The Rich History of Magdalen College School
It’s 1480 and sixteen young boys – housed somewhere between the modern-day Porter’s Lodge and the Great Tower of Magdalen College – make up a newly created school, set up to educate deserving boys from a wide variety of backgrounds.
William Waynflete, England’s Lord Chancellor and the founder of Magdalen College, believing in education as a facilitator of social mobility, has established a school of an entirely new kind – a school that would be at the heart of that new and exciting proposition, the university.
Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII’s closest adviser, would soon take the reins of Magdalen College School, and he and other early Masters would oversee the education of such luminaries of the time as Thomas More and William Tyndale.
The small college school formed roots deep in the fabric of Oxford and would accumulate a rich and interesting history...
It endured the threatening religious turmoil of the Tudor period and the bloody end of Thomas Wolsey, Thomas More and William Tyndale. It watched on as Royalists attempted to stop Parliamentarian troops entering the city over Magdalen Bridge one 17th Century morning. It even stood firm in the following century as numbers fell, behaviour hit rock-bottom and the school was forced to punish choristers who were frequently getting caught drunk and had reputedly shot the Usher’s dog. The advent of a stern Victorian era soon put an end to disorder in schools and sweeping reforms were made that changed the face of education.
Magdalen College School quickly earned a reputation, which it still holds to the day, as Oxford’s leading school,
seeing many of its boys – and now girls – winning places at Oxford and Cambridge, enhancing the already remarkable relationship it enjoys with the global university that surrounds it.
The school still sits under the watchful eye of Magdalen Tower, albeit on the other side of the bridge, and still supplies sixteen choristers to the world-renowned college choir, but in every other way it has moved with the times, with a friendly and inclusive, yet uniquely distinctive, flavour.
Pupils are encouraged to respect learning and at the same time given the opportunity to develop interests in a remarkably broad range of extra-curricular pursuits – thankfully none involving the Usher’s dog.
Image - Boys play hockey at the former school site in Magdalen College, c. 1860. The Master H.C. Ogle can be seen on the right watching on. Inset: school photo c.1860
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