St Bede's College, Manchester

St Bede's College
Motto Latin: Nunquam Otio Torpebat
("He never relaxed in idleness")
Established 1876
Type Independent day school
Religion Roman Catholic
Headmaster Dr Richard Robson[1]
Chair of the Governors Fr Paul Daly STL
Founder Cardinal Vaughan
Location Alexandra Park
M16 8HX
Coordinates: 53°27′05″N 2°15′09″W / 53.4515°N 2.2526°W / 53.4515; -2.2526
DfE number 352/6032
Students 700~
Gender Coeducational
Ages 3–18
Houses Siena Bosco Campion
Colours Blue Gold
Publications Baeda
Former pupils Old Bedians

St Bede's College is an independent Roman Catholic co-educational school for children from 3–18 years on Alexandra Road South in Whalley Range, Manchester, England. It is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference. Dr Richard Robson has been Headmaster of the College since January 2015.

Founded in 1876 by the Bishop of Salford, Herbert Vaughan, the College moved to its present site on Alexandra Park Road a few years later after the acquisition of the former Manchester Aquarium building. Shortly afterwards, work began on the Vaughan Building, the College’s Grade One listed building.


The Vaughan building from Alexandra Road South
Details from four relief panels by Tinworth and Doulton near the main entrance, Vaughan building
Part of the main playground. In the background is the Vaughan building, with the Beck building to the right.

The original school was at 16 Devonshire Street, Grosvenor Square, off Oxford Road (then called Oxford Street) and was set up in 1876 by the then Bishop of Salford, Herbert Vaughan, later Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. Originally, the school was conceived as a "commercial school" to prepare the sons of Manchester Catholics for a life in business and the professions.

This was the first school under the patronage of Saint Bede: possibly the name was chosen because the Cardinal's brother, a Benedictine and the Archbishop of Sydney, was Dom Bede Vaughan. In August 1877, the Manchester Aquarium on Alexandra Road South and the plot of land around it was purchased by the then Bishop Vaughan for College purposes. On 10 September 1877, St Bede's College re-opened in the Manchester Aquarium with 45 pupils who were taught by 11 staff, 8 of them priests. The faculty lived in 'Rose Lawn', until the accommodation levels were completed in the Vaughan Building, for both clergy and a large number of boarders. The somewhat spartan conditions were alleviated by a team of long-serving nuns, who took care of the domestic and catering requirements, as well as a number of lay staff.

In the late 1870s and early 1880s, the Vaughan building was constructed (see pictures). The original plan was for a symmetrical building, with five-storey towers at each end. Only one half of this design was ever carried out, but the main ground floor corridor of the Vaughan building is an impressive centrepiece for the school all the same. An imposing entrance on Alexandra Road (decorated with ceramic mouldings by Tinworth[2]) leads into a corridor adorned with mosaics and marble. The original aquarium building (now the school's Academic Hall) leads off the main corridor directly opposite the main entrance. Appropriately the decorative scheme includes plaster mouldings of fish and other marine animals.

In 1891, Salford Catholic Grammar School (the Diocesan Junior seminary) amalgamated with the College which duly became the place where over 500 priests, some of whom later became bishops or archbishops, were educated.

The College Chapel was built in 1898 and the Henshaw Building, named after the fifth Bishop of Salford, was opened around 1932. The Beck Building, named after the seventh Bishop of Salford George Andrew Beck, was opened in 1958 while the St Regis Building, built in the first decade of the 20th century as a retreat house for the Cenacle Convent, was bought by the College in 1970. It remained empty until 1984 when the Governors took the decision to make St Bede's co-educational. Over the next three years, the St Regis building was completely renovated and allowed the College roll to increase from 630 at the beginning of the 1980s to just under 1000 today.[3]

Between 1886 and 1896, the College had an affiliate school [a 'realgymnasium'] at Bonn, Germany, then a small town on the Rhine. It was never successful.[4] British victims of the war are commemorated in the College Chapel.

On a lighter note, small boys would scare each other with tales that the staircase up to the Masters' Library and the professors' rooms in the Vaughan Building was haunted by the ghost of an Edwardian schoolboy, Frank Bonney, who had fallen to his death.

Several notable television series have been filmed in and around the College buildings. For example, it featured in Granada Television's The Jewel in the Crown[5] and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,[6] and Clocking Off and as a location for the BAFTA award winning series The Street.

From the time of the school's move to Alexandra Road, the College supported the nearby St Bede's Mission, and priests on the school's staff worked to provide for the spiritual needs of the Catholic population in Whalley Range. In 1893 the Bishop of Salford, John Bilsborrow, appointed Father James Rowan, a former teacher at the college, as priest in charge of the district. The new English Martyrs Parish Church was consecrated on the Feast of the English Martyrs, 4 May 1922.


St Regis Building, Wellington Road

The school admits children from Roman Catholic and non-Catholic families. Pupils enjoy a wide range of subjects and pupils perform well at GCSE and A-level.[7]

The College is divided into three houses, Bosco, Campion and Siena. John Bosco was chosen as an educational figure who brought learning to the street children. Edmund Campion was an English Martyr and courageous in his espousal of his faith. Catherine of Siena was a powerful and passionate figure, who worked courageously with the sick and dying and challenged Popes and leading figures of the day, persuading them to negotiate and compromise.

Traditional form names continue, with entry at age 11 to the College into Upper 3rd (year 7). Pupils then progress through Lower 4th, Upper 4th, Lower 5th, sitting their GCSEs in upper 5th (year 11) before progressing to the Lower 6th and finally the Upper 6th for A Levels. These form names look back to a time when the first year of entry into the Prep school was the Upper 1st. The Prep school grew out of St. Anne's Preparatory School which was on Wilbraham Road in Fallowfield. Mrs Claire Hunt is Head of Prep and it has been extended to include a nursery school and it is part of the wider 3-18 educational provision at St. Bede’s.

The College continues to grow and each year the college admits no more than 100 pupils into year 7 (Upper 3rd).

The St Bede's College Educational Trust attempts to maintain a broad social mix despite the end of the Assisted Places Scheme, by providing a small number of bursaries on a means-tested basis for those children whose families financial circumstances would normally prevent attendance.

School publications

Reports of abuse

On 17 April 2008 it was reported that a former teacher and priest at the school, William Green, had been charged with various counts of indecent assault and indecency with pupils at the school in the 1970s and 1980s (a separate charge related to an incident at a school in Moston).[8] On 21 August Father Green admitted 27 assaults at the school and was told to expect a significant prison sentence. A civil case is now being considered against the Catholic Church who said that the incident was regrettable. The diocese also said that it had co-operated with the police and that safeguards against this happening again had long been in place.[9] Father Green was jailed for a total of thirty years on 30 September but will only serve a maximum of six years as the five terms will run concurrently.[10]

On 15 March 2011 the Manchester Evening News published an article concerning Monsignor Thomas Duggan, who had been Rector at the college during the 1950s and 1960s. It outlined his alleged mental, physical and sexual abuse of pupils at the college at that time.[11] The Salford Diocese has admitted its culpability. Although the Diocese has admitted knowing about Thomas Duggan's actions in an audio recording of the Safeguarding Commission,[12] nothing was done to highlight the actions of the Monsignor.

Notable alumni

Former students of the school are known as Old Bedians, and the Old Bedians Association organises regular events including an annual dinner and golf tournament. Alumni of the school, led by the games master and former Sale player Des Pastore MBE, founded the Old Bedians Rugby Union Football Club in Chorltonville in 1954.[13] Mr Pastore played a large part in the club's expansion, including the move to its current site at Millgate Lane in Didsbury.[14]


Actors, television personalities, writers and journalists


Politics and Business



See also


  2. Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society Database of Ceramic Locations
  3. History of the college
  4. Gregory, L.R., A History of St Bede's College, Manchester, 2014
  5. IMDB Filming Locations
  6. The Tourist's Sherlock Holmes
  7. "St Bede's College". BBC News. 19 January 2006.
  8. "Man charged with 28 sex offences". BBC News. 17 April 2008.
  9. "Priest faces jail for abusing youngsters". South Manchester Reporter. M.E.N. Media. 21 August 2008.
  10. "Pervert priest jailed". Manchester Evening News. M.E.N. Media. 1 October 2008.
  11. Keegan, Mike (15 March 2011). "Church says sorry over St Bede's College sex abuse claims". Manchester Evening News. M.E.N. Media.
  12. Old Bedians RUFC
  13. "Tributes paid to rugby's 'oldest winger'". MEN Media. 16 February 2012.
  14. "GB team for 2007 World Championships". BBC Sport. 11 August 2007.
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