First Fifty Years

The intention was that the school should have a maximum of 500 boys and that roughly one third of these should be the sons of laity, who would be charged more (initially 50 guineas a year) to subsidise the clergy children (30 guineas a year). The College reached its target of 500 boys by 1848, but conditions were extremely Spartan and, apart from their studies, the boys were relatively neglected.  Resentment built up, culminating in November 1851 with the Marlborough “Rebellion”, as a result of which pupil numbers declined and the first Master of the College, Matthew Wilkinson, resigned. With the College now heavily in debt, its future was in jeopardy.

Fortunately, the next two Masters (George Cotton 1852-58 and George Bradley 1858-70) proved to be inspiring Heads.  Both came to us from Rugby School and brought with them all the reforms which had been pioneered there by Dr Arnold. By 1870, the College's reputation both for scholarship and as a forward-looking, Christian boarding school was established.  Over the best part of the next hundred years the College was seen as a school which provided a reliable stream of able young men to the professions, the armed forces, the Church and all walks of public life, both in the U.K. and abroad.