Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Doctors and Stained Glass

The last few days have been spent writing a speech on Epsom College's links to the Medical Profession, to be given on Founder's Day on Saturday. It isn't finished, but it is going well at present. It is astonishing how a school, founded as an orphanage and to give a cheap education for doctors' sons, gradually raised its expectations during the 19th Century. If we obeyed the Founder's wishes, Epsom College would be an orphanage dedicated to doctors' sons and doctors' widows (as pensioners) but that specific purpose was increasingly ignored, even during John Propert's lifetime. The lure of creating an effective school, then a renowned school was hard to resist when each headmaster was equally energetic in the pursuit of status. Doctors' orphans didn't long remain the focus of college aspirations, but boys training to be doctors did. Even among the first generation, a huge proportion went into the profession (at a time when the education here was not particularly scientific).

I was waylaid this morning into searching again on the internet for details of Francis Alcock Oldaker and his stained glass. Nothing very much came up, but I have hopes that one day something will. We are particularly fortunate here to have six windows created by him, three when he was still a pupil here and was about 18 years old. One, a memorial to Prince Albert completed in 1861, is now in Big School, but was originally the west window of the old Chapel. Two other early windows are unfortunately hidden by a partition for the sacristy in the present Chapel, the Forest and Sterry windows. The third and fourth are opposite, one being the Wilberforce window, commemorating the death of Samuel Wilberforce, the well-known opponent of Darwinism. Wilberforce, as the Bishop of Winchester, fell from his horse on the downs above Abinger on hie way back from confirming boys here. The last of Oldaker's windows is the Boer War Memorial window, to the left of the High Altar. This particularly fine window was dedicated by Winston Churchill in 1903.
I would be most interested to know anything else at all about Francis Oldaker. His occupation was 'artist in stained glass', but which windows did he create? There is one in St. Martin's Church in Epsom, but where else are they?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Day in the Archive

It's always difficult to explain what we do in the Archive, but perhaps today will do as an example of the variety of activities in which we are involved. I started off this morning working on a booklwet for our pupils going on our annual M4 trip to the Ypres and Somme Battlefields, first thing this morning. The file had become corrupted and needed extensive alterations. It includes details of the Old Epsomians whose graves or memorials we can easily visit each year. There are about 155 Old Epsomians commemorated somewhere as a result of the First World War. A high point of the trip is visiting our own memorial in St. George's Church, Ypres. We dedicated this in a memorable service in 2001 on just such a trip with pupils.
The day included a very pleasant luch in Big School with Headmasters and Headmistresses from preparatory schools. Stories included something about our founder, John Propert, about Francis Oldaker, our outstanding stained glass artist, one of whose windows was above us and during a quick trip outside to give blood, I met two OEs who remembered the glider well from the 1950s.
Now I am awaiting helpers to work on the exhibition for Founder's Day, 'Forty Years On' centred round extract from the Holman House Books harvested by Don Armour. We will show some photographs from that era in the hallway of the Drama Centre, which people can see on the way to my talk on Epsom's Medical Tradition (which will be at 11.30 am in the Drama Studio).

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Archive Website and Archie Paxton

The Archive website at http://archive.epsomcollege.org.uk was finally linked to the College website today and immediately began to attract a following. Several people praised it and the College Library decided to do a display. The website has been constructed by Alex Dowle, who has worked with the Archive for four years now. Many thanks to him for his help and efforts on a myriad of projects over his time with us. Today is his last real day at school.
The website consists of the possessions of Archie Paxton, an O.E., who joined the Middlesex Regiment in 1915 and who died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. It includes copies of school photographs and magazines, photographs of army friends, letters to his mother, a trench map and his orders for the day he was killed. This is a tremendous asset to us, the result of a kind donation from the Paxton family. The photographs and letters can be double-clicked to open out to full size. At the end there are two questions to answer, one easy and one really quite difficult! This is certainly worth a look.

Friday, May 14, 2010

In the beginning...

I have been going to do this for some time, but never had the reason to begin. Now seems a good time as we say goodbye to one year's exam candidates and begin the work to organise next year. In the short term I'm thinking of Founder's Day exhibitions and speech and articles for the Old Epsomian magazine: there seems to be a pile of work to do before half-term.

The main reason to start this is as a way to communicate with the many friends of the Archive at Epsom College, to assure them that we're still very active and to let them know what our focus of interest is now. Perhaps friends could help us by providing materials, for the blog or for the Archive? I certainly hope so.