Bablake School

Bablake School
Bablake School.svg
Coundon Road

, ,

Coordinates 52°24′49″N 1°31′17″W / 52.4137°N 1.5214°W / 52.4137; -1.5214Coordinates: 52°24′49″N 1°31′17″W / 52.4137°N 1.5214°W / 52.4137; -1.5214
Type Independent school
Motto Spiritus Vicis
(The Spirit of Opportunity)
Established 1344; 677 years ago (1344)
Founder Isabella of France
Local authority Coventry
Head teacher Mr C.R. Seeley MPhil
Gender Co-educational mixed
Age 11 to 18
Enrolment 893
Houses Bayley, Crow, Fairfax, Wheatley
Colour(s) Maroon and gold

Bablake School is a co-educational independent school located in Coventry, England and founded in 1344 by Isabella of France, widow of Edward II, making it one of the oldest schools in the United Kingdom. Bablake is part of the Coventry School Foundation, a registered charity,[1] along with King Henry VIII School, King Henry VIII Preparatory School and Cheshunt School. As of January 2021, Bablake is a selective, fee-paying independent school and a member of the HMC.


The school in the 1860s.

Started by Edward II's widow Queen Isabella in 1344,[2] Bablake (or Babbelak in Middle English) was a public school first sited at Hill Street in Coventry. Isabella endowed the Guild of St John with the Babbelak land on which was founded the St John's chapel and the Bablake school linked to it.[citation needed] Bablake church, now known as St John's, still stands adjacent to the school's original buildings. The school still holds concerts in the church, and has even sung Evensong there once.[3] Many of the pupils were originally choristers of the church. The relationship continued through the figure of Edward Jackson, who from 1734 was both vicar of the church and headmaster of the school. The expansion of the Bablake site continued throughout the 14th century with the aid of further land granted by the Black Prince.[citation needed] In 1563 the school's principal benefactor, Thomas Wheatley, who had been mayor of Coventry in 1556, endowed it with much of his estate.[2]

Wheatley had ordered some steel wedges from Spain. In their place, he received by mistake a chest of silver ingots. Unable to discover to whom this cargo rightly belonged, Wheatley decided to bestow it upon the school.[2] In 1833 a new schoolroom (now the headquarters of the Coventry School Former Pupils’ Association) and a house for the master were added. Two years later, after much mismanagement and extravagant spending,[2] administration of the charities was removed from the Corporation, and Bablake came under the control of the General Charity Trustees. At this time there were twenty boys in the school. In 1855 this number increased to seventy. Even under the great F. W. Humberstone, who took over as headmaster in 1870, Bablake boys were largely confined to the premises and a most monotonous routine.[2] Shortly after this Bablake expanded rapidly, incorporating three other local schools: Baker, Billing and Crow's School (Black Gift), Katherine Bayley's Charity School (Blue Gift) and Fairfax Charity School (Green Gift) These, along with Wheatley, comprised the school's six principal benefactors, and gave their names to its six houses thereafter. In the 1890s, Bablake began to move to its current site in Coundon Road, where it continued as a public school with six all-boys boarding houses.

In the 1930s fifty acres of land on Hollyfast Road were purchased to expand the playing fields of the school. During the war, the school was evacuated to Lincoln. In the 1970s the first female pupil was admitted. The school had long ceased taking boarders; what had been the bedrooms became the Mathematics department, and the headmaster's house became the Geography department. In the late 1980s the school built its Modern Languages block; a few years later Bablake Junior School opened and in 2000 the English, Drama and Music block was completed, sited on what was originally the headmaster's garden.

In October 2020, it was announced that Bablake would merge with King Henry VIII School.[4] The proposed new school was initially named Coventry School, before backlash from parents and staff led to Bablake and King Henry VIII School being chosen.[5] The combined school is set to open in September 2021.[6]

List of headmasters

  • Rev. Edward Jackson (1734–1758)
  • Sir William Moore (1822–1824)
  • Dr. Henry Mander (1824–1870)
  • F.W. Humberstone MA (1870–1890)
  • Rev. Dr. Franklyn (?–?)
  • E.A. Seaborne MA (1937–1962)
  • E.H. Burrough MA (1962–1977)
  • M.W. Barker MA (1977–1991)
  • Dr. Stuart Nuttall (1991–2006)
  • John W. Watson MA (2006–2019)
  • Andrew M. Wright BSc (2019–2021)
  • Chris R. Seeley MPhil (2021–present)

Coat of arms

The arms of Bablake School are those of its principal benefactor, Thomas Wheatley: Sanguine a Lion Rampant Argent, on a Chief Or, Three Mullets of the second.


Main school building in the centre, with the English, Drama and Music block and the Language block to the right of the photo; Sixth Form block and Science Quadrant to the left

The Bablake site houses two schools: a junior school that takes children between year 3 and year 6, and a senior school that takes children between year 7 and sixth form. Although the junior school is formally independent, its intake generally move up as a group to the senior school. In the main school, there are blocks allocated to specific subjects, such as science, music, drama and English combined, and a languages block. The main school building contains rooms for history, geography, computer science, art, design & technology and maths. The school has a swimming pool and indoor sporting facilities on site including an indoor artificial climbing wall and fully equipped gym. It also has four tennis courts, which are used as netball courts at other times in the year. Off site there are six rugby pitches, hockey astroturf (with floodlights) and three cricket squares. The cricket pavilion, which housed the changing rooms, was hit by lightning on 28 June 2005, and was out of use until spring 2006. In the EDM – English/Drama/Music block – there is a large theatre and a rehearsal room which are both used for plays and music recitals.


The four modern-day houses of Bablake are:

House name Date of establishment Crest House colours
Wheatley 1563 Sanguine a Stag's Head Or Maroon and gold
Bayley 1900 Gules a Motte Argent Red and white
Fairfax 1896 Azure a Crosslet Argent Sky blue and gold
Crow 1894 Sable a Corvus Argent Black and white (later navy blue and purple)

The two houses which are no longer extant are:

  • Baker (est. 1896)
  • Billing (est. 1894)

Notable former pupils

Former students, known as "Old Wheatleyans", include:

Appearances in the media

Part of the 2009 Christmas film Nativity! was filmed at the school.[7][8]

The first three episodes of the 2019 BBC Two series Back in Time for School, covering the period from 1895 to 1959, were filmed at the school.[9]

See also


  1. ^ "Coventry School Foundation, registered charity no. 528961". Charity Commission for England and Wales.
  2. ^ a b c d e "History | Bablake School". Retrieved 2 December 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "Choral Evensong At St John's". Retrieved 2 December 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ Souza, Naomi de (2 October 2020). "Two historic Coventry schools announce they are merging". CoventryLive. Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  5. ^ Souza, Naomi de (14 January 2021). "New name revealed in private schools merger". CoventryLive. Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  6. ^ "Bablake and King Henry VIII to merge into a single all-through school in 2021". Coventry Observer. 2 October 2020. Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  7. ^ McMullen, Marion (20 November 2009). "How Nativity! turned Coventry into a film star". CoventryLive. Retrieved 19 October 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ "5 Star 'Nativity' opens!". 27 November 2009. Retrieved 19 October 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ Hainey, Fionnula (10 January 2019). "BBC's Back In Time For School puts Cov back in the spotlight". CoventryLive. Retrieved 19 October 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

Further reading

  • Peter Burden, The Lion and the Stars: A History of Bablake School, Coventry (Coventry: Coventry School Foundation, 1990)

External links

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