History and Heritage
The History of the School
At the time, the establishment of a grammar school in England required the assent of the crown. This was obtained after the first school buildings were constructed. The original Charter bearing this assent has since been lost, although in 1929 the governors of the school obtained a certified extract from the Patent Rolls. This requirement for the agreement of the Crown explains the legend Founded in 1615 by Royal Charter displayed near the main entrance. This charter was granted by King James I, who had succeeded his cousin Elizabeth by this time.Above: an extract from the matriculation record of Trinity College, Cambridge, for the year 1571. Edward (Ed) Wilson's name is listed bottom right. Reproduced by kind permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library.
In 1961, using the assets from the Greencoat School, a mixed elementary church school which had closed (having shrunk to a non-viable size during the second World War), a new science block was opened opposite the main school site in Wilson Road and named the Greencoat Building.
The 1883 building continued to be used until 1975, when the school moved south to Wallington. This was motivated by growing dissatisfaction with the school's buildings (the Great Hall could only accommodate half the school) and the plans of the Inner London Education Authority to force all grammar schools to become comprehensive. Fortunately, the growing London Borough of Sutton, which continued to operate the 11+, wished to introduce another grammar school and provided an ideal opportunity for the school to relocate. The original 1975 building in Wallington was phase I of what was intended to be a larger school built in three phases, but the original plans for the second and third phases were never put into practice. Instead there have been various additions made when funding has allowed: the Mary Datchelor wing for Music, the Art and DT block, the Sixth Form Centre, Foundation Building and Junior School.
The school was one of the first to be designated a specialist college in Mathematics and Computing in 2002. This status was re-awarded in 2007 along with a second specialism in the Arts.
The school acquired its officially sanctioned Coat of Arms in 1985.
Wilson's School in Camberwell
The Coat of Arms
In 1985 the then Chairman of Governors, Lt. Col. W. R. Bowden, obtained a Grant of Arms from the College of Arms. The new officially authorised shield introduces a silver bar between the wolf and the objects above and a gold border around the edge of the shield; a crest is added above the helm in the form of a black wolf holding a silver fleur-de-lys in his paws with a black and gold mantle. The blazon reads as follows:
Arms: Sable a Wolf salient Or and a Barrulet enhanced Argent in Chief a Fleur de Lys also Argent between two Bezants all between a Bordure Gold. And for the Crest upon a Helm with a Wreath Or and Sable a demi Wolf salient Sable holding between its paws an Ogress charged with a Fleur de Lys Argent Mantled Sable doubled Or.
Motto: NON SIBI SED OMNIBUS ('Not for self, but for all': sadly Wilson's cannot claim a monopoly on this maxim as it is used by several other schools and institutions.)
The School Hymn
Our Father, by whose servant
Our house was built of old,
Whose hand hath crowned her children
With blessings manifold,
For thine unfailing mercies
Far-strewn along our way,
With all who passed before us,
We praise thy name today.
Four hundred years unresting
Their silent course have sped,
New comrades ever bringing
In comrades’ steps to tread:
And some are long forgotten,
Long spent their hopes and fears;
Safe rest they in thy keeping,
Who changest not with years.
They reap not where they laboured,
We reap what they have sown;
Our harvest may be garnered
By ages yet unknown.
The days of old have dowered us
With gifts beyond all praise;
Our Father, make us faithful
To serve the coming days.
Before us and beside us
Still holden in thine hand,
A cloud unseen of witness,
Our elder comrades stand;
One family unbroken,
We join with one acclaim,
One heart, one voice uplifting,
To glorify thy name.
Words: G. W. Briggs
Music: 'Wilson's' by H. Murrill
Kipling's 'If'While not officially the 'school poem', Rudyard Kipling's 'If' was a favourite of the late Chairman of Governors and Old Wilsonian Lt. Col. Reggie Bowden (after whom the Bowden Room is named). He was so convinced of the poem's inspirational value to young men that at one time he had it printed up on cards and distributed to all the boys in the school. Sadly, not enough cards were printed for subsequent generations to have a copy, but you can now read it here and download a copy of the original to print and keep. (With thanks to Stuart Smith.)
Old WilsoniansThe school has a large number of distinguished old boys. A great many have gone on to make significant contributions in a wide variety of fields and some have even become famous. The guest speaker at the annual Prize Giving is always an Old Wilsonian.
EntertainmentSir Maurice Joseph Micklewhite, better known as the actor Michael Caine
Stephen Jenkins, stage name Stephen Beckett, actor with regular roles in Coronation Street and The Bill
Andrew Kazamia, actor with a regular role in London's Burning, playwright and film-maker
Tim Hudson, actor
Academic and ArtsJohn Galliano, CBE, RDI, fashion designer
Mark Stone, opera singer (baritone)
Pascal Anson, artist and designer; mentor on BBC TV's The Big Painting Challenge
Simon Furman, comic book writer, particularly associated with Transformers
Harry Golombek, OBE, Chess Grandmaster
Roy Porter, historian
Sir Norman Reid, former director of the Tate Gallery
Peter Walcot, Professor of Classics
Matthew Todd, playwright, comedian and journalist, editor of Attitude magazine 2008–2016
Martin Hemming (BPA Travel Journalist of the Year Award 2018), Tim Rayment and Ben Webster, feature writers at the Sunday Times
ScienceStephen Barker, MB BS BSc MS FRCS, Senior Lecturer in Surgery and Consultant Vascular Surgeon, University College London
Dr Nicholas Losseff, MD FRCP, neurologist
Paul Deegan, mountaineer and environmentalist
Dr Alisdair Harris, conservationist; founder and director of Blue Ventures
Sir Lewis Fermor, OBE DSc FRS
Sir James Jeans, OM, MA, DSc, ScD, astronomer
George Barker Jeffery, mathematician
Dr George Druce Lander, FRS, chemist
R. H. J. Swan, FRCS, eminent surgeon of Guy's and the Royal Cancer Hospital
LawTrevor Hunter, QC and County Court Judge
Alexander Walker, Assessor of the City of Glasgow
MilitaryCapt. Harold Auten, VC, DSC, RD, "Q-Ship" commander in the First World War, author of "Q" Boat Adventures and later executive Vice-President of the Rank Organisation
Sir Alan Cobham, KBE, AFC, pioneer aviator (first flight from Britain to Australia in 1926 and pioneer of air-to-air refuelling)
H. E. Funnell, DSO
H. Harbord, DSO
Major-General H. A. J. Sturge, CB, former Vice-Chairman of the Governors
Business and PoliticsLt. Col. W. R. Bowden, Founder Master of the Worshipful Company of Marketors
F. L. Brown, CMG, MC and bar, secretary to the Duke of Windsor during the Duke's period as Governor-General of the Bahamas
Mr Deputy C. G. Dickson, former Sheriff of the City of London
Charles Samuel Garland, MP and industrialist
Paul Geddes, CEO of Direct Line Group
B. A. Glanvill, JP, former mayor of Bromley and High Sheriff of Kent
Ernest Partridge, MP and industrialist
Aaron Porter, President of the National Union of Students 2010-11
ChurchThe Rt. Revd. Dr. Brian Colin Castle, Bishop of Tonbridge
Dr W. R. Matthews, KCVO, DD, DLitt, former Dean of St Paul's Cathedral
The Rt. Revd. H. A. Wilson, CBE, DD, former Bishop of Chelmsford
Please see also the Alumni section of this web site. The Old Wilsonians Sports Club web site can be found at oldwilsonians.com.