Clifton College

From Academic Kids

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Founded in 1862, Clifton College is a major coeducational public school in Clifton, Bristol, England.

School Motto: Spiritus Intus Alit

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The College from the Close

School Structure

Today, the school is divided into three separate sections: the Pre-Preparatory takes children from the ages of 3-8; the Preparatory is for boys and girls from the ages of 8-13, and the Upper School is for students aged between 13-18. There are around 650 children in the Upper School: about a third of these are girls, although there are currently plans to increase the size of the school. At the start of the 2004 - 2005 school year, a new boarding and day house for girls was opened.

Before 1987, Clifton College was a boys'-only school, and was predominantly boarding, although there were well established day-boy houses.

Buildings & Grounds

The school has a fine set of Victorian era gothic buildings, centred around a quad, containing the Chapel, Big School (Canteen) and the Percival Library. The school chapel has a rose window. Bristol Zoo is situated between the College and Clifton Down, on land originally belonging to the College - as a result, all Clifton pupils are entitled to a reduced costs entry to the zoo, on showing their school passes.

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Memorial Arch - Clifton College

At the side of College Road, opposite what was Dakyns' boarding house (and is now East Town and North Town), is the school's memorial arch - which commerates the teachers and pupils who died in the two world wars.

On passing through the memorial arch and in front of School House, is a full size statue of Field Marshal Douglas Haig. On one of the school's cricket pitches, now known as Collins' Piece, the highest ever cricket score was reached in June 1899, in the school house match between Clark's House v North Town. In this match AEJ Collins scored 628 (not out) ; sadly Collins was killed in the First World War. At the edge of the quad is also a memorial to those killed in the South African Wars.

The Close

The college ground, known as the Close, has an important role to play in the history of cricket and has witnessed no fewer than 13 of WG Grace's first-class hundreds for Gloucestershire in the County Championship. In 1868 a Clifton schoolboy, Edward Tylecote had scored 404 not out on the Close, then the all-time highest individual total. Grace's children attended the school.

The Marshal

Unusually, Clifton College employs a master called "The Marshal", whose only job is to enforce discipline, attendance at classes and related school rules (such as dress code, drinking and hair length). Mr French, a well known Marshal from the 1970s, once upbraided a boy called Bascombe, with the classic, "'ere Bascombe-lad, what's your name?". Many public houses near the school had photos of the Marshal: who was permanently banned so as to not discourage the attendance of school pupils who were regular customers! Today, the Marshal (Mr R Cross) continues to inspire a mixture of fear and amusement among the pupils. (Mostly amusement!)

School Customs

  • The Head of School is entitled to graze sheep on the Close and attend chapel on a white charger.
  • If the school clock (on the edge of the chapel in the quad) is hit by a cricket ball driven in a school match, the following school day will be given as a holiday.
  • Walking on the Close without permission during the week, will result in a fine (calculated on a cost-per-foot-in-breach basis) administered by the Marshal.

Religious Community

Like many English public schools, Clifton has regular chapel services and a focus on Christianity, but for the last 125 years there has also been a Jewish boarding house (Polack's); complete with kosher dining facilities and synagogue for boys in the Upper School: it is the only one of its kind in Europe. However, at the end of the 2004-05 school year, the Polack's trust have annouced that Polack's House will be closing due to the low numbers of students in the house, although many pupils were turned down this year. Like many other English public schools, Clifton's excellent facilities come at the price of substantial fees, although a number of scholarships are available.


Clifton's alumni include Field Marshal Douglas Haig, Monty Python actor John Cleese (who was expelled for a humourous defacing of school grounds - he used painted footsteps to suggest that the statue of General Haig had got down of his stand and gone to the toilet), artist Roger Fry, poet Henry Newbolt, scholar Martin Lings and three Nobel Prize winners: John Kendrew (Chemistry), John Hicks (Economics) and Nevill Mott (Physics).

Famous poems about the school

Vitai Lampada

By - Sir Henry Newbolt [Old Cliftonian]

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 Honor 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 joyful mind

And bear through life Eke a torch in flame,

falling fling to the host behind-

"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"


Listed in order of appointment - with the most recent listed last:

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