Abbotsholme School was founded in 1889 by a young Scottish academic called Dr Cecil Reddie who came upon and decided that this particular estate was the perfect place for him to implement his new educational theories in order to provide a modern, progressive education. Central to Reddie’s radical thinking was a shift away from the rigid conformity of the traditional public school towards spontaneity, leadership and compassion for others, based on co-operation rather than competition, a friendly, supportive relationship between staff and pupils, and a whole-hearted respect for the environment.
Reddie called Abbotsholme “The New School”, and it was new in almost every way. He introduced Art and Music appreciation into the curriculum and was determined that the boys should study the modern languages of English, French and German in preference to Latin and Greek. A strong belief in being close to nature made Natural Science an obvious subject with work on the estate providing the practical experience to inform the boys’ knowledge. So vegetables were grown, harvested and cooked; classes were suspended during haymaking; digging, wood-chopping and fencing were perennial tasks and livestock and bees were cared for. Such a mixture of Farm and School was unknown in England at that time.
Reddie devised a uniform of comfortable clothes (soft shirt, soft tie, Norfolk-type jacket and knickerbockers) to work and grow in at a time when public school boys were still dressed in Eton collars and top hats.
Undoubtedly Reddie was a visionary as far as education and educational practice were concerned and he drew his inspiration in turn from other visionaries, such as William Blake, whose influence you will see if you have occasion to visit our school. The words “Glad Day Love and Duty” above the fireplace in Dining Room and the statue of the Radiant Lover in the Chapel to name some. Blake’s head is one of those that line the walls of the Chapel, too, supporting the beams, which support the roof. The symbolism of this would not have been lost on the first pupils. All of these heads are of the men whom Reddie placed there as role models for his pupils. They are of great thinkers, writers, scholars, men of action, Nelson, Shakespeare, Dante, Ruskin, Cromwell. These were the people Reddie wanted his pupils to emulate.
For more information on Dr Reddie and his educational philosophy click here.