Clifton College

Clifton College
Clifton College
Motto Latin: Spiritus Intus Alit
(The spirit nourishes within)
Established 1862
Type Independent school
Headteacher Mark J Moore
Location College Road
Students 1,120 - 720 in Upper School, 400 in Preparatory School
Gender Co-educational
Ages 3–18
Houses Day Houses: 5
Boarding Houses: 6

Blue, Green and Navy

Chaplain The Rev' Kim Taplin
Former Pupils Old Cliftonians

Coordinates: 51°27′38″N 2°37′18″W / 51.4606°N 2.6218°W / 51.4606; -2.6218

Clifton College is a co-educational independent school in Clifton, Bristol, England, founded in 1862. In its early years it was notable (compared with most Public Schools of the time) for emphasising science in the curriculum, and for being less concerned with social elitism, e.g. by admitting day-boys on equal terms and providing a dedicated boarding house for Jewish boys.[1][2][3] Having linked its General Studies classes with Badminton School since 1972, it admitted girls to the Sixth Form in 1987 and is now fully coeducational. The dedicated Jewish boarding house closed in 2005. Clifton is one of the original 26 English public schools as defined by the Public Schools Yearbook of 1889.



The school takes boys and girls aged between 13 and 18. It has a nearby preparatory school, Clifton College Preparatory School (known as the 'Pre'), for children from 8 to 13 which is nearby and shares many of the same facilities; also a pre-preparatory school for younger children aged 3 to 8 called Butcombe. To distinguish it from the junior schools, Clifton College proper is sometimes referred to as the 'Upper School'.

There are around 720 children in the Upper School of which about a third are girls. At the start of the 2004 - 2005 school year, a new boarding/day house for girls was opened.

In 2005, the school was one of fifty of the country's leading private schools which were found guilty of running an illegal price-fixing cartel, exposed by The Times, which had allowed them to drive up fees for thousands of parents.[4] Each school was required to pay a nominal penalty of £10,000 and all agreed to make ex-gratia payments totalling three million pounds into a trust designed to benefit pupils who attended the schools during the period in respect of which fee information was shared.[5]

Clifton College Upper School seen from the Close. Left - the Dining Hall, centre - the Chapel, right - the science block


The Upper School boys' houses are:

  • School House (boarding)
  • Moberly's House (boarding)
  • Wiseman's House (boarding)
  • Watson's House (boarding)
  • East Town (day)
  • South Town (day)
  • North Town (day)

The girls' houses are:

  • Worcester House (boarding)
  • Oakeley's House (boarding)
  • West Town (day)
  • Hallward's House (predominantly boarding with some day)

Before 1987, Clifton was a boys-only school with seven boarding houses (School House, Brown's, Watson's, Dakyn's, Oakeley's, Wiseman's, Polack's) and three day houses (East Town, North Town and The South Town). Polack's House, which took Jewish boys only, was closed in 2005. It is traditional that day-pupil only houses are known as "Towns" and any house that admits boarders "Houses".

The prefix "The" to The South Town originates from the first boys' day house: "The Town". When attendance became too large, the decision was made to split the house into two new ones: "South Town" and "North Town". To decide which house would remain in the building a football match was played; as South Town won the game, they stayed in the original building and kept the prefix "The".

Buildings and grounds

The first school buildings

Big School (right) soon after it was built - 1860s
An 1898 etching of the College Close

The college buildings were designed by the architect Charles Hansom (the brother of Joseph Hansom); his first design was for Big School and a proposed dining hall. Only the former was built and a small extra short wing was added in 1866 – this is what now contains the Marshal’s office and the new staircase into Big School. It has been designated by English Heritage as a grade II listed building.[6]

Hansom was called back in the 1870s and asked to design what is now the Percival Library and the open-cloister classrooms. This project was largely completed by 1875 – although the Wilson Tower was not built until 1890 (grade II listed[7]). Other buildings were added as follows:

  • By 1875, Brown’s, Dakyns’ and Oakley’s had been opened along with what is now 32 College Road – originally this functioned as accommodation for bachelor masters
  • Three fives courts (1864)
  • The original sanitorium (1865)
  • Gymnasium (1867)
  • Two swimming pools (1869)
  • An open rackets court (1872)
  • The present workshop (1873)
  • The Chapel (1867); this was built to Charles Hansom’s original design, but was moved from the intended site (which is now the gym). As built, the Chapel was a narrow aisleless building, and just the width of its present west end. It was the gift of Mrs Guthrie, the widow of Canon Guthrie. Hansom was given permission “to quarry sufficient stone from the college grounds for the purposes of the Chapel building”.

The Chapel building was licensed by the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol in 1867. It is now grade II* listed.[8]

The school’s present buildings have evolved in four phases:

  • The early Percival years, when the nucleus of the school buildings was laid down.
  • The 1880s. In 1880, the school’s East Wing was completed as far as the staircase (this had yet to be linked to the library by the Wilson Tower) and added a science lecture-room (which is the reason for the curious 'stepped' windows), a laboratory and several classrooms.
In 1886, a porters' lodge and what is now the staff common room were added by enlarging what had been the original science school. On the ground floor was the school tuck-shop and above this (in what is now the Upper Common Room) was a drawing-school. The day boys were provided for in Town Rooms for both North and South Town. The East Wing was then completed by carrying it beyond the staircase and then creating an additional classroom at each end. The ground-floor classroom (then Room 12) is now known as the "Newbolt Room" and has been furnished by the Old Cliftonian Society, which still uses it for reunions.
Between 1890 and the start of the First World War, the new Music School (1897) was added and the Chapel rebuilt (1910).
  • The 1920s. Dr John King, whose headmastership spanned the war years, had little scope for building after 1914, but he did oversee the development of the playing fields at Beggar's Bush, the building of the Memorial Arch, the neo-classical cricket pavilion and the opening of the new Sanitorium in Worcester Road.
On 3 December 1918, the former headmaster John Percival died and was buried in the vault of the school Chapel. In 1921, a special memorial chapel was created and consecrated about his tomb.
Norman Whatley was the headmaster between 1923 and 1938; his tenure saw the building of the Science School (on the site of the previous Junior School) and the opening of the Preparatory School. Also at this time, the school acquired Hugh Easton's new east windows. The windows also contain a curiosity: beneath the representation of the heavenly Jerusalem is depicted a game of cricket on the Close - with one of Whatley's sons taking part!
In 1965-1967, the theatre was built by the architects Whicheloe and MacFarlane.[9]
  • The 1980s. In 1982, on the site of the old swimming pools, the new Sports Hall, remedial gym and a new covered swimming pool were built – something that would have been appreciated by the generations of boys forced to use the old outdoor Victorian pool and its outdoor covered changing cubicles.
The 1980s also saw the building of the Coulson Centre which links together two previously separate classroom blocks, at Muir and Birdwood houses. As a result of the improvements in modern medicine, the Sanitorium in Worcester Road was unnecessarily large for the school's needs, and so the old pre-1921 Sanatorium on the Close has been refitted to serve this purpose, whilst the Worcester Road sanitorium has been refitted as the Headmaster’s house.

Memorial arch

The memorial arch taken from the quad

At the side of College Road, opposite what was Dakyns' boarding house (now East Town and North Town), is the college's memorial arch designed by Charles Holden, which commemorates teachers and pupils who died in the two World Wars. Traditionally, the removal of headgear is expected when walking through the arch. There is also a school rule that states hands must be out of pockets when walking through the arch. It is now grade II listed.[10] The college's buildings, mainly School House, were used as the main HQ where the D-Day landings were devised and planned. The college played a major part in both World Wars; Field Marshal Douglas Haig was an Old Cliftonian who went on to command the British armed forces in the First World War. Through the memorial arch and in front of School House is a life-size statue of Haig.[11] At the edge of the quad is a memorial to those killed in the South African Wars.[12]

Cricket pitches

On one of the college's cricket pitches, now known as Collins' Piece, the highest-ever cricket score was reached in June 1899, in the School House match between Clark's House v North Town. In this match A. E. J. Collins, killed in the First World War, scored 628 not out, but not under the current rules of the game. He was not the first Clifton schoolboy to hold this record: in 1868, Edward Tylecote, who went on to help England reclaim the Ashes in 1882/3, was a previous holder, with 404 not out in a game between Classicals and Moderns. Collins' achievement is commemorated on a small plaque on the side of the ceramics building.

Sporting facilities

The college sporting facilities include:

  • 20 acres (81,000 m2) of local playing fields including the Close and College fields
  • Close Pavilion
  • Seven on-campus tennis courts
  • On-campus cricket nets
  • 80 acres (320,000 m2) of playing fields at Clifton College Sports Ground (Begger's Bush Lane) which includes:
    • One 3G Football pitch
    • Two Astroturf hockey pitches
    • Twenty four tennis courts (including some under cover of the dome or 'bubble'
    • Real tennis court
    • New pavilion
  • Gym
  • Indoor heated swimming pool
  • Two indoor gyms
  • Rackets court
  • Four Fives courts

The Close

The college ground, known as the Close, played an important role in the history of cricket and witnessed 13 of W G Grace's first-class hundreds for Gloucestershire in the County Championship. Grace's children attended the college.

The Close featured in the poem by O.C. Sir Henry Newbolt - Vitaї Lampada

There's a breathless hush on the Close to-night
Ten to make and the match to win
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play, and the last man in.
And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat.
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,
But his captain's hand on his shoulder smote
"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"
The sand of the desert is sodden red -
Red with the wreck of the square that broke
The gatling's jammed and the colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed its banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks -
"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"
This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the school is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind -
"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"

The Marshal

The college employs a master called "The Marshal", whose sole job is to enforce discipline, attendance at classes and other school rules (such as dress code, drinking, smoking and hair length) along with the general maintenance of safety of the pupils at the College. Many public houses near the school had photos of the Marshal, who was permanently banned so as not to discourage the attendance of pupils who were regular patrons. The current Marshal is Christopher Hughes who took his position in the term starting September 2010. The previous Marshal was Major Paul Simcox MBE. By tradition, a Marshal's name is not added to the plaque listing the names of the school's Marshals until after his death.


  • 1987 Svalbard
  • 2001 K2 (mountain) (base camp)

Religious community

Clifton has chapel services and a focus on Christianity, but for 125 years there was also a Jewish boarding house (Polack's), complete with kosher dining facilities and synagogue for boys in the Upper School. This was the last of its kind in Europe. However, at the end of the 2004-05 school year, the Polack's trust announced that Polack's House would be closed due to the low numbers of boys in the house (although many pupils were turned down subsequently).

The school chapel was the inspiration behind Newbolt's poem Clifton Chapel, which starts:


This is the Chapel: here, my son,
Your father thought the thoughts of youth,
And heard the words that one by one
The touch of Life has turn'd to truth.
Here in a day that is not far,
You too may speak with noble ghosts
Of manhood and the vows of war
You made before the Lord of Hosts.

Redgrave Theatre

Clifton College owns a theatre, originally known as the Clifton College Theatre but renamed in honour of old-boy actor Michael Redgrave. The theatre was built in the 1960s and has a seating capacity of 323.[13][14] As well as school productions, the venue hosts visiting small scale productions including many by the nearby Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.[15]


Listed in order of appointment:

Notable former masters

  • Alexander Jones (1854–1878), former Wales international footballer, who was killed in a shooting accident on board a train whilst accompanying a group of college cadets home from rifle practice.[16]
  • R. P. Keigwin
  • Rt Revd David Stancliffe
  • T. H. Stokoe
  • John L. Thorn

The Old Cliftonian Society and the Clifton College Register

CC-SIG-MASTER copy.png

The Old Cliftonian Society [OCS] is the Society for the alumni of Clifton College - whether pupils or staff. The OCS organises reunions at the school and publishes a newsletter for alumni. Alumni are known as Old Cliftonians or OCs.

The Register's motto:

"There be of them, that have left a name behind them, that their praises might be reported..."

The Clifton College Register is the official set of records held for Clifton College in Bristol. The Register is kept and maintained by the Old Cliftonian Society.

These records have been maintained unbroken from the start of the school in 1862 and list every pupil, master and headmaster. Each person is allocated a school number - for masters and headmasters the number is prefixed with either an M or HM. The Register also maintains a record of the school roll in numbers, the Heads of School and summarises the major sporting records for each year.

The Register is published by the Old Cliftonian Society; there are three volumes:

  • 1862 - 1947
  • 1948 - 1977
  • 1978 - 1994

First entries in the Register:-


  • P1. Sept 1862 - Francis Charles Anderson (b 14 Nov 1846 - d 1881)


The early years

  • Numbers of pupils in the school
  • 1862 - 69
  • 1863 - 195 (including the new junior school)
  • 1864 - 237
  • 1865 - 258
  • 1866 - 278
  • Heads of School
  • 1862 - H. W. Wellesley
  • 1863 - A. W. Paul

Old Cliftonians

See List of Old Cliftonians and Category:Old Cliftonians.

See also


  1. ^ John Roach. Secondary Education in England, 1870-1902. p. 145. 
  2. ^ Meriel Vlaeminke (2000). The English Higher Grade Schools. Routledge. p. 72. ISBN 9780713002201.,M1. 
  3. ^ D J Martin (October 1999). "Review of Clifton after Percival by Derek Winterbottom (1990)" (PDF). pp. 47. 
  4. ^ Halpin, Tony (2005-11-10). "Independent schools face huge fines over cartel to fix fees". The Times (London). Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  5. ^ The Office of Fair Trading: OFT names further trustees as part of the independent schools settlement
  6. ^ "Clifton College, Big School". Images of England. Retrieved 2007-03-13. 
  7. ^ "Clifton College, Percival Buildings and Wilson Tower". Images of England. Retrieved 2007-03-13. 
  8. ^ "Clifton College, Guthrie Memorial Chapel". Images of England. Retrieved 2007-03-13. 
  9. ^ Burrough, THB (1970). Bristol. London: Studio Vista. ISBN 0289798043. 
  10. ^ "Clifton College, Victory Arch". Images of England. Retrieved 2007-03-13. 
  11. ^ "Clifton College, Statue of Earl Haig". Images of England. Retrieved 2007-03-13. 
  12. ^ "Clifton College, South African War Memorial". Images of England. Retrieved 2007-03-13. 
  13. ^ "Redgrave Theatre". Theatre Bristol. Retrieved 23 October 2010. 
  14. ^ "Redgrave Theatre". Clifton College. Retrieved 23 October 2010. 
  15. ^ "Bristol Old Vic Theatre school". Retrieved 23 October 2010. 
  16. ^ "Alexander Fletcher Jones: 1854–1878". Historic Redland. Redland Parish Church. Retrieved 11 November 2011. 
  • Clifton College Register 1862 - 1962 - Published by the Old Cliftonian Society

External links

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