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A history of the school

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HISTORY

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SCHOOL 

St Philip’s School was founded in 1934 when Mr Richard Tibbits and Mr Wilfred Newall answered a request from Father John Talbot of the Oratory Church to establish a school for the education of the boys of Catholic families local to the Brompton Oratory. The School began at 6 Wetherby Place – its present location – in South Kensington with four boys, whom Mr Tibbits fetched in the morning and drove home at the end of the school day. Lessons took place in the Big School Room while the upper floors of the building were Mr Tibbits’s living quarters.

By the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the school had grown to 27 pupils at which point Mr Tibbits left to join the war effort and serve in the Army. A temporary move of the pupils to Mr Tibbits’s family home in Warwickshire proved wise as an explosion destroyed two houses opposite on Wetherby Place. Apart from a few broken windows, the School building survived the blast, but the absence of Mr Tibbits forced it to close for the remainder of the War.

Lieutenant Colonel Tibbits returned from France at the end of the War, and was demobilised. After a short period teaching at a prep school in Sussex, he returned to London to restart St Philip’s. He married Muriel Atkinson at the Oratory Church in January 1946, and she became the School housekeeper. She was a major force in the School’s growth over the next few years, and remained in her post until 1997. Mr Tibbits remained at the School until his death in 1967 by which time the School was thriving, with boys being prepared for Downside, Ampleforth, Eton, Harrow and a variety of London day schools.

David Atkinson was the brother of Mrs Tibbits and, having joined the School in the 1950s, took over as Head Master in 1967. He remained until his retirement in 1997. Although he was an Anglican, he took it upon himself to ensure that the School retained its Roman Catholic identity throughout his tenure. A key appointment in his time was former St Philip’s pupil Harry Biggs-Davison, who returned to the School in 1978 to teach Geography after graduating from Cambridge University. Mr Biggs-Davison became Joint Head Master with Mr Atkinson in 1985 and took sole responsibility for the School in 1992 as Mr Atkinson wound down. He remained as Head Master until his retirement in 2016. Alexander  Thomas, appointed in 2016, is the fourth Head Master of the School.

In 2023 the school announced plans to expand into extra space in 5 Wetherby Place, allowing it to become a school for boys aged 4 to 13, offering education from Reception to Year 8 for the first time. It will grow to be a school for 160 boys by 2027.

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