History of Sport at St Edmund’s School
As befits a school that was situated on the Nursery End of Lord’s Cricket Ground for 43 years, cricket was the only sport which flourished at St Edmund’s, or the Clergy Orphan School as it then was, in the 19th century. Not that any sport was played competitively at St John’s Wood, but the school’s arrival at Canterbury in 1855 coincided with the retirement of Fuller Pilch from Kent and it was largely through his coaching that the game prospered, although it was not until 1890 that the present cricket pitch was made suitable for matches, which prior to then were played on the St Lawrence or Beverley Club grounds.
No match was lost to King’s School until 1874, and in 1881 William (W.N.) Roe scored 415 not out in a long vacation college game at Cambridge, the highest score ever recorded at that time. Roe played for Cambridge University and Somerset, and a number of others played county cricket, including Edward (E.C.) Wright, who also coached successfully at the school before following Headmaster Upcott to Christ’s Hospital in 1902. The school’s own version of Rugby football was followed by Association, with little success, and two or three individuals gained Athletics ‘Blues’ at Cambridge. In 1900, under Wright’s coaching, the school beat King’s at Fives, Athletics and Cricket (twice).
In the 20th century, thanks to outstanding coaching from a few individual masters, things improved, although outstanding results were always difficult to achieve because of the small number of boys (before the second half of the century there were never more than 100-120 boys in the school). In 1927 Stuart (H.S.) Townend won, almost single-handed, the Public Schools Athletics Challenge Cup for the school at Stamford Bridge. An international athlete, he was a double ‘Blue’ at Oxford, for athletics and hockey, and several other Old Boys gained ‘Blues’ for football and hockey in the 1930s. 1931-32 was a remarkable year when no matches against other schools were lost in football, hockey or cricket. And at the end of the decade another exceptional sportsman, Greville Baylis, brought much success in football and cricket. Sadly, after a year at Cambridge, the war brought an end to what might well have been a distinguished sporting career.
In the post-war years hockey was a most successful sport for St Edmund’s. Robin Hawkins’ XI of 1955 contained three future English internationals, Ian Taylor, Ivan Clark and Mike Fripp. Taylor, a hockey and athletics ‘Blue’ at Oxford, played hockey for Great Britain in the 1960 Rome Olympics and was the second fastest sprinter in the country in 1959. He could probably have gained a ‘Blue’ at almost any sport. Robin Jackman became the school’s first Test cricketer in 1981 and played 4 Test Matches and 15 ODIs for England altogether.
Tennis became a school sport in the 1960s and between 1971 and 1977 sixty-eight out of seventy-six school matches were won, with the team being unbeaten in four years. Michael (M.C.) Dawe became a county player and has been ranked top or in the top ten in the country in age groups over the years. In 1983 Julian Ironside gained his second Soccer ‘Blue’ when he captained Cambridge in the Centenary match against Oxford.
In the last 20 years there have been unbeaten Girls’ teams in tennis, hockey and netball, our footballers have reached the final of the ISFA 6-a-side Cup and the last 16 of the Public Schools Cup, the semi-final of the Frank Mason Cup in hockey (and won the Plate Event), and three years running been in the final of the Lemon Cup (Kent Schools Under 19 Cricket), winning it on one occasion. Two players, Dom Chambers, a prolific scorer at school, and Ben Kemp have been on the Kent County Cricket staff.
St Edmund’s has much to be proud of in its sporting history and over the years there can have been few, if any, more successful schools of a comparable size in the country.