Clapham College

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Clapham College was a Roman Catholic secondary school for boys in South London.


It opened in 1897 and closed in 1989. Its history falls into three phases: for half a century it was a private school, for three decades it was a publicly supported grammar school and for more than a decade it was a comprehensive school. For virtually the whole of its life Clapham College occupied a site between Nightingale Lane on the edge of Clapham Common and Malwood Road SW12 8EN. The site is now occupied by Saint Francis Xavier 6th Form College (SFX).

Clapham College was also the name of the local further education college on South Side.


Clapham College was founded by the Xaverian Brothers or Congregation of St. Francis Xavier (CFX) a religious order founded by Theodore James Ryken in Bruges, Belgium in 1839 and named after Saint Francis Xavier. The order was dedicated to the Roman Catholic education of boys.

In the course of the nineteenth century the Catholic population of England grew rapidly, largely through Irish immigration. In 1850 a diocesan structure was restored and one of the most urgent concerns of the new hierarchy was to make provision for religious education. Religious orders played a vital part in meeting this need. The Xaverians were the first teaching brothers to make a permanent establishment in England in 1848 when they founded an elementary school in Bury near Manchester. In 1862 the Xaverians founded a secondary school in Manchester the Catholic Collegiate Institute, later renamed Xaverian College. A little later they founded a boarding school in Mayfield in East Sussex, Mayfield College. After Clapham College came a boarding school in Brighton (1909)—this was the school the actor Sir Ralph Richardson ran away from—and Bootle (1932). Later in the twentieth century the number of brothers declined. In 1977 England was redefined as a region rather than a province of the Xaverian Brothers. In 2003 the Xaverian Brothers withdrew from their remaining English missions.

The founding of Clapham College in 1897 was part of a wave of Catholic school building in the second half of the nineteenth century. Other foundations in South London include St. Joseph’s founded by the De La Salle Brothers, Salesian College founded by the Salesians of Don Bosco and Wimbledon College founded by the Jesuits. Orders of nuns founded schools for girls. Notre Dame High School in Southwark was actually established before any of the boys' schools—in 1855.

Private School from 1897-1945

In 1896 the Xaverian Brothers bought Broadoak, a property in Nightingale Lane. The house had been built in 1875 for the widow of Sir Titus Salt. Classrooms and dormitories were built—for some of the pupils would be boarders—and the school opened in September 1897 with 30 boys initially. The school's patron saint was St Joseph and its motto, Concordia res parvae crescunt ("In harmony, small things grow") The school increased in scale and scope. In 1905 a chemistry laboratory was built and the playing fields at Norbury acquired. In 1922 there were 276 boys on roll. In 1924 a preparatory department was opened in Hollywood, the next-door mansion in Nightingale Lane. In 1932 the school stopped taking boarders. In the 1930s the school had around 200 boys. At the beginning of the Second World there was a planned evacuation of all schools from London and in 1939 Clapham College was evacuated to East Grinstead (East Grinstead County School) and then to Taunton in 1944.<ref>BBC - WW2 People's War - The Experiences of a 6 year old London Evacuee</ref>

Voluntary-aided Grammar School from 1945-75

In April 1945 the school returned to Clapham and became a voluntary Grammar School under the 1944 Education Act. Instead of parents paying fees the school was funded by the local authority. The preparatory department was closed, pupils entered by passing the Eleven Plus, and the school had a two form entry. Although most pupils left at 15 - the new school-leaving age from 1945 - there was a gradual increase in the size of the Sixth Form. At this time the school had around 350 pupils (in 1950 there were 338 boys on roll). Like their predecessors before the war, many of the boys came from Irish and Italian stock but some now also came from Polish families. Although the school had been founded by a religious order and some of the teachers were brothers, most were laymen. Indeed until 1970, when Mr Cecil Pocock took over as Headmaster from Br. Peter (Peter Nolasco), the Head had always been a brother.

Comprehensive school from 1975-89

In 1975 Clapham College amalgamated with the nearby St. Gerard's RC Comprehensive to become Clapham College RC Comprehensive. The headmaster of St. Gerard’s, Mr. M. Gleeson, became headmaster of the new school and Mr. Pocock deputy head. New buildings were erected at the back of the Nightingale Lane site and the old ones reconditioned. The combined school was then on one site with 1000 boys on the roll. Here it continued until 1985 when the site was designated as the site of the new Saint Francis Xavier 6th Form College. The last years of Clapham College were miserable ones. In July 1985 the school closed on the Clapham site to re-open in September on the site of the former Notre Dame Girls School, Battersea. The new St. Francis Xavier College opened in September. The relocated Clapham College took the years 2-5 pupils and some sixth-formers; other sixth-formers, like some of the teachers, stayed in Clapham at the SFX College. The relocated school was initially based in two locations. The Notre Dame Girls School and another building opposite (ILEA building?) which housed the classes for the boys in years 2 and 3. The school moved from this second site when space became available at the main Notre Dame site as the older years left and the numbers twindled. In July 1989 the school closed.

Sixth Form College in 1985

The St. Francis Xavier Sixth-Form College now occupies the Nightingale Lane site (though its entrance is on Malwood Road). It offers an education to those aged 16–19 and gives priority to students from the eight Catholic secondary schools in the Boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark and Wandsworth (Bishop Thomas Grant, John Paul II, La Retraite, Notre Dame, St Michael’s, St Thomas the Apostle, Sacred Heart, and Salesian).


There are photos of the buildings (and of some old pupils) on the following websites

Notable alumni

  • Michael Aldrich - Inventor, innovator and entrepreneur and pioneer of online shopping (b 22 Aug 1941)
  • Phil Babb - Professional Footballer (Liverpool/Rep of Ireland) (b 30 Nov 1970)
  • Brian Baldock, CBE - Chairman of Mencap, Group Managing Director of Guinness and Chairman of the Portman Group from 1989–96 (b 10 June 1934)
  • George Andrew Beck - RC Archbishop of Liverpool from 1964–76 (b 28 May 1904, d 13 Sept 1978)
  • Lionel Bellamy, CBE - Chemical and infrared spectroscopist, and Director from 1975-6 of the Propellants, Explosives and Rocket Motor Establishment (PERME) at Waltham Abbey
  • John Francis Gilhooley, CB - Chief Executive from 2000-2008 of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel
  • Michael Knowles - Conservative MP from 1983-92 for Nottingham East (b 21 May 1942)
  • Gerry Lambe and Franco Cornelli - Renowned musicians who left the College in 1977 and formed the punk bands "Skunks" and "Craze". They found fame after being spotted and signed by Pete Townsend of "The Who", who also produced their early singles. (b 29 Sep 1961)
  • Gerard Lorriman - A doctor of medicine and former head of the Diplomatic Service Medical Service, he became a Jesuit at the age of 55 after the death of his wife in 1970. He served as a missionary in South Africa and was an active supporter of the anti-apartheid movement. He rose to fame when, leading a funeral procession for four black South Africans killed by the regime, he was confronted - but refused to be intimidated - by armoured personnel carriers that tried to impede the procession's progress. He faced them down. He is survived by a son and daughter (b 1 Feb 1915, d 21 Feb 2011).
  • Patrick McDermott, (MVO) - H.M. Diplomatic Service (retired); Member of the Royal Victorian Order; Freeman of the City of London; Deputy Procurator Ampleforth Abbey and College; short story writer. (b 8 Sept 1941)
  • Karl Sabbagh - A Cambridge graduate and prominent Palestinian-British writer, journalist and television producer. (b early 1940)
  • Sir Nicholas Scott, PC, JP - Conservative MP from 1974-97 for Chelsea and from 1966-74 for Paddington South (b 5 Aug 1933, d 6 Jan 2005)
  • Peter Smith - The current RC Archbishop of Southwark since 2010 (b 21 Oct 1943)
  • Steve Steen - Actor and comedian (b 26 Dec 1954)
  • Mike Stephens (DSO, DFC and 2 Bars) - Fighter ace with No 3 Hurricane Squadron in World War Two. (b 20 Oct 1919, d 23 Sept 2004).
  • Jim Sweeney - Actor and comedian(b 7 Feb 1955)
  • Michael Turvey - Distinguished scholar and scientist in the field of psychology. He received his Ph.D. from Ohio State University in 1967 and joined the University of Connecticut in the same year (b 14 Feb 1942)
  • Lawrence Upton - Poet/graphic artist.<ref name="Upton" />(b 1949)
  • Michael Wilshaw - Chief Inspector of Schools in England and Head of Ofsted (b 3 August 1946)

Pupils' memories


Lawrence Upton, poet/graphic artist<ref name="Upton">Template:Cite web</ref>



External links

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