for the past 14 years.

The new painting, completed during the lockdown, is in the artist’s favoured urban sketching style and depicts the famous Princethorpe tower and the main reception entrance to Princethorpe College.

Debbie grew up in the small village of Offchurch and has been drawing from an early age. She always wanted to have a career in the creative industry and went to Exeter College of Art & Design to do a degree in Graphic Design. Although she also loves painting portraits she started sketching her favourite subject, buildings, when she worked in London and always has pen and paper to hand in case she gets inspired.

Debbie told us, "I love architecture and buildings and like to give them character rather than producing a straight copy. Some weekends I gather up my pens and watercolours and meet up with the Oxford Urban Sketchers Group and we spend the day sketching buildings around the city. I was lucky enough to join the Hanoi Urban Sketchers group recently whilst on holiday and had a day sketching beautiful Vietnamese buildings. I run my own business, Dam Design Creative, and enjoy working with the Marketing Department at Princethorpe College, I really feel part of the team. When driving up to meetings at Princethorpe I have always been in awe of the beautiful soaring tower, so was thrilled to have the chance to paint it."

The high-quality, fine art giclée prints have been reproduced from the original painting using 11 lightfast inks to provide a gamut of colour and printed on 285gsm, 100% cotton rag white portrait paper.

Available in A3 and A2 sizes, they are supplied rolled in an 80mm postal tube, ready for framing. Individual A5 greetings cards with the same design are also available to buy.

This first run is strictly limited numbers, and they were popular Christmas presents, so please order early to avoid disappointment. A perfect gift for all Princethorpians, all profits from sales will support the Making A Difference at Princethorpe campaign.

Chris Lee, Development Director, comments:

"It’s been nearly 20 years since Princethorpe College last commissioned a painting of the building, and we thought it was the right time to commission a new artwork, which in itself could support Making A Difference at Princethorpe."

"Debbie’s painting is fabulous and really captures the spirit of Princethorpe in 2020. It’s very exciting that we’re able to offer fine art prints to the Princethorpe community."

"The prints and the cards would make perfect gifts for Christmas. The A3 print is almost identical to the original painting in size, but for those who want more of a statement piece, the A2 print really makes an impact. Scanned from the original painting in super-high resolution and reproduced using the giclée printing process, the result has been amazing. This initial run is strictly limited, so please do order early to avoid disappointment."

The A3 and A2 giclée prints and greetings card can be ordered online here. The A3 print is priced £25 (plus P&P), the A2 print is priced £40 (plus P&P) and greetings cards are available for £3 each (plus P&P).


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Foundation News

St Joseph's Covent School Print

Originally commissioned by St Joseph's Convent School in 1991 to give to Sister Philomena when she retired this print will shortly be available to order from the Princethorpe Connect Online Shop. 

It features the Convent building in the foreground and The Gables where the school was sited to the rear and is sure to bring back many memories of old pupils' time at school. 

The print will be priced at £15 including post and packing. 

It should be available from the shop by Monday 22 February, to visit the shop please click here:            connect.princethorpe.co.uk/shop


Crackley Hall School Adds An Extra Reception Class For September 2021

Crackley Hall School will be adding a second Reception class for pupils starting in September 2021 after seeing an increase in the demand for places at the popular Kenilworth Prep school. The new Reception class will enable more children to benefit from the school’s specialist tailored approach.

Applications for places in Reception in 2021 started early, with high levels of interest from parents with children at the school’s own nursery, Little Crackers, as well as other local nurseries.

Comments Headmaster, Rob Duigan, “We normally limit our intake in Reception to one class and grow the cohort into two classes per year group at a later stage, but we are already receiving high level of registrations so we have decided to offer a second Reception class in order to meet the demand. This will hopefully come as good news for prospective parents as pupils will enjoy smaller class sizes and Crackley’s proven approach to individual nurturing at the start of their school years.”

The school is hosting a Virtual Open Morning on Saturday 6 March 2021 from 10.30am to 11.30am when prospective families will be able to gain an insight into school life at Crackley Hall and the firm foundation we give our children for their future learning.

Parents who are interested in Reception for 2021 or in other Year Groups are encouraged to contact Jenny Vaughan, Admissions Secretary on 01926 514410 or by email admissions@crackleyhall.co.uk to discuss the admissions process.

Crackley Hall was rated excellent in every area in its last ISI inspection and is a Junior School of the Princethorpe Foundation.


Old Princethorpians' Events Calendar 2020-21

The OPs' events calendar offers plenty of opportunities for past pupils, former parents, staff and friends of the College and the Foundation schools to catch up.

This year some events are being run virtually, but the popular Pub Meets and Summer Reunion, are still booked to take place later in 2021 and we very much hope they will be able to go ahead.

All alumni, former staff and parents of Princethorpe College, St Bede's, St Mary's Priory, St Joseph's School, Crackley Hall, Abbotsford and Crescent School are welcome to participate in any or all of the events.

Click here to download the calendar or visit Princethorpe Connect to sign up to our new online alumni community and register your interest in our events.

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USA And North America OPs Virtual Reunion

Saturday 27 February 2021

Calling all Old Princethorpians in the USA and North America.

Don’t forget to register for our first ever OPs in the Americas Virtual Reunion that will be taking place on Saturday 27 February 2021.

Following the success of our Hong Kong and Far East Reunion we are now offering former pupils located in the United States and North America the chance to meet up and reconnect with their former school. OPs based elsewhere are also most welcome to join us too.

The reunion will commence with a Mass from the Princethorpe Chapel celebrated by Father Teddy O'Brien MSC, followed by an informal online get-together including a virtual tour of the College and campus, a fun Princethorpe themed quiz, a look at the archives and plenty of time to chat and reminisce.

The reunion will take place at:

18.00pm - 20.00pm GMT
10.00am - 12.00pm Pacific
12.00pm - 14.00pm Central
13.00pm - 15.00pm Eastern

OPS can find out more and register for the event on Princethorpe Connect here.

Please do share details of our Americas reunion with any Old Princethorpians you know now located across the pond!

A Zoom link will be sent out to registered attendees just prior to the event.  

We look forward to seeing you then!

OPs London Meet - To Be Rescheduled

Friday 5 March 2021

Due to the ongoing Covid restrictions, our Old Princethorpians' London Meet at French restaurant, Balthazar in Covent Garden on Friday 5 March unfortunately needs to be rescheduled to later in the year, we will advise as soon as we have got a new date to share with you.

Thank you for your understanding.

Crackley Hall School And Little Crackers Virtual Open Morning

Saturday 6 March 2021 - 10.30am to 11.30am 

On Saturday 6 March 2021 Crackley Hall School and Little Crackers Nursery are holding a Virtual Open Morning.

The event will begin with an address by the Headmaster, Rob Duigan, it will include some short, pre-recorded videos including a tour of the school, interviews with our pupils and an overview of the admissions process. The open morning will give prospective parents information on the education the school provides and on how Crackley Hall nurtures and supports its pupils to achieve great things.

The school has places available in Reception and Year 3 next year with some spaces in other years. The final deadline for applications is Friday 21 May 2021.

The nursery has recently undergone a refurbishment and places are currently available in our Badgers (Pre-school), Hedgehogs (3s) and Dormice (2s) age groups.

For more information and to register for the event please contact Admissions Secretary, Mrs Jenny Vaughan on 01926 514410 or email admissions@crackleyhall.co.uk.

Leaving A Legacy To Princethorpe College - Online Workshop

Friday 12 March - 2.00pm to 3.00pm

This online workshop led by Princethorpe’s Assistant Head (Development), Alex Darkes and Development Director, Chris Lee takes a closer look at leaving a legacy gift to Princethorpe College in your will.
Many people have big demands on their finances during their lifetime which may preclude them from making a gift. Supporting Princethorpe with a gift or a donation in a will is a very personal way of giving that can have a hugely positive impact on the College for future generations.
The workshop will outline the different sorts of legacies that you may wish to leave, how you may wish to go about this and give an insight into our bursaries scheme.
Anyone that makes a legacy pledge will be invited to join the Jules Chevalier Legacy Society – and we want to hear from you about what you would like out of a legacy club, and how we should approach this during the COVID-era. We also want to hear about your views on legacies and their appeal.
The meeting will be hosted on Zoom and log-in details will be emailed to those that sign-up.
There will also be time to ask questions at the end of the session. If you want to find our more about Legacy Giving at Princethorpe, please view our legacies webpage for more information.

You can register for this evernt here.

*The content of this workshop will be the same as the event ran in October 2020*

Crescent School Virtual Open Morning

Saturday 13 March 2021 - 10.30am to 11.30am

On Saturday 13 March Crescent School will be holding a Virtual Open Morning.

Hosted by Joe Thackway, Headmaster, the event will comprise some short pre-recorded videos, including a tour of the school. There will be the opportunity to listen to presentations by senior members of staff that will give an insight into different aspects of the education the school provides, how Crescent supports its pupils to achieve great things and the admissions process. There will also be the opportunity for parents to ask questions during the live event.

The school has availability in Reception and Year 1 for September 2021 entry, there is quite limited availability in other years, for details please speak to our Registrar, Helen Morley. The final deadline for applications is Friday 21 May 2021.

For more information and to register for the event please contact the Registrar, Mrs Helen Morley, on 01788 523851 or email admissions@crescentschool.co.uk.

Crackley Hall and St Joseph's School Livestream Mass

Friday 19 March 2021 - 11.00am

To mark St Joseph's Day on Friday 19 March, Crackley Hall School, formerly St Joseph's Convent School, is holding a Virtual St Joseph’s Day Mass.

Celebrated by Fr Kevin Hooper, the event will be live streamed and we cordially invite all former St Joseph's and Crackley Hall pupils and former staff to join us.

Back in December, Pope Francis announced that 2021 would be the year of St. Joseph, who is the patron saint of the school. So this year's Mass will be particularly special, and although we can't invite past pupils and former members of staff into school to help us celebrate, as we would normally do, we hope that by livestreaming the Mass our community will be able to join in the commemoration.

All are most welcome so please do sign up for the event on Princethorpe Connect

A link to the mass will be shared with all those registered shortly before the event takes place. 


Image courtesy of the Union of the Sisters of Mercy GB Archive 


OPs And Former Parents Brunch

Saturday 24 April 2021 - 10.30am - 12.30pm

If Covid restrictions allow we are looking forward to offering OPs and former parents the opportunity to visit the College and catch up over a croissant or two. As well enjoying a leisurely complimentary brunch (served until 12.00 noon) visitors will hopefully be able to watch the always exciting Saturday morning sports matches and take an optional tour of the school campus.  

OPs and parents will have spent a considerable amount of time at Princethorpe over the years, and may be missing their involvement in school life. The Old Princethorpians' Association organises the brunch as an opportunity for all to reconnect with both the College and each other in an informal, friendly environment.

If you would like to attend please register on Princethorpe Connect or RSVP with the number in your party and any special dietary requirements to oldprincethorpians@princethorpe.co.uk or call the OPs Secretary, Melanie Butler, on 01926 634284.




OPs Local Meet

Friday 14 May 2021 - 6.30pm to 10.30pm 

The OPs annual Local Meet will take place on Friday 14 May 2021 at Inside The 22, on Lawrence Sheriff Street, Rugby, CV22 5EJ.  

We hosted a very successful meet here in March 2020 with well over 50 OPs and Old Crescentians in attendance, including current and former members of staff.

The OPs Commitee will of course be laying on a delicious hot and cold buffet, so do let us know if you plan to attend either by registering at Princethorpe Connect or by emailing oldprincethorpians@princethorpe.co.uk so we can cater for you.

Partners and friends are most welcome. We look forward to seeing you there!

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Princethorpe College Summer Open Evening

Wednesday 9 June 2021 - 6.30pm - 8.30pm 

The College's annual Summer Open Evening will take place on Wednesday 9 June from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.  This event will be for prospective parents and pupils who are looking at entry to the College in September 2022 and beyond.

It will be an informal opportunity to look around the school and to meet members of staff and pupils. There will be activities in each department for children to participate in, and the Headmaster will also address visitors in the Chapel during the evening. Light refreshments will be available.

Do put the date in your diary.



OPs Summer Supper Reunion - Calling The Leavers Of 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001 And 2011

Friday 25 June 2021 - 6.00pm optional tour, 7.00pm drinks reception, 7.30pm supper

OPs who left the College in 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001 and 2011 (or those who were in the same year groups) are cordially invited back to the OPs annual Summer Supper on Friday 25 June to celebrate their respective 50th, 40th, 30th, 20th and 10th anniversaries of leaving.

Leavers of year groups ending in a 0, who missed out last year, and other year groups are also most welcome. 

Comments OPs Secretary, Melanie Butler, "We know many OPs are keener to come to these events if they can be sure of seeing some familiar faces.  By focusing on year groups ending in a 1 and a 0 we hope to get a critical mass of attendees, although OPs from other years will of course be welcome too!"

The Summer Supper is an established event in the OPs calendar, attracting a large number of OPs, former and current members of staff. The supper is preceded by an optional tour and drinks in the Quad. Every year the OPs recognise long-standing members of staff and say farewell to any staff leaving the College.

Numbers are limited to around 100 guests, so if you would like to attend please go to Princethorpe Connect or email oldprincethorpians@princethorpe.co.uk by Friday 11 June to reserve your place.

Old Princethorpian Interview

Ian Brown

Bit of background, where you live, what you do for a living:

As I write this personal summary we are at the start of ‘Lockdown 3’ which is a very uncertain period for all, I hope we can remain safe and healthy during this most difficult time. I’m fortunate to live in Chipping Campden in the North Cotswolds. The quality of life here is ‘English countryside’ at its best and there’s plenty going on, especially once we have navigated through Covid-19. I have been involved with an engineering/manufacturing company based near Leamington Spa for more than 30 years, 20 years as Sales Director and 3 years as Managing Director prior to becoming Deputy Chairman in 2019. It is possibly the nearest factory to Princethorpe, although I have previously worked in Newcastle and Bristol. The Company has a great ethos; being considerate to all, respectful and recognising ability, sounds familiar!


Not sure how it happened but 62

When were you at Princethorpe - years from and to?

I joined in the second year and left in L6 in 1976 when my parents moved back to Cheshire. I was in a year with a great cohort of friends many called Michael, so nicknames were commonplace. The pandemic has helped us reunite via Zoom (thanks Rollo!) and this has been a great opportunity for our year to regroup, several friends have been in touch with each other for years. I regret not staying in contact but look forward to meeting them all again in person, as and when we are allowed.

What was the school like in your day?

I have incredibly fond memories of Princethorpe. I was very keen on sport; rugby in the winter and athletics in the summer. The school encouraged me, especially teachers Mr Moroney and Mr Price. I perhaps didn’t have huge ability but the fact that I was quite tall for my age helped me excel for a while, especially in the line-out when playing rugby, then everyone caught up and I wasn’t the tall one! I was a dayboy travelling in from Kenilworth. The school seemed large and perhaps intimidating but get underneath it and that was far from the case, although a few of the teachers/priests were fairly formidable at times.

How did Princethorpe affect the person you are today?

My experience at Princethorpe was one of nurturing and encouraging the individual, although perhaps at the time I didn’t realise it. I hope that I am a considerate person who sees the best in all and every situation. Life can throw a few ‘hospital passes’ and we all have experiences that are not so easy but good education, friends and family can help through the tricky times. I am quite determined and resourceful and sure this is a product of both my schooldays as well as my family.

What advice would you give to your teenage self?

Don’t drive so fast would be one! I think like many who have reached 60+ there’s no need to rush through life, incredibly easy to say when you get older but just enjoy the moment that you are in. It’s Important to have ambition but remember there’s always someone else with a bigger boat. Be kind to all you meet, they have families and friends just like you.

Who or what has been the greatest influence on your life?

Naturally family are key to my happiness. My parents were very supportive when I was growing up and always seemed young and adventurous. I remember skiing holidays to Norway staying in a chalet and Scotland when we were in a caravan with very limited heating, character building I guess and predated school ski trips; Pertisau Austria being memorable. I have known my wife Karen since I was 22, almost 40 years and she has influenced most of my life. I was fortunate to meet her in Bristol and even more fortunate that we have been together ever since!

What keeps you awake at night?

The current situation is of concern but the good news is there is a vaccine and roll on Easter! We have 2 daughters and we are proud of them both, occasional sleepless nights regardless of their age whether 14 or as they are now 34 and 36!

What has been your proudest moment/greatest achievement so far?

Personally; 2 lovely daughters, 2 terrific sons-in-law and 4 grandchildren. Professionally; being part of a company that has developed to become a successful and market leading business.

What’s your biggest indulgence?

Well it’s nothing other than a possession, about 20 years ago I bought an Austin Healey 3000, a beast of a car which I sold too soon just before they virtually doubled in price! However my biggest indulgence, if I can include this, are our 4 grandchildren I’m happy to spoil them at any opportunity!

If you had to have one last meal, what would it be?

Food has so many memories and I think a fresh crab salad would do the trick for me as it would be the summer and eating it outside by the coast, a great positive thought whilst sitting here in the winter!

If you could be anywhere right now, where would it be and who would be with you?

If I was answering this question pre Covid-19 it would be in Mustique with friends, but now having hardly seen our family at all, I’d be more than happy for them to all visit us here in the Cotswolds and just catch up, that shows you what’s important doesn’t it!

Lasting memories of Princethorpe:

I’ve been proud to say that I attended Princethorpe and my parents made sacrifices to send me, I shall always be grateful to them. 

Are you in touch with any other Old Princethorpians, if so whom?

Peter Rollason has been a great friend for many years and more recently quite a few on Zoom the names will mean very little to the majority of readers but Yank, Nags, Robin, Ernie, Paddy, Harry, Locky, Anil, Clive, Steve, Richard, Dinu, Eric, Paul, Marc, Bill. I apologise for those I have missed, it can get a bit hectic on Zoom!

Is there anyone you would like to track down?

Robert Kedwards was a great friend and rugby playing buddy at school. He left Princethorpe to join Solihull sixth form college and I visited Solihull on several occasions, at the time they were the ‘bright lights’ especially having spent time at an all-boys school as Princethorpe was at the time

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Births, Deaths & Marriages

Oli And Anna Welcome Baby Joshua

We are delighted to share the news that Oli Kelly, a pupil at the College from 2002 to 2008, and his wife Anna welcomed their son, Joshua Jacob Kelly, at 3.11am on 17 January 2021. Joshua was born at Warwick Hospital, weighing in at 7lbs 6ozs.

Best wishes and congratulations to you all.





A Warm Welcome For Charles Luca Bradley

We were pleased to hear that Matt Bradley, a pupil at the College from 2002 to 2007, has a new baby son.

Matt writes, 'Hannah and I were delighted to welcome our son, Charles (Charlie) Luca Bradley on the Thursday 4 February at 20:21! He was three weeks early in the end and weighed in at 6lbs 7ozs. He is very much lulling us both into a false sense of security of sleeping most of the day and being a dream baby! Everyone is delighted he is here and he has most certainly lifted the spirits.'

Many congratulations and best wishes to you all.


Ed And Emily Hunter Celebrate The Arrival Of Hettie

Henrietta Lilly Grace McPherson Hunter arrived safely at 9.17am on 2 February 2021 at Gosford Hospital, Central Coast Australia weighing in at 2.9kg.

New Dad, Ed told us, "Hettie didn’t want to wait around and was here within an hour of arriving at the hospital! Mum Emily, a Stratford-upon-Avon local, and Hettie are doing really well."  

2006 leaver Ed, his wife Emily and baby daughter Hettie are looking forward to a UK trip in the summer for Hettie to meet all her family, but for now she’s quickly becoming a Zoom star!

Congratulations to you all!

RIP Martin Heffron

We were saddened to hear that, Old Princethorpian, Martin Heffron had passed away in Maitland, Newcastle, NSW, Australia, in December.

Martin, who was 58, was married to Meg and has two sons Thomas and Sean. He was a highly respected Chartered Accountant who had co-founded a successful pension consultancy.

He attended Princethorpe College from 1973 to 1980, joining the school from St Bede's. He left the College after completing Sixth Form and went on to study at Nottingham University. While at school he played for the 1st XV Rugby team and his interest and commitment to sport continued throughout his life.

Martin’s good friend Kieran Cahill remembers him here:

"Martin and I first meet in September 1976 at Princethorpe when I started ‘C’ Form.  Martin had been at St Bede's College for two years, so he was already an old boy. We got to know each other over the next few years, I am not sure how that happened as Martin was very sporty, he was in the school Basketball and Rugby teams, but we seemed to get along as a good group of friends, including Eamonn O’Brien, Anthony Jarvis, Michael Kendrick and others.

As weekly boarders in the Lower Sixth (1979) we shared a room in the Covent, Martin was Head of House – Benet or Moore I can’t remember which.

Over the next few years Martin got an honours degree in Zoology from Nottingham University, where I visited him a few times and we went on a few short holidays together. Near to the end of his course, due to external world events, the troubles on South Georgia, he lost the opportunity to do a PhD, so decided to become an Accountant instead. 

Martin exceled in his accounting training and became a Charted Accountant. After he got married, he took an opportunity with Coopers & Lybrand to relocate to Sydney, Australia in 1986.  I had always wanted to visit Australia so in 1988 I took advantage of his spare room to use as a base spending three months traveling around New South Wales, the Northern Territories and Queensland and going to events in Sydney. 

Martin and I lost contact between 1996 and 2006, but on my return to Australia in 2007 we reconnected, and it was always a pleasure to talk in person usually when Martin was in Brisbane for work.

Martin with Meg his second wife had started their own business, moving out of the big city (Sydney) to Maitland in the Hunter Valley, two hours north.  The business they set up provides administration and professional services to the SMSF (personal pensions) industry and over the years has become one of the biggest and most highly regarded in the country. Martin undertook several roles in the business as it grew over the years, there were many discussions of where and how they wanted to position the business and how to look after their staff. I had the privilege of hearing about these as a silent friend and sounding board.

Last year Martin had was diagnosed with an aggressive form of skin cancer, and had two major operations, followed by Radio and Chemotherapy.  I had plans to travel down to Maitland to support Martin like he did for me when I went through stomach cancer ten years earlier, he would fly up to Brisbane, just to be with me for the day and giving my wife a few hours for herself. However, COVID kept getting in the way. Two days away from the end of his treatment he had a massive heart attack and passed away in the arms of his wife Meg, with his eldest son Tom nearby. 

Although Martin and I were not in each other’s lives every day, we were close having shared so much of our lives.  He was one of the most thoughtful, intelligent, kind people I have ever known.  I am missing him, often wishing he was here, especially when something happens and I think, I will share that with Martin when we next speak."

You can read Martin’s Eulogy written by his wife Meg here and the Order Of Service here.

The College remembers Martin as a naturally affable young man who made it his business to get along with everyone. He was someone who was imbued fully with the Princethorpe spirit. We send our condolences to his family and friends.


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RIP Martin Knowles

We were saddened to hear that Old Princethorpian, Martin Knowles, passed away suddenly on Sunday 6 December 2020. Martin attended Princethorpe in the late seventies, joining in September 1977 when he was 13. 

Martin is pictured here (right) with Anthony Ku who remembers him as 'a gentle giant’ and ‘a very nice chap' and Anthony shares his memories of him here:

"It saddens me to share the news of the recent loss of our school mate, Martin Knowles. I was informed by a fellow classmate that he passed on in December. It was a real pleasure to get back in touch with Martin in July 2015 after leaving Princethorpe in 1983. During his life Martin made several trips out to Borneo a part of the world he loved and in April 2016 he made a transit trip to Brunei while on the way to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia and we welcomed him to our humble home where he stayed for a night.

During that short but memorable trip, he enjoyed a day's tour of Brunei and we shared great moments reminiscing our school days and stories of past school mates and staff. He was fond of my family and always mentioned how much he missed us all in Brunei. He did try to return last year but sadly, it was not the ideal year for travel.

I will always remember Martin as a very nice friendly fellow student, he was a ‘gentle giant’ (being Asian, I was a dwarf in comparison). He had such a humour and kept me laughing in all our conversations (both back in Princethorpe and even in our last meet). I am happy and glad that, even for a short moment, my family had the chance to meet and know him. They had a fun time while he was staying with us and were equally shocked and sad to hear the news. May he rest in peace. I hope that any fellow old Princethorpians who know Martin will remember our friend in their prayers."

Alex Darkes, Assistant Head, also remembers Martin fondly, “When I came back to teach at Princethorpe in 1979, Martin was boarding and was a huge help running our audio-visual services in his spare time and I got to know him well. We both shared a great passion for cars, so conversation was easy and I remember his first Saturday job with the Ford dealership in Banbury, when he sold a new car to one of my friends. After Martin left school, if he was passing through Leamington he would call in to demonstrate the latest car and to catch up on news; we rather lost touch when he went to live in the Middle East, but he came to an Open Day a few years back and it was great to see him again. I shall always remember Martin with huge respect. He was very ambitious about his career direction, had a well-developed sense of humour, was of enormous integrity and very kind.”

Although Martin hadn't been in touch with the College for a while, at the time of his death he was still living relatively locally in Lower Boddington.

We offer our condolences to all his family and friends.




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Memory Bank

Update From The Archives - Lent 2021

It’s been another busy term here in the archives and I am pleased to have been able to continue the work whilst working from home during the current lockdown. In exciting news, it shouldn’t be too long until the Peeper’s Pie magazines we have for St Joseph’s School are digitised. I plan to put them on the ‘Digital Material’ section of the archive catalogue for you to be able to browse and I’ll be able to share more extracts through the archive Twitter account!

The fascinating range of enquiries I have received over the past term has really enabled me to continue learning more about the Princethorpe College site and the people for whom the Princethorpe Foundation Schools have played such an important part in their lives. I hope that you enjoyed this month’s #ThrowBackThursday post on Princethorpe Connect reading all about the early days of Crescent School. While the Grounds Team have been hard at work restoring the Nut Walk, I have also taken the opportunity to research the names that the St Mary’s Priory grounds were known by – I soon discovered that whilst there was a wide range of flora and fauna within the grounds, the Sisters weren’t necessarily quite so imaginative in their naming. According to the Peeps magazine, alongside the more familiar Lime Walk and Nut Walk, there was also an Acacia Walk, Ilex Walk, Holly Walk and Laurel Walk for the girls to explore - all within the enclosure of course. Here’s a challenge for you - can you remember where any of these places were? Did you have your own names for the grounds after it became Princethorpe College? Let me know at @PFdn_Archives on Twitter.

I mentioned in my last update that each of the Year 7 classes get an introduction to the history of Princethorpe and the Benedictine nuns that founded St Mary’s Priory as part of their Religious Studies classes. One of the key messages that I try to convey in the session (and in any of the events I’m involved in) is that the records and objects in an archive help to tell a story. Based on the items I had carefully selected, the pupils drew lots of good conclusions about life at the Priory. All of the pupils really embraced the lessons and asked excellent questions, but I was so impressed with the follow up work that Mr McCullough’s class produced. His pupils went away and created their own ‘archive in a box’ and then discussed what they knew about the person from the items they had selected. Well done to all of Year 7, especially 7XM! Thanks also to Kieran McCullough for sharing these photographs.

Following on from the successful Virtual St. Mary’s Priory Reunion, I was delighted to be able to meet some Old Princethorpians that are now living in Hong Kong and the Far East in November online. I used the archive slot to share images from the archives relating to the campus and extracts from the Princethorpe magazines to bring back many happy memories and lots of stories. I wanted to give a special thanks to Nelson Tam who kindly completed the Boarders’ Questionnaire and shared some photographs of the college from his time here. If you would be interested in sharing your memories of boarding at any of the Foundation schools, the short questionnaire is still available here: Boarding Questionnaire.

I hope that you all stay safe and I am very much looking forward to meeting those of you who have crossed (or travelled back across) the Atlantic and now live in the USA at the end of February at their Virtual Reunion!


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Travel Back In Time To The Crescent School Of Yesteryear

It was with great delight that I had the opportunity to talk to one of the first Crescent School pupils, Fiona Douglas, about her memories of her school days.

As readers of my #ThrowBackThursday and Twitter posts will know, I often lament the loss of records relating to the early days of the Foundation Schools so you can imagine my delight when I was contacted by one of the first pupils to attend Crescent School. What followed was a delightful hour talking to Fiona Douglas (nee Loughery) on the phone about her personal memories of her time at the school and (as with conversations I have had with other past pupils) it soon became clear that Crescent School brought back many warm, happy memories. I am always keen to add oral history accounts to the archive as each person brings their own stories and memories about the school. If you are interested in being interviewed about your time at Crescent School, then please do send me an email at JanetteRatcliffe@princethorpe.co.uk and I would be delighted to arrange a time that suits you best.

Crescent School was originally founded by Mrs Eve Mortimer to educate the children of Rugby masters like Fiona, whose father was a master at Rugby School from 1934 until 1961 when he retired. Mrs Mortimer’s school was initially based at Troy House but it quickly outgrew those premises and moved to Horton Crescent, and it is from there that the school got its name.

Fiona was one of the oldest pupils at the school and remembers being part of a group of about 8 children that made the move to Horton Crescent when it opened. In the early days, class sizes were small with around 10 children in each class though Fiona remembers that the numbers would decrease each year when the boys left to go to Prep School. Her cohort were taught by Mrs Mortimer for the majority of their lessons and what an incredible teacher she sounds. Under Eve Mortimer’s tutelage, alongside the traditional subjects taught to Primary School pupils, they were taught French from the age of 5 and Latin from the age of 8 and were well set to achieve good results as the first pupils at Crescent School to sit the 11+ exams.

It was while talking about her memories of her classroom that Fiona really helped bring the school to life. Based in the upstairs classroom at Horton Crescent, Fiona remembers that there was a paraffin stove in the centre of the large classroom during particularly cold weather and that the pupils got up hourly for some exercise – well needed I’d imagine in the depths of winter! She recalls the great excitement that the children felt when they listened to the weekly radio programmes – from Charles Chilton’s ‘How Things Began’, Fiona learned all about dinosaurs and ‘Music and Movement’ formed an integral part of the school’s PE programme. (As an aside, I remember using Music and Movement tapes to teach PE when I started teaching so either I am old or the programme has clearly stood the test of time).

Taking on roles of responsibility was a key aspect of life at Crescent School, being the ink monitor meant taking charge of refilling ink pots and handing out pens. Whilst for Assembly, the chair and hymn monitors were responsible for converting the classroom into a ‘hall’ quickly and sensibly. While Fiona doesn’t remember religion featuring particularly heavily in the school day, it appears that the Rugby School chaplain who led the weekly service for children of the Rugby masters must have told Mrs Mortimer what songs were in the upcoming Sunday service as she spent the week practising them with the children. Little details like copying lines of letters into their handbooks whilst practising cursive writing and learning to count using cowrie shells that were stored in milk tins are the sorts of details that are not captured in official records but are what embody the spirit of a school and why I was so thrilled when Fiona generously agreed to speak to me. The story of a pupil coming to school wearing their cardigan inside out but refusing to change it in case it was bad luck also made me chuckle.

As well as renting one of Rugby School’s buildings, Crescent School also had the opportunity to benefit from other Rugby School facilities. Fiona remembers walking as a ‘Class Crocodile’ to the field for school sports day and performing concerts or plays in the Music School. Whether there was quite the same enthusiasm for benefitting from swimming in ‘The Tosh’ is to be debated – every pupil that I have talked to remembers how bitterly cold it could be.

The children may also have spent time together outside of the normal school day. They might have seen each other at the Saturday morning woodworking classes that Mr Mortimer led (where Fiona made a stool which she still has today, as well as a bird box) or at the weekly service that was held in the Memorial Chapel. Living near to each other meant that strong friendships were quickly formed within the small community, and the children felt a close connection to each other due to their shared circumstances. These bonds led to lifelong friendships that are a hallmark of the special school that Crescent School is. It is with that in mind that I would like to end this month’s post by passing on my condolences to the Crescent School community on the recent death of Sarah Roer (nee Willans) in Canada. My thoughts are with all those that knew her at this sad time.

Farther Clarkson Football Team Photo

OP Gordon Innes got in touch to share a real treasure, an old photo of the College’s second and much loved, Headmaster, Father Clarkson in a football team as a child.

Gordon’s uncle went to school with Father Clarkson when they were both children back in Ireland. They were good school friends and were both in the same football team. When Gordon started at Princethorpe College the family presented Father Clarkson with a copy of the photo of which he was very proud.

Gordon recently had the photo digitally restored and shared a copy with College. Father Clarkson is bottom row second from the right.

It is a fantastic photo that we were delighted to add to the archives.


Getting A Glimpse Into Life As A Boarder In the Princethorpe Foundation

The Hong Kong and Far East Reunion gave me the opportunity to delve into the archives to see what I could find about boarding at Princethorpe College but there is a lot more I'd like to learn.

The first thing that I discovered during my research is that very few records relating to boarding have made their way into the archive for any of the Foundation's current and legacy schools. We have a small number of photographs and references in the school magazines for boarding at Princethorpe College and even fewer records for St Bede's College, St Mary's Priory or St Joseph's Convent School.

This is where I am asking for your help - if you boarded at any of the Foundation's schools, please could you consider completing the questionnaire below and donating any material from your time there to the archive. After you have completed it, I hope that you enjoy reading the rest of the article about boarding at Princethorpe College. 

Life As A Boarder Questionnaire

When Princethorpe College opened its doors in 1966, there were a total of 40 boarders within the school's pupil numbers. Only a decade later, this number had increased to nearly 200. Princethorpe continued to welcome students from all over the globe to this remote part of Warwickshire until 2004, when it became unviable to continue doing so.

Father Clarkson MSC does a great job of describing the boarders in this extract from his article 'A day in the life of...'.  (reference PC. Written in 1978, it wouldn't have seemed out of place even decades later in many boarding schools I am sure and really adds an extra dimension to the photographs in the article. 

"In the boys' dining hall, disembowelled boiled eggs gape murderously at their executors. Cornflakes, Sugar Puffs and Rice Crispies, pop, crackle and bloat as bedraggled and dishevelled boarders drown them in milk. Pieces of cremated toast are smeared with sticky marmalade and munch, chew, bite and grind, the breakfast is launched. Oh, for the culture of a meal amongst congenial company!...

A visit to their wing reveals rooms bedecked with pop artists, gaudy drapes, assortments of pictures and kilometres of sellotape. Penetrating sounds emanate from ever-improving, electronically equipped guitars and shatter any atmosphere conducive to study. Lower Sixth, not burdened with any imminent examinations, idle and laugh and discussively anticipate the next game/outing/social with a sense of liberation from the confines set out for them..."

In his article titled 'A Sixth Form View' for the 1973 Princethorpe Magazine (reference PC., Rino Cerio reflected on his time as both a day pupil and a boarder. When he writes about boarding, he states "I can honestly say this is where I saw the potential of Princethorpe. I started in the dormitory, then joined a room for four and then two in which I remained. The boarder's life gave me a degree of independence, self discipline and the ability to think. Responsibility was expected from me as I grew older..."

The glowing review of being a boarder provided by Rino Cerio is contrasted with this humourous article in the 1990-91 Princethorpe Magazine (reference PC., perhaps unsurprisingly written anonymously. Titled 'The Secret of Bill Barrett - Bored Boarder', it was written over the course of the week from the point of view of a weekly boarder. I won't reproduce the article here (if you'd like to read it, it can be found on the archive catalogue) but some things that struck me from reading it were a) how much time was spent playing in the grounds, especially Switzerland, b) that the boys played a lot of sport in the evening (probably in an attempt to tire them out) and c) the large number of pillow fights 'Bill' seemed to be involved in (despite his grumbles about adults ruining his fun). For a pupil claiming to be bored all the time, being a boarder actually seemed like quite good fun!

I hope that you enjoyed the brief look at boarding at Princethorpe College, please do complete the questionnaire using the link above if you can help fill in the gaps in the archive about your time as a boarder. I look forward to reading your responses!

Janette Ratcliffe
Foundation Archivist


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OP Updates

Michelle Ovens Awarded CBE

Many congratulations to Old Princethorpian Michelle Ovens who was awarded a CBE in the New Year’s Honours list.

Michelle attended the College Sixth Form from 1993 to 1995 and has gone on to build a successful career supporting and promoting small businesses.

She is Founder of Small Business Britain and its campaigns – f-Entrepreneur, i-Entrepreneur and The Small Awards, and is also Director of Small Business Saturday in the UK, a campaign to support, inspire and promote small businesses.

Michelle works closely in advising both government and the private sector on small business policy and engagement, and is a regular presence in the national media. She recently completed three years as the Chair of Small Business Charter, an award that celebrates business schools that play an effective role in supporting small businesses, entrepreneurship and engagement with the local economy.

Prior to running national small business campaigns, Michelle ran a small business strategy consultancy for ten years, after completing her MBA at London Business School.

Her passion, commitment and dedication to supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses is inspirational.

We were delighted to hear of Michelle’s recognition.

OP Felicity Hannah Recognised In Journalism Awards

It was fantastic to hear that OP Felicity Hannah (nee King Evans) received the 2020 Broadcast Journalist of the Year award for outstanding investment journalism in the Aegon AM Journalism Awards in early December.

Hannah attended the College from 1997 to 2001 and is a freelance journalist specialising in finance and consumer affairs. Her articles and stories regularly feature in the national broadcast and printed press.

Many congratulations to Felicity.

As We Were: The First World War By Margaret-Louise O'Keeffe

Margaret-Louise O'Keeffe, former Deputy Head – Pastoral at Princethorpe College, has just published a new book. As We Were: The First World War details the course of the First World War week-by-week with intimate accounts and experiences of soldiers and civilians alike, co-authored with David Hargreaves, it offers insight like no other into a war that impacted generations the world over.

Margaret-Louise will be well known to many in the Old Princethorpians community for her Arts Society informative talks on literature and art history, subjects that have clearly fascinated her all her life. After reading English at Girton College, Cambridge, she completed a two-year MA in Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London before moving into teaching.

As We Were: The First World War is a four-volume work, that Margaret-Louise describes as “looks daunting but I promise you it is a page turner!” The book is available to pre-order from:


OP Bethan Ellis Signs Professional Cricket Contract

Congratulations to Old Princethorpian, Bethan Ellis (Class of 2017), who, just before Christmas, became one of the first female players to sign a full-time professional domestic cricket contract.

Bethan, who is currently studying at Loughborough University, started playing with Leamington Cricket Club aged just ten-years-old and has been with Warwickshire County Cricket Club since she was 13. Last year, the all-rounder and opening batswoman, made her maiden century for Warwickshire, scoring 132 against Worcestershire County Cricket Club.

In 2019 she helped the Birmingham Bears, Warwickshire’s T20 women’s team, win the T20 Vitality Cup and last summer Bethan was selected to play for Loughborough Lightnings in their 15-man squad for the Rachel Heyhoe Flint Trophy.

Bethan is also a qualified coach working as an assistant coach for Warwickshire U13 girls and with the Complete Cricket company.

Whilst at Princethorpe, Bethan was a regular player for the College teams and captained the Boys 1st XI cricket team, the first girl to do so in the school's history, her dedication to school sport was exemplary and she was a role model to all within the Foundation.

Bethan has signed with Lightning Cricket the East Midlands-based team in the new Women's Elite Domestic Cricket Structure. Her signing will provide Bethan with the opportunity to train and work on her skills full-time and give her access to some of the best coaching and training facilities in the UK.

A huge well done to Bethan from us all here at Princethorpe, we were delighted to hear of your success.

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Callum Travels Down Under

OP Callum Panton (Class of 2015) is currently working and living in Australia. He has been posting some great pictures on Facebook and we asked him for an update.

Callum told us, "I have just set off on a six month journey around Australia living in a van. Just arrived in Melbourne and loving life."

Enjoy the sunshine Callum - we could do with a little back here!

Aaron Pressley Debut For Brentford FC

Huge congratulations to Old Princethorpian Aaron Pressley who made his Brentford Football Club first team professional debut against Rotherham United on 1 December. Aaron is a professional footballer who plays for Brentford as a forward. He is a product of the Aston Villa and Heart of Midlothian academies and was capped by Scotland at U16 and U17 level. Striker Aaron signed for Brentford back in January 2020 and has been playing for their B team ever since. He came on as a substitute for the first team in the final minutes of their 2-0 win against Rotherhm. He then played against Leicester City on 24 January. We look forward to following Aaron as he progresses his professional footballing career.

Will Davis Working In Cabinet Office

We were delighted to recently receive an update about former Deputy Head Boy, Will Davis, who attended the College from 2009 to 2016. After leaving Princethorpe, Will studied Law at Liverpool University where he was awarded a First. He then went on to get a Masters in Civic Design and when his course ended last September he was fortunate to secure a position working in the Cabinet Office.

Despite the call of the bright lights and big city, thanks to COVID, Will found himself back in his boyhood bedroom working on Zoom. Here is hoping that this is just a temporary arrangement and that Will will be able to make the move down to London and to Whitehall very soon! 

Stay in touch Will, it was great to hear of your progress.

Grace Graduates With A First In Midwifery

Many congratulations to OP Grace O'Gorman, leaver of 2016, who has recently graduated with a First Class Honours BSc in Midwifery from the University of Brighton.

Since qualifying in August Grace has been working as a midwife at King's College Hospital in London under challenging circumstances due to Covid. Her studies are not over yet though as she is soon to start studying to become a Lactation Consultant and hopefully at some stage will do High Dependency Unit training.

Well done Grace what a difference you will be making to so many lives!