The History of Cheney School

The Rumble Museum at Cheney has been working with Cheney alumni, students and staff on exploring the history of Cheney School. We have designed workshops introducing the history of the school, and produced a set of large exhibition boards (pictured above) detailing its long and fascinating history.

Cheney School's earliest roots stretch all the way to around 1797, when four Sunday Schools were started in Gloucester Green. One of these gradually grew, and went on to move into a purpose built site on New Inn Hall Street in 1901, becoming Oxford Central Girls School. Eventually, in 1959 it moved to the Cheney Lane site and became Cheney Girls Grammar School. However, this is only half the story! In 1934 John Henry Brookes created a junior day department of the Arts and Technical College, based in Church Street near st Ebbe's. This later became Cheney Technical School and moved to Cheney Lane in 1954. The two schools eventually merged in 1972 to become Cheney Comprehensive School.

There are many inspirational students, headteachers and other members of the school community along the way and interesting stories behind both schools. You can watch a short slideshow video here made by the Rumble Museum to document the key events on the school's timeline. It's called "A Tale of Two Schools".

  As part of this project, every single Year Nine history student received a workshop exploring the history of the two schools,   which incorporated a range of original material, such as old magazines, site plans, prospectuses, O level examination papers, letters between the school and the pupils, and a range of photographs too. The groups were also taken on a tour of the site, where they discovered that the Library and Canteen were the old assembly halls of the Technical and Grammar School respectively. They also viewed the sculptures commissioned by John Brookes to represent the school, which are on the side of one of the old science block buildings, known affectionately as "the Tub". Each workshop was delivered with a third of a pint of milk for each student, as would have been the case at the school during the 1950s!

Student Tatenda Mutero said: "the workshop was very interesting. I liked that they put milk in front of us on the table because in the morning they drank warm milk. I liked that we had a tour of where the assemblies were and where the girls school was. We looked a lot at school photos and which one was the oldest building. It was W block that was the oldest. Also the uniform policy was mainly green and yellow".

Sacha Whitehall commented: "I really enjoyed the workshop and I now respect all the achievements Cheney had got to reach this stage... I found it really interesting how the two sides of the school came together. Also, I never knew that the school was once two different schools, a technical school and a girls grammar school."

On Monday 25th September, Year Nine History students also took a step back in time when they received a visit from Bernard Stone, an Old Boy from the 1950s when Cheney School was "Cheney Technical School". Bernard brought a range of items from his time at Cheney, including a boys' cap, part of the school uniform, as well as examples of wood and metalwork items which he had made while at school. He talked about John Brooke's role in founding what became Cheney Technical School, and how the the curriculum included three main 'streams' for pupils: arts and crafts (which included painting, drawing and fashion), commerce (which included typing and administration) and the technical stream (which included engineering and architecture). 

He spoke of how girls had been forbidden to join the technical stream until Susan Bannister became the first girl to study the technical stream in 1959. He spoke of how the two schools on site - Cheney Technical School (which was mixed) and Cheney Girls Grammar School were kept strictly separate, and children got into a lot of trouble when attempting to step onto the site of the other school! 
He spoke of the headmaster during his time, Arnold Wainwright, and showed an old school photograph and explained that it was taken by a camera slowing panning around. He told the tale of one boy who ran round the back of the photo, and thus was able to make himself appear at both ends of the photograph!
The Year Nine students asked questions about what sport was done (football, volleyball and netball were all examples), and they were also intrigued that corporal punishment was still being used at that time. Mr Stone explained that the school uniform was strictly enforced, and that pupils would stand up when the head teacher entered a room. 
It was a really fascinating glimpse into the history of the school and we are most grateful to Bernard for giving his time to talk to the Year Nines. 
The project has culminated in working with students to produce a large, permanent display in the school canteen on the history of Cheney.

If you have a story to tell or artefacts of any kind from the history of the school, please come to our Collection Afternoon on 28th June, or get in touch with Dr Robinson, the Rumble Museum director, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.