Marlborough College

Main Gates to Marlborough College

‘Everyone wants a Marlborough missus’, as Victoria Lambert so eloquently explained in her recent article in The Daily Telegraph.  And, ‘women are the twin halves of men’; as someone else once declared. However, if that statement is related to the long history of Marlborough College, there was a lot of catching up to do. Nineteen thousand four hundred and forty six males had entered the school from the day of its foundation in 1843 to the autumn of 1968 when fourteen girls were admitted to the sixth form. From that moment, a softness was added to the regime. The tough guys were matched by sweet femininity. Full co-education followed some years later. I entered the College in January 1961. Those were still brutal days with fagging, beatings – not only by the ‘beaks’ but also the prefects – cold baths and the door-less ‘woods’, where one squatted to do one’s business in the open with no privacy and, in winter, with icicles dripping down the back of one’s neck, as I describe in my first book ‘An English Baby Boomer: My Life and Times’. This was still a school honed by the requirements of running an empire. Although, things had moved on from the very early days when a boy was thrashed so soundly that his shirt was pulped into his back, requiring immediate medical attention.


John Betjeman


Robert Watts Producer of Roger Rabbit

I have long been fascinated to discover male alumni who may or may not have appreciated the fierceness of the regime they endured but who have excelled in their chosen careers. I would note William Morris, the designer and poet; Siegfried Sassoon, John Betjeman and Charles Hamilton Sorley, also poets; Bishop John Robinson, the author of Honest to God; Actors, Wilfred Hyde White, Michael Pennington and James Robertson Justice. Talented musicians abound in the archives including the internationally renowned trumpeter, Crispian Steele-Perkins, and the vocalist, Chris de Burg. Frank Gardner, the BBC Security Correspondent, Robert Watts, the producer of ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’ and D G Nobbs, who created The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin come to mind; as do,Mike Griffith, renowned cricketer and Chairman of MCC and Mark Phillips, the equestrian and former husband of Princess Anne.

General Hart

General Sir Reginald Hart

Turning to military matters, distinguished male members of the armed forces are listed in the ranks of Old Marlburians and sacrifice in time of war has been significant. Forty three Marlburians died in the Boer War, seven hundred and forty nine in the Great War (almost the equivalent of an entire generation) and four hundred and fifteen in the Second World War. Thirteen Victoria Crosses, one of which was awarded to General Sir Reginald Hart during the Second Anglo-Afghan War, and One George Cross have been awarded to former pupils at the College. I have wondered what it must have like to have been a ‘beak’ during war years, waking to read lists of former pupils mowed down on the Western Front or in the north African desert.

Frank Gardner

Frank Gardner

But from 1968 everything changed. Marlborough became an entirely different school and although this was not appreciated by many, I have no doubt that it has worked out for the best. Human progress is not just a male preserve! Gone is brutality and fear, replaced by co-operation, kindness and to quote from Lambert’s writing ‘the three Cs – conversation, compassion and companionship’.

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