In 2009, Twyford School celebrated the 200th anniversary of moving to its current site, although the school is actually considerably older than that. Certainly, a Catholic school existed in Twyford from the latter part of the seventeenth century. One pupil, Alexander Pope, became the greatest English poet of the early eighteenth century. The school flourished, probably based in the house known as Segar’s Buildings, until the Jacobite rebellions and then, exactly what happened is unknown.
The removal of the Catholic school probably left suitable premises for a Protestant school, though nothing is certain until 1793, when Segar’s Buildings were sold to a Mr. Meader who let it to a Mr. Hannington “for a school for the sons of Middle Class Persons”. After Mr. Hannington died, his widow seems to have tried to keep the school going until it was purchased by the Revd. L. M. Stretch, vicar of Twyford. He extended the vicarage to house some of the boys, but most of the school remained at Segar’s Buildings.
In 1809 Mr. Stretch obtained the lease on what is now the front part of the present school house, and was assisted in the teaching of the boys by his nephew, the Revd. Liscombe Clarke. Mr. Clarke was installed in school house and, ultimately, removed the whole school to the one site. Almost immediately, Mr. Clarke increased the accommodation including, in all probability, the present Common Room as a school room with a dormitory above.
In 1815, the Revd. Liscombe Clarke left and Twyford School passed into the hands of the Revd. James Bedford, a Fellow of New College, Oxford. Mr. Bedford purchased land and considerably enlarged the school itself, building a classroom – the present Boarders’ Drawing Room. To the east of this he built a large school hall which we know as the Upper School. This was later connected with the main school buildings with a passage or Cloister. Finally, Bedford built a brew house separated from the main school and situated along the main road to the west. Bedford seems to have had Winchester College in mind when developing the school; the furnishings in Upper School – a headmaster’s throne, humbler seats for assistant masters and fixed desks for the boys – were an almost exact miniature of those in “School” at Winchester. At the back of Upper School was, and still is, the “slate” where misdemeanours could be recorded. Probably the most eminent pupil at this time was Thomas Hughes, who came to Twyford in 1830; he is most famous for his novel “Tom Brown's School Days”, a semi-autobiographical work written in 1857.
Bedford’s successor in 1833 was the first of a series of Wickham headmasters, the Revd. Robert Wickham. He had joined the Twyford staff in 1818, left to take a degree at Christ Church, Oxford in 1820 and returned to Twyford in 1831. Life at Twyford School continued much as it had done under Bedford: the school year consisted of two terms with breaks around Christmas and from about 20th June. Robert Wickham retired in 1847 to become Archdeacon of St. Asaph and passed on the headship to his second master the Revd. J. C. Roberts.
Although the reign of Roberts’ successor lasted only seven years, the Revd. George Kitchin was to prove himself one of the most remarkable headmasters of that period. Twyford prospered; Kitchin took over a school of under forty boys and left it with over seventy. He developed a curriculum that was very modern for its day; music, drawing, history, geography and French all appear on the timetable. More surprisingly, Kitchin encouraged the boys to put on musical performances and plays, led rambling and climbing expeditions and even involved the boys in the building of the cloister leading to his new schoolroom. This hall, the present Old Dining Room, was constructed in 1858 on top of the old brew house. Intended as a schoolroom, it had become a dining room by 1860 with the brew house below converted into kitchens. No sooner had Kitchin completed his new schoolroom than he decided to hold a concert there; amongst those who took part was a young Hubert Parry, who had only recently joined the school. Parry would later become a great composer of such works as “Jerusalem”. Kitchin showed a great interest in early photography and invited his friend from Christ Church, Charles Dodgson (“Lewis Carroll”) to the school where he took photographs of Kitchin, some of his staff and many of the pupils. In 1861, George Kitchin made the decision to leave Twyford and return to Oxford. He later served as Dean of Winchester, then Durham, and was the first Chancellor of the University of Durham.
In 1862, the Revd. Latham Wickham, who had been one of Kitchin’s pupils at Oxford and who had been on the Twyford staff under Kitchin, was made the next headmaster. He is credited with providing a proper cricket ground at Twyford School. He also added to the school buildings, most importantly the school chapel, which was designed and built in 1869. In 1887, Latham decided to hand over to his second son, Charles. The Revd. Charles Wickham was only 26 years old when he became headmaster. He inherited a school with falling numbers and serious competition from other prep schools. Charles Wickham made immediate changes, including the first regular matches against other schools from 1888. From 1890, Charles Wickham took into partnership Mr. H. Strahan, who had been his headmaster in his first teaching post and who had joined the Twyford staff under Latham Wickham as Second Master. In 1893, three new classrooms were built and the old Upper School was fitted out as a gymnasium. A fund was raised to carry out additions to the chapel and it was re-dedicated in June, 1895. Also in 1895, Mr. M. Bethune, assisted by Revd. G. Heywood, published the first edition of the school magazine, “The Twyfordian”. Charles Wickham constructed “Searle’s Hill” in 1896-97, initially as a school sanatorium. It is now in use as Twyford’s Pre-Prep department. However, before it could be completed the school was hit by an epidemic of diphtheria.
1896 was a dreadful year for the school, during which three boys died. Convalescents were moved to Hayling Island, and others moved to Westfields in Winchester. The school moved back to Twyford only to have another, smaller, outbreak of diphtheria. In 1897, the school moved to Emsworth House in Copthorne, Sussex for a year while a complete reconstruction of the old school buildings was undertaken. Confidence in the school had taken a battering and, when the school reopened to the sound of the bells of Twyford Church on 20th January, 1898, there were only thirty three boys on the roll. In 1903 a new west window was dedicated in the chapel to the memory of Latham Wickham, who had died in 1901. This was the work of the famous stained-glass artist and OT, Charles Kempe.
Charles Wickham retired in 1910 and handed over to Mr. Harold McDonell, an OT, who inherited a school of sixty nine boys. He made a number of additions to the school, including, in 1914, the levelling of ground to make a new football pitch below the old barley field. At about the same time it was decided to install a covered swimming pool at the school. In January, 1923, the War Memorial Library was opened; the money required being raised by a long list of Twyfordian and other subscribers. McDonell, a Cambridge blue who played cricket for Surrey and Hampshire, was intensely conservative and rather moody. He disliked anything modern or scientific and refused to install gas-lighting in the dormitories or WCs in the school. Even after electricity came to the village, he would only have it in certain parts of the school. Not surprisingly, the school began to pay the price for this austerity and numbers in the school declined rapidly to thirty seven pupils.
In 1937, McDonell retired and the headship was taken by the Revd. Robert Wickham, who had inherited the school in 1928 on the death of Charles Wickham, his uncle. Bob Wickham reorganised the curriculum, establishing a balance between the subjects. On the surface, life for the boys at Twyford during the Second World War went on almost as if times were normal. There were of course nights spent in the air raid shelter, constant shortages of equipment, rationing, and staffing problems caused by the call-up. By the end of the war, little had been done to the premises and there was a long list of improvements needing to be made. In 1946 it was decided that a Hobbies Room would be built, which was eventually completed in 1949 and became a very popular part of the school. In 1955, with numbers on the school roll well over seventy, Bob Wickham decided to hand over the school to a school Trust. He felt strongly that the future of the school was vital and that it was dangerous to allow its fate to depend solely on one individual. The school continued to thrive, science was introduced onto the curriculum and, some time later, the Hobbies Room was converted into the school’s first science laboratory.
In 1961, Bob Wickham’s son, David, joined the staff. It was the intention that David Wickham would take over the school on Bob’s retirement. This happened in 1963, in the year that Bob was appointed as Chairman of the IAPS Council. He stayed on in the school as chaplain and teacher, and served a further year as IAPS Chairman.
In 1968, an appeal was launched for a new Science Room block, with a carpentry workshop, language laboratory and five music practice rooms. Other projects at this time included a new changing room and laundry in the main school building, with matrons’ rooms and surgery above, and the creation of two hard tennis courts. 1977 was the year when “day boys” were first admitted and, incidentally, the year when David Wickham’s two daughters were accepted “as a special case”. 1978 saw another appeal which resulted in the building of a new dining room; it was completed in 1981 and, in tribute to the long service given to the school by the Wickham family, it was named the Wickham Hall. In the same year, the school purchased its first computers and the Governing Body discussed the possibility of becoming co-educational.
David Wickham retired in 1983, to be replaced by Mr. Richard Gould. Within a short period of time, “Searles Hill” was redeveloped as the Pre-Prep department, and opened in 1985. Soon after this, “Mallards Close” was sold and in 1988 the west courtyard was built with ten new classrooms. At the same time, a new Sports Hall and Swimming Pool were constructed, and these were opened in 1989 by Lord (Douglas) Hurd, one of our most illustrious former pupils. Two further classrooms and a purpose built music school were constructed in 1992, a Girls’ Boarding Pavilion and a Pre-Prep Assembly Hall in 1994, followed by a Computer, Art, and Technology Block in 1996.
Richard Gould left Twyford in 1996. His successor was Mr. Philip Fawkes, who came to Twyford School from Lathallan School in Scotland. Philip continued the building programme with the construction of a new Science Block, opened in 1999 by Professor Richard Dawkins of Oxford University.
Dr. David Livingstone, appointed Headmaster in 2003, continued to develop the school and prepare it for the twenty first century. An all-weather pitch was opened by Robert Moore (OT and GB hockey player) in 2007. Also in 2007, in the early stages of building a new block of classrooms for the top year of the school, a number of Saxon graves containing eighteen bodies were discovered. These rooms, in use from 2008, were completed after an archaeological investigation and are now known as "Saxon Court". This was officially opened by Professor Freeman Dyson (OT and Professor Emeritus of Princeton University) in February, 2009. Also in 2008, a new Pre- Prep Classroom was built on the site of the old bike shed, and a lease was taken out on Home Close Field which provided the school with a further six acres of new sports fields.
The biggest change in recent years, however, has been the move of Year 3 from the Pre-Prep into the Prep School and the expansion of Pre-Prep to a two form entry. This has been prompted, in part, by the end of "full" boarding in 2005 though, of course, "weekly" and "flexi" boarding arrangements continue to thrive. Indeed, all the boarding accommodation has been completely restructured and refurbished in the last two years. In May 2008, the School announced the introduction of a number of bursaries to provide free weekly boarding places to children each year whose parents would not otherwise be able to afford the fees. These have been named the "Congreve Awards" in honour of Old Twyfordian, General Sir Walter Congreve who was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in 1899 at the Battle of Colenso.
Dr. Livingstone left in July 2009 to take up another Headship. He was replaced by Dr. Steve Bailey, a Senior Housemaster from Winchester College and an extremely experienced educationalist as well as a renowned Olympic historian.
Now in 2017, Twyford School is enjoying its strongest enrolment in history, with some 410 pupils from 3 to 13 years of age, boys and girls, boarders and day pupils. It is a friendly, family-orientated school that aims to offer an all-round, top-rate education with a Christian ethos, much as it has done for over two centuries.