Orley Farm School was founded in September 1850 by Mr Edward Ridley Hastings, known to generations of boys as "Teddy". Mr Hastings had previously been employed as a tutor, but with encouragement from Dr Vaughan, the great Headmaster of Harrow School, he formed a preparatory school so boys did not have to "enter Harrow too early".
Over 160 Years of Orley Farm School
He called his school “Hastings”, and taught 14 or 16 boys from a room at the back of a furniture shop in Harrow High Street. He was, in fact, one of the pioneers of his day, as there were no more than a dozen preparatory schools in existence at that time.
In 1851 the school transferred to a house called “Sunnyside” in Sudbury Hill and began taking boarders, then in the late 1850s, Edward Hastings purchased an additional house, “Julians”. Unbeknown to him, this property had previously belonged to the family of Anthony Trollope, and when that author faithfully described it in his famous novel of 1862, “Orley Farm”, Hastings recognised the description and sought – and gained – the author’s permission to change the name of his school to Orley Farm.
By 1894 Mr Hastings was ageing, so he inquired of a good friend of his – a Mr Samuel Gardner – if he knew of anyone he could engage as an assistant, with a view to providing a successor as Headmaster. Mr Gardner, owner of much land on and around Harrow Hill, suggested the man who had been tutor to his own two sons Arthur and Hugh – Mr George Bertie Innes Hopkins. His recommendation was gladly accepted, and Mr Hopkins began teaching at Orley Farm in 1894, taking over the School in 1897 when Mr Hastings retired, having spent 47 years as Headmaster.
As the nineteenth century came to a close, the original building of Trollope’s novel was becoming dilapidated, and in 1900 new premises were sought. It was at this time that Samuel Gardner once again came to the School’s rescue, by generously providing the site upon which the present main building was erected. The architect was Arnold Mitchell, and the foundation stone was laid by the Rev Joseph Wood, Headmaster of Harrow School, on July 26th, 1900, once again reinforcing the very strong links between the two establishments. In 1901, soon after the new building was opened, Mr Broadrick joined Mr Hopkins, and they shared the Headship of the School. Mr Broadrick was a wonderful all-round athlete, golfer and mountaineer, and did a great deal to encourage the School’s sporting traditions -especially cricket – and these continue to the present day.
Between 1901 and 1930 the School grew and flourished, and even the First World War caused very little disruption. 1931 was an important year. Mr Hopkins died in April followed, six months later, by his friend Samuel Gardner. Mr Hopkins’ passing was marked by the presentation of an organ to Harrow School church, paid for by parents’ donations. All the freehold land and houses owned by Samuel Gardner were inherited by his son Arthur, and he took very seriously his responsibility for the control of development in this conservation area – the benefits of which every Orley Farm pupil since has enjoyed.
In 1933 Mr Broadrick retired, and Major J M Dickson joined the School to be Headmaster with Samuel Gardner’s second son, Hugh. When World War II began in 1939, they considered whether or not to move the boys to a public school in the West Country. However, no funds were available to finance the move, and they were told that Harrow was a neutral area, so the boys stayed, and with assistance from the Ministry of Labour, an underground shelter was erected to the rear of where St George’s Hall was later built. In 1940 Major Dickson departed to serve in the Army, and Hugh Gardner continued on his own until the Major’s return. The war appeared to have affected the School very little, except that some boys were unable to attend due to petrol rationing. Most references appeared in the School magazines, which kept full records of old boys serving their country.
Hugh Gardner died in April 1942, and Major Dickson retired from school life in 1945, passing the Headship of Orley Farm to Mr John Ellis, who arrived in April of that year – just as it was announced that the war was over. At this time, the Rolls of Honour for both wars were compiled, and the two memorial boards hung in the dining room. Until now, the School’s four houses had been known simply as A, B, G and D, but in 1948, the names (A) Hastings, (B) Hopkins, (C) Broadrick and (D) Julians were adopted, just in time for the centenary celebrations in 1950. A special photograph of 100 old boys was taken to commemorate the occasion, although by all accounts many more than that attended. During the 1950s, Orley Farm continued to expand and more space was required, so a house across South Hill Avenue, “Oakmead”, was added to the facilities.
Mr C Justin Davies became Headmaster when Mr Ellis left in 1968. His time at Orley Farm heralded a period of great expansion and advancement. A new classroom block was added. 1973 saw the addition of the Gardner building, and in 1977 phase one of the Sports Hall complex was completed, with the addition of a gymnasium in 1981. Two major changes were also brought about. In 1978, the Pre-Preparatory department was opened to educate boys from four to seven years. Then in 1984, a year after St George’s Hall was finished and 133 years after Mr Hastings took in his first boarders, Orley Farm ceased to be a boarding school and the dormitories were converted to classrooms.
That year also saw the Official Grant of Arms made through the College of Heralds, and in May 1985 the emblazoned Orley Farm School scroll was put on display in the corridor of St George’s Hall. The arms and crest have three historical sources: (1) the stag holding an oak leaf is the Trollope family crest; (2) crossed arrows and a silver laurel wreath are included on the Harrow arms, and (3) the “Hurst” of oak trees on the shield and sprig of oak in the badge refer to the Gardner family. The motto, Haec cogitate., “think on these things”, comes from St Paul’s letter to the Phillipians.
In 1990 the Headmaster, Mr lan Elliott, took over from Mr Davies, whose achievements were acknowledged with the dedication of the Davies Library. Already Mr Elliott has also overseen significant changes. The most important of these was the admittance of girls to the School in 1994, adding another dimension to Orley Farm’s long and varied history. In 1995 a new Pre-Preparatory department was built, followed in October 1996 by the opening of the all-weather pitch and Quadrangle development. As the School’s 150th birthday was celebrated a state-of-the-art Music School was completed.
The year 2006 saw Mr Elliott’s retirement and the arrival of Mark Dunning as the new Headmaster of Orley Farm School. As a historian, he was very well aware that the Orley Farm of the twenty-first century is a very different place from the small room where it began in 1850. The School community is proud of the journey Orley Farm has made since its birth but without the vision of Edward Ridley Hastings, the patronage of Samuel Gardner and the dedicated support of generations of staff, parents and pupils none of it would exist today.
Equally, the journey continues and Tim Calvey has now taken over the reins as Head. The ethos and values remain and each September a new cohort of pupils joins the Orley Farm family. We hope that this brief introduction to the history of our School will whet your appetite to come and see us.