Carmel College, Oxfordshire
Carmel College was a predominantly Jewish co-educational boarding school in England operating between 1948 and 1997. It was first situated at Greenham Common near Newbury and then at Mongewell Park near Wallingford, Oxfordshire. It was Europe's only Jewish boarding school. It also had a very small number of pupils who were not of Jewish descent, as day pupils. Carmel College alumni are known as "Old Carmelis"; in 1973 the school was referred to as the "Jewish Eton" by The Observer correspondent, Chaim Bermant (a phrase that would probably not be used by Old Carmelis).
Typical boarding fees in 1996 were £10,000 per school term (i.e. £30,000 per year). The selection process was competitive and applicants were required to sit entrance exams, as well as demonstrate the ability to contribute to the school ethos and uphold core school values. In 1990 and through to 1995 it topped the list of the 20 most expensive boarding schools in the country
The school had a substantial number of international students from Europe and the Americas and an ethos of respect, diligence and social responsibility was instilled in students as part of the pastoral care provided by housemasters and tutors.
The school practised a mainstream Orthodox Judaism, more Orthodox than the practice of most of the pupils' families. The aim was to turn out young international students who were authentically both secular and had an appreciation of religion.
Pupils who attended were generally upper/upper middle class or of a social standing that allowed private schooling. During the school summer holidays some students would spend time in Europe, Asia or the Middle East at private villas and residences of their parents or friends, forming extremely close friendships that would often last a life time.
Many students went on to university, including major universities in Britain and overseas. A significant number also went on to finishing school before returning to Europe / Far East and assuming significant responsibilities in their families' businesses.
A small number of scholarships were provided to exceptional students. Some of them went on to contribute significant funds to the school when they had succeeded in professional life. One example of such a person is Philip Green who is head of Arcadia who joined Carmel College on a scholarship and then went on to contribute significant funds once he had succeeded professionally
The school was strong in mathematics and science subjects, with a chemistry department developed by the innovative chemistry master Romney Coles, author of Chemistry Diagrams, a book illustrating industrial chemical processes. Coles had the position of Headmaster when Kopul Rosen was Principal.
The school was founded in 1948 by the late Kopul Rosen. It was closed in July 1997, mainly owing to diminishing pupil numbers and severe financial difficulties, having been seriously affected by the termination of government assisted places by the Labour government. The grounds were sold to property developers for an undisclosed sum. The sale was overturned by the Charity Commission, however, following significant pressure from parents and former students who claimed the land was undersold. The distinctive concrete synagogue, with its stained glass windows created by Israeli artist Nehemia Azaz, dining hall, and amphitheatre, designed by local architect Thomas Hancock, are Grade II listed buildings; the Julius Gottlieb gallery and boathouse, designed by Sir Basil Spence, is Grade II* listed.
The principals or headmasters were: the founder, Kopul Rosen, until his death in 1962; David Stamler, 1962–71; Kopul Rosen's eldest son, Jeremy Rosen, 1971–84; Philip Skelker, until the school closed.
The school grounds in Mongewell Park had the straightest run of the River Thames flowing past it, and Oxford University made full use of this during their preparation for the annual university boat race.
It was attended by children from the age of 11 until 18 – although earlier on there was a preparatory school which took children from around the age of 8. Later a girls' school was built – about a mile from the main campus, although the buildings were never actually used for this purpose. Instead, it was turned into a junior school in the late 1960s for children up to the age of 13, when they then moved to the main school. Girls were later admitted into the main school, starting at the sixth form in 1968. However, there were daughters of teachers at the school even before this, including the daughter of Carmel's founder Rabbi Kopul Rosen, who was a pupil in the late 1960s. The junior school was closed down several years before Carmel closed, and the buildings sold.
Carmel had several boarding houses, which changed regularly throughout the school's life. The final boarding houses were as follows:
- Mansion House — 1st, 2nd, 3rd year male.
- Ridgeway House — 4th & 5th year male.
- School House & Sherman House — L6 & U6 male.
- Newnham House — 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th year female.
- River Court — L6 & U6 female.
Earlier house names included Gilbert House, Montefiore House, Alexander House, Raleigh House and others.
Notable people connected with Carmel College
- Spencer Batiste, MP, later Immigration Appeal Tribunal chairman
- Billy Brown, musician and singer-songwriter and Recording Artist
- Jeremy Coller, financial executive
- Joe Dwek CBE, former chairman of Bodycote plc
- Raymond Dwek, scientist
- Matthew Engel, journalist
- Joshua Gabay, former teacher, later Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party politician.
- Michael Goitein, professor of radiation oncology
- Sir Philip Green, British businessman, owner of the Arcadia Group
- Roland Joffe, English-French film director
- Harvey Lisberg, talent manager and impresario
- Edward Luttwak, strategic analyst and historian
- David Mond, British businessman, CEO of ClearDebt Group plc
- Oliver Polak, German comedian
- Houda Nonoo, Ambassador of Bahrain to the United States from 2008 to 2013
In popular culture
The Mansion House was an old manor house with particular significance. Agatha Christie (who lived nearby in Wallingford) used it as the basis for the mansion in her 1952 play The Mousetrap. The headmaster's study was also the room used for the final briefing of the reconnaissance mission following the Dam Busters raid. There is a pillbox on the school grounds, beside the river.
- Carmel College website
- Hey Little Missy, Memories of Carmel College. Semi autobiographical book including memoirs written by a former student,set in Carmel College, Wallingford.
- Seven Years at Carmel College
- Risky Buildings: Carmel College
- Photos of Carmel College in 2006
- We are not the only Jewish School – recollections of Jewish Schools