Peter Symonds College

Peter Symonds College

Infobox UK school
name = Peter Symonds College

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motto = Counting in Ones
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established = 1897
approx =
closed =
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type = Sixth form college
religion =
president =
head_label = Principal
head = Neil Hopkins
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street = Owen's Road
city = Winchester
county = Hampshire
country = United Kingdom
postcode = SO22 6RX
ofsted =
staff =
enrollment = c.2700
gender =
lower_age = 16
upper_age = 18
houses =
colours =
publication = Converse
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Peter Symonds College is an open-access sixth form college in Winchester, Hampshire, in the south of England. Its 2700 students mainly come from central Hampshire. The college was founded as a boys' grammar school in 1897 and became a coeducational 16-19 college in 1974, although its roots go back to charities established in the 16th century at the bequest of Peter Symonds, a wealthy merchant.

Origins and history

The Symonds family played a considerable part in the life of Winchester during the 16th and 17th centuries and earlier. William Symonds was three times mayor and the slab over his tomb is to be found in the north aisle of the cathedral.

His brother, Peter, became a successful business man in the City of London and achieved membership of the Mercers' Company.

Peter Symonds' School

By the 1890s, enough money had been earned from the sale of land to the expanding railway companies for the Conservator and Gubernators, who looked after the finances, to increase the educational side of the foundation and establish a secondary school for Winchester boys.

Peter Symonds' School opened in May, 1897, at 39, Southgate Street.

Only six headmasters have been appointed in 102 years and the first two of these, Telford Varley and Dr Freeman covered the first half-century between them. The ethos of the school has been greatly influenced by the personalities and achievements of these men.

Appointed in 1897 and ordained a priest in 1908, the Revd Telford Varley was a formidable first headmaster for the school. He was held greatly in awe by the boys; this was partly because of his manner; distant eyed behind his beard, he was capable of fearsome outbursts of temper and of designing strange punishments, making offenders feel very small indeed.

He caught a boy climbing through a classroom window and invited him to climb in and out 50 times after school while Varley himself sat in the room, marking.

Slovenly pupils who slouched around with their hands in their pockets were paraded in Northbrook Hall at 4 o'clock and invited by Mr. Varley to "assume an attitude of hobbledehoy". They then shambled round the hall with hangdog expression until told to assume "the attitude of a gentleman", when they straightened themselves and marched smartly round and round.

During the pauses in this exercise, trains could he heard entering and leaving Winchester station, and, as many of the delinquents were train boys, this added to their discomfiture. "This is called the old game of keeping the headmaster in," he gloated. "That was the 4 o'clock to Eastleigh. There will be another at 5 o'clock...". His inspection report would meet with approval nowadays, his discipline methods less so!

The first annual examination and inspection in 1898 stated: "Here you have proof of three things: 1st, the energy and organising skill of the Headmaster; 2nd, the loyal co-operation of the staff; 3rd, the hearty obedience of the boys." On 21 December 1899, they moved to the present site off Owens Road. There were 87 boys on the register and the headmaster's salary was £100 per annum, plus £4 for each boy.

He retired in 1926 and was succeeded by Dr Freeman, a mathematics graduate, always known as "Doc", who now gives his name to the humanities building. He dearly wanted to make Peter Symonds' into a public school and set about enlarging buildings and facilities, had the swimming pool built and became a prominent figure in the community - an early president of Winchester Rotary Club, a Freemason and a Justice of the Peace. He threw himself into every aspect of school life and had boundless energy.

It was he who introduced rugby to the school in 1936 and encouraged continental holidays, such as cruises to the Baltic Sea on the SS Neutralia.

During World War II, 450 boys were evacuated from Portsmouth and squashed into the school. One school held lessons in the morning, the others in the afternoon. As news filtered back of old boys dying in action, Doc openly grieved, announcing in assembly, sometimes in tears, the names of the latest to lose their lives in action. They were added to the Board of Honour which stands above the fireplace in The Symonds Room which had been built by the Old Symondians' Society in 1922 as a memorial to those who had lost their lives in the first World War.

John Shields took over as head in 1957 after the death of Doc and instigated the building of Varley Hall, the Gym and the Science Labs. When he retired in 1963 he had totally revitalised the place.

John Ashurst was headmaster during the 'swinging Sixties' and it fell to him to deal with its effect on the boys. Despite the fashion for the Beatles haircut, long hair was definitely not tolerated. When he left in 1973 to take up a new post at Hymer's College, Hull, the school's reputation was at its zenith.

Peter Symonds' College

The task for Ashurst's successor, Stuart Nicholls, was to transform a school with an outstanding reputation into a sixth-form college. In September, 1974, the first admissions were made. Girls were accepted for the first time, their mini-skirts causing consternation to pupils and masters alike.Fact|date=October 2007

In 1982, when there were 900 on roll, the largest single intake of students came not from the local comprehensives but from the private sector.

The highly-regarded Hampshire Specialist Music Course began. Students go through a rigorous selection procedure which enables them to progress to the top music colleges in the country. Mr Nicholls cultivated the phrase which remains an unofficial motto of the college: "We count in ones" ("Counting in ones" is the variant used today). He served on several national education bodies and headed the Association of Sixth-Form College Principals. He left after 20 years to become a national inspector.

In 1991, the Adult Continuing Education Centre, based in Stoney Lane, became a division of Peter Symonds. Using the facilities of the college they now provide 250 courses in the daytime, evening and, at weekends in a wide range of subjects, from pre-degree level examinations to cake icing.

Neil Hopkins, who arrived in 1993, has seen the expansion of courses to include NVQ and BTEC examinations as well the more traditional A-levels. Even the A levels have changed with the introduction of modular courses and course work assignments. New buildings and facilities have been provided. The science centre was opened in 1996 by the Duke of Gloucester and, in 1998, Prince Andrew opened Falkland Lodge, the new boarding house, and the Paul Woodhouse centre which contains a cafeteria supplied by an industrial-sized kitchen, student union and counseling services and two large rooms where students can watch TV, relax and meet their friends. Neil Hopkins is now the only principal not to have a building in the college named after him, and instead the landfill site in front of the Northbrook building which was demolished has been affectionately called "Hopkins' Hump".

In the late 1990s or early 2000s, for reasons unknown (but possibly because of the difficulty students and correspondents had in spelling the College's name correctly), the College dropped the possessive apostrophe from its founder's name in its official title, and is now known as 'Peter Symonds College'.

In 2004, the John Shields Building was unveiled, providing classrooms for the computing, psychology and environmental science departments. Also in that year the Varley Sports Café was rebuilt.

The £4.2M Ashurst Learning Resources Centre was completed in the spring of 2007. Ashurst contains five computer suites, housing over 170 computers (three suites double as classrooms, but remain open access when not in use), a vast library and large silent study areas.


During its heyday the school operated a number of boarding houses. The houses (School House, Wyke Lodge and Kelso) brought in a welcome variety of boys from far-flung corners of the world (outposts of Empire and Armed Forces bases) to spice up the – largely insular – intake of 11+ pupils from Winchester. Nowadays, only School House, as well as the newly built Falkland Lodge are used for boarding, for both male and female students. The construction of Falkland Lodge was funded by the government of the Falkland Islands as a boarding house so that students from the islands can study at the college. Wyke Lodge and Kelso are now used for educational purposes, the Business Studies Department and Music Department respectively.

School House is now home to approximately 30 mixed students in single, double and triple rooms. Falkland Lodge the newest building is home to 47 mixed students in triple and quad ensuit rooms.


From 1998 Peter Symonds' has been the top sixth form college in Hampshire (there is some debate over this, since Farnborough Sixth Form college achieves higher scores per student, while Symonds achieves higher scores per entry), and the third in the country. The A-level pass rate in 2004 was 98.6%, with over 40 students going up to Oxford and Cambridge colleges.
* 2005 - 98.7% at A level and 94.8% at AS.
* 2006 - 99.5% at A level and 94.7% at AS.

In July 2007 Peter Symonds' own jazz band the Jazz Detectives performed at the internationally-renowned Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland.

Peter symonds also has an online magazine named "Converse" which is written an edited entirely by students. [ [ Converse Student Magazine] ] There is also a student produced college radio station, 7Radio, which runs a variety of shows from the UK top 10 chart show to the widely acclaimed Tennis hour. [ [ 7radio website] ]

Headmasters and principals

* Revd Telford Varley III, 1897 to 1926
* Dr Freeman, 1926 to 1956
* Charles Simpson (acting), 1956 to 1957
* John Shields, 1957 to 1963
* John Ashurst, 1963 to 1973
* Stuart Nicholls, 1973 to 1993
* Neil Hopkins, 1993 to present

Famous people connected with Peter Symonds College/School

Current students

* Megan De Wolf (Child Actor) (Has starred in The League of Gentlemen and other TV shows, she was the face of Fruit Shoot in 2003)
* Jack Steer (Freeride skier) (Has won numerous junior events (between 2004 and 2006) as well as the Chamonix ride in both 2007 and 2008. Sponsored by volkl and The North Face).

Former students/pupils

* Rick Adams (Children's TV and radio presenter)
* Ben Ainslie (British sailor and three-times Olympic gold medalist)
* Lucy Alexander (British TV presenter)
* Layke Anderson (British movie actor)
* Angel Anthony (British Model)
* Mike Batt (UK-based songwriter/musician/producer))
* Julia Beckett (2008 Beijing Olympic Swimmer in the 4x100m freestyle relay)
* Helena Blackman (Runner-up in BBC How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria)
* Tony Brenton (Diplomat, British ambassador to Moscow)
* Mike Brown (Harlequins and England Rugby Player)
* Andy Burrows (Drummer for the band Razorlight)
* Will Champion (Drummer of the band Coldplay)
* Alexa Chung (TV presenter, former model, fashionista and girlfriend of Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner (musician).)
* Joe Cronin (Radio DJ for xpressradio)
* Jack Dee (British stand-up comedian)
* Jonathan Firth (British TV and film movie actor)
* Mat Flint (Bass player for the band Death In Vegas, singer/guitarist for the band Revolver (band))
* Philippa Forrester (British television presenter and producer)
* Chris Geere (actor, currently playing drama teacher Matt Wilding in the BBC drama "Waterloo Road")
* Sir James Hann 1933-2004 (Businessman, chairman of Scottish Nuclear)
* Air Chief Marshal Sir Patrick Hine (Joint commander during the Gulf War)
* Seb Hunter (Author & musician)
* Michael Lucas, 2nd Baron Lucas of Chilworth 1926-2001 (Conservative politician, junior minister in Thatcher government.)
* Hugh Mitchell (actor) (plays Colin Creevey in the Harry Potter films)
* Christian O'Connell (English radio DJ)
* Iain Percy (twice Olympic gold medal winner for sailing)
* Lucy Pinder (British model)
* Budge Pountney (former captain of Scottish rugby team)
* Jonathan Raban (travel writer and novelist)
* Rob Skipper (Singer/guitarist/violinist of the band The Holloways)
* Chris T-T (Singer/songwriter)
* Michael Winter Professor and Expert on Rural Politics
* Sam Youd (Science fiction writer better known by pen name John Christopher)

Former teachers

* John Morton (writer) (Writer and director)
* Andrew Norriss (Children's author and TV writer)

External links

* [ Peter Symonds College website]
* [ 7Radio website]
* [ Old Symondians' Society]


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