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Oakham School Archives

Explore the history of the school through the documents and objects that have been left behind...


The war broke out in August 1914, after a time of political and social unrest in Europe. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife by Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb, in Sarajevo on 28th June 1914 was the starting point of a series of ultimatums and diplomatic strategies. Alliances were secured in the following month.

On the 05th July 1914, the Kaiser Wilhelm II pledged Germany’s full support to Austria-Hungary in its conflict against Serbia. It is remembered as the Blank Check Assurance. Austria-Hungary and Germany signed an alliance with Bulgaria, to countervail Russia’s influence in the Balkans. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on 28th July 1914 and on Russia on 05th August 1914. Germany declared war on Russia on 01st August 1914 and on France on 03rd August 1914.

Serbia on the other hand was allied to Russia. The neutral country of Belgium was invaded by Germany in August 1914, which urged Great Britain and France to declare war on Germany and its allies. On the 05th September 1914, the Treaty of London was signed between Russia, Great Britain and France, creating the Entente. Italy signed the Treaty of London in 1915 and joined the Entente.

At Oakham School in the early 20th century, pupils were taught Physics, Chemistry, English, Maths, Woodwork, Sport, Latin, Art, French, History, Divinity and Greek. The headmaster at the time, Walter Lee Sargant, invested a lot of money in constructing new buildings for the teaching of Physics and Chemistry. On Sunday, there was a compulsory Bible class. Pupils could not take subjects like Geography until their Form V. Unlike today, there were no GCSEs or A Levels. National exams were not introduced until 1918.

Each Easter term, the Debating Society took place discussing topics such as Home Rule for Ireland, women’s suffrage and the right to strike.

Before the war, pupils did not necessarily wear a uniform unless it was cricket colours: ‘Our junior teams when visiting would present a much more uniform appearance if they all possessed a School Blaze’.

Tea was served at 7pm.

Photo Gallery

A sepia image of Doncaster Close.

19th Century Doncaster Close

A group of boy musicians with instruments.

1906 Musicians

The cricket team from the early 20th century.

Cricket Team

A early photograph of Junior house.

Junior House

Opened in 1910, Junior House took the youngest of the schools pupils in as boarders and for lessons. It has since been renamed to Chapmans and is a middle school boarding house. 

A photo of Junior House in 1915

Junior House, 1915

A photograph of the outdoor swimming pool.

Outdoor Pool, early 20th century