Alleyn's School in 125 Objects

As part of the 125th anniversary celebrations of Alleyn’s taking residence in Townley Road, we have created an online gallery of Alleyn’s School artefacts.

Borrowing unashamedly from British Museum’s director Neil MacGregor’s highly successful project, ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’, we are creating our very own history of Alleyn’s in 125 objects.

We began by posting 25 objects to launch the gallery. We very much wanted this to be owned by all members of the Alleyn’s community and welcomed any nominations for other objects resonant with pupils, staff, parents, former pupils and staff.

Portrait of Edward Alleyn
This is a copy of the portrait of our founder, the actor-manager and contemporary of William Shakespeare, Edward Alleyn (1566-1626), and is on display in the School’s entrance hall. The original portrait is held at Dulwich College.

The cornflower was Edward Alleyn’s favourite flower and it is traditionally worn in his remembrance by guests attending Founder’s Day.

The original School building
The original building on Townley Road was the red brick building which overlooks Townley Road. The road was built especially for access to the school from Lordship Lane and Dulwich Village when the building was erected in 1887. We are grateful to Dulwich College for the use of this 19th century drawing of the original building.

1885 architectural plans of the School building
The architects who designed the 1887 building were a Newcastle-based firm, Oliver, Leeson & Wood, who later went on to design St Barnabas Church on Calton Avenue in 1892 (the church was burned down in 1992). The School contained 16 ‘commodius’ [sic] classrooms, a cap room, offices, kitchens, a knife-cleaning room and servants’ quarters.

Equestrian maquette of Group Captain FH Kirby VC CBE DCM
Frank Howard Kirby was one of the first pupils of Alleyn’s, coming here in 1882 and leaving two years later when his parents moved away from Dulwich. In 1892 he enlisted in the Royal Engineers and was sent to South Africa with his Regiment at the start of the Boer War in 1899. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in 1900. His citation read: ‘On the morning of 2nd June 1900, a party sent to try to cut the Delago Bay Railway were retiring, hotly pressed by very superior numbers. 

‘During one of the successive retirements of the rear-guard, a man whose horse had been shot was seen running after his comrades. He was a long way behind the rest of his troop and was under brisk fire.

‘From amongst the retiring troop, Corporal Kirby turned and rode back to the man’s assistance. Although by the time he reached him they were under heavy fire at close range, Corporal Kirby managed to get the dismounted man up behind him and take him clear over the next rise held by our rearguard. This is the third occasion on which Corporal Kirby has displayed gallantry in the face of the enemy.’

An equestrian maquette showing this act of gallantry is on display in the CCF Officers’ Mess.

Prefects' Boater
A system of prefects was introduced at Alleyn’s by Herbert Baker who was Headmaster for just one year in 1902-3. Prefects wore boaters to distinguish them from the other boys up until the 1950s.

Scriblerus is the School’s annual report and features valetes, reviews and examples of pupils’ work and art. The first Scriblerus was published in 1969 and it continues to be produced to this day.

End-of-Term Newsletters
At the end of each term the School produces a newsletter for parents which reviews the term’s news and events, as well as announcing notices for the following term. The first one, shown here, was produced in the Advent Term of 2002.

Edward Alleyn Magazines
The Edward Alleyn Magazine was the School’s magazine from 1890-1969 and was published thrice-yearly. It reported information about the School and Alleyn Old Boys’ Club’s (AOBC) activities and was frequently described by its editors as being ‘a mirror of School life’. The magazine was edited by senior pupils.

The First World War and Second World War honours boards
In 1922 a memorial was installed in the School’s Great Hall to commemorate the Alleyn Old Boy (AOB) casualties from the First World War. The memorial took the form of an organ with War Memorial panels and it was unveiled by Colonel Kirby VC in 1922 – see photograph. The boards were later moved to the corridor behind the Great Hall in the 1970s.

St John’s, Smith Square Concert
Alleyn’s has a long tradition of excellent music. Each year, the school puts on a concert in the central London location of St John’s, Smith Square, which showcases the Senior School’s more advanced musicians.

Eric Randall bust by Helen Chown
In the entrance hall to Alleyn’s School there is a bust of Major Eric Randall MBE, the School’s Serjeant from 1948-93. The bust was installed in his honour on his retirement; the bust’s inscription reads: ‘In grateful appreciation of loyal and devoted service to the School from 1948-93 the longest period by any individual in the history of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift’.

Michael Croft Theatre
Michael Croft taught English at the School from 1950-55. In those five years he catapulted Alleyn’s onto the dramatic scene as no other master had done previously, attracting the attention of Sir Ralph Richardson, Sir Alec Guinness, Richard Burton and Sir Donald Wolfit. Under his tutelage, AOBs such as Ken Farrington, Julian Glover, John Stride, Simon Ward, and David Weston all went on to have successful careers as actors. Michael Croft left Alleyn’s to found the National Youth Theatre. In 2008 the Michael Croft Theatre was built in his memory to commemorate Croft’s enormous contribution to drama at Alleyn’s.

Alleyn’s badge
The coat of arms was granted to the whole Foundation of God’s Gift in 1936 – previously it had been that of the family of Edward Alleyn. The new description was ‘Argent a Chevron between three Cinquefoils Gules: a Chief Ermine, thereon a Cinquefoil of the second’. The motto, ‘God’s Gift’ appears underneath the badge. The hand coming out of a ring of flames holding a heart at the top of the badge recalls the role Edward Alleyn played in ‘The Magnificent Entertainment’ celebrating James I’s Royal Entry into London in March 1604. Alleyn played the Genius (Spirit) of the City of London and, in one scene, he presented James I with a flaming heart of London, an emblem of charity.

The Worshipful Company of Saddlers’ coat of arms shield
The Saddlers’ Company shield is mounted on the gallery in the Great Hall. The Saddlers’ Company awards six academic scholarships to Alleyn’s pupils each year. The connection with the Worshipful Company of Saddlers came about after the government withdrew state support for grant-aided schools in 1970. The Clerk to the Saddlers’ Company drew the Court’s attention to the problem that this would cause to Alleyn’s School. The Saddlers’ Company decided ‘to  sponsor Alleyn’s School, and to provide funds, not exceeding £25,000 per annum, to fill the gap caused by the withdrawal of the Inner London Education Authority’s annual grant to this School’. The Saddlers’ Scholars at Alleyn’s have made – and continue to make – a major contribution in raising the level of the School’s academic attainment.

Photograph of the Fife and Drum Band, 1887
On 25 October 1887, 250 boys marched behind a fife and drum band from its first home in the original school building [the Old Grammar School on the corner of Gallery Road] to its new home in Townley Road. They marched through the Village and across the fields to Townley Road where Headmaster Joseph Henry Smith ‘took possession’ of the new establishment.

Aerial view of Alleyn’s, 1929
This photograph shows Alleyn’s School and the surrounding buildings – many of which are still in existence – in 1929. You can see the wasteland on the corner of Townley Road and Calton Avenue which became, in 1954, the Memorial Garden.

Photograph of the first children at Alleyn’s Junior School, 1992
In 1992, Alleyn’s Junior School was opened in buildings beyond the boundary of the ancient Manor of Dulwich. Mrs Bridget Weir was the Junior School’s first headmistress and she welcomed 133 new pupils on 10 September 1992. The Junior School was officially opened in November 1992 by Terry Waite, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s envoy, who had recently been released as a hostage in the Middle East.

Alleyn’s uniform
The current uniform – for boys: blazer, grey trousers, white shirt, navy sweater, school tie; for girls: blazer, grey skirt/trousers, white shirt, navy sweater – was introduced by Headmaster Dr Colin Niven in 1994.

Uniware card
This is the pass which allows pupils and staff entry to and from the School site, as well as doubling-up as ‘plastic’ money to pay for school lunches and snacks. The card is a successor to the ‘Girovend’ card which was introduced in 1987 for pupils to pay for food electronically.

CCF brassard
The brassard is worn by all cadets in the CCF on their right arm and charts their achievements throughout their CCF career. The Alleyn’s School CCF is one of the largest voluntary contingents in the country, numbering some 204 cadets and nine qualified staff. One School Staff Instructor and ten other adult members of staff assist. A School Corps was formed at Alleyn’s in 1905. Over the years it has been renamed the Alleyn’s Volunteer Training Corps, Cadet Corps, Officers’ Training Corps, the Junior Training Corps, Air Training Corps and, since 1948, the Combined Cadet Force.

On the brassard, the Alleyn’s CCF badge denotes the wearer as belonging to our exclusive club and other schools will have their own badges here instead. The shooting badge denotes that the wearer is a marksman and comes in three degrees of proficiency (the crown being the best). The first aid badge shows that they have completed a youth first aid course in line with the St John’s Ambulance syllabus. The yellow star shows that they are a senior cadet and have passed the advanced proficiency certificate. The Frimley Park badge shows that they have completed the Cadet Leadership course (CLC), which is run by outside instructors at the Cadet Training Centre in Frimley Park, Surrey. The CLC is an arduous course over the period of a week which is only open to cadets over 16½ years who show great ability and is designed to enhance the skills of the participants. They can then bring those skills back to pass on to the other cadets in the unit. There are a number of other badges available but the ones shown are the usual ones that our cadets achieve.

Duke of Edinburgh safety jacket
This is an Alleyn’s Duke of Edinburgh (DoE) safety jacket: an essential piece of DoE kit. The Duke of Edinburgh's Award was founded in 1956 and has been running at Alleyn's since 1977. Alleyn’s runs the Bronze Award in Year 10, the Silver Award in Year 11 and the Gold Award in Years 12 and 13. In 2012, 167 pupils took part. The safety jacket is worn by the lead and tail member of each group during adverse weather conditions should the group have to walk on any roads or during hours of darkness so that the group can be easily visible and identifiable.

Alleyn’s Parents’ Association Holly Fair
Each year, just before Christmas, the Alleyn’s Parents’ Association holds a Holly Fair to raise money for the School’s Pupil Support Fund and other school-related charities. The Association supports the School, staff, pupils and school community in a variety of practical and financial ways, while providing parents with opportunities to forge friendships and lasting relationships with other parents and with the school community.

Chestnut tree
The chestnut tree in the quad was planted, we are told, when the building opened in 1887. It remains to this day a great source of conkers in the autumn.

Headmaster's lectern
This stands on the stage in the Great Hall and is used by the Headmaster for assemblies as well as for other functions, such as at Speech Day. The oak lectern was made by Physics teacher and former Head of Middle School Anthony York (1978-2004), and has carvings by Physics technician Andreas Tober.

Alleyn's School is a charitable company registered in England and Wales. Company No. 09401357. Registered Charity No. 1161864.
Registered office: Townley Road, Dulwich, London, SE22 8SU. Tel. 020 8557 1500.