Radley College

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Radley College
Radley crest.png
Radley College
Kennington Road

, ,
OX14 2HR

Type Public school
Independent boarding school
Motto Latin: Sicut serpentes, sicut columbae
([wise] as serpents, [innocent] as doves [Matthew 10:16])
Religious affiliation(s) Church of England
Established1847;175 years ago (1847)
Founder William Sewell
Department for Education URN 123300 Tables
Chairman of the CouncilDavid Smellie
Warden John Moule
Age13to 18
Enrolmentc. 750
Colour(s)Red and white
PublicationThe Radley College Chronicle
YearbookThe Radleian
Former pupils Old Radleians (ORs)
Website www.radley.org.uk

Radley College, formally St Peter's College, Radley, [1] is a public school (independent boarding school for boys) near Radley, Oxfordshire, England, which was founded in 1847. [2] [3] The school covers 800 acres (320 hectares) including playing fields, a golf course, a lake, and farmland. Before the counties of England were re-organised, the school was in Berkshire.


Radley is one of only three public schools to have retained the boys-only, boarding-only tradition, the others being Harrow and Eton. Formerly this group included Winchester, although the latter school is currently undergoing a transition to co-ed status. [4] Of the seven public schools addressed by the Public Schools Act 1868 four have since become co-educational: Rugby (1976), Charterhouse (1971), Westminster (1973), and Shrewsbury (2014). For the academic year 2015/16, Radley charged boarders up to £11,475 per term, making it the 19th most expensive HMC (Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference) boarding school. [5]


South front of Radley Hall - the "Mansion" - with part of the school's main corridor to the right Radley Hall, Radley College, 22-05-2007.jpg
South front of Radley Hall – the "Mansion" – with part of the school's main corridor to the right

Radley was founded in 1847 by William Sewell (1804–79) and Robert Corbet Singleton (1810–81). The first pupil was Samuel Reynolds, who in 1897 wrote his reminiscences of school life.

The school was originally housed in Radley Hall, now known as "Mansion". Radley Hall was built in the 1720s for the Stonehouse family. Later in the 18th century the estate passed to the Bowyer family, who commissioned Capability Brown to re-design the grounds. After the school was founded, extensive building work took place, beginning with Chapel (replaced by the current building in 1895), F Social and Octagon (the earliest living accommodation for the boys), Clock Tower, and in 1910 the dining hall (Hall). Building work has continued throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, with three new Socials, a weights-room/gym, a rowing tank, a theatre, and a real tennis court being completed since 2006. The Science Block was also expanded and refurbished in 2019. The grounds include a lake, a golf course and woodland.

On 31 August 2017, The Daily Telegraph [6] reported that a whistleblower had suggested that teachers had helped their students in an art GCSE exam. Investigations by the exam board found no fault beyond a minor technical breach of exam regulations. Radley College issued a statement expressing full support for staff and procedures both within the art department and across the school.

On 6 July 2018, a plane trailing a banner reading "Make Radley Great Again" was flown over the school, in protest against Warden John Moule's campaign of modernisation. The £750 cost of the plane hire was raised by pupils at the school. [7]

Price-fixing cartel case (2005)

In 2005 Radley College was one of fifty of the country's leading independent schools which were found guilty by the Office of Fair Trading of running an illegal price-fixing cartel which had allowed them to drive up fees. [8] Each school was required to pay a nominal penalty of £21,360 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. [9] In their defence, Jean Scott, the head of the Independent Schools Council, said that independent schools had previously been exempt from the anti-cartel rules applied to business; they were following a long-established procedure in sharing the information with one another and they were unaware of the current law. [10]

School terms

There are three academic terms in the year:

Radley formalities

Like Winchester, with its Notions, Radley has its own specialised terminology and formalities. [11] For example, all teachers are referred to as "dons", and female teachers and members of staff are addressed only as "ma'am"; the headmaster is known as the "warden"; boarding houses are known as "socials", with their masters being known as "tutors" and their head prefects as "pups"; ties earned by pups, top sportsmen, and other distinguished boys have flat bottoms and are known as "strings" ("social strings" if earned for distinction within the social, "college strings" if earned for distinction within the wider college); and the five year-groups, from first to last, are called "shell", "remove", "fifth", "6.1", and "6.2". During the Michaelmas and Lent terms, gowns are worn over uniforms, while during the summer term, shirts are worn without ties, jackets, or gowns (known as "Shirt Sleeve Order"). A house meeting is known as a "social prayers" (which takes place once a week, and is a mini-assembly) and a "cocoa" if informal; a weekend which a boy would usually stay in school for but has been allowed to leave on is known as a "privi"; and the final day of the academic year is known as "gaudy", from the Latin gaudē meaning 'rejoice thou!'


There are 11 socials at Radley, each housing approximately 70 boys and distinguished by the colours of their members' ties. They are each known by a single letter, although they are formally named for their tutor (e.g. H, formally May's Social). When the college opened, most boys were living together in College, but they were under the care of six "social tutors" and the term "social" then referred to all the boys under the care of one tutor. When D Social was built in 1886 all the boys and their tutor were united in their own living quarters and so the word "social" came to mean the building and all of its inhabitants. [12] Similar to Eton's houses and their dames, each social at Radley has a matron known as the "PHM" ("pastoral housemistress"), whose role is central. [13]

ABlue and brownREP Hughes
BPurple and blackCE Scott Malden
CPale blue and dark blueSR Giddens
DBlue and whiteH Crump
EPink and blackTC Lawson
FScarlet and goldTCH Norton
GRed and dark blueGR King
HDark green and light yellowGHS May
JLight blue and coralKMW Stovold
KGreen and whiteMG Glendon-Doyle
LGold and navy blueAMH Hakimi

Academic aspects

West front and spire of the College Chapel Chapel, Radley College, 22-05-2007.jpg
West front and spire of the College Chapel

The school was inspected by the independent schools' Inspectorate in February 2008. The inspection report rated the school's standard of education as "outstanding", the highest rating. [14] There was a subsequent inspection by ISI in 2013. [15]

In 2012, the Independent review of A level results, based on government issued statistics, ranked Radley 31st in the UK, ahead of Malvern (32nd), Harrow (34th), Winchester (73rd), Tonbridge (74th), Eton (80th) and Wellington (89th) [16] By 2019 they were still in the top 100 but had dropped to 75th place. [17]


Radley College Boat House on the Thames RadleyBoathouse01.JPG
Radley College Boat House on the Thames

Sports played at the College are rugby football in the Michaelmas Term, hockey, rowing and football in the Lent Term and cricket, rowing, lawn tennis, and athletics in the Summer Term.

Other sports played include badminton, basketball, beagling, cross-country, fencing, fives, lacrosse, rackets, real tennis, rugby sevens, squash and water polo. [18]


Rugby is the major sport of the Michaelmas term. The school fields 23 rugby teams on most Saturdays of the Michaelmas term and on some Thursdays. The Master in charge of Rugby is Gloucester loose-head prop Nick Wood, OR.


Radley is recognised for its rowing, having won events at Henley Royal Regatta on 6 occasions. [19] Only Eton, St Paul's, Shrewsbury, and St Edward's have won more events at the Regatta.


Cricket is played in the summer term. Some Old Radleians have progressed to play cricket for England or captain county level cricket teams. The cricket grounds (including Smithson Fields) have been described as 'arguably one of the best in the country' [20] while the sporting facilities have been described as world-class. [21]

Field hockey

Eighteen hockey teams are fielded during the Lent term. Teams train on three Astroturf pitches and a full-sized indoor hockey pitch. Radley takes part in the Independent Schools Hockey League. [22]


Twelve football teams are fielded in the Lent term. Radley competes in ISFA Southern Independent Schools Lent Term League. There is a yearly pre-season training camp before term starts. [23]

Other sports

Sports such as fives, rackets, sailing, badminton, and polo are represented, as well as scuba diving. A real tennis court opened in July 2008, which made Radley the only school in the world to have fives, squash, badminton, tennis, racquets, and real tennis courts all on campus. [24]

Southern Railway Schools Class

The school lent its name to the thirty-first steam locomotive (Engine 930) in the Southern Railway's Class V of which there were 40. [25] This Class was also known as the Schools Class because all 40 of the class were named after prominent English public schools. "Radley", as it was called, was built in 1934 and was withdrawn in 1962. A nameplate from 930, Radley, is now displayed in the stationery department of Shop (the College's shop).

List of Wardens

Old Radleians

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Further reading

Coordinates: 51°41′35″N1°15′05″W / 51.69304°N 1.25150°W / 51.69304; -1.25150