The Elms is believed to be the oldest prep school to still be situated on it’s original site. Below is a timeline of the school’s history.

1614
1614
The Walwyn Legacy

Mr Humphrey Walwyn, a Colwall lad, sought his fortune in the city of London. He became a member of the Worshipful Company of Grocers. Walwyn made his will in December 1612, expressing his wish to establish a school in the parish in which his parents, Robert and Elizabeth, lay buried. Walwyn’s nephew, Rev. Richard Walwyn was appointed First Master.

1670
1670

Rev. John Page was appointed as Schoolmaster

1697
1697

Rev. Page dies and Rev. William Wood is appointed Schoolmaster.

1703
1703

Mr Wood resigns and Mr Walter Symonds is appointed as Schoolmaster.

1737
1737

Mr. W. Symonds dies and is succeeded by his grandson, Rev. Robert Symonds.

1780
1780

Rev. Robert Symonds dies and Rev. Thomas Hughes becomes the new Schoolmaster.

1802
1802

Rev. George Wallett replaces Hughes as Schoolmaster. Two types of children were educated at this time: those with comfortably-off parents who paid fees which boosted the income of the master; and those who, being poor, were educated out of the charity set up by Walwyn in the early 17th century.

At the time the boys on roll were:
5 “charity boys” from Colwall
14 sons of fee paying farmers
25 boarders

1815
1815

Mr Benjamin Goodman is taken on as an assistant teacher and took charge of the school in Wallett’s absence. Goodman and Wallett had effectively made the school into a lucrative boarding school, neglecting the boys from poor homes who had been so central in the terms of Walwyn’s will.

1819
1819

Rev. Wallett is replaced as master by the Rev. Thomas Dean. The school began to flourish under this new leadership with 57 pupils recorded in 1822. Rev. Thomas Dean made a conscientious effort to foster the ideal of Walwyn’s will and made real progress in encouraging working class boys to come to a free school for basic education.

1844
1844
Victorian Times

Rev. Thomas Dean leaves a thriving school to take up a new position elsewhere and is replaced by Thomas Taylor

1851
1851

The school is physically separated to allow the fee paying pupils and ‘free school’ pupil to be educated separately in the hope of attracting more fee-paying families.

The schoolmaster starts to be known as the Headmaster.

1853
1853

Mr Thomas Taylor moves to Birmingham and the Rev. Edmund Henry Woodward is appointed as the new Headmaster.

1855
1855

Rev. Woodward is succeeded by the Rev. Edward Culsha.

1862
1862

62 boys are on record to be at the school.

1863
1863

Rev. Culsha dies and is replaced by the Rev. Robert Oliver Carter.

1867
1867

A new school house is built as new dormitory accommodation.

1876
1876

Mr Carter dies and Rev. Charles Black takes over as Headmaster. Rev. Black was one of a group of schoolmasters who got together and formed the Incorporated Association of Preparatory Schools. He served as Chairman in 1902. Rev. Black raised the academic standards of the school and some of his pupils won scholarships to public schools.

1897
1897
Elgar taught at the School

Around this time Sir Edward Elgar taught music at The Elms.

1909
1909

A reorganisation of the charity takes place. The Grocer’s Company gift the school land and buildings to the Walwyn’s Free School and Exhibition Foundation. Rev. Charles Black continued as Headmaster of the boarding school in Colwall, which is now named The Elms.

1910
1910

Mr Black retires and the school is taken over by Mr. H. D. Ross until 1912

1913
1913

Mr Frederick Guy Meakin rents the premises from The Walwyn Foundation to run a fee paying school

1916
1916
The Singleton Era Begins

Mr William Parkinson Singleton becomes Headmaster and buys the school from the Walwyn Foundation. The Singleton direction of the school was to last for over half a century.

Major L.W.B. Rees is awarded the Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery in France during The Great War. It is probable that alongside this seven old boys were awarded the Distinguished Service Order and eleven the Military Cross.

1918
1918

Hockey is introduced at the school.

1920
1920
John Moore was a pupil

Prolific author John Moore was a pupil at the Elms. He went on to write ‘Portrait of Elmbury’ (pub 1945) and in Part Two, Background to Boyhood he describes his time at the school with some lovely stories. He was described by Sir Compton Mackenzie as the most talented writer about the countryside of his generation.

 “Shortly after this I was sent to school, underwent certain metamorphoses, and was transformed from a pampered and coddled brat into an extremely tough little ruffian. This was largely due to the glorious prep school, a gracious Georgian house in its own grounds about ten miles from Elmbury, where I learned to tickle trout and to read Virgil; to swim a length under water and to enjoy English history; all about catapults and a little about Attic Greek’

(Portrait of Elmbury by John Moore 1945, p. 49)

1922
1922

A new shooting range is introduced.

1924
1924

The schools magazine ‘The Lily’ is started.

1926
1926

The Elms first made its fields available to national women’s cricket teams.

1928
1928

Watch a video of the school from this time

1930
1930

Pupil numbers are recorded as 63.

1939
1939
World War II

Numerous old boys won decorations and 20 were killed.

1949
1949

Colonel G. M. Singleton takes on the role of Headmaster from his father.

1950
1950
Post-War Developments

A new wing is added to the old school building.

1960
1960

A board of Governors is appointed, many of whom were former pupils.

1973
1973

Colonel G. M. Singleton retires and Mr Peter Valder is appointed as the new Headmaster.

1978
1978

Mr Valder leaves for Australia and is replaced by Mr Andrew Collier as Headmaster.

Pre-prep department established.

1980
1980

The Elms amalgamates with Seaford Court School and saw an increase in the number of girls attending The Elms.

The swimming pool is opened.

1984
1984

A change in the governors. A new Chairman of Governors (Sir Daniel Pettit) arrives and a rescue plan is launched to save the school.

1985
1985
New farm project

Mr Collier is replaced by Mr Clive Ashby. One of his ideas focussed on animals and a new farm project.

1986 Pupil numbers are raised to over 100.

2010
2010

Mr Ashby leaves and Mr Alastair Thomas arrives.

2018
2018

Mr Alastair Thomas leaves for Abingdon and Mr Chris Hattam arrives.