Clifton College

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Clifton College
Clifton College Crest
Motto Latin: Spiritus Intus Alit
The spirit nourishes within
Established 1862
Type Independent boarding and day school
Religion Christian
Head of College Dr Tim Greene
Deputy Heads
  • Alex Tebay
  • Gil Simmons
Founder John Percival
Location College Road
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DfE URN 109334 Tables
Capacity 1332
Students 1247
Gender Mixed
Ages 2–18
Houses 11 (in the Upper School)
Colours Blue, Green, Navy
Former pupils Old Cliftonians

Clifton College is a co-educational independent school in the suburb of Clifton in the port city of Bristol in South West England, founded in 1862. In its early years it was notable (compared with most Public Schools of the time) for emphasising science rather than classics in the curriculum, and for being less concerned with social elitism, e.g. by admitting day-boys on equal terms and providing a dedicated boarding house for Jewish boys.[1][2][3] Having linked its General Studies classes with Badminton School since 1972, it admitted girls to the Sixth Form in 1987 and is now fully coeducational. The dedicated Jewish boarding house closed in 2005.

It was at Clifton that the second-highest cricket score ever recorded was made by 13 years old A.E.J. Collins in June 1899. Collins's 628 not out stood as the record score till January 2016 when Prunav Dhanawade, 15 years old, of Mumbai, India, scored 1009 in a schools' game. Collins was killed in World War I.

The school was also the headquarters of the US army in Britain for part of the Second World War. Clifton is one of the original 26 English public schools as defined by the Public Schools Yearbook of 1889.


The school takes boys and girls aged between 13 and 18. It has a preparatory school, Clifton College Preparatory School (known as the 'Pre'), for children from 8 to 13 which is nearby and shares many of the same facilities; also a pre-preparatory school for younger children aged 3 to 8 called Butcombe. To distinguish it from the junior schools, Clifton College proper is referred to as the 'Upper School'.

There are around 720 children in the Upper School of whom about a third are girls. At the start of the 2004 - 2005 school year, a new boarding/day house for girls (Hallward's House) was opened.

In 2005, the school was one of fifty of the country's leading private schools which were found guilty of running an illegal price-fixing cartel, exposed by The Times, which had allowed them to drive up fees for thousands of parents.[4] Each school was required to pay a nominal penalty of £10,000 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.[5]

Clifton College Upper School seen from the Close. Left - the Dining Hall, centre - the Chapel, right - the science block

World War II

During World War II the heavy bombing of Bristol caused the students to be evacuated to Bude. In February 1941 the buildings were used by the Royal Army Service Corps as an Officer Cadet Training Unit. In 1942 they were replaced by the United States Army who established it as the headquarters of V Corps and then the First Army. Staff were involved in preparations for the Normandy landings under General Omar Bradley. After D-Day the college was taken over as headquarters of the Ninth Army under General William Hood Simpson.[6]

To enable rapid travel and communications between the headquarters and dispersed units extensive use was made of light aircraft for travel. Some flights used Filton Airfield and others Whitchurch, however the majority were from the college's playing fields at Beggars Bush Field, between the college and Leigh Woods, which was turned into an airfield.[6]


Students at Clifton College in 2009

Before 1987, Clifton was a boys-only school with seven boarding houses (School House, Brown's, Watson's, Dakyns', Oakeley's, Wiseman's, Polack's) and three day houses (East Town, North Town and The South Town). In each of the current seven boarding Houses (four for boys, three for girls) live the Housemaster or Housemistress and family, an Assistant and the Matron. In addition, each House has up to four non-residential Tutors. Also, pupils wear ties with different coloured stripes according to their house membership; which are also the colours of the jerseys the pupils wear to distinguish between houses in inter-house sporting events.[7]

There are 11 houses currently in the Upper School of Clifton College, which have an order of precedence based on the date of their foundation;[8] it is traditional that day-pupil only houses are known as "Towns" and any house that admits boarders "Houses". There are also houses in Clifton College Preparatory School that are not listed below.

House Colours Motto Gender Boarding/Day
School House Black/Red Latin: Spes Ancora Vitae
Hope is the anchor of life
M Boarding
Moberly's House Red-Purple/Blue/White Latin: Stet fortuna domus
May fortune attend those who dwell here
M Boarding
Oakeley's House Black/White Latin: Floruit Floret Floreat
It has flourished, it is flourishing, may it flourish
F (M until 1986) Boarding
Watson's House Pale Blue/Black Latin: Fratres in Unum
Brothers Together
M Boarding
Wiseman's House Black/Purple Latin: Nec tenui ferar penna
On no feeble wing shall I be borne
M Boarding
North Town Dark Blue/Black/White Latin: Vestigia Nulla Retrorsum
Always go forward in life
M Day
The South Town Black/Green Latin: Vis Unita Fortior
Together we are stronger
M Day
East Town Black/Yellow/Orange Latin: Sol Semper Resurgit
The sun always rises again
M Day
Worcester House Black/Green/White Latin: Possunt quia posse videntur
They can because they think they can
F Boarding
West Town Black/Pink Latin: A posse ad esse
From the possible to the actual
F Day
Hallward's House Black/Purple/Green Latin: Si vobis confiditis, mundus vobis erit
Believe in yourself and the world is yours
F Day with Sixth Form Boarding


Several other houses have existed during the school's history. In WW2, while the school was evacuated to Bude, United House (UH) was created from pupils of houses placed in temporary abeyance. Dakyns' House and Brown's House were closed in 1993, and Polack's House, which took Jewish boys only, was closed in 2005. These are listed below:

House Colours Motto Gender Boarding/Day Closed
Dakyns' House White-Pink-White (tie)
Brown (sport)
Strike Dakyns, The Devil's in the Hemp M Boarding 1993
Brown's House Black/Yellow Greek: Arche Andra Deixei
Authority reveals the man
M Boarding 1993
Polack's House Black/Red/White Latin: Vires acquirit eundo
We gather strength as we go
M Boarding (Jewish) 2004

In the decades after the school's foundation, with the exception of School House, the Houses were named after the Housemaster at the time, but in the late 19th century this pattern was abandoned, and all Houses reverted to the name of their first Housemaster. This nomenclature convention was not however used for Hallward's House (founded in 2004 and named after a former Headmaster, Bertrand Hallward, nor for Worcester House (the second girl's house, founded in 1989 and named after the road in which it is situated). When Dakyns' House and Brown's House were merged in September 1993, the original suggestion was to name the new establishment "Dakyns-Brown's House", but following a suggestion from a pupil, the name "Moberly's House" was chosen, commemorating the only teacher who had been involved in both of the antecedent establishments (as Housemaster of both Dakyns' and House Tutor of Brown's).[10]

Buildings and grounds

The first school buildings

Big School (right) soon after it was built - 1860s
The College in 1866.
An 1898 etching of the College Close

The college buildings were designed by the architect Charles Hansom (the brother of Joseph Hansom); his first design was for Big School and a proposed dining hall. Only the former was built and a small extra short wing was added in 1866 – this is what now contains the Marshal's office and the new staircase into Big School. It has been designated by English Heritage as a grade II listed building.[11]

Hansom was called back in the 1870s and asked to design what is now the Percival Library and the open-cloister classrooms. This project was largely completed by 1875 – although the Wilson Tower was not built until 1890 (grade II listed[12]). Other buildings were added as follows:

  • By 1875, Brown's, Dakyns' and Oakley's had been opened along with what is now 32 College Road – originally this functioned as accommodation for bachelor masters
  • Three fives courts (1864)
  • The original sanitorium (1865)
  • Gymnasium (1867)
  • Two swimming pools (1869)
  • An open rackets court (1872)
  • The present workshop (1873)
  • The Chapel (1867); this was built to Charles Hansom's original design, but was moved from the intended site (which is now the gym). As built, the Chapel was a narrow aisleless building, and just the width of its present west end. It was the gift of the widow of Canon Guthrie. Hansom was given permission "to quarry sufficient stone from the college grounds for the purposes of the Chapel building".

The Chapel building was licensed by the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol in 1867. It is now grade II* listed.[13]

Later building

The school's present buildings have evolved in various phases.

In early Percival years, the nucleus of the school buildings was laid down.

In 1880, the school's East Wing was completed as far as the staircase (this had yet to be linked to the library by the Wilson Tower) and added a science lecture-room (which is the reason for the curious 'stepped' windows), a laboratory and several classrooms. In 1886, a porters' lodge and what is now the staff common room were added by enlarging what had been the original science school. On the ground floor was the school tuck-shop and above this (in what is now the Upper Common Room) was a drawing-school. The day boys were provided for in Town Rooms for both North and South Town. The East Wing was then completed by carrying it beyond the staircase and then creating an additional classroom at each end. The ground-floor classroom (then Room 12) is now known as the "Newbolt Room" and has been furnished by the Old Cliftonian Society, which still uses it for reunions. Between 1890 and the start of the First World War, the new Music School (1897) was added and the Chapel rebuilt (1910).

Dr John King, whose headmastership spanned the war years, had little scope for building after 1914, but he did oversee the development of the playing fields at Beggar's Bush, the building of the Memorial Arch, the neo-classical cricket pavilion and the opening of the new Sanitorium in Worcester Road. On 3 December 1918, the former headmaster John Percival died and was buried in the vault of the school Chapel. In 1921, a special memorial chapel was created and consecrated about his tomb. Norman Whatley was the headmaster between 1923 and 1938; his tenure saw the building of the Science School (on the site of the previous Junior School) and the opening of the Preparatory School. Also at this time, the school acquired Hugh Ray Easton's new east windows. The windows also contain a curiosity: beneath the representation of the heavenly Jerusalem is depicted a game of cricket on the Close — with one of Whatley's sons taking part! In 1965–1967, the theatre was built by the architects Whicheloe and MacFarlane.[14]

In 1982, on the site of the old swimming pools, the new Sports Hall, remedial gym and a new covered swimming pool were built – something that would have been appreciated by the generations of boys forced to use the old outdoor Victorian pool and its outdoor covered changing cubicles. The 1980s also saw the building of the Coulson Centre which links together two previously separate classroom blocks, at Muir and Birdwood houses. As a result of the improvements in modern medicine, the Sanitorium in Worcester Road was unnecessarily large for the school's needs, and so the old pre-1921 Sanatorium on the Close has been refitted to serve this purpose, whilst the Worcester Road sanitorium has been refitted as the Headmaster's house.

More recently, in the latter 2000s, the Music School building in Guthrie Road, was refurbished and extended.

Memorial arch

The memorial arch taken from the quad

At the side of College Road, opposite what was Dakyns' boarding house (now East Town and North Town), is the college's memorial arch designed by Charles Holden, which commemorates teachers and pupils who died in the two World Wars. Traditionally, the removal of headgear is expected when walking through the arch. There is also a school rule that states hands must be out of pockets when walking through the arch. It is now grade II listed.[15] The college's buildings, mainly School House, were used as the main HQ where the D-Day landings were devised and planned. The college played a major part in both World Wars; Field Marshal Douglas Haig was an Old Cliftonian who went on to command the British armed forces in the First World War. Through the memorial arch and in front of School House is a life-size statue of Haig.[16] At the edge of the quad is a memorial to those killed in the South African Wars.[17]

Sporting facilities

The college sporting facilities include:

  • Close Pavilion
  • 20 acres (81,000 m2) of local playing fields including the Close and College fields
  • 80 acres (320,000 m2) of playing fields at Clifton College Sports Ground (Begger's Bush Lane) which includes:
  • Four Fives courts
  • Gym
  • Indoor heated swimming pool
  • New pavilion
  • On-campus cricket nets
  • One 3G Football pitch
  • One Olympic standard 4G hockey pitch
  • Rackets court
  • Real tennis court
  • Seven on-campus tennis courts
  • Twenty four tennis courts (including some under cover of the dome or 'bubble')
  • Two Astroturf hockey pitches
  • Two indoor gyms

The Close

The college ground, known as the Close, played a role in the history of cricket and witnessed 13 of W G Grace's first-class hundreds for Gloucestershire in the County Championship. Grace's children attended the college.

The Close featured in the poem by O.C. Sir Henry Newbolt - Vitaї Lampada

There's a breathless hush in the Close to-night
Ten to make and the match to win
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play, and the last man in.
And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat.
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,
But his captain's hand on his shoulder smote
"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"
The sand of the desert is sodden red -
Red with the wreck of the square that broke
The gatling's jammed and the colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed its banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks -
"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"
This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the school is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind -
"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"


Clifton College was one of the original 8 "Lord's Schools", who were entitled to play fixtures at Lords Cricket Ground against each other. These matches were Clifton vs Tonbridge, Rugby vs Marlborough, Cheltenham vs Haileybury, and Eton vs Harrow. The Clifton vs Tonbridge fixture at Lord's was first played in 1914, but ceased to be played in the 1960s, along with most other Lords Schools matches. Today, only Eton v Harrow continues to take place at Lord's. A centenary match took place in June 1914 to commemorate the anniversary of the first playing of this match.[18]

Plaque at Clifton College, fixed in 1962.

On one of the college's cricket pitches, now known as Collins' Piece, what was for 116 years the highest-ever cricket score was reached in June 1899, in the inter-house match between Clark's House and North Town. In this match A. E. J. Collins, killed in the First World War, scored 628 not out, but not under the current rules of the game.[19][20] The record was surpassed in January 2016 by 15 year old Prunav Dhanawade of Mumbai, India, with a score of 1009 in a schools' match. Collins was not the first Clifton schoolboy to hold this record: in 1868, Edward Tylecote, who went on to help England reclaim the Ashes in 1882–83, was a previous holder, with 404 not out in a game between Classicals and Moderns. Collins' achievement is commemorated on a small plaque on the side of the ceramics building.

A number of famous cricketers are Clifton alumni. A fuller entry can be found under the List of Old Cliftonians, and includes:

The Marshal

The college employs a master called "The Marshal", whose sole job is to enforce discipline, attendance at classes and other school rules (such as dress code, drinking, smoking and hair length) along with the general maintenance of safety of the pupils at the College. Many public houses near the school had photos of the Marshal, who was permanently banned so as not to discourage the attendance of pupils who were regular patrons. The current Marshal is Christopher Hughes who took his position in the term starting September 2010. The previous Marshal was Major Paul Simcox MBE. By tradition, a Marshal's name is not added to the plaque listing the names of the school's Marshals until after his death.

Religious community

Clifton has chapel services and a focus on Christianity, but for 125 years there was also a Jewish boarding house (Polack's), complete with kosher dining facilities and synagogue for boys in the Upper School. This was the last of its kind in Europe. However, at the end of the 2004-05 school year, the Polack's trust announced that Polack's House would be closed due to the low numbers of boys in the house (although many pupils were turned down subsequently).

The school chapel was the inspiration behind Newbolt's poem Clifton Chapel, which starts:


This is the Chapel: here, my son,
Your father thought the thoughts of youth,
And heard the words that one by one
The touch of Life has turn'd to truth.
Here in a day that is not far,
You too may speak with noble ghosts
Of manhood and the vows of war
You made before the Lord of Hosts.

The words of this poem were recently used as the lyrics for a new hymn in the college hymn books that was written by James Hills, housemaster of The South Town and former director of music.

Redgrave Theatre

Clifton College has its own theatre, originally known as the Clifton College Theatre, but later renamed in honour of old-boy actor Michael Redgrave. The theatre was built in the 1960s and has a seating capacity of 323.[22][23] As well as school productions, the venue hosts visiting small scale productions including many by the nearby Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.[24]


Listed in order of appointment:

Notable former masters

Covert filming

Jonathan Thomson-Glover, a housemaster and former pupil, pleaded guilty to making covert films of children aged twelve to seventeen showering, changing, going to the toilet and conducting private acts, in the college itself and at an address in Cornwall. He was convicted at Taunton Crown Court and sentenced to three years and nine months' imprisonment after admitting to 36 counts of taking, making and possessing indecent images of children.[27][28]

The Old Cliftonian Society and the Clifton College Register

The Old Cliftonian Society [OCS] is the Society for the alumni of Clifton College — whether pupils or staff. The OCS organises reunions at the school and publishes a newsletter for alumni. Alumni are known as Old Cliftonians or OCs.

The Register's motto:

"There be of them, that have left a name behind them, that their praises might be reported..."

The Clifton College Register is the official set of records held for Clifton College in Bristol. The Register is kept and maintained by the Old Cliftonian Society.

These records have been maintained unbroken from the start of the school in 1862 and list every pupil, master and headmaster. Each person is allocated a school number — for masters and headmasters the number is prefixed with either an M or HM. The Register also maintains a record of the school roll in numbers, the Heads of School and summarises the major sporting records for each year.

The Register is published by the Old Cliftonian Society; there are three volumes:

    • 1862 - 1947
    • 1948 - 1977
    • 1978 - 1994

First entries in the Register:-


  • P1. September 1862 - Francis Charles Anderson (14 November 1846 – 1881)


The early years

  • Numbers of pupils in the school
    • 1862 - 69
    • 1863 - 195 (including the new junior school)
    • 1864 - 237
    • 1865 - 258
    • 1866 - 278
  • Heads of School
    • 1862 - H. W. Wellesley
    • 1863 - A. W. Paul

Former pupils

See List of Old Cliftonians and Category:People educated at Clifton College.

See also


  1. John Roach. Secondary Education in England, 1870-1902. p. 145.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Meriel Vlaeminke (2000). The English Higher Grade Schools. Routledge. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-7130-0220-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. D J Martin (October 1999). "Review of Clifton after Percival by Derek Winterbottom (1990)" (PDF). p. 47.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Halpin, Tony (10 November 2005). "Independent schools face huge fines over cartel to fix fees". The Times. London. Retrieved 30 April 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. The Office of Fair Trading: OFT names further trustees as part of the independent schools settlement
  6. 6.0 6.1 Wakefield, Ken (1994). Operation Bolero: The Americans in Bristol and the West Country 1942-45. Crecy Books. pp. 79–97. ISBN 0-947554-51-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. School uniform. Official school website.
  8. Moberly's House takes its precedence from its two antecedent houses, Dakyns' and Brown's, which were second and third most senior respectively before they were merged in 1993.
  9. School house system. Official school website.
  10. Moberly's House Booklet -
  11. "Clifton College, Big School". Images of England. Retrieved 13 March 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Clifton College, Percival Buildings and Wilson Tower". Images of England. Retrieved 13 March 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Clifton College, Guthrie Memorial Chapel". Images of England. Retrieved 13 March 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Burrough, THB (1970). Bristol. London: Studio Vista. ISBN 0-289-79804-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Clifton College, Victory Arch". Images of England. Retrieved 13 March 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Clifton College, Statue of Earl Haig". Images of England. Retrieved 13 March 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Clifton College, South African War Memorial". Images of England. Retrieved 13 March 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Tonbridge vs Clifton at Lords. retrieved 27 August 2015
  19. "Extraordinary Cricket". Bristol Mercury. 24 June 1899. p. 8. Retrieved 26 March 2015 – via British Newspaper Archive. Unknown parameter |subscription= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Fells, Maurice (2014). The A-Z of Curious Bristol. History Press. pp. 22–23. ISBN 978-0750956055.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. George Whitehead at, accessed 25 November 2008
  22. "Redgrave Theatre". Theatre Bristol. Retrieved 23 October 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "Redgrave Theatre". Clifton College. Retrieved 23 October 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Bristol Old Vic Theatre school - catch our shows". Retrieved 23 October 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. "Alexander Fletcher Jones: 1854–1878". Historic Redland. Redland Parish Church. Retrieved 11 November 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Troup Buchanan, Rose (27 August 2015). "Ex-Clifton College teacher Jonathan Thomson-Glover jailed after admitting 36 counts of taking indecent images of more than 120 children". London: Independent. Retrieved 27 August 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. "Ex-Clifton College teacher jailed for secret filming at boarding school". BBC News Online. 27 August 2015. Retrieved 27 August 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Clifton College Register 1862 - 1962 - Published by the Old Cliftonian Society

External links