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Oakham School Archives

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


History of the School Campus

The period following the Second World War was a moment of dramatic changes at Oakham School. The number of pupils had risen steadily for two decades and the intake of the first girls from 1971 prompted the launch of numerous development campaigns. Old buildings around school were revamped, expanded, or converted, and new houses and facilities mushroomed up on school grounds.

Boys’ Boarding Houses

School House

One of the oldest standing buildings on the school campus is School House, on Market Street. It was built by Sydney Smirke on the site of Robert Johnson’s hospital in 1858. In 1910, a north wing was added by G.E.S. Streadfield, and was later extended in 1928. It was the first and only boys’ boarding house until 1910.

The Junior House

On Kilburn Road, the Junior House was built in 1910, on a site opposite the cricket ground. The Georgian-style house stood on a ground of one and-a-half acres. It consisted of dormitories and classrooms facing south which were “well-lighted and ventilated”[1]. The Junior House had been built initially in order to provide a well-equipped Junior Department for a limited number of boarders. In 1936, a new wing was added to the house, comprising a large dining hall, a leisure room, and a new sick room. Rooms were also designed for a House Tutor. The original house was improved, especially the kitchens where “all wash-basins were fitted with hot and cold water, and baths and lavatories were added”[2].

The Junior House in 1910 and in 1936. Oakham School Archives Collection. Item numbers: BES/1/18/6 and BES/1/18/1.

In September 1960, the Junior House was set to become a Senior House and was renamed Chapmans, after Frank Emerson Chapman, first Housemaster of the Junior House. In 1961, a wide new wing was built on what was the playground. The boys could now enjoy the comfort of new changing rooms, a common room and studies. Above, a dormitory accommodation and rooms for the House Tutor were also added. The old dining room was expanded into a former common room. The house now accommodated boys between 12 and 16, and Chapmans House became a fully-fledged Senior House two years later.


In 1920, the Headmaster, Walter Lee Sargant, purchased Wharflands property. It was converted into a boys’ boarding house for twenty-six boys, while the Old Stables were used for other school purposes. Extension work began in 1928, adding four new dormitories and a large dining hall. The O.T.C. established its headquarters in the new extension. With the boys now living in the extension, the Housemaster and his family could occupied the old house. The first floor was converted into some classrooms, for the teaching of Science and Maths. In 1960 and 1977, a series of improvement and refurbishment work started and changing rooms were modernised, while new rooms were added.

Wharflands in the 1930s. Oakham School Archives Collection. Item number: HEA/7/1/9.


Deanscroft in the 19th century was a Jacobethan hunting lodge. In 1946, the Headmaster, G. Talbot Griffiths, brought the property and aimed at converting it into a boarding house. The property was then purchased from him by the school at a cost of £4,500, with the final purchase made on 31st March 1946. The boys’ boarding house opened in 1948. It provided accommodation to thirty-seven boys on the first term and was run by the Headmaster and his wife. In 1959, the kitchen garden to the east of the Laboratories was transformed into lawns, grassy plots and flower beds. Deanscroft out-building to the north of the Barraclough Hall was improvised as a carpentry shop. The house was enlarged in 1960 and the buildings by the Headmaster’s garage were annexed as studies. A year later, two dormitories were also enlarged over the projecting part of the changing rooms to the east, which were equipped with double bunk beds. The Headmaster’s old garage was converted into a playroom. The line of low buildings to the east of it had been transformed into a row of studies and rooms for pottery and printing. The boiler house made bigger to house two large oil-fired boilers which provided Deanscroft and Wharflands with all the hot water they need and supplied central heating to both houses and all the adjoining classrooms and laboratories. In 1963, a new study block was built near the present Biology Laboratories. The Reading Room was transferred into what was once the Headmaster’s garage in 1966 and the former Reading Room became Studio II in the Music School.

Deanscroft house and garden with the tennis court. Oakham School Archives Collection. Item number: BES.1/20/2.

Boys’ Day Houses


In 1959, the site of the Bursar’s old office, between Church Street and Kilburn Road, was turned into a large day room, a Prefect’s room and two changing rooms for the Senior Day Boys, all members of Johnsons House at the time. In 1960, the Day Boys were divided between the Senior Day in Johnsons and the Junior Day in Sargants, occupying two rooms in Hodge Wing.

Johnsons House in the 1990s. Oakham School Archives Collection. Item number: BES/1/17/2.

Peterborough House

In 1962 the school purchased the old vicarage on Burley Road, named Peterborough House. In 1967, the Junior boys moved into their new boarding house.

Sports buildings

The first Cricket pavilion was built on the playing fields in the 19th century. It was then enlarged and renovated in 1931, when two changing rooms and a thatched roof were added. It unfortunately burnt in May 1970.

The Doncaster Pavilion in the 1950s. Oakham School Archives Collection. Item number: BES/1/5/9.

Performing Arts buildings

The Barraclough Hall

In 1948, the School acquired a huge stone building, which had once been a warehouse at the terminus of the Canal on Ashwell Road, and was later converted into stables. In 1953, the building was converted into a School Hall, named the Barraclough Hall, in honour of Mrs Barraclough, benefactor to the school, and in memory of her late husband, OO Norman Barraclough (1883). The theatre stood at the east of Deanscroft. The stables were converted by inserting new windows and doors and by the super-imposition of a flat parapet roof. The main entrance could be accessed from the car park to the north and two other doors led on to the lawns south of the hall and one eastwards. At the west end was the stage and the theatre would seat about three hundred and fifty people. Other features included a traditional long hall, raked stage and Proscenium Arch. The opening ceremony took place on 20th June 1953.

The Barraclough Hall (right) in the 1950s. Oakham School Archives Collection. Item number: BES/1/1/18.

The Music School

Music used to be performed at school in Music rooms in the Wharflands extension, completed in Spring term 1929. In 1965-1966, the old Art Room and the former Deanscroft Reading Room were converted and renamed Studio I and Studio II, respectively, for use by the Music Department. A series of practice rooms were constructed to the south of the Barraclough Hall and during that time, the Music Department was temporarily housed in Peterborough House. In 1967, the Music Department officially moved in to the new Music School along the east and south sides of the Barraclough Hall lawn. It was built in the form of a right angle and was connected to the Barraclough Hall. It contained seven teaching rooms, fifteen practice cells, a Music Library and an instrument storeroom.

Academic buildings

The Haywood Building

On Church Street, Colonel Thomas Haywood, Chairman of the Trustees, laid the foundation stone of a new building, which was to bear his name, on 13th June 1964. The architects of this new academic building were F.J. Lenton & Partners. It came to use in September 1965 and was officially opened by Group Captain Douglas Bader. It housed the Geography and Modern Languages Departments. It comprised nine classrooms and the Jerwood Hall in the basement, which was equipped as a lecture hall, cinema and television room.

The War Memorial Library

To honour the Old Boys who fell in the Second World War, it was decided to build a Library on the site opposite the Chapel. The library was designed by Mr Dodson, architect of the Barraclough Hall. Construction work carried out by George Tyers Brothers began in 1954 and the War Memorial Library was opened on 21st May 1955 by HRH The Duke of Gloucester.

Dining Hall

On the first day of the 1966 Winter term, the boys would take their meals in a new central feeding unit, the Ashburton Hall on Church Street, to the south and west of the Haywood Building. It was named to commemorate the first victory at Bisley of the Ashburton Shield by the school’s first Shooting VIII. It was a large, low prefabricated building, on what was the vegetable garden. It had three approaches, one from Station Road and two from Church Street. It was made of a large central dining area (Senior Boarders), four well-lit aisles (Day Boys and Junior Boarders in the south and west aisles), kitchens and cloakrooms. The north aisle, adjacent to the kitchens, was used for serving purposes. A dais occupied the entire length of the east aisle, where stood the high table. Many tables, benches and chairs, made of hardwood, were given by Old Boys and bore their names and years at school. In 1971, improvement work started in the kitchens and a cafeteria-type service started in Summer term.

The Ashburton Hall (left) and the Haywood Building (right). Oakham School Archives Collection. Item number: BES/1/1/65/2.

Other buildings

Old School

The oldest building on the campus is Old School, situated in the corner of Cutts Close. It was built by the Founder, Robert Johnson, on land he acquired in 1584. It served as the only school classroom until the 19th century. It was refurbished for the first time in 1722, and then new windows and a fireplace were added under the headmastership of Dr Doncaster. In the early 20th century, Old School was used as a Museum as well as a classroom. It was converted in 1969 into the Shakespeare Centre and used for Drama productions until the construction of the Barraclough Hall in 1953.

College House

In the area near School House stands College House. The central block was built c.1320 and used to be a priest’s house for clergy sent to the town by Westminster Abbey. In the 18th century, a block on the east side was added. The school bought College House from the Church in 1736. In 1870, the property was refurbished and improvements included various extensions of the house, the ceiling and the first floor. It served as the school’s Sanatorium until 1965, when College House was then converted into a boarding house for a dozen potential Oxbridge candidates.

The Chapel

Next to College House, the Chapel was built as a War memorial to commemorate the Old Boys who fell in the Great War. The foundation stone was laid on 28th July 1924 and the Chapel was dedicated on 29th October 1925. It was designed by G.E.S. Streadfield and the work was undertaken by Messrs. Bowman of Stamford. It is made of Weldon stones and the roof is of English oak. It has a broad nave with narrow aisles, which are entered from an ante-chapel at the west end. The apse is half a hexagon. Over the ante-chapel is a gallery, with seats for the choir.

College House (left) and the Chapel (right) in the 1930s. Oakham School Archives Collection. Item number: HEA/7/1/9.



[1] Old Oakhamian Calendar, 1910, Volume 5, p.2

[2] The Old Oakhamian, 1936, Volume 6, p.4

When the girls arrived in 1971, College House became the first girls’ boarding house. However, after the first influx of girls, new accommodation on campus were needed.

Girls’ and Boys’ Houses are built

Johnsons and Talbots

In 1971, Johnsons became a Middle School Day boys’ house. In 1972, the first purpose-built house for Day boys emerged to the west of the Ashburton Dining Hall. It was made of a large assembly hall-cum-classrooms, a study for the Housemaster, changing rooms with showers and a series of studies for the boys. It came into use in Spring term 1972.

Talbots was the first Day girls’ house and was based on Barraclough Hall in 1972. In 1973, the Day girls of Talbots House moved in upstairs of the Johnsons Day boys. The girls then moved out and transferred to Hodge Wing in 1980, which enabled the Day boys to claim the first floor as their own.

The Round House

In 1972, the first purpose-built girls’ boarding house rose in the Chapel area, on the site between the Victoria Hall and College House, on what was School House tennis court. The Architect, Tom E. Wilson, designed a building in the shape of a Dovecote, or a Birdcage. The builders were George Duxbury (OO, 34) and Sons. The new house contained thirty bed-sitters on three floors, built around a central spiral stairway. A common room linked the new building with the War Memorial Library. At the back of the Library were built a small flat and domestic offices. The construction of Round House induced a series of alteration to the Chapel area. A new entrance gate was put up opposite Strickland’s cake shop and the wooden fencing marking the limit of School property in Church Street, was removed, “thus opening up pleasing vistas of the whole area from the public highway”[1]. The tennis court was relocated to the north of College House. Sixty girls moved in from the beginning of the 1972 Winter term and the boarding house was officially opened on 28th October 1972 by Mrs Haywood.

The Round House in the 1970s. Oakham School Archives Collection. Item number: HOU/3/2/1.

The Jerwoods Campus

The area of the old vicarage was to become the Lower School Campus. In 1974, new houses were erected around Peterborough House. The duo-decagonal Lincoln House for boarding girls was designed by Tom E. Wilson and built by George Duxbury and Sons, the architect and contractors of Round House. Behind it was built the Coleman Building, named after Leslie Coleman, in which Sargants (Day boys) and Ancaster (Day girls) moved to in 1975. On 14th May 1974, John Jerwood unveiled the foundation stone and the Junior School was officially opened on 23rd November. Lincoln House had been occupied since the first day of the Winter term, whereas work lasted longer on the Coleman Building, which was only ready for use after the Exeat. The hard tennis court and playing area were still incomplete. The houses comprised small dormitories with bunk beds, common rooms, a junior library and playing areas. The Coleman Building was linked to Lincoln House and Peterborough House so the boarders could enjoy extra recreational space in the evenings.

The Jerwoods Campus in 1986. Oakham School Archives Collection. Item number: BES/1/24/3.

Orchard Close/Buchanans House

In July 1975, the Trustees acquired Orchard Close along the cricket fields from the school doctor, Dr T.D. Brentnall. Orchard Close had been built in 1929 by W.L. Sargant as a private residence when he retired. In early October 1975, Orchard Close had become a girls’ boarding house and Michael Stevens, the first Housemaster, moved in with his family. The first five girls came in in January 1975. The house was later modernised to accommodate Sixth and Seventh Form girls. It was renamed Buchanans House in Summer 1977, following the retirement of Headmaster J.D. Buchanan.

Orchard Close, now the Housmistress's private residence.

Girls’ and Boys’ Houses are extended

In 1978, Chapmans was refurbished to be more in keeping with the new purpose-built boys’ and girls’ houses. A substantial number of double bed-sitters for the more senior boys was added.

In 1978, Deanscroft was refurbished as well and the Headmaster and his family were now occupying one part of the house.

In 1978, a new extension to the Haywood Building saw the addition of six classrooms and ancillary rooms to the Modern Languages, Geography and Audio Visual Aids Departments.

In School House, the Old Hall was refurbished by Thompson of Kilburn in 1979, prior to the Quatercentenary Celebrations.

Sports facilities

The Sports Centre, opposite Wharflands, opened in Winter 1972. A new modern indoors swimming pool was built in 1976.


  • Oakhamian Magazine, Winter term, 1975, Volume 101, p.3
  • Old Oakhamian Magazine, 1973, Volume 35

[1] Old Oakhamian Magazine, 1973, Volume 35

Prior to the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the foundation of Oakham School, the Trustees launched a vast development campaign, which included the construction of new facilities and the refurbishment and extension of existing buildings.



The decade started with the erection of the third purpose-built boarding house for girls, adjacent to Buchanans house, on the land purchased in 1977. The new house was named after the school’s first headmaster, Robert Rushebrooke. The first girls moved in over Spring half-term 1980 but the opening ceremony only took place later that year, on 22nd November.

Rushebrookes House in the 1980s. Oakham School Archives Collection. Item number: BES/1/23/3.


Work was completed on Buchanans house in 1982. The extension was ready for occupation in January 1983 and was officially opened on 23rd February by former Headmaster John Buchanan. With the new Middle School girls’ boarding house Rushebrookes in the vicinity, all the Middle School girls moved from Round House to Buchanans, and all the Seventh Form moved out to Round House, which became a Senior boarding house, close to the Senior boys’ School House. That same year, the building of a Housemaster’s house started to the west of Round House.


Further enhancements were made to Deanscroft in 1981, especially to the changing rooms and the ground floor accommodation. A new wing was added in 1983, with bedsits for the boys and a Tutor’s room, as well as study bedrooms for thirty-six boys in the Fifth and Sixth Forms. The new extension was in use in at the beginning of the Winter term. On Deanscroft lawn, a new fence was put up between the Headmaster’s garden and the boys’ tennis court in 1985 and Deanscroft Cottage was dismantled in summer before work began in October on the new Dining Hall. The Nursery School and Beach studies were also demolished. Finally in 1989, the Beach was paved and in the centre would be a Japanese gardens with herons in the pond. Deanscroft boarding house was closed on Speech Day 1989, prior to its conversion into Stevens, a boarding house for girls.

College House

In 1982, College House was converted to be used as a Seventh Form Study Centre and was subsequently used as a temporary Music School in 1983. In 1984, it was adapted for use as a study centre for selected scholars and any Seventh Form overflow.

Haywoods and Stevens

The decade ended with the building a boys’ boarding house on Kilburn Road, next to Chapmans. This new house was named Haywoods, after Colonel Tom Haywood, former Trustee. The boys previously in residence in Deanscroft moved into their new house in September 1989. The new house comprised shared study bedrooms for the boys, two common room, a reading room and a library. Rooms for a House Tutor and Matron were also built and the Housemaster and his family enjoyed the comfort of an attached house. The extension of Deanscroft was then converted into a girls’ boarding house and renamed Stevens, after Mary and Michael Stevens, Second master and Registrar. Deanscroft House remains today the Headmaster’s private residence.

Haywoods and Stevens houses in the 1990s.

Performing Arts buildings

​​​​​​​The Music School

Modern facilities for the Performing Arts was on the Trustees’ agenda. Work began on the old Music School in January 1983. The Music Department took temporary accommodation in College House until December 1983. The new Music School was in use as soon as January 1984. It provided additional practice rooms, rehearsal studios and improved teaching rooms. It was officially opened on 23rd June 1984 by Malcolm Williamson CBE, Master of the Queen’s Music.

Temporary installation on the Music School lawn. Oakham School Archives Collection. Item number: BES/1/14/1/3.

​​​​​​​The Queen Elizabeth Theatre

At the same time as the refurbishment work in the Music School, the Barraclough Hall was being transformed into a new theatre. The architect, W.O. Wilson, had designed a modern auditorium, with raked seating and a large stage below the audience, a gallery and a foyer facing the Music School lawn and purpose-built rooms for changing, costumes, scenery making and storage. It was equipped with a computerized lighting system and sophisticated sound equipment. The new Oakham Theatre was officially opened on 16th November 1984 by Queen Elizabeth II.

The Oakham Theatre before the official naming ceremony in 1984. Oakham School Archives Collection. Item number: EVT/1/3/3/A.

Dining Hall

With the numbers rising up swiftly, the school concluded that the Ashburton Dining Hall could no longer fulfil its role of central dining. Along Ashwell Road was built a new Dining Hall. It was opened on 28th September 1987 by Lord Forte. It contained two dining halls on the ground floor and a staff dining hall, bar and common room above. It was named Barraclough Hall, in memory of Norman Barraclough (OO) and his widow, Mrs Barraclough, a great benefactor to the school.

Architect drawing of the new Barraclough Dining Hall, 1987. Oakham School Archives Collection. Item number: BES/1/12/18.

Academic buildings

​​​​​​​The Computer Centre

Adjacent to the Biology Block and the west side of the former Deanscroft Beach Studies, a Computer and Economics Centre was built. It was in use from September 1982.

The Computer Centre (with the Smallbone Library being built on the right) in 1994. Oakham School Archives Collection. Item number: BES/1/28/17.

​​​​​​​The Haywood Building

The Haywood building on Church Street was extended in 1984.

Cricket pavilion

After the fire, which burned down the Pavilion on Doncaster Close, the school were in desperate need of new Cricket Pavilion. In 1983, the Old Gymnasium, adjacent to Wharflands was converted into the Wharton Pavilion. The opening ceremony took place on 4th July 1983 by Ron Jacobs, President of the R.F.U.

Model of the new Cricket Pavilion in 1983. Oakham School Archives Collection. Item number: BES/1/7/6/B.



Day Houses

In the 1990s, new houses were needed for the ever-increasing number of day pupils. In 1994, the school purchased the Catmose Vale site, behind Rushebrookes house. The original buildings were built in 1836-1837 by William J. Donthorn. They used to be the town’s workhouse, which later became the Catmose Vale Hospital. On the site was built a car park, two Day boys’ houses and the original buildings were converted into two Day girls’ houses. The four houses were officially opened on 17th September 1997 and were named after Rutland villages: Gunthorpe and Hambleton (Day girls), and Barrow and Clipsham (Day boys). The site was named after OO Simon Schanschieff ('57), Chairman of the Trustees.

Academic Buildings

The Merton Building

With the Barraclough Hall now in full use, the Ashburton Hall had no other purpose but to house a few lectures and exhibition. The former Dining Hall was taken down in 1989. On the site, work started in 1990 and saw the erection of a new Academic block, the Merton Building, which housed the English, Maths and History Departments. In was in use on the first day of the 1991 Winter term and the official opening ceremony took place on 26th November. Michael McCrum, former Trustee and Master of Corpus Christi, Cambridge, opened the new block. It comprised “spacious corridors, staff rooms for each subjects and twenty-four comfortable and acoustically effective classrooms”[1]. The building was named after Thomas Merton (OO, 32). The Headmaster, Graham Smallbone, planted a tree outside the entrance to commemorate the 450th anniversary of the Diocese of Peterborough.

The Merton Building, on the site of the Ashburton Dining Hall. Oakham School Archives Collection. Item number: BES/1/13/15.

The Smallbone Library

In September 1994, the Smallbone Library was officially opened by Dr Eric Anderson, the rector of Lincoln College Oxford. The area on the ground floor was designed for reading, whilst ensuring that the first floor was an ‘academic style environment, with more formal study facilities, and non-fiction academic book stock’. The new building was erected on the site of a car park, located between the Biology Block and the Computer Centre.

The Smallbone Library. Oakham School Archives Collection. Item number: BES/1/26/17.

  • Oakhamian Magazine, Spring & Summer terms, 1987, Volume 121, p.8

[1] Old Oakhamian Magazine, 1992, Volume 54, p.7

Academic buildings

The Jerwoods School of Design

The millennium saw major development works of academic buildings. As the teaching of Design and Technology became more and more relevant in the modern world, the school needed up-to-date facilities where the pupils could develop their technical and creative skills. On 25th April 2009, the Jerwoods School of Design was officially opened, even though it had been in use since September 2008 by teachers and pupils. It was built on the site of maintenance yard garages, adjacent to the Sports Hall.

The Mehra Faculty of Science

To become even more competitive in the teaching of Science, the school launched an appeal for the building of first-rate Science facilities. The Mehra Faculty of Science was to bring the various sciences together under one roof for the first time in the school’s history. Work began in 2010 on the site between the former Sargants Laboratories and the biology Block. In 2011, the official opening ceremony unveiled a university-style lecture theatre, which can seat up to two hundred people. The Auditorium was named after Lynn Wilson (OO, 57), former Trustee and benefactor. The new Science faculty was named after Sanjeev Mehra (OO, 78), School Trustee. The Science Entrance and Foyer are dedicated to the Barson family, after former school parents and benefactors John and Dorothy Barson.

The Johnsons Faculty of Social Science

The latest addition to the numerous school buildings was the Johnson Building, which houses the Faculty of Social Science. It was opened on 27th May 2017, on Speech Day, by the Chairman of Trustees, Peter Lawson. The new modern and spacious classrooms are now used for the teaching of Geography, Religion & Philosophy, and Learning Support. The Johnson Building is connected to the Merton Block. It is built on the site of the old Johnson House for Day Boys.

Sports fields and buildings

​​​​​​​The Wilson Fields

In the 2000s, the school acquired new sporting fields and built a new cricket pavilion. In 2005, the Springfield Playing Fields on Ashwell Road were renamed the Wilson Fields, to honour OO Lynn Wilson. Lynn Wilson also funded the construction of a pavilion on the fields. Today, the Wilson fields are used by our cricketers and are the venue of the Christmas Fun Run and the Tom Grant Festival of Football, amongst other inter-house competitions.

​​​​​​​The BAFS pavilion

In July 2014, the Wharton Pavilion, affectionately known as Stumps, standing by Wharflands house, was taken down. A new Cricket Pavilion was built on Doncaster Close, on the site of the original Pavilion. It was opened on 24th May 2014, on Speech Day, by Mike Gatting. It was named BAFS after Brian Smith (OO, 54), captain of the school’s unbeaten first Rugby XV, Hockey XI and Cricket XI teams.

Other buildings

Since 2007 College House has been converted into offices. The Foundation moved in and the Senior Deputy Heads use the wing as their private residence. The Barber Rooms, housing the School Archives, opened in 2010 on the first floor and the Old Oakhamian Club is now on the ground floor.


  • Oakhamian Magazine, Spring term, 2009, Volume 184, pp.86-87
  • Oakhamian Magazine, Winter & Spring terms, 2011-2012, Volume 190, pp.8-9
  • Oakhamian Magazine, Spring & Summer terms, 2004, Volume 170, p.109
  • Oakhamian Magazine, Winter & Spring terms, 2013-2014, Volume 194, pp.162-163
  • Oakhamian Magazine, Summer term, 2014, Volume 195, p.7


Campus in 1978-1979.

Campus in 1984.

Campus in 1989.

Campus in the 1990s.

Campus in the 2000s.

Campus in 2019.

The Deanscroft Beach studies in the 1950s. Now, the Computer Block.

The Biology Block.

The old Sargants Laboratories.

The Heron garden, looking towards Deanscroft.

The Old Gymnasium and the Wharton Pavilion.

School House quad.

The Old Gymnasium (left) and Wharflands (right).

Rushebrookes House and car park.