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Private Independent Day School for Boys 3 - 13 & Girls 3 - 7, Flexi-Boarding for Boys 8 - 13

Weekly Newsletter - 15th March 2024

Yesterday, I found myself in an Anglo-Saxon crypt.

To get there I had to switch on an old lightbulb which illuminated the uneven and narrow steps, worn down by the passage of time and feet. The crypt itself was small and simple, the crudely carved arches lending a sense of great antiquity to the place. The place in question is the Crypt of St Wystan’s Church in Repton, Derbyshire. It is one of the oldest buildings in England, dating to the first half of the 8th Century - probably around 740 – 750. It’s worth remembering that the oldest building in Oxford dates from about 1000. Repton was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Mercia, which occupied the same sort of area as the present day Midlands. I felt, as I stood there, as if I was in the very heart of the Midlands, and indeed the red stone with which the arches had been built, so characteristic of the Midlands, reinforced this. The great 20th Century poet and writer about place, Sir John Betjeman, described the small chamber, measuring 16 foot by 10 foot, as "holy air encased in stone" a magical description.

Being there reminded me of the importance of particular places and the profound effect that they have upon people who spend time in them. It’s terribly easy, particularly in an age when we can travel around so quickly by car, train or plane, to lose sight of the power of individual places. I spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week at an inspection in a school in the Midlands. It is set in a remarkable Georgian Manor House with hills sweeping down to the graciously landscaped grounds. It was a real pleasure to walk around this landscape, imbibing the surroundings, which set the atmosphere of the place. I enjoyed the visit very much. It was, as ever though, a great pleasure to return to Christ Church and to be reminded so powerfully of the extraordinary environment which we have here – the beauty of a very different coloured stone from that which I had seen in Derbyshire, our honey-coloured Cotswold stone, the “dreaming spires” of our unrivalled city, so majestic when seen from our playing fields. And of course, to be together as a school in the Cathedral this morning, in a building of exquisite glass and wood, was a profoundly moving experience. And what an apt environment to hear a Form 4 boy read the Parable of the Prodigal Son, in front of the whole school, with extraordinary fluency and to then hear a boy play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata faultlessly, with hardly any warning because the previous plan had to be changed at the last minute. I feel so privileged to work in such a blessed environment where so much is achieved by our wonderful pupils.

And our boys achieved another thing today when Forms 5 and 6 went up to St Edward’s to play Hockey against New College. We have only just begun playing hockey again, after a gap of a number of years, and it was so exciting that we were able to put out four teams from these two year groups. I am delighted to say that our A team triumphed over their rivals – a very splendid result. It is wonderful to be playing Hockey again – a game of great excitement and speed. We are fortunate in being able to use the Astroturf on Christ Church playing fields, and it is clear that our sessions there have been very effective.

Mr Richards is very busy at the moment. In any free moment he has, he can be found rehearsing for the School Play which is to be performed next weekend on Friday and Saturday evenings. Once again, Mr Richards himself has written the Play and accompanying music. This time the Play is set on a Scottish Island called Gallinsay, where I have no doubt, entertaining and colourful events will occur. I hope, very much, that as many of you as possible will be able to come and watch. I know that the actors would appreciate a good audience given how hard they have worked.

In the front hallway of the School is a list of the Headmasters since the foundation of the School in 1546. There are some gaps in the catalogue and hence at various time the phrase “No Record” appears. One boy asked me recently “Who was no record?” What an insightful question! One of the greatest pleasures I have found about my job is the number of questions one gets asked. More and more I think questions are the gateway to enlightenment. I’ll be doing everything to encourage the pupils here to continue asking questions!


Mr Richard Murray