(The Spirit of Opportunity)
|Headteacher||Mr J. Watson MA|
|Founder||Isabella of France|
Coordinates: 52°24′49″N 1°31′17″W / 52.4137°N 1.5214°W
|Houses||Bayley, Crow, Fairfax, Wheatley|
|Colours||Maroon and gold|
Bablake School is a co-educational Independent school located in Coventry, England and founded in 1344 by Queen Isabella, making it one of the oldest schools in the United Kingdom (List of the oldest schools in the United Kingdom). Bablake is part of the Coventry School Foundation, a registered charity, along with King Henry VIII School, King Henry VIII Preparatory School and Cheshunt School. The current headmaster is John Watson, who succeeded Dr Stuart Nuttall following his retirement in 2006. Today Bablake is a selective, fee-paying independent school and a member of the HMC.
Started by Edward II's widow Isabella in 1344, Bablake (or Babbelak in Middle English) was a public school first sited at Hill Street in Coventry. Isabella endowed the Guild of St John with the Babbelak land on which was founded the St John's chapel and the Bablake school linked to it. Bablake church, now known as St John's, still stands adjacent to the school's original buildings. The Bablake Carole service is still held in the church, a custom which has continued since medieval times. Many of the pupils were originally choristers of the church. The relationship continued through the figure of Edward Jackson, who from 1734 was both vicar of the church and headmaster of the school. The expansion of the Bablake site continued throughout the 14th century with the aid of further land granted by the Black Prince. In 1563 the school's principal benefactor, Thomas Wheatley, who had been mayor of Coventry in 1556, endowed it with much of his estate.
Wheatley had ordered some steel wedges from Spain. In their place, he received by mistake a chest of silver ingots. Unable to discover to whom this cargo rightly belonged, Wheatley decided to bestow it upon the school.In 1833 a new schoolroom (now the headquarters of the Coventry School Former Pupils’ Association) and a house for the master were added. Two years later, after much mismanagement and extravagant spending, administration of the charities was removed from the Corporation, and Bablake came under the control of the General Charity Trustees. At this time there were twenty boys in the school. In 1855 this number increased to seventy. Even under the great F. W. Humberstone, who took over as headmaster in 1870, Bablake boys were largely confined to the premises and a most monotonous routine. Shortly after this Bablake expanded rapidly, incorporating three other local schools: Baker, Billing and Crow’s School (Black Gift), Katherine Bayley’s Charity School (Blue Gift) and Fairfax Charity School (Green Gift) These, along with Wheatley, comprised the school's six principal benefactors, and gave their names to its six houses thereafter. In the 1890s, Bablake began to move to its current site in Coundon Road, where it continued as a public school with six all-boys boarding houses.
In the 1930s fifty acres of land on Hollyfast Road were purchased to expand the playing fields of the school. During the war, the school was evacuated to Lincoln. In the 1970s the first female pupil was admitted. The school had long ceased taking boarders; what had been the bedrooms became the Mathematics department, and the headmaster's house became the Geography department. In the late 1980s the school built its Modern Languages block; a few years later Bablake Junior School opened and in 2000 the English, Drama and Music block was completed, sited on what was originally the headmaster's garden.
Coat of arms
The arms of Bablake School are those of its principal benefactor, Thomas Wheatley: Sanguine a Lion Rampant Argent, on a Chief Or, Three Mullets of the second.
The Bablake site houses two schools: a junior school that takes children between year 3 and year 6, and a senior school that takes children between year 7 and sixth form. Although the junior school is formally independent, its intake generally move up as a group to the senior school. In the main school, there are blocks allocated to specific subjects, such as science, art, design and technology, music and English combined, and a languages block. The school has a swimming pool and indoor sporting facilities on site including an indoor artificial climbing wall and fully equipped gym. It also has four tennis courts, which are used as netball courts at other times in the year. Off site there are four rugby pitches, hockey astroturf (with floodlights) and a cricket square. The cricket pavilion, which housed the changing rooms, was hit by lightning on 28 June 2005, and was out of use until spring 2006. In the EDM - English/Drama/Music block - there is a large theatre and a rehearsal room which are both used for plays and music recitals.
The four modern-day houses of Bablake are:
|House name||Date of establishment||Crest||House colours|
|Wheatley||1563||Sanguine a Stag's Head Or||Maroon and gold|
|Bayley||1900||Gules a Motte Argent||Red and white|
|Fairfax||1896||Azure a Crosslet Argent||Sky blue and gold|
|Crow||1894||Sable a Corvus Argent||Black and white (later navy blue and purple)|
The two houses which are no longer extant are:
- Baker (est. 1896)
- Billing (est. 1894)
Notable former pupils
Former students, known as "Old Wheatleyans", include:
- Paul Best (born 1991), cricketer for Warwickshire
- Olivia Broadfield (born 1981), singer-songwriter
- Robert Clift (born 1962), hockey player, Olympic gold medallist
- Norman Coke-Jephcott (1893–1962), composer and organist
- Martine Croxall (born 1969), BBC News presenter
- Fred Daniels (1892–1959), stills photographer
- Sir John Egan, (born 1939), Executive, Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Warwickshire
- Tony Fairbrother (1926–2004), aeronautical engineer, flight test engineering on the maiden flight of the de Havilland Comet, the first jet airliner
- Shane Geraghty (born 1986), rugby union player
- Courtenay Griffiths QC, criminal barrister
- Kenneth Hegan OBE (1901–1989), England international footballer
- Melissa Kite, journalist
- Leonard Lord KBE (1896–1967), industrialist
- Tony Mottram (born 1920), tennis player, former British number 1
- Brian Matthew (born 1928), broadcaster
- Simon Over (born 1964), pianist and conductor
- Jack Parsons (1890–1981), cricketer
- Angus Russell (born 1956), businessman, former CEO of Shire plc
- James Shelley (1884–1961), educationalist, critic and broadcaster
- Nick Skelton (born 1957), showjumper, Olympic gold medallist
- Donald Trelford (born 1937), former editor of The Observer
- Melissa Walton (born 1990), Hollyoaks actress, as Loretta Jones
- Rev. Edward Jackson (1734–1758)
- Sir William Moore (1822–1824)
- Dr. Henry Mander (1824–1870)
- F. W. Humberstone MA (1870–1890)
- Reverend Dr. Franklyn
- E. A. Seaborne MA (1937–1962)
- E. H. Burrough MA (1962–1977)
- M. W. Barker MA (1977–1991)
- Dr Stuart Nuttall (1991–2006)
- J.W. Watson MA (2006–present)
Part of the 2009 Christmas film Nativity! was filmed at the school.
- Charity Commission. Coventry School Foundation, registered charity no. 528961.
- Peter Burden, The Lion and the Stars: A History of Bablake School, Coventry (Coventry: Coventry School Foundation, 1990)
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