Author: archives602

Inventors and innovators

The inventors

It is relatively easy to track Radley’s artists and writers through our records. Most work alone and often use these terms to describe themselves, their careers or their hobbies. The inventors and experimenters are harder to spot. Usually, they were working as a member of a much larger team, for example James Collingwood Tingling (1915), who worked alongside Frank Whittle on the invention of the jet engine during the 1930s and 1940s. His own company, Power Jets Ltd founded in 1936, was taken over by the state in 1944.

The Longridge brothers, Michael (1859) and Cecil (1865), both proudly included their inventions in the fields of explosives in their Register entries: Michael as a member the inventions department of the Ministry of Munitions, and subsequently serving on the General Board of the National Physical Laboratory, and Cecil as inventor of the base-fuel shell used in the earliest Royal Navy submarines. Cecil went on to become one the directors of the Daimler Motor Company in Coventry.

A precursor to Tingling in advances in aviation was Eric Bruce (1871) the inventor of the electric balloon-signalling system. Originally designed to allow British Army troops to signal within mountainous terrain during the Second South African War (1899-1902), his invention became the forerunner of aircraft-to-aircraft signalling during WW1. Boys in Radley Officers Training Corps were trained in this method of wireless signalling in 1919, but it is not clear whether the Radley connection was mentioned.

A more peaceful application of technology was the invention of the differential microphone and binaural electrical hearing apparatus, both designed for use by the deaf, by Harry Wharry (1905), a specialist surgeon. His name is still associated with some types of microphone.

HM Wharry whilst serving with the RAMC during WW1

Most celebrated of all Radley’s inventors is Charles Howard (1921), Earl of Suffolk and Berkshire, whose memorial can be seen in the Cloisters. He was awarded the George Cross for his work as a Scientific Officer during WW2, most notably as the inventor of bomb disposal. Although this research and invention was top secret during his lifetime, an even more secret aspect of his career was his work on heavy water and connection to the Manhattan Project: this is currently the topic of new research by Seamus Blackley.

Charles Howard, 20th Earl of Suffolk and Berkshire

Radleians have been involved in the development of computers since the 1960s, for example John Whittaker (1925) Administrative Officer to the Government Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency, fellow of the British Computer Society, and Chairman of its Membership Board; John Mackarness (1933) who was appointed Secretary of the British Computer Society in 1965; John Marchant (1938) who became Senior Consultant at Bedford Computer Services Ltd in 1971. Dr Jeremy Tatum, physics teacher, was given access to the computer at Culham Laboratory for his personal research on astronomy in 1969. And in 1981, Michael Crowley-Milling (1931) was awarded the Glazebrook Medal and prize of the Council of the Institute of Physics for the development, design and construction of the multi-computer control system of the 400 Gev proton synchroton at CERN.

At school, the inventors and experimenters became members of the Wireless Society which flourished throughout the 1930s into the 1950s, making good use of recycled components during shortages. It was building the wireless which was the attraction. The diary of a Shell, written during his first year in 1934, records many sessions happily working on his radio. A few years later, evacuee Alan Dodson was taught how to build a miniature crystal set by an unnamed Radley don during World War 2. This laid the foundations of Alan’s own career in computers (and raises questions about the don’s possibly covert activities).

In 1954 members constructed a 10-valve amplifier for the Marionette Society – a good example of sharing skills-sets. In 1958 the Wireless Society was itself re-invented, becoming the Radio Club. Members worked on projects ranging from transistor amplifiers to cathode ray oscilloscopes, teaching themselves electronics under the guidance of science master, CH Barrow. In another collaboration with a different school society, the Radio Club embarked upon the construction of a radio telescope on the roof of the Science building, working with the Science Society. Crawley Technical College and a school in Liverpool were also cooperating in the experiment: ‘The scheme is to determine the electron density of the Sun’s corona by measurement of the attenuation of the radiation from the Crab Nebula as it passes through the Corona. An interforometer aerial system will be used with government surplus receivers. The apparatus will be operating on approximately eleven metres.’ Nearly half a century later, physics classes under Kevin Mosedale could access the Faulks Telescope in Hawaii over the internet to study astronomy and photograph galaxies. When the Science building was re-designed in 2018 it had an observatory on the roof. But the pressures of the exam system meant that fewer and fewer boys were able to devote time to such extra-curricular activities and the Radio Club faded away.

Dr HT Barrow with a science class in 1956

As technology moved away from extra-curricular clubs, the academic place for it became the Design Technology Department, with links to Physics. Design had been developing as a subject in schools during the 1960s but was still disregarded academically. At an inter-schools’ conference in the mid-1970s Radley’s Warden, Dennis Silk urged: ‘When head and hands are working closely together we are coming somewhere near the true function of education. It is possible to train an aesthetic sense and to ally it to practical skills and the needs of people. Never has it been more important to do so.’ It is perhaps no surprise therefore that it was Silk’s leadership that saw design facilities improve markedly both with the construction of the Sewell Centre and the appointment of specialist staff.


Max Horsey arrived at Radley to teach electronics in 1989. That year a new extension to the Design Department was opened in response to the introduction of ‘Craft, Design and Technology’ to the GCSE and ‘A’ level syllabi which centred on electronics and mechanisms, with future plans to provide facilities for robotics and computer-aided manufacture. The overall aim was to bridge the gap between Art, Design and Physics. At the time, the government were considering whether Design should be made a compulsory subject to age 16 within the national curriculum. In 1991 Horsey’s textbook, Electronics in Practice was published by Blackwells, to be followed by many articles in journals, particularly Everyday Practical Electronics. In this he joined the ranks of other Radley dons with published works.

The electronics exhibition at Gaudy

By 1996, many boys were exploring electronics outside of the classroom in a similar way to the Wireless Society of the 1930s and the Radio Club’s radio telescope in the 1960s, helped by Horsey and his technician, Trevor Garnham. A number entered the national Young Electronic Designer Awards and the Young Engineer competition for the first time that year. Several of the boys published articles about their work in peer-reviewed journals.

In 1996, Philip Clayton was the first boy to introduce Radley to PIC – a new and revolutionary means of electronic control. This was well above A level and was the reason for Radley winning a number of electronics competitions for several years. In 1998, educating the boys came of age when Butterworth-Heinemann published John Morton’s book PIC: your personal introductory course while he was still in the Sixth form: a first for the school.

Memorial bench

There is a bench at Radley, comfortably sited overlooking the lake, which bears the plaque ‘Mile, our gardener’. It is just one of the many ways that those who have lived and worked at the school have been commemorated by their friends and families. Sometimes there is a plaque, sometimes just a bunch of flowers regularly laid at the foot of a tree without any ceremony or fanfare, just a quiet, private moment of remembrance and respect. There are trees, clocks, lighting circuits, engraved stones. Not all are memorials about the past: some are a statement of being present in this place, at this time – being a part of it. In 2016, the archivist conducted a survey around the site to record all those which still bore some identification, but after 175 years there are many more which have long since lost that notice and survive only in a brief note in the school records. Here is the story of how we have remembered our friends and families in this place >>>read on>>>

Menu, 2000

In the first year of the new millennium a group met for one final dinner. It marked the end of an association which had actually existed for 120 years. In that time, society had changed out of all recognition, and with it approaches to philanthropy and charity. This is the story of that connection, how it changed over time as society changed, and some of the individuals who contributed to those changes. This is the story of Radley College and St Peter’s, London Docks >>>read on >>>>

Social Colours, 1880

Social Fours League Table 1880


For every boy who comes to Radley College, the identity of his boarding house must seem the most permanent thing in the school.  Timetables change, curriculum changes, staff change, even sports change their rules; but the boarding house has surely been there forever.  Not so.  The ‘Socials’ are one of the most fluid aspects of the school and one of the most peculiar institutions of Radley College.  From All to 6 to 8 to Orchard to 10 to 11, to the mysterious ‘I Social’, to in-College or out-College, from letters to Tutors’ names, this weird institution is more than a place to sleep or ‘board’.  It is, in fact, the boys – ‘my socials’.  Fetch a wet towel to wrap around your head – this is not straightforward!  Read on >>>>>

Wallpaper, 2018

The history of Radley sport in wallpaper (detail)

Organised sport has been central to the life of Radley from the foundation of the school in 1847 when the earliest Fellows included two (Howard and Savory) chosen specifically because they could participate in cricket and boating with the boys. 2016 saw a new development in Radley sport with the appointment of James Gaunt as Director of Sport and the subsequent creation of a Sports Office located on one of the main thoroughfares of the school between Shop and Clocktower.  The new office is shared by the Director of Sport and some of the specialist sports coaches, who include Old Radleian, Nick Wood, formerly of Gloucester Rugby, Olympic rower, Sam Townsend, Hockey Professional Peter Bennett and Cricketer Andy Wagner. But sport already had a long and distinguished career at Radley College and, being keen to uphold and honour that tradition, a decision was taken to decorate the office. Masterminded by James Rock, the Rackets coach, the sports coaches delved through the Archives to identify key moments in Radley sporting history.  They created a timeline which wraps around the room, against a backdrop of world events, and, in the Director of Sport’s office, a wallpaper which is a montage of the many ordinary moments in a school’s sporting life. From sinking boats to early PT, from world champions to the Bash Street Kids – through the magic of digitisation, all sporting life is here…

>>>read on >>>timeline

>>> read on >>>montage

Debate, 1918 – ‘This House deplores the entry of women into Parliament’

Poem from The Radleian, 1909

The UK celebrates the Centenary of (Partial) Suffrage for Women in February 2018.  Exhibitions across the country are marking the event.  Girls schools, in particular, have found a treasure trove of previously unknown material documenting the eagerness with which young women followed the debate and hoped for a future in which they could participate fully in the government of their country.  Many of those girls had brothers at schools like Radley College.  But the boys’ schools have found it very difficult to find material to contribute to the celebration.  At Radley, the Debating Society addressed the issue on just four occasions during the height of the Suffrage Movement: in 1908, 1910, 1913 and 1918Here are the debates >>>

Live-stream, 2018

Screenshot of Radley College website during the live streaming of Declamations, 2018

‘This most civilized of Radley competitions,’ former Don, Barry Webb, describing Declamations in 1983.  With its roots deep in Victorian ‘memoriter’ exercises and parlour recitations, Radley’s civilized competition goes back to the days of William Sewell in the mid-1850s.  In the course of 170 years it has seen recitations in Serbian, Greek, Latin and French.  It has faded entirely from view, been revived (twice) as a symbol of continuity in the face of global war, and has had its current format unchanged for 70 years.  Boys have groaned, Dons have goaded.  Adjudication has been fiercely criticised.  Youtube has radically altered the way boys research and learn pieces.  And in 2018, it was live-streamed from the Theatre into classrooms across the school and parents’ homes around the world.   Declamations – one of Radley’s enduring institutions …  Read on

Grant of Arms, 1908

Radley College crest. From an original engraving by Dan Escott, commissioned by the Heraldry Society in 1964


Argent an open Book garnished Gules clasps and buckles Or thereon inscribed the words SICUT SERPENTES SICUT COLUMBAE between three crosses pattée of the second on a Chief of the last a Key in bend sinister of the first surmounted by a similar Key in bend dexter Gold between to the dexter a Serpent knowed and erect and to the sinister a Dove both proper


Sicut Serpentes Sicut Columbae

Heraldry, crests, badges, mottoes – the very root and branch of tradition.  The symbols that say ‘we are here’ and ‘here we stay.’  The colours of identity.  A complex pattern which is instantly recognisable to anyone associated with an institution. Unchanging.  But even something so traditional grew organically over time and was not there for the first sixty one years of the College’s life. Here is the story of the college crest ….

Letters from a Primary School, 2017

When the Archive went back to school. These contemporary letters were written as ‘thank yous’ following an afternoon spent at a primary school.  The children were studying aspects of Victorian history, particularly the kind of education rich boys might have experienced in the nineteenth century.  They heard about the carved desk lid, a prefect’s banner, a letter from Gerald Talbot and the prefect’s fives bat.  So this particular ‘object’ is about how the virtual museum does sometimes go out into the wider world.  It is also a partner to No. 17 The teachers’ revenge, since it tells the story of the everyday objects used by those examinees of the 1870s.  Read on …

The teachers’ revenge, 1870s

Bristowe’s exam

This story presents the most ephemeral of ephemera: a scrapbook of snippets cut out of junior boys exams by an unknown Don at Radley in the 1870s. Exams are the horror at the end of every teacher’s year.  Object no. 9  Thank you letter, 2011, examined the history of formal exams and external qualifications.  But the end of year test existed long before exams were subject to external scrutiny or led to nationally recognised standards.  Back in the 1870s, a boy could remain in the same class for years before he passed an exam that allowed him to move up to another class.  The teacher tasked with forcing an education into such a boy needed his own methods to retain his sanity.  In Radley College Archives is a scrap book of cuttings from exam papers.  Did the teachers who collected these feel they were banging their heads against a brick wall, or did they fall about howling with laughter in the Common Room as they added yet another gem to their collection? Here are some of the most sparkling moments as gathered together in Facetiae Radlienses e responsis per examinations factis extracta St Peter’s College 1869