Magazine cover, 2014


The Radleian began life in July 1864. It was a pocket-sized, brown-paper-wrapped, tract-like publication, printed by J Vincent of Oxford. We do not know how many copies of Vol. 1 No. 1 were actually produced, but only one now survives in the Archives. That copy was posted to John Brymer at his family home in Dorset. John and his younger brother Frederick both came to Radley in 1860. They were still boys at the school in July 1864, so the magazine was distributed by penny post and posted home, for a subscription of 6d per issue. It was probably not available within the school. Radleian1864001 Radleian1864027

 Richard Norman, Warden from 1861 until 1866, is credited as the originator of the magazine, because it started publication in the middle of his Wardenship.  However, there is some doubt as to whether it was actually the first Radley magazine.  Sub-Warden William Wood recorded a conversation with William Sewell in a diary entry dated 1858.  This mentions ‘The Petreian’.  The Petreian Club was ‘for original compositions’, and, given that Sewell’s school owned a printing press and type (both sold for £10 after the financial crash of 1860), it is not unreasonable to suppose that this was an early form of school magazine, in which the boys published their own original writing.  Wishful thinking on the part of Radley’s chroniclers has also claimed that ‘The Petreian’ must have been the earliest of all school magazines, as much a part of Sewell’s innovative approach to schooling as privacy in the dormitories and art and beauty in the environment.  However, changes to stamp duty and the newspaper tax in 1855 led to a proliferation of minor publications, school magazines among them.  Certainly within a year of the start of publication, in 1865 The Radleian was exchanging insults with The Eton College Chronicle, and copies with several other schools.

The Radleian, 1865:

Oh may that glorious day soon come
When the plucky Radley crew,
Their colours red and white, shall leave
Behind the faded blue.

The Eton College Chronicle, 1865:

Then why don’t these brave oarsmen
Send Henley such a crew
As shall show real proof of power
And leave ‘the faded blue,’
Instead of vainly boasting
They will win the Ladies Plate,
And distance the Etonians
With Radley’s little weight.

Radley had first challenged Eton over the Henley course in 1858, and lost by ¾ length.  In 1859, Eton refused to row against them.  In 1861, Radley was first given permission to enter for the Ladies Plate, and were beaten by Eton by 2 lengths.  In 1862, the two schools were purposely drawn against each other; Radley lost again because of ‘the accident when we were leading at Remenham’ (the no. 4 caught a colossal crab); but in 1865, the challenge was laid down in the school magazines and this time Radley beat Eton (by 2 ½ lengths according to the earliest history of Radley, or on a foul, according to the centenary history!)

The first edition of The Radleian laid out the contents that would remain the format of the magazine for the next 150 years:  prefatory remarks or an editorial; poetry and short stories (usually based on a classical theme which formed part of the school curriculum); sports reports (the first edition covers cricket and Henley); and satirical pieces bemoaning how things were better in the old days.  At this point, Radley College had very few old days to bemoan, since the school itself was just seventeen years old.

From the beginning, the editors envisioned that the magazine would form the annals of the school.  They were determined that it would be non-political and that there should be equally ‘honourable mention’ for all areas of school life:

We shall not be deaf to the claims of music, or blind to the exploits of the athlete … we will do all that in our feeble power and small way lies to commemorate, be the contest that of song or of physical strength and endurance, the laurels borne off in our gymnasium.

It was also intended as a means of communicating across generations of Radleians. That was to prove vital in both World Wars.

The pocket-sized twenty-eight page tract-style lasted for four issues. It covered its costs. Dissatisfaction with its appearance led to a re-launch in March 1866. This was also numbered No. 1, but now it was four pages of folded folio, still priced 6d, still published by Vincent’s of Oxford, and now carrying local adverts to help cover production costs.

HowardsEmblem The new newspaper bore the emblem of St Peter, originally designed by Edward Howard, one of the first three Fellows of Radley College. Howard also designed Clock Tower. Except for a temporary move into quarto in 1889, with a new emblem of the Serpent and Dove, the magazine retained this form until 1947. 1889emblem

The change in style is explained in the editorial:

People said it was like a tract, and they said it was brown. … But it was not enough to change the colour. It would not be ‘brown’ but it would still be tract-like. We resolved to take the newspaper shape. The resolve once made, there poured in a hundred reasons in favour of it. We should look less pretentious, and more what we intended “The Radleian” to be, for the most part a chronicle of events, more a means for Radleians to communicate their passing ideas on things in general, without putting them into verse.

But a newspaper needs to generate income. The new editor was determined to make his paper pay, and to achieve this it was to be:

a valuable advertising medium. This is important to tradesmen. To them we would say, “If you hope to succeed in business, at any rate with us, you must send your advertisement …” We may confidently assert that of all monthly periodicals, we have the largest monthly circulation in Radley.

The first issue contains an advert from James Quarterman, landlord of the Bowyer’s Arms, who ‘BEGS to acquaint the GENTLEMEN OF RADLEY COLLEGE that he has now HORSES AND CABS TO LET ON HIRE’. In the next issue, Mr Quarterman was joined by Simms & Son of Broad St, Oxford, offering ‘Cricket and Athletic shoes 6s6d; Boating and Fives 4s6d.’ But the advertisers soon lost heart and this revenue stream vanished anyway in the later 1860s. However, advertising in The Radleian was again the norm a century later in the 1960s, primarily offering careers opportunities in the banks and the armed forces.

The earliest editors were also vehemently determined to have freedom of the press. It was overseen by a Don from the very beginning but also from the beginning it was the work of the boys, the showcase of their writing, jokes, protests, sports. And, in keeping with contemporary journals, anonymity and pseudonymity were the order of the day. (Providing always that that the editors knew the identity of the author). This allowed all members of the College to contribute. This was particularly useful for the earliest rugby coaches writing in the magazine in 1914. It is clear that these are coaching notes disguised as match reviews, and can only have been written by the Dons, Sam Hales or Lance Vidal, who both fell in action in WW1:

The forwards are learning to pack, but find it extremely difficult to break up when the ball is out of the scrum, or to make anything like a combined forward rush … The golden rules for forwards: a) Heel out only from a tight scrum; b) (when the ball is loose) make for your opponents’ goal with the ball at your feet; c) Listen to the directions of the half and break up quickly: – these are easier to grasp in theory than in practice. The tackling … few players really go low for their man, or if they do so they do not throw themselves at him…

The magazine originally appeared monthly, then two-three times each term, and eventually termly, depending on enthusiasm and competence from 1866 until the later 1980s. Only then did it become an annual production, with a new role almost as an annual report, very much under the control of the school establishment. In the mid-2000s The Chronicle; was launched, specifically designed to mirror the earliest The Radleian;, in a conscious effort to redress the balance so that the boys could again produce a regular record of their lives and thoughts. The Chronicle even used a third form of the school emblem, dating from the 1870s which had never been used before for a publication.

Chronicle028PSE CollegeBlock030 EmergencyRation1939029 TheShrew031

In 2014, the Sports Chronicle appeared, as a record of each week’s matches, existing primarily in digital form. These were not the only alternative magazines produced within the school. During WW2, paper shortages meant that a school magazine was a luxury and The Radleian, with a world-wide distribution to Old Radleians, particularly those serving in the armed forces, was scaled down to the bare minimum. It concentrated primarily on ORs, particularly news of military promotions and casualties, with a small space left for general school news (the Radleiana section) and matches. Original writing by the boys during WW2 appeared in an in-house journal entitled successively Emergency Ration and College Block. Other specialist magazines have appeared from time to time, most notably publications in the 1930s and 1950s by the Natural History Society, and RAM: the Radley Arts Magazine in the 1970s. Satirical versions have also had brief lives: The Broadsheet and its ‘half-brother’ The New Radleian in the 1960s, The Shrew in the 1990s, The Belvedere (only circulated in digital form via email, so none ever reached the Archives) in the 2000s.

The earliest editors were determined that the magazine should cover all aspects of school life:

… And yet another reason is there for the newspaper shape. Of all glorious British institutions, the most glorious to our minds is the British newspaper, possessing freedom without abusing it, always ready to lend a helping hand to the distressed, above all, hunting up abuses of every description. …We shall combine in ourselves all the virtues, without any of the vices of Times, Standard, Telegraph, Star, Saturday Review, etc. We shall be quite as interesting (on Radley topics), quite as veracious, quite as well informed. We shall represent all shades of opinion – aquatical, cricketical, gymnastical, political, social, &c., &c., &c., (we arrange these, as will be observed, alphabetically to avoid giving offence). The Radleian, no. 1, 1866

As the record of the daily life of the school it is incomparable. Incomplete? Obviously. Biassed? Certainly. But it has published the earliest works of major authors: Peter Cook was the editor and a prolific (anonymous) contributor in the early 1950s. Andrew Motion’s earliest published poems appeared in the late 1960s. And it remains the primary source for all the school’s social, cultural and sporting history apart from those first seventeen years.

The Radleian contained information about the careers of Old Boys from the very beginning. The Old Radleian magazine was not launched as a separate entity until the mid-1990s: the latest issue, 2014, at 170 pages is now considerably larger than its counterpart. The Radleian’s role in unifying the past and present school is seen most poignantly in the editions produced during the First World War. The issue for July 1914 was no. 399. The editors had just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the school magazine itself. The editorial for July 1914 gives no hint of what was to come:

The Summer Term, the part of our life most crowded with activities, has now almost ended. For many the most enjoyable period of their lives has closed, while for others the end of term brings nothing more than a temporary cessation of labour. For all too many it brings a lengthy severance from friends, at the parting of the ways which may never again converge.’ The Radleian, July, 1914

War was declared on 4th August 1914. Issue no. 400, November 1914, looks the War straight in the face:

It is even more difficult than usual to write of School events: local interests have been so completely absorbed in the War. Our numbers are naturally
somewhat depleted, but it is some consolation to know that a very large percentage of those who left last term are now serving in some capacity.

The editors then turn immediately to the information that will dominate the magazine for the next five years:

We publish in this number a list containing the names of all who are at present known to be with the Forces. We should be glad to receive
any further news for publication in our next issue.’ The Radleian, November 1914

As paper became more scarce, those lists of the serving, wounded, missing and fallen were given the priority over all other school news. Historians of WW1 owe a very great debt to those who compiled those lists.  For Radley, much of the work was done single-handedly by Rev Richard Colborne, Secretary of the Radleian Society. He worked on this until he was called up in 1917 as Chaplain attached to 1st Battalion, the London Regiment.  He was killed in action on 28th May 1918,whilst helping to bring in wounded. Another who deserves great praise for his use of The Radleian is Vyvyan Hope, who came to teach at Radley in 1919 and served as Secretary of the Radleian Society from 1929 until 1948. Throughout WW2 he maintained links with all those Radleians who were prisoners of war. The letters received from them and their families form an astonishing archive. Hope sent out parcels of books, cigarettes and the magazine. It was instrumental in raising morale and in bringing news of home to men in difficult situations. It became a joke among PoWs that all over camps there were copies of The Etonian, The Wykehamist and The Radleian ColborneRAP1

As technology changed, so did the magazine. Photographs were reproduced on a glossy paper insert for the first time in 1901, to show the Cricket Pavilion, built in honour of Queen Victoria. Cartoons and caricatures became a staple throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Colour images first appeared in the text in 1988, although just one page.

What of the next fifty years? In the age of web-based news, is there still a place for an annual review? For those who wish to read past editions the online version is available


Clare Sargent, December 2014

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