Clifton College

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Clifton College
Clifton College Crest.png
Arms of Clifton College
College Road


Coordinates 51.4618° N, 2.6200° W
Type Public school
Private boarding and day school
Motto Latin: Spiritus Intus Alit
The spirit nourishes within
Established1862;162 years ago (1862)
Founder John Percival
Department for Education URN 109334 Tables
Head of CollegeTim Greene
Gender Mixed
Age2to 18
Houses12 (in the Upper School)
Colour(s)Blue, Green, Navy
Former pupils Old Cliftonians

Clifton College is a public school in the city of Bristol in South West England, founded in 1862 and offering both boarding and day school for pupils aged 13–18. In its early years, unlike most contemporary public schools, it emphasised science rather than classics in the curriculum, and was less concerned with social elitism, for example by admitting day-boys on equal terms and providing a dedicated boarding house for Jewish boys, called Polack's House. [1] [2] [3] Having linked its General Studies classes with Badminton School, it admitted girls to every year group (from pre-prep up to Upper 6th, excepting 5th form due to potential O-levels disruption) in 1987, and was the first of the traditional boys' public schools to become fully coeducational. [4] Polack's House closed in 2005 but a scholarship fund open to Jewish candidates still exists. [5] Clifton College is one of the original 26 English public schools as defined by the Public Schools Yearbook of 1889.


The school was also the headquarters of the US army in Britain during part of the Second World War. General Omar Bradley used the school's buildings as a staff office from October to November 1944. [6]

Clifton College is one of the few schools in the UK to have educated several Nobel laureates: Sir John Kendrew, who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1962; Sir John Hicks, winner of the 1972 Nobel Prize in Economics; and Sir Nevill Francis Mott, who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1977.


The school takes boys and girls aged between 13 and 18. It has its own preparatory school, Clifton College Preparatory School (known as the 'Pre'), for children from 8 to 13 which adjoins the school and shares many of the same facilities; there is 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 referred to as the 'Upper School'.

There are around 720 children in the Upper School of whom about a third are girls. At the start of the 2004 – 2005 school year, a new boarding/day house for girls (Hallward's House) was opened.

In 2005, the school was one of fifty of the country's leading independent 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. [7] 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. [8]

Clifton College Upper School seen from the Close. Left - the Dining Hall, centre - the chapel, right - the science block Clifton college bristol from the close arp.jpg
Clifton College Upper School seen from the Close. Left – the Dining Hall, centre – the chapel, right – the science block

World War II

During World War II the heavy bombing of Bristol caused the students to be evacuated to Bude. In February 1941 the buildings were used by the Royal Army Service Corps as an Officer Cadet Training Unit. In 1942 they were replaced by the United States Army who established it as the headquarters of V Corps and then the First Army. Staff were involved in preparations for the Normandy landings under General Omar Bradley. After D-Day the college was taken over as headquarters of the Ninth Army under General William Hood Simpson. [9]

To enable rapid travel and communications between the headquarters and dispersed units extensive use was made of light aircraft for travel. Some flights used Filton Airfield and others Whitchurch, however the majority were from the college's playing fields at Beggars Bush Field, between the college and Leigh Woods, which was turned into an airfield. [9]


Pupils at Clifton College in 2009 Public School and Students - Bristol - England.jpg
Pupils at Clifton College in 2009

Before 1987, Clifton was a boys-only school with seven boarding houses (School House, Brown's, Watson's, Dakyns', Oakeley's, Wiseman's, Polack's) and three day-houses (East Town, North Town and The South Town). In each of the current seven boarding Houses (four for boys, three for girls) live the Housemaster or Housemistress and family, an Assistant and the Matron. In addition, each House has up to four non-residential Tutors. Also, pupils wear ties with different coloured stripes according to their house membership; which are also the colours of the jerseys the pupils wear to distinguish between houses in inter-house sporting events. [10]

There are 12 houses currently in the Upper School of Clifton College, which have an order of precedence based on the date of their foundation; [11] it is traditional that day-pupil only houses are known as "Towns" and any house that admits boarders "Houses". There are also houses in Clifton College Preparatory School that are not listed below.

School HouseBlack/Red Latin : Spes Ancora Vitae
Hope is the anchor of life
Moberly's HouseRed-Purple/Blue/White Latin : Stet fortuna domus
May fortune attend those who dwell here
Oakeley's HouseBlack/White Latin : Floruit Floret Floreat
It has flourished, it is flourishing, may it flourish
F (M until 1986)Boarding
Wiseman's HouseBlack/Purple Latin : Nec tenui ferar penna
On no feeble wing shall I be borne
Watson's HousePale Blue/Black Latin : Fratres in Unum
Brothers Together
North TownDark Blue/Black/White Latin : Vestigia Nulla Retrorsum
Not one step back
The South TownBlack/Green Latin : Vis Unita Fortior
Together we are stronger
East TownBlack/Yellow/Orange Latin : Sol Semper Resurgit
The sun always rises again
Worcester HouseBlack/Green/White Latin : Possunt quia posse videntur
They can because they think they can
West TownBlack/Pink Latin : A posse ad esse
From the possible to the actual
Hallward's HouseBlack/Purple/Green Latin : Si vobis confiditis, mundus vobis erit
Believe in yourself and the world is yours
FDay with Sixth Form Boarding
Holland's HouseWhite/Pink/Navy Latin : Non ducor duco

I am not led, I lead



Holland's house, a girls' day house, was made in 2017 with colours white, pink and navy.

Several other houses have existed during the school's history. In WW2, while the school was evacuated to Bude, United House (UH) was created from pupils of houses placed in temporary abeyance. Dakyns' House and Brown's House were closed in 1993, and Polack's House, which took Jewish boys only, was closed in 2005. These are listed below:

Dakyns' HouseWhite-Pink-White (tie)
Brown (sport)
Strike Dakyns, The Devil's in the HempMBoarding1993
Brown's HouseBlack/Yellow Greek : Arche Andra Deixei
Authority reveals the man
Polack's HouseBlack/Red/White Latin : Vires acquirit eundo
We gather strength as we go
MBoarding (Jewish)2004

In the decades after the school's foundation, with the exception of School House, the Houses were named after the Housemaster at the time, but in the late 19th century this pattern was abandoned, and all Houses reverted to the name of their first Housemaster. This nomenclature convention was not however used for Hallward's House (founded in 2004 and named after a former Headmaster, Bertrand Hallward, nor for Worcester House (the second girls' house, founded in 1989 and named after the road in which it is situated). When Dakyns' House and Brown's House were merged in September 1993, the original suggestion was to name the new establishment "Dakyns-Brown's House", but following a suggestion from a pupil, the name "Moberly's House" was chosen, commemorating the only teacher who had been involved in both of the antecedent establishments (as Housemaster of both Dakyns' and House Tutor of Brown's). [13]

Buildings and grounds

The first school buildings

Big School (right) soon after it was built - 1860s Hansom school at Clifton college.jpg
Big School (right) soon after it was built – 1860s
The college in 1866 Clifton college 1866.jpg
The college in 1866
Clifton College 1872 Clifton College 1872.jpg
Clifton College 1872
An 1898 etching of the College Close OldCliftonClose.jpg
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. [14]

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 [15] ). Other buildings were added as follows:

The Chapel building was licensed by the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol in 1867. It is now grade II* listed. [16]

Later building

The school's present buildings have evolved in various phases.

In early Percival years, the nucleus of the school buildings was laid down.

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).

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 opening of the Preparatory School and the building of the Science School on the site of the previous Junior School. Designed by A. E. Munby, it was opened in 1926. [17]

Also at this time, the school acquired Hugh Ray 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. [18]

In 1982, on the site of the old swimming pools, the new Sports Hall, remedial gym and a new covered swimming pool were built; previously boys used the 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.

More recently, in the latter 2000s, the Music School building in Guthrie Road was refurbished and extended.

Memorial arch

The memorial arch taken from the quad Clifton College Victory Arch.jpg
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. [19] The college's buildings, mainly School House, were used as the main HQ where the D-Day landings were 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. [20] At the edge of the quad is a memorial to those killed in the South African Wars. [21]

Sporting facilities

The college sporting facilities include:

The Close

The college ground, known as the Close, played a 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 a well-known poem by O.C. Sir Henry NewboltVitaї Lampada ("There's a breathless hush in the Close to-night")


Clifton College was one of the original 8 "Lord's Schools", who were entitled to play fixtures at Lord's against each other. These matches were Clifton v Tonbridge, Rugby v Marlborough, Cheltenham v Haileybury, and Eton v Harrow. The Clifton v Tonbridge fixture at Lord's was first played in 1914, but ceased to be played in the 1960s, along with most other Lord's Schools matches. Today, only Eton v Harrow continues to take place at Lord's. A centenary match took place in June 2014 to commemorate the anniversary of the first playing of this match. [22]

Plaque at Clifton College, fixed in 1962. Collinsplaque.jpg
Plaque at Clifton College, fixed in 1962.

On one of the college's cricket pitches, now known as Collins' Piece, what was for 116 years the highest-ever cricket score was reached in June 1899, in the inter-house match between Clark's House and 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. [23] [24] The record was surpassed in January 2016 by 15-year-old Pranav Dhanawade of Mumbai, India, with a score of 1,009 in a schools' match. Collins was not the first Clifton schoolboy to hold this record: in 1868, Edward Tylecote, who went on to help England reclaim the Ashes in 1882–83, 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.

A number of famous cricketers are Clifton alumni. A fuller entry can be found under the List of Old Cliftonians, and includes:

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.

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 (Polack's House Educational 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). Polack's House Educational Trust (PHET) now offers scholarships to the school.

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 has its own theatre, originally known as the Clifton College Theatre, but later renamed in honour of old-boy actor Michael Redgrave. The theatre was built in the 1960s and has a seating capacity of 323. [26] [27] As well as school productions, the venue hosts visiting small scale productions including many by the nearby Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. [28]


Listed in order of appointment:

Notable former masters

Covert filming

Jonathan Thomson-Glover, a housemaster and former pupil, pleaded guilty to making covert films of children aged twelve to seventeen showering, changing, going to the toilet and conducting private acts, in the college itself and at an address in Cornwall. He was convicted at Taunton Crown Court and sentenced to three years and nine months' imprisonment after admitting to 36 counts of taking, making and possessing indecent images of children. [33] [34]

Clifton College subsequently commissioned an independent expert to undertake a thorough review of safeguarding at the school, culminating in a report which it published in full. [35] The report contained a number of recommendations, all of which were then implemented. This, together with a complete change in the school's leadership in 2016, led to a wholesale transformation in safeguarding culture and practices at the school. [36]

The Old Cliftonian Society and the Clifton College Register

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, published by the Old Cliftonian Society, is in four volumes:

First entries in the Register:-



The early years

Former pupils

Coat of Arms

Coat of arms of Clifton College
Arms of Clifton College.svg
Granted 8 April 1895. [37]
Argent, a chevron between two trefoils slipped in chief and a garb in base azure; a chief gules, thereon a ducal coronet Or between two books argent, clasped and garnished gold.
'Spiritus intus alit'


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