Equality in death: the Servants’ War Memorial, 1924

Servants memorial hi res

This is a highly contentious carving.  Not only does the word ‘servants’ evoke the class distinctions of the Edwardian era, but the very separation of this group of names on the War Memorial reinforces that separation in contemporary eyes.  Yet when it was created it was as an act of deep reverence and honour. Radley is one of very few schools which included the serving staff on its War Memorial. At its dedication in 1924 it was part of the great democratisation in death which saw the creation of the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission at the end of World War 1.

The whole debate of what form a War Memorial should take began at Radley as early as January 1917 and was not concluded for another 30 years.  In that time the committee had resigned twice, the builders had failed their contract, the architect had died and another war had been fought.  Utility or Sentiment?  What is a War Memorial all about? … read on >>>

Planting Plan 1948

Century Clump

Century Clump

This is a scrap of paper glued onto a piece of old cardboard, annotated in red and black ink.  It is very easy to lose or discard it; extremely easy to overlook it.  What it records can be passed by just as easily.  Indeed, so used are we to the landscape around us, to the trees, the paths, the pitches that every golfer playing on Radley College Golf Course, every visitor for a school match, every dog-walker and every member of the College, has walked past this with barely a thought. Yet its purpose is grandiose, ambitious, permanent: a grove of eighteen oak trees each planted to commemorate that greatest of cricketing targets – to score a century in a school match. In thirty-seven years only thirteen boys achieved it. This is the planting plan for Century Clump.  … The full story

Magazine cover 2014

Cover POst032
Cover designed by Caspar Lumley, K Social, 6.2, with advice from professional designer Mike Brain.  The cover celebrates 150 years of publication of the school magazine.  How much has changed in that time, and how much stayed the same?  The magazine itself seems to have changed out of all recognition, yet still covers the same material – the everyday life of the school.  When it was first produced in 1864, the school was just seventeen years old, struggling to survive. The magazine was entirely written by the boys and sales were necessary to cover its own costs, with profits being used to subsidise school sports and the library.  150 years later, it has a print-run of 5000 copies, is distributed free, and is the most prestigious publication produced by the school.… read on


The Richards Gold Medal

No 12 Richards Gold Medal 6Some of the objects which are essential to the story of Radley have very little by way of individual history. One of these is the school’s premiere academic award: the Richards Gold Medal. This is a story about the relationships between schoolmasters and schoolboys in the earliest days of Radley… read on

A chicken roll

chicken roll1Object No 10 was a riddle. Object No 11 continues the theme. It is one of the great mysteries of Radley. When this series was first proposed, object No 11 was among the first items to be nominated. It is so iconic that its inclusion in ‘The history in 100 objects’ was cited by the Warden in his end of term assembly. But the object itself baffles. Its hold over the average Radleian is inexplicable to the average adult human. The very photo shows just how unappetising this commodity really is. Yet it is a commodity. It has been used as a reward, as a bribe, in negotiations over lessons, as the impetus behind a strike. It is the stuff of nostalgia. This is a tale that encompasses gluttony, embezzlement, debt and bullying.

It is a soft bread roll filled with minced chicken in mayonnaise, with the minutest amount of lettuce garnish imaginable. All hail, the mystery of the chicken roll. THE FULL STORY

A riddle, 1847-1947.

I have four faces, but when I was born I had no face at all.
I am an icon, but what I represent has changed with the years.
I am a landmark, but I cannot be seen from any vantage point.

I have four courts but only one remains.
I have three bells named after Christian saints and
I have been shot at dawn.

I have been a stage.
I have been a roundabout.
I am central.

Boys went unfed, staff unpaid, beds unbought, to pay for me.
I am the oldest.
I was the first.

Who am I? – Click here for the answer

‘Thank you’ letter, 2011


‘Dear Garry
22 A*s in Maths and 6 + 4 more respectively in Further and Additional – a really impressive performance, set alongside the most important statistic in my eyes – 60/62 grades were A*/A/B in Single Maths, a truly amazing statistic. Very well done to you and to all the team.

As ever,


An apparently simple postcard from the Director of Studies to the Head of an Academic Department, penned in AER’s signature purple ink – instantly recognisable to anyone at Radley from 1993 until 2012. On the face of it, a casual note. Digging deeper, it reveals a complex story about a fundamental debate in education over the last 160 years. Object no 7 covered the school curriculum before the advent of public exams; object no 8 looked at the role of an extra-curricular academic discipline and the impact of the enthusiasm of individual teachers. Object no 9 looks at the day-to-day business of education: the formal curriculum and the place of comparative testing between schools for pupils to achieve measurable qualifications – the public exams for A Levels. But the story of exams, results, league tables, only skims the surface of this postcard. For this is the story of exams from the ‘other’ side – not from the pupil’s point of view, concerned with the results of an individual – but from the teachers’ side. Although the postcard is addressed from one individual to another, it is about teamwork, and about saying ‘Thank you.’ For it acknowledges that, although not all taught the actual A Level classes, all the members of a department have contributed equally over a pupil’s career, and all are to be congratulated and thanked. To Read More Click Here

The Transit of Venus. 6th June 2012

The Transit of Venus 2004 credit Charles Barclay

The Transit of Venus 2004 credit Charles Barclay

No 8 in our list of objects is an event rather than a physical object.  An event so elusive, so transient, that you can blink – and miss it.  And yet an event so regular that the challenge to record it, and to measure it accurately, has moved empires.  This is a story of the shrinking world and the expanding universe. A story that links James Cook’s great voyage to Tahiti in the 1760s to measure the distance between the Earth and the Sun, with Removes sitting in a classroom at Radley in the 2000s using the global network to harness a telescope in Hawaii to photograph the births and deaths of stars in other galaxies.
This is the story of a hobby; of long nights spent star-gazing; of the influence of great teachers on keen pupils; of the pursuit of academic excellence outside the formal curriculum; and of an event that no one now living will ever see again. THE FULL STORY

Letter Home 1857

Click for more

St Peter’s College
Sept. 9 1857

My dear Parents

I hope that you will excuse our not writing to you by the last mail when you hear how it happened. We [were] just going out to spend the day at a gentleman’s house the other side of Oxford, and our ponies were at the door when we remembered that it was the day for writing and so Charley just wrote a line like you told us to say that we were well. To your question about having a watch, I shall answer no because I should never keep it in order. All the names of all the people who are in danger out in India are put up by the Warden on the chapel. I hope that we shall stop here next holiday for then we shall be able to ride. I suppose that the rainy season will begin soon, it seems as if we were going to have a rainy season here for we have had nothing but rain for the last two or three days. We do much harder work in our form now such as Caesar and Ovid which are both rather harder Latin than we used to do. I must now say good-bye with love to you both,

I remain

Your affectionate son

G.H. Talbot

PS. Charley told me to tell you that he has not had time to write.

A standard letter home from the younger of two brothers. It includes everything two loving parents could expect from a thirteen year-old: excuses about not writing, obsession with ponies, answer to a question about what he wants for his birthday (on 25th September), talk about the weather, academic progress, more excuses from his fifteen year-old older brother. But this letter home will travel by overland mail, as will their reply, and although Gerald Talbot writes home every two weeks (whenever he is not too busy) it will take nearly a month to arrive, and another month before he receives a reply. That is, if he ever does receive a reply. For Gerald’s father is stationed in Calcutta as Secretary to Lord Canning, Governor-General of India, and news about the Sepoy Rebellion which started at Meerut on 10th May 1857 has been filtering through to Britain since June 9th. To Read More Click Here

Pewter tankard 1913

Object no. 6 represents hundreds of similar tankards awarded for rowing. It is engraved with the names of the five crewmembers, four rowers and the cox, of a four which competed in an event on the Thames in March 1913. As a beer tankard it is unremarkable, and has served its turn for flower arrangements. As an archival record, it is a useful indicator of health and fitness, since it records the weights of the crew, which can be compared with modern crews. As a record of the school’s history, it bears the names of individuals, grouped together relatively randomly for this one event. But as a historic record, it evokes a fleeting, happy moment at the end of the long, golden Edwardian summer: 1913 – a date which resonates in the nation’s history. Click Here for more