Bedford School

From Academic Kids

Bedford School is not to be confused with Bedford Modern School
Bedford School is an independent, selective, fee-paying school (public school) for boys, situated in Bedford, 50 miles north of London, England. It has a long and established history and is well respected as a centre of academic excellence.
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Bedford School Summer


Bedford School has approximately 1,200 boys both day-boys and boarders between the ages of 7 and 18. It has a long and established history and prides itself today on both its academic excellence, and its extra-curricular strengths in music, drama, art and sport. A vast range of subjects are available including astronomy (on-site observatory and planetarium) and mandarin and the International Baccalaureate is taught alongside A-levels. It is famous for its alumni (known as Old Bedfordians) and the traditions it maintains.


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Bedford School Fire
The school was founded in 1552, much aided by the actions of Sir William Harper (indeed, the school is now one of four in a group of schools run by the Harpur trust), when King Edward VI granted letters patent.

In 1979, the school suffered a devastating arson attack during the night, and the imposing main building was gutted by fire. The flames leapt to an astonishing 130ft high. The fire was fought throughout the night, into the early morning of Sunday 4th March, and when it had finally been beaten, the extent of the damage was revealed: Over 90% of the building had been destroyed by the blaze and 30 classrooms lost. Remarkably, almost all of the pupil-records were recovered, but the extensive collection of portraits, books and furniture were destroyed.

Bedford Traditions


Bedford has a rich heritage of tradition. Weekday dress consists of a white shirt with or without a false-collar, black tie, grey trousers, blue jacket and black shoes. Sunday dress consists of a blue suit, a black waistcoat, black tie and a white shirt. Variations include a coloured waistcoat and brown shoes for monitors, sports blazer with for those in the top sports teams, house ties for those who have won "sports colours". During the summer months, a straw boater is permissible.

School Houses

There are seven school houses, six of which are senior houses, all six being linked to a school house: Sanderson's, in Rothsay Place (Ashburnham); Burnaby, in Burnaby Road (Bromham); Pemberley, in Pemberley Avenue (Crescent); Redburn, in Rothsay Gardens (Paulo-Pontine); Phillpotts, in Pemberley Avenue (St. Cuthbert's); and Talbot's, in De Parys Avenue (St. Peter's).


One of the most distinctive Bedford traditions is the singing of songs and inter-house singing competitions. In the vein of the Eton Boating Song, many were written by teachers in the latter half of the 19th Century. The official school song Domus Pater was written by Henry Le Mesurier in 1861.

Domus Pater Harperiae Honus Tuus sit ibcola; Tu porticus caelestibus Praesidiis circumsede.

Impubes usque tu manus Huc ventitantes respice; Et inter mundi Semitas Pedes securos dirige.

Infirma verbo pectora Rectoque cultu robora; Cibum caelestem porrige Et mala procul abige.

Ut omni mane gratiam Tuam precentur cum fide Et corde grato vesperi Laudes tuas concelebrent.

Deo Patri sit gloria Eiusque soli Filio, Sanctissimo cu Spiritu, Et nunnc et in perpetuum.

Bedford Societies

As with many boarding schools, Bedford has a large number of societies, most of which are run by the boys. They include:

  • Babbage Society
  • Biology Society
  • Bridge Club
  • Chess Club
  • Canoe Club
  • Film Society
  • Debating Society
  • Drama Society
  • Duke of Edinburgh's Award
  • Jewish Society
  • Climbing / Mountaineering
  • Photography Society
  • Sub Aqua Society

There are many more. Indeed, every aspect of academic life has a society devoted to it.

Monitors and Options

Monitors are chosen from boys who are deemed to have the best qualities in leadership and achievement. They have the power to give lines and other such punishments to boys who misdemean. Today there are separate heads of boarding and school houses. On a school-wide level the best monitor is made "Head Boy" and a deputy is appointed to assist. Monitors wear coloured waist-coats and brown shoes. Options, like monitors, are divided in to school and house options and are like junior monitors. The number of options is currently confined to three dozen, and monitors, including the head of school, the deputy head and senior monitor to fifteen.


On the sports field, the school is able to field in great depth (up to 4 or 5 teams per age group in major sports (rugby, hockey, cricket) fixtures) and has a respectable career success. Incidentally, the school has produced many fine sportsmen, such as the young cricket star Alistair Cook, who captained the England U19 team in Bangladesh in 2004.

The Charles Piazzi Smyth Observatory and the Wolfson Planetarium

The Piazzi Smyth Observatory and Wolfson Planetarium were opened in May 2002 by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. Situated on the Bedford School estate, the facility is operated by the School’s Astronomer in conjunction with members of the Bedford Astronomical Society. The Observatory was named after an Old Bedfordian who went on to become the Astronomer Royal for Scotland. It features a specially made GRP dome and a computer controlled 12” telescope which gives stunning views of the Moon, Planets and Deep Sky Objects. This telescope also has a hydrogen alpha filter which enables you to see the magnetic plasma flow around the Sun. The adjacent Planetarium was named after the Wolfson Foundation.

External links


Bedford School has a rich tradition of music and one of the largest school Music Departments in the UK.

Every year, there is a full and active programme of music concerts culminating in a series of summer concerts at the end of the academic year. There are a number of senior music groups including the School First (Symphony) Orchestra, School Band, Choral Society, Chapel Choir and a large number of chamber groups. In addition, there is a Second Orchestra, a Chamber Orchestra, Dance Band and Jazz and Rock Groups. There is a Composer-in-Residence at the School, called the Eileen Norris Fellow.

During the war in 1941 the BBC Symphony and Theatre Orchestras made the school their home, from where a large number of broadcasts were made, under the batons of Adrian Boult, Clarence Raybould and Stanford Robinson.

Prominent Old Bedfordian Musicians

  • Peter Freyhan (OB 50-57); principal cellist B.B.C. Symphony Orchestra (Retd.)
  • Ian Fox (OB 56-64); Director of Music of The King’s School, Gloucester (Retd.)
  • Richard Kerr (OB 58-62); songwriter, for Elkie Brookes, Dionne Warwick, Frank Sinatra and Andy Williams.
  • Michael Freyhan (OB 51-58); pianist and harpsichordist.
  • Alisdair MacRae Birch ( (OB 67-76); jazz guitarist, bassist and arranger
  • Alec Dankworth ( (OB 68-77); jazz bassist
  • Andrew Manze ( (OB 75-82); violin soloist and Musical Director of The English Concert
  • Gavin Osborn (OB 87-94); flautist and composer
  • Howard Jacobs (OB 87-92); clarinetist and saxophonist
  • Ben Bottone (OB 89-96); trumpeter.
  • Philip Stopford (OB 90-95); Director of Music at Belfast Cathedral.
  • Christopher Ridley (OB 90-97); percussionist
  • Jim Bennett (OB 92-01); trumpeter
  • Tom King (OB 93-98); counter-tenor
  • Matthew Venner (OB 96-01); counter-tenor

External links

Old Bedfordians

Prominent Old Bedfordians include:


External links


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