Remembering together

Most historic institutions have a number of memorials in their grounds or buildings. The most formal are the group memorials, usually the war memorials or those which commemorate some significant project or event. At Radley, the war memorials commemorate nearly 500 old boys and staff who died in wars dating from 1857 until 2011. Those who contributed to the new theatre in the early 2000s were invited to sponsor an individual seat or a paving stone on the approach to the building. The more than 600 names on the seats or on the paving stones are both memorials to those who have died and a celebration of the living who were to be remembered as present in this place, at this time. Some families took the opportunity to commemorate the long inter-generational links they have with the school; an example of this is the Nugée family, who laid stones dating from 1848 for Edward Saxon Richards until then contemporary student Sam Nugée. Another long family association is celebrated in a tree planted near the Round Pavilion for four generations of the Barker family. Major benefactors or contributors to the life of the school are often honoured in the names of buildings, such as the McKenna Fitness Suite in 2018 or the Jock Mullard Rowing Tank in 2015 or is parts of the grounds such as the Jock Burnet Garden, planted to commemorate the Chairman of Council.

The Jock Burnet Garden in June

In 2022 a new Donors’ Board will be unveiled in the cloisters outside Chapel. It will include the names of all those who contributed to the Silk Fund or the Chapel extension appeals, regardless of the amount given: £5 to several thousands.

A sketch by Rebecca Kitchin

This new donors’ board takes us back to the earliest days of Radley’s chapel. As it became a place of worship for all members of the community so it became a place of memory for all. The earliest gifts include parts of stalls given by subscription from former pupils and colleagues in memory of Captain William Haskoll, the first sub-warden; Warden Field’s memorial is also part of the choir stalls. Different settings of the reredos were created, in the old chapel in memory of Harold Gathorne-Hardy (Radley 1861) who died in 1881 and in the new chapel, FD Pattisson (D 1936) in 2001. Stained glass windows commemorate boys who died in the flu epidemics of the 1890s. Chapel was also a place where those who had served the College not as teachers or pupils could be remembered – such as members of Council and Barbara Gibson, the College Matron, the only woman to be made an honorary Old Radleian before the 1990s.

Some of the memorial plaques record terrible tragedies, such as the clock above B Social, given in memory of Mark Alhusen, Andrew Hunt and Rupert Syer, killed in a car crash whilst at the school in 1994.

Whilst others record great sporting achievements, such as the Butler Bell on the Cricket Pavilion.

Trees are very important in the landscape at Radley. Avenues and woods have been planted as gifts and as memorials, often with a donor’s or memorial plaque attached. In 1937 a group of study mates clubbed together to provide one the lime trees in the Coronation Avenue (now on the golf course). Each tree had a lead plaque attached – just one survives:

Lime tree given by PRW Poyser, AE Money, RL Harrison and PHB Sessions in 1937

Trees and plants commemorate boys, teachers and staff, from members of the Council to the magnolia planted by the Bursary in memory of Joe Allen, the College’s plumber for more than 40 years, or the climbing roses by the Sewell Centre, planted in memory of Rose Morse, the department’s cleaner for more than 20 years.

Celebrating these many lives and contributions has enriched our environment. Trees, plants, benches give us a moment of quiet and (sometimes) of contemplation, and a sense that all this is remembered. One result of the survey of memorials was to allow the Estates department to develop a policy about them: to decide on the best location or species for a particular spot and to ensure that the plaques are looked after and suitable.

Clare Sargent 2021