Celebrating 125 years of Wimbledon College

Westminster Cathedral: packed for Wimbledon College's celebration, Credit: Peter Michael, Wimbledon College
Westminster Cathedral: packed for Wimbledon College's celebration. Credit: Peter Michael, Wimbledon College

On Wednesday (18 January), Wimbledon College celebrated its 125th Anniversary. In his Constitutions, St Ignatius instructed all Jesuit schools to hold a Mass annually in gratitude to the founders of the school; and the College wanted to mark this significant anniversary by gathering the whole school community together for their Founders' Day Mass.

"The only way that we could do this was to hold it at Westminster Cathedral," explains the school's Chaplain, James Potter, "transporting the whole school - more than 1450 boys and staff - across London. We were joined by many Jesuits who had either taught at the College or attended as boys, or in some cases, both! It was an overwhelming occasion, remembering all those whose lives had been touched by the education they received and the friendships they had made through their time at the College."

The logistical and organisational challenge of getting the Wimbledon College pupils and staff to Westminster was substantial, but it went off without a hitch. A total of 17 coaches were parked along Edge Hill in Wimbledon to take 900 pupils and staff to the Cathedral; a further 400 went by public transport.  As well as the pupils and staff of the College, also present at the Mass were Old Wimbledonians (the association of Old Boys the College), governors, local MP Stephen Hammond, the Dean of Merton and headteachers of other English Jesuit schools and local Catholic schools.

Forming a person's true characterPrincipal celebrant, Fr Provincial Dermot Preston SJ. Credit: Pierre Cargill, Wimbledon College

The Mass of Thanksgiving at Westminster Cathedral was presided over by the Provincial of the Jesuits in Britain, Fr Dermot Preston SJ. In his homily, he used the example of Nelson Mandela as someone with a huge spirit and gave credit for the way that, over the past 125 years, Wimbledon College had sought to nurture a person’s spirit as well as their intellect, gifts, virtues and talents, thereby forming that person’s true character. Joining him on the altar were Jesuits from the communities in Wimbledon, the parish priest from Sacred Heart Church in Wimbledon, and Jesuits connected with the College. At the start of the Mass, items associated with the school, a school bag, exercise books, and items representing the arts and sport, both strengths of the College, were presented at the front of the sanctuary.

In his words of welcome, Head Master, Adrian Laing, said that the Mass was a unique occasion for the whole school community to come together to celebrate the life of the College; to thank God for the Jesuits who had had the vision to open the school in 1892 and for the Society’s continued support of the College.  

To mark the 125th Anniversary, a history of the school -“Wimbledon College: The First 125 Years”- written by three members of staff, has recently been published. It describes the College’s growth from one boy in 1892 to the school that it is today.  The College is also trying to reconnect with as many Old Boys as possible, so it is encouraging people to sign up to its new Old Boys mailing list. You can find out more about events to mark Wimbledon College's 125th anniversary by visiting the College website.