Making history at the 450th anniversary year Founder’s Day

Making history at the 450th anniversary year Founder’s Day

Past, present and future came together to make Founder’s Day in Queen Elizabeth’s School’s 450th anniversary year an unforgettable occasion.

Always a highlight of the School calendar, Founder’s Day this year featured a string of anniversary-related special events, including the burial of a time capsule, as well as time-honoured traditions, from the reading of the School Chronicle to a cricket match between the current School XI and alumni.

The afternoon fete, run by the Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s, drew the biggest numbers in recent memory, while there was a moving retirement ceremony for Barrie Martin MBE, QE’s long-standing Chairman of Governors, who steps down from the role this summer.

The event, which raises funds for the School, was a financial success, too. Having raised their target to £25,000, the Friends saw this figure comprehensively beaten: the current total stands at £41,042.48, including more than £28,000 on the day itself.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “Our anniversary slogan is ‘thriving from ancient roots’ – and Founder’s Day 2023 exemplified this to the full. In the morning we reflected together on our long and rich history in the thanksgiving service at the parish church, while the happy crowds at our colourful afternoon fete were a reminder of just how vibrant and successful is the Elizabethan community of today.

“Barrie Martin made an immeasurable contribution to that success: the 24 years since he became Chairman of Governors have seen QE rise steadily to its position today as one of the UK’s leading schools, and generations of boys owe him a debt of gratitude.

“Fittingly, the burying of the time capsule on Staplyton Field gave us an opportunity to look to the future, as any organisation must do if it is to maintain its success. The artefacts in the capsule include predictions from our current Year 7 about what the School might be like in 2073, when we hope the capsule will be opened on QE’s 500th anniversary.

“My thanks go to the small army of people – including FQE volunteers, staff and pupils – who made the day such a success, and to the many who contributed so generously to maximising FQE’s income, which will be invested in the School.

“I hope many will be inspired to help in the future: you can put the third Saturday of June in 2024 in your diaries now!” Mr Enright added.

The day began with an innovation: a procession from Tudor Hall – the School’s home from its founding through to 1932 – which arrived at St John the Baptist Church promptly for the 11am service.

There, Giles Martin (OE 1992–1999) the son of the Chairman of Governors and the Programme Leader for Higher Education Practice at Bath Spa University’s School of Education, reminded the boys and wider congregation of the words of Gandhi: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as it you were to live forever.”

Reflecting on his memories and experiences at the School in music, debating and sport, he stressed the importance of teamwork. He was part of QE’s undefeated water polo team of the late 1990s.

After staff and boys made their way to Queen’s Road, the Roll Call and Reading of the School Chronicle took place in front of Main Building, with two paragraphs added to the latter’s account of QE’s history, covering the royal visit in November by The Duke of Gloucester and the 450th anniversary celebrations, including the March service in Westminster Abbey.

School Captain Darren Lee, of Year 12, stepped forward to fill the deep hole dug for the time capsule. This included:

  • A letter from the Headmaster to the Elizabethans of 2073;
  • Darren’s reflections on the 450th celebrations;
  • 450th memorabilia including a 450 badge, documents and flowers from the abbey preserved in resin by Art teacher Jeanne Nicodemus;
  • A copy of the recent whole-school photo;
  • The Year 7 pupil’s predictions – intended as a surprise for the Elizabethans of the future, it can however be noted that the boys predict technology, and AI in particular, will radically change education methods!

The Barrie Martin retirement ceremony included the presentation of a book of photos from his years of service, a framed sketch of the School and other mementos. Flowers were presented to his wife, Perin, as well as another of the resin cubes containing flowers from the 450th anniversary service (supplied by the florist who also provided flowers for the Queen’s funeral and King’s coronation).

A photographic portrait of Barrie will be placed in the ‘crush hall’ in the Main Building upon his retirement. It was taken by the School’s photographer Eleanor Bentall, who has also taken portraits of subjects including Boris Johnson, former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, Clare Balding and Tinie Tempah.

Thanking those present, Barrie, who is also Chairman of FQE, recounted how he came on board with the Friends after being approached by FQE stalwart Diane Mason. He joined the Governing Body in 1989, having been invited by Eamonn Harris (Headmaster 1984–1999): “I wasn’t stupid enough to say no to the Headmaster!”

Recalling some of the key milestones in the years that followed, he said he was unable to thank all those “exceptional people” that he had worked with, who had “made what I did possible”. Particular thanks were, however, given to the three Vice-Chairmen of Governors he worked alongside: the late Sid Clark; Ken Cooper; and Nick Gaskell, who will succeed Barrie as Chairman on 1 September this year.

The 1pm–5pm fete brought together current and past pupils with their families, as well as families of boys who will join Year 7 in September, large numbers of Old Elizabethans from different eras, local residents, former staff and other supporters.

The ever-popular international food tents were extended this year, while there was a range of impressive culinary creations battling it out in the Cake Competition. Additional attractions included a VEX Robotics tent – popular with parents as much as anyone! – and Ju Jitsu, where, rumour has it, Barrie Martin was seen performing a martial arts hold.

Away from the Stapylton Field, the QE Collections mini-exhibition included a rare opportunity to see the original 1573 Royal Charter that brought about the founding of the School. A particular draw was a book-signing by Dr John Marincowitz (Headmaster 1999–2011), whose new history of the School was published in March. This had to be extended due to the long queues. He said: “I met many lovely boys, old boys, parents and even a descendant of former Master James Barcock (1689-1719)! Such a variety of really interesting people.”

At the back of the School, the Stanley Busby Memorial Cricket Match on Third Field saw the old boys claiming what Head of Cricket Richard Scally described as “a well-deserved victory”. He added: “Both openers for the OEs – Omar Mohamed and Shahil Sheth – scored quickly, amassing 50 runs each and setting a challenging total of 159. In reply, the School lost early wickets and the run rate became too high, and although there was some strong resistance from Year 12’s Rohan Belavadi and Ranvir Sinha, it all proved too little too late, and the old boys won by 39 runs.”

  • Donations can still be made through the dedicated Founder’s Day JustGiving page. The fundraising total includes money taken on the day, online giving, sponsorship from a House Music competition on the eve of Founder’s Day and the sale of advertising.
  • The full-colour, 56-page fete programme includes a range of features, as well as advertisements from donors and supporters. You can read it here.