King Edward’s Witley marked 150 years since the School’s move to the Surrey Hills with a triumphant thanksgiving service 14th March close to its original location in Southwark.
The Dean of Southwark, the Very Reverend Andrew Nunn, the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Reverend Christopher Chessun and Precentor Canon Gilly Myers welcomed HRH The Duchess of Gloucester GCVO, President of King Edward’s, to Southwark Cathedral. Her Royal Highness processed with the School and was joined by the Mayor of Southwark and the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of the City in their splendid scarlet robes.
The 1000-strong congregation included all 420 day and boarding pupils from King Edward’s and Year 8 pupils from its sister prep school, Barrow Hills. Guests included local mayors from Haslemere and Waverley, Governors, alumni and parents who gathered to pay tribute to the School’s rich history and roots which date back to 1553, when King Edward VI granted Bridewell Palace near Fleet Street to the Lord Mayor of London, creating the schools’ parent foundation, Bridewell Royal Hospital, as a place for the education of poor children. In his sermon, the Bishop emphasised change and continuity, drawing parallels between the School’s journey from Bridewell Palace to Southwark and then to Witley 150 years ago, with Southwark’s changes through the century and our own journeys through life. Today King Edward’s is a co-educational day and boarding school that in particular welcomes diversity, something that was echoed throughout the service by the Bishop of Southwark and similarly reflects the diversity in the borough.
King Edward’s is renowned for excellence in music, and its acclaimed Chapel Choir and Brass, conducted by Stasio Sliwka, Director of Music, reflected the magnificent occasion with suitable pomp and ceremony in hymns, including the National Anthem and anthems by Parry. Choir and congregation were accompanied by the organist Mark Wardell, former Assistant Organist at Chichester Cathedral and now Director of Music at Barrow Hills School.
Following the service, guests and pupils were invited to attend a lunch reception in the Guildhall’s magnificent Old Library. Her Royal Highness met and chatted to pupils from King Edward’s and Barrow Hills before presenting medals to new Bridewell Fellows - generous supporters of the School’s bursary fund - from all sections of the school community: governors, alumni and staff, past and present parents and charities, representing the breadth of support for the School’s founding mission that is still alive and relevant today. Sheriff of the City Peter Estlin, the first Old Witleian to have held that post in almost five centuries, paid tribute in his speech to these new partnerships, and the Head Boy, Oyinbebe Kalabare gave an inspirational speech echoing the day’s themes.
The Headmaster, John Attwater said, “Today has been a wonderful reminder of how far we have come as a school, not just in miles from London to Witley but our transformation from a Tudor orphanage to the world-class school we are today, while still maintaining our fundamental ethos of diversity and commitment to the needs and education of the children we serve.”