Bedford Modern School

Bedford Modern School (often called BMS) is a Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) independent school in Bedford, England.[1] The school has its origins in The Harpur Trust, born from the endowments left by Sir William Harpur in the sixteenth century.[2] BMS comprises a junior school (ages 6–11) and a senior school (ages 11–18).[1]

The school has had four names.[2] In 1873, it became Bedford Modern School in order to reflect the School's modern curriculum, providing an education for the professions.[2] BMS provided education not only for the locality but also for colonial and military personnel abroad, seeking good education for their young families.[2]

Bedford Modern School
Bedford Modern School - Crest
Manton Lane

, ,
MK41 7NT

TypePublic School and Independent day school
MottoFloreat Bedfordia
(May Bedford Flourish)
Religious affiliation(s)Interdenominational
Established1566 as part of the endowment of The Harpur Trust by Sir William Harpur, although separated from Bedford School in 1764
Department for Education URN109728 Tables
ChairSally Peck
HeadmasterAlex Tate
Age7 to 18
Houses     Oatley,      Mobbs,      Tilden,      Farrar,      Rose,      Bell
Colour(s)Black and Red
PublicationThe Eagle/ The Sports Eagle/ The Eaglet
Former pupilsOld Bedford Modernians
School Song"School of the Black and Red"
Unofficial Motto"Modern 'till I Die"


Bedford Modern School - Blore building
Bedford Modern School: Blore Building

Bedford Modern School has its origins in The Harpur Trust, born from the endowments left by Sir William Harpur in the sixteenth century.[3] Since the separation of Bedford School and BMS in 1764, the School has had four names – the Writing School, the English School, the Commercial School and finally Bedford Modern School, the last change being made in 1873 to reflect the School's modern curriculum, providing an education for the professions. BMS provided education not only for the locality but also for colonial and military personnel seeking good education for their young families.[2]

In 1834 BMS moved to buildings designed by Edward Blore in Harpur Square, Bedford.[2] The successful growth of the school meant that the buildings became increasingly cramped and in 1974 the school moved to new premises in Bedford.[2] The Foundation Stone for the new building was laid by Margaret Thatcher.[2] On 11 May 1976, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II unveiled a commemorative panel at the new school building during her visit with H.R.H. Duke of Edinburgh.[2]

BMS became a coeducational day school in 2003. In 2014, BMS celebrated the 250th anniversary of its separation from Bedford School.[4]

School houses

Harpur Window
The Harpur Window, Bedford Modern School

Following a tradition of over a hundred years the Senior School Houses of BMS were: North, South, East, West, County and United Boarders.[2] This last comprised the combined boarding houses: Culver, Shakespeare, and School House.[2] The day boy houses often, though not always, reflected the parts of the town or county from which the boys hailed and were mentioned in the chorus of the school song.[2]

A decision was made in October 1997 for the House system to play a more central role in the School and to reinvigorate internal competition whilst upholding its traditions.[4] Six Heads of House were appointed from the staff under the direction of a Senior Head of House, with the brief to establish a modern House system to be integrated into a new school structure and working week, beginning in September 1998.[4] A competition was launched to establish the new house names. The Houses were named in honour of six Old Bedford Modernians who had gained national or international recognition in their field.[4]

     Oatley,      Mobbs,      Tilden,      Farrar,      Rose,      Bell

Each house has its own tie which consists of stripes of the three school colours and their own house colour.[4] Inter-house sports cover all major and minor sports run by the school, at both Junior and Senior level, and range from rugby and hockey (major sports) to shooting and fencing (minor sports).[4] There are also non-sporting events such as quizzes and Music and Drama competitions.[4] Students take leadership roles as House Captain or House Deputies.[4]


Monitors are selected, following a written application process, from students in the Upper Sixth.[4] Each team of monitors works with a specific year group, and are led by two Senior Monitors, appointed by the Head Master.[4] Senior Monitors, along with the Heads of School, are entitled to wear a red trim on their blazer.[4]


Boys in years 7 to 11 wear their house tie and school blazer alongside black trousers and a white shirt.[4] Girls may wear the school skirt or black trousers with the school blazer (girls' blazers have a red and black braid). Sixth form students wear a business suit.[4]


Until 2003, BMS was a day and boarding school for boys.[4] Following 12 years of discussions, Bedford Modern School closed its boarding houses and became coeducational in September 2003.[4] In 2013, BMS celebrated 10 years of coeducation, with a play written by Mark Burgess commissioned to celebrate the event.

Extracurricular activities


Bedford Modern School, Cricket Pavilion
Bedford Modern School Cricket Pavilion
Bedford Modern School Boat Club Rowing Blade
Bedford Modern School Boat Club Rowing Blade
Bedford Modern School - first sortie to Henley in 1882
Bedford Modern School, first sortie to Henley in 1882

BMS competes against Bedford School, Berkhamsted School, Bishop's Stortford College, Eton College, Hampton School, Harrow School, Kimbolton School, Haileybury, Merchant Taylors, Oakham School, Oundle School, St Albans School, Stowe School and Stamford School in rugby union or rowing. Other sports include cricket, hockey, athletics, fencing, rugby fives, football, swimming, table tennis, tennis and water polo.

Bedford Modern has had former students going on to compete at national and international levels including two former Captains of the England Rugby Team and a former Captain of the England cricket team:

The school was selected as an official training site for the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics.[7]

Performance arts

Each year, the school puts on two productions, normally musicals, with full orchestra and set, in its 300-seat auditorium. It also hosts its own Shakespeare Festival, in which local schools are invited to take part. The Sixth Form has its own theatre company, Theatre in Transit, which puts on a piece of theatre each year at professional venues. In September 2014, the Chamber Choir performed The Armed Man at the Royal Albert Hall as part of Sing UK's 'A Mass for Peace'.[8]

Combined cadet force

The School's CCF has existed since 1863. BMS is one of very few schools in the UK to have all four arms of the Service within its Corps: Army, Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and Royal Marines. The Royal Marines section of the CCF is set to close in July 2017. Bedford Modern CCF invites students from nearby Rushmoor, St Andrew's and Bedford Free School to be part of the Corps.

Eagle magazine

The Eagle - 1881

The school has several of its own publications, the most prominent of which is named The Eagle.[1][9]

The Eagle has been published mostly biannually since 1881 and doubles as an archive of life at the school during that year.[1][9] The Eagle is predominantly designed and edited by sixth form students, and since 2000 is printed as a glossy magazine with around 48 pages.[1] It often also includes feature articles and interviews from former students.[1][9]

In addition to The Eagle, other publications include The Eaglet, which, until recently, was included as part of the main magazine, and includes articles from the Junior School.[1][9] Another publication is the Eagle News, which is published for the benefit of OBMs.[1][9] It includes School news, and follow-up articles of former pupils.[1][9]

The School is still known for this magazine in the Bedford area, where extra copies were often distributed.[1][9] However, distribution externally is now limited.[1]

List of headmasters

The following have been Head Masters of Bedford Modern School.

Name Years as Head Master
John Whitehouse[4] 1764–1765
George Jackson[4] 1765–1799
John Whitehouse[4] 1799–1809
James Ruffhead[4] 1809–1814
William Massey[4] 1814–1820
William Henry White[4] 1821–1831
John Moore[4] 1831–1860
Wilkinson Finlinson[4] 1860–1877
Rev. Robert Burton Poole[4] 1877–1900
Cecil William Kaye[10] 1901–1916
Canon Arnold Cecil Powell[10] 1917–1922
Henry Weddell Liddle[10] 1922–1946
Rev. John Edward Taylor[10] 1946–1965
Brian Kemball-Cook[10] 1965–1977
Peter John Squire[11] 1977–1996
Stephen Smith[11] 1996–2009
Michael Hall[4] 2010-2017
Alex Tate 2017–present

Notable masters


BE2 dedicated to H.D. H-K, Imperial War Museum
  • H.D. Harvey-Kelly (OBM) was a World War I pilot who was credited with being the first RFC pilot to land in France in the war, and of being the first RFC pilot to down an enemy aircraft[20]
  • Charles Carroll Wood (OBM) was the first Canadian to die in the Second Boer War. He was the great grandson of Zachary Taylor (12th President of the United States) and is the namesake of Chaswood, Nova Scotia[21]
  • Cecil Vandepeer Clarke and Stuart Macrae, WW2 inventors, took a prototype of their limpet mine to Bedford Modern School swimming baths, which were closed for such occasions. Clarke was an excellent swimmer and was able to propel himself through the water with a prototype bomb attached to a keeper plate on webbing around his waist[22]
  • Dame Alice Owen's School was evacuated to BMS for the entire duration of World War II[2][23]
  • A.O. Jones (OBM), former captain of the England Cricket Team, invented the cricket position of gully[24][25]
  • James Oswald Anderson (OBM) played football for Argentina in its first ever official national game against Uruguay in 1902[26][27]
  • Bedford Modern has educated two former captains of the England Rugby Team namely Edgar Mobbs and Dickie Jeeps.[2] Jeeps was also captain of the British Lions in 1962[2]
  • Christopher Fry (OBM) talks about BMS when interviewed by Roy Plomley on Desert Island Discs[28]Christopher Fry on Desert Island Discs
  • Captain Richard 'Dick' Howe MBE MC (OBM), was an escape officer at Colditz Castle during World War II[29]
  • Gordon Thomas (OBM), an investigative author, journalist and novelist got the scoop on the nationalisation of the Suez Canal for the Daily Express in 1956.[30] Thomas was a cousin of the poet Dylan Thomas[30]
  • John Sessions (OBM) talks about BMS when interviewed by Sue Lawley on Desert Island Discs[31]John Sessions on Desert Island Discs
  • An annual ‘Long Swim’ was established under Dr Poole (headmaster 1877-1900), a ‘free-for-all’ swimming race in the River Great Ouse from Bedford town bridge to the ‘Suspension Bridge’. The gruelling event was stopped in 1957 due to river pollution[2]
  • An annual compulsory steeplechase takes place at the school for each year group[4]
  • David Scott Daniell (OBM) wrote about his schooldays at BMS in his first novel, Young English[32]
  • The school’s Prichard Museum, a collection of artefacts sent back to the school mainly from old boys around the world, became Bedford Museum.[2] George Witt was also a major benefactor to the school's museum[33]
  • Norman Friskney, later headmaster of Wilson's School, writes about his time as a Master at BMS in his memoirs, With Gun and Gown (2012, ISBN 978-1-86151-009-9)[34]

Old Bedford Modernians

Former pupils of the school are known as Old Bedford Modernians.

Further reading

  • Underwood, Andrew (1981). Bedford Modern School of the Black and Red. ISBN 0-9507608-1-1.
  • Godber, Joyce (1973). The Harpur Trust 1552–1973. White Crescent Press Ltd. ISBN 0-9502917-0-6.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Bedford Modern School". Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Bedford Modern School of the black & red". Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  3. ^ "The Harpur Trust, 1552-1973". Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab School of the Black And Red by Andrew Underwood 1981. Reset and updated by Peter Boon, Paul Middleton and Richard Wildman in 2010
  5. ^ "Bedford Modern School Cricket Team at Cricket Archive, retrieved July 2015".
  6. ^ "Short British Pathe clip of Bedford Modern School (and others), Henley Royal Regatta, 1938, retrieved July 2015".
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 July 2012. Retrieved 6 August 2012.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) On Your Marks! Bedford Borough to host teams from around the world ahead of London 2012
  8. ^ "Sing UK - Welcome to Sing UK!". Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g School of the Black and Red, A History of Bedford Modern School, by Andrew Underwood (1981); updated by Boon, Middleton and Wildman (2010)
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i Who Was Who, Published by A&C Black Limited
  11. ^ a b c d e Who's Who 2014, Published by A&C Black Limited
  12. ^ "Hillhouse, William Professor (1850 – 1910)". Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  13. ^ Institute of Education, University of London - Archive
  14. ^ "University of Cambridge Alumni Cantabrigienses; a Biographical List of All Known Students, Graduates and Holders of Office, From the Earliest Times to 1900;". Mocavo. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  15. ^ Twentieth-Century Children's Writers and Author's and Writer's Who's Who
  16. ^ BBC Sport
  17. ^ "Mark Burgess". IMDb. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  18. ^ Independent School Parent. "Bedford Modern School Head of Speech and Drama writes for BBC Radio 4". Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  19. ^ "Jason Riddington". IMDb. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  20. ^ "Royal Flying Corps-first machine". Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  21. ^ John Bell. Confederate Seadog: John Taylor Wood in War and Exile, McFarland Publishers. 2002. p. 59
  22. ^ Clarke, John Vandepeer (2005b). "Wartime memories of my childhood in Bedford Part 1". WW2 People's War. BBC
  23. ^ "BBC - WW2 People's War - Some random memories of wartime Bedford - Part One - The Owen's School boys settle into Bedford". Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  24. ^ P. F. Warner, My Cricketing Life 1921
  25. ^ "gully". Dictionary Central. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  26. ^ "The Victoria History of the County of Bedford". Mocavo. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  27. ^ "Uruguay v Argentina, 20 July 1902". Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  28. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - Desert Island Discs, Christopher Fry". BBC. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  29. ^ Obituary in The Times, 4 June 1981
  30. ^ a b My Story: Gordon Thomas. Programme produced by Aparat Limited for Press TV. Published 30 January 2014
  31. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - Desert Island Discs, John Sessions". BBC. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  32. ^ Young English. The story of a schoolboy. London, Jonathan Cape, 1931
  33. ^ "British Museum - Term details". British Museum. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  34. ^ "With Gun and Gown". Retrieved 31 January 2015.

External links

Coordinates: 52°08′53″N 0°28′55″W / 52.148°N 0.482°W

Arthur Jones (cricketer)

Arthur Owen Jones (16 August 1872 – 21 December 1914), was an English cricketer, noted as an all-rounder, and former Captain of England. He was also a rugby union player for Leicester at full back or three quarter.

Ben Anderson (journalist)

Ben Anderson is a journalist, television reporter, and writer. A recipient of the Foreign Press Award, he was born in Middlesbrough, educated at Bedford Modern School and now lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Christopher Fry

Christopher Fry (18 December 1907 – 30 June 2005) was an English poet and playwright. He is best known for his verse dramas, notably The Lady's Not for Burning, which made him a major force in theatre in the 1940s and 1950s.

Dickie Jeeps

Richard Eric Gautrey Jeeps, (25 November 1931 – 8 October 2016), known as Dickie Jeeps, was an English rugby union player who played for Northampton having started his career with Cambridge Rugby Club. He represented and captained both the England national rugby union team and the British Lions in the 1950s and 1960s. He subsequently became a sports administrator and Chairman of the Sports Council. He was appointed CBE in 1977.

Edgar Mobbs

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George Matthews (journalist)

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