Downside School: Wikis


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The College of St. Gregory the Great at Downside
Motto Apud bonos jura pietatis
(Among the good are the obligations of piety)
Established 1606 in Douai, northern France; arrived in Downside in 1814
Head Master Dom Leo Maidlow Davis, MA, BD, STL
Chair Abbot Aidan Bellenger
Founders English Benedictine Monks in exile
Location Stratton-on-the-Fosse
LEA Somerset
Staff c. 100
Students c. 450
Gender Coeducational
Houses Roberts, Barlow, Smythe and Powell for boys, with girls in Caverel and Isabella
Colours Maroon      and gold     
Former pupils Old Gregorians
Coordinates: 51°15′18″N 2°29′42″W / 51.255°N 2.495°W / 51.255; -2.495

Downside School is a Catholic Public School located in Stratton-on-the-Fosse, between Norton Radstock and Shepton Mallet and south of Bath and Bristol in the south west of England. It is next to Downside Abbey.


The school

The school is attached to the Benedictine Abbey and Monastery of Downside, some of whose monks work in the school as staff or chaplains. The headmaster is Dom Leo Maidlow Davis.

The school is divided into five houses: Roberts, Barlow and Smythe for boys (with a separate house, Powell, for all boys in their first year), with girls in Caverel and Isabella (newly built and opened in 2007). They are named after the Community's martyrs (Saint Ambrose Barlow, Saint John Roberts and Blessed Philip Powell) or benefactors (Caverel, Smythe, Isabella). There were previously two more houses, Ullathorne and Ramsay; these were closed in the mid 1990s as a result of falling pupil numbers. More recently the names of both Ullathorne and Ramsay were adopted to group the boys (Ullathorne) and girls (Ramsay) of St Oliver's, the preparatory school that is attached to Downside.

The Quad


Monks from the monastery of St Gregory’s, Douai, in Flanders, came to Downside in 1814. In 1607 St Gregory’s was the first house after the Reformation to begin conventual life with a handful of exiled Englishmen. For nearly 200 years St Gregory’s trained monks for the English mission and six of these men were beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929. Two of these monks, SS John Roberts and Ambrose Barlow, were among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

Imprisoned then driven from France at the Revolution, the community remained at Acton Burnell in Shropshire for 20 years before finally settling in Somerset in 1814. The Monastery was completed in 1876 and the Abbey Church in 1925, being raised to the rank of a minor basilica in 1935 by Pius XI.

Attached to the Monastery, the School provides a Catholic boarding education for boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 18 years. During the 19th century Downside remained a small monastic school. It was Dom Leander Ramsay who founded the modern Downside and planned the new buildings that opened in 1912 and now form two sides of the 'Quad'.

The 20th century brought about huge changes for Downside in the expansion of the school buildings and school numbers - over 600 boys at one point. In the middle of the century, Downside is said to have sent the highest proportion of pupils to Oxbridge of any school in the country, and to have won the highest proportion of entrance awards. Over the decades the number of pupils had been falling but development drives and renewed demand for boarding education has seen numbers rise.

As part of the renewal, girls were admitted in 2004. Numbers of both boys and girls have been since rising every year. The present administration expects the number of girls never to equal that of boys, owing to the school's history as a boys' school, and since the opening of Isabella House in 2007 the proportion has been 60:40 boys:girls.


Downside has cultivated a strong tradition of excellence on the sports field. This is no more apparent than in rugby at Downside, which has had large success recently with two unbeaten 1st XV teams. Downside has had a long standing rivalry with Sherborne School, which often sees the whole school, countless 'Old Gregorians' (old boys/alumni) as well as a sizeable contingent from Sherborne crowding the sidelines. The rivalry has been so intense at some stages that the fixture has sometimes been cancelled or played mid week, so as to make the game less accessible.

In addition to rugby, pupils also participate in other sports, hockey and cricket being the most prominent in the later two terms. However, in the last decade, football has challenged hockey as the main sport in the Lent term.


Downside is also renowned for its music. The Schola Cantorum (Choir) plays a major role in Downside's music. Not only singing for High Mass, the Schola Cantorum also holds public performances on a termly basis. It has recently performed a concert of twentieth century choral music, including music by Britten, Lauridsen and the Chichester Psalms by Bernstein. The summer term is always ended with a musical. Productions in recent years have included Oliver!, Grease, Guys and Dolls, High Society, Anything Goes and most recently the opera of Dido and Aeneas by Henry Purcell. Jazz in Downside is popular. The jazz band Slaughterhouse Seven has performed in Australia, Fiji, Canada, the United States, Malta, Gibraltar, Hong Kong and other places.

Downside's mission statement

"In partnership with families, guided by the Gospel and inspired by the Rule of St Benedict, the monks and staff aim to educate the young people entrusted to their care to achieve the highest academic standards according to their ability and to develop all their gifts for the good of themselves and of others, so that they may become more fruitfully committed to Christ and his Church, and to the service of all his people."

Press coverage

In the late 1990s, the release of a number of Gregorian Chant CDs attracted much attention, with some controversy over the association with the Virgin brand.

In 2002, Father Antony Sutch OSB, then Head Master, featured heavily (including front page of The Daily Telegraph) when he attacked the 'geek culture' that is overwhelming schools and teachers due to government-imposed bureaucracy.[1] He is frequently quoted on Catholicism and educational matters and has contributed to BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day since 2003.

In 2003, Downside was the setting for a controversial experiment whereby a teenager from London, Ryan Bell, who had been repeatedly expelled from state schools was sponsored to Downside by a TV production company to see if a 'difficult' student would do better in the independent sector. After excelling in his Latin set and on the rugby field, Ryan Bell was however eventually expelled after being caught drinking.[2]

Notable alumni

For alumni, known as Old Gregorians, see List of Old Gregorians.

Former teachers

Former teachers include John Crockett, who set up his own theatre company and directed some episodes of Doctor Who before becoming Art master, and Ralph Prouton, who played cricket for Hampshire and football for Swindon Town before joining the teaching staff.

Jon Callard was a P.E. and Science master at Downside in the 1990's before becoming a professional Rugby Union player. He was an influence on Hugh Vyvyan, who went on to captain Saracens.

Richard Runciman Terry was organist and director of music at Downside between 1896 and 1901, before being appointed the first Director of Music at newly-built Westminster Cathedral and becoming a notable composer of church music.


  1. ^ Damian Thompson and John Clare (2002-10-07). "Prince condemns disinheritance of pupils". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2006-10-28.  
  2. ^ Mary Riddell (2003-05-11). "Young, gifted, but black". The Observer.,,954163,00.html. Retrieved 2006-10-28.  

External links



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