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Celebrating 50 Years of Devizes School

11 October 2019
Celebrating 50 Years of Devizes School

A lot can happen in 50 years. On 1st September 1969, “In the Year 2525” by Zager and Evans was the UK’s number one, Harold Wilson was Prime Minister, Everton were top of Division 1 on their way to their seventh league title, and the world was still in awe of the moon landing, which took place a little more than six weeks prior.

To us, however, 1st September 1969 is a very special date for another reason — it was the day Devizes School opened its doors for the very first time.

Tomorrow, we will be marking our 50th anniversary with a celebration at the school. As we prepare to salute half a century of Devizes School, we’ve been taking a look back at our last 50 years.

A Remarkable Devizes Family Legacy

While we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Devizes School in our current format and location, the school’s history actually goes further back. During our search through the archives, we uncovered a whole-school photograph from 1932. The picture itself was special, but we were soon told that it was actually part of an amazing tale.

Vicki Perrett, the mother of one of our current students, Kieran, contacted us after seeing the photo on Twitter. Remarkably, she had recognised her grandfather, Alfred Ball, in the photo. Alfred was Deputy Head at the time, and he would go on to be the Head of Middle School in 1969 when Devizes School opened in its current guise.

It is an incredible coincidence that Alfred’s great grandson is a student at our school as we celebrate our 50th anniversary. This amazing story was featured in the Gazette & Herald and is a testament to the Devizes School family legacy that we are so proud of. The photograph from 1932, along with many others, will be on display at our 50th anniversary celebration tomorrow.

Alfred Ball
Kieran, Alfred Ball's Great Grandson

The Story behind the Devizes School Logo

It is not uncommon for animals to be used in logos. Often, their appearance is used to denote their characteristics, such as courage or strength. However, in the case of our school logo, and the lion that adorns it, there is a much more interesting story behind it.

In 1980, Chipperfield’s Circus was housed on the green next to our school. One of their showcases was a pair of lions, named Jessie and Girlie. On a fateful April day, Jessie and Girlie escaped, and decided to pay a visit to our school.

Although no one was hurt, one of the lions propelled itself through a glass door, terrifying students who were eating their lunch. As the children made a swift exit from the school, Jessie and Girlie tucked into the leftover food, devouring, among other things, a cheese and pickle sandwich.

The circus staff and police were quickly alerted and thankfully managed to round up, secure, and remove the lions before anyone was hurt.

As news of the frightening event spread, Raymond Jackson drew a famous JAK cartoon for the major newspapers depicting the lion’s escape, and kindly donated it to the school. At the time, the story was featured on John Craven’s Newsround, and has since been recounted on national television numerous times, including on Antiques Roadshow and The Graham Norton Show.

With such an incredible and almost unbelievable tale being central to our school’s history, it felt only right that the Devizes School logo should pay tribute by being adorned with a lion.

1980 JAK Cartoon
The Story Being Recounted on Antiques Roadshow
The JAK Cartoon on Antiques Roadshow

Developing Talent through the Ages

Devizes School is extremely proud to have developed so many talented young people over the last 50 years. One of them is Graham Stone, who attended our school between 1972 and 1979.

Graham left the school with five O-levels and 2 A-levels. Owing to his fascination with singing, he didn’t go to university as planned, instead opting to study as a singer at Guildhall School of Music between 1982 and 1988.

After leaving Guildhall, Graham launched his career as a professional singer, performing in operas and musicals all over the world. He spent five years performing in Phantom of the Opera in the West End and in My Fair Lady in Paris. Graham has also starred in a number of radio and TV broadcasts, including various commercials.

Graham (Centre) with Friends
Graham (Centre, without Blazer) with Friends

A History of Sporting Success

During our search through the archives, we uncovered two great photos that show sport was just as big a part of life at Devizes School in the 70s as it is now.

First, we have the staff football team, which includes Mr Whitfield, Mr Roberts, and Mr Dexter. The photo was taken in front of what is now our drama studio.

Devizes School Staff Football Team

Next, we have the 1978 Year 4 (now Year 10) Wiltshire Shield football team. This photograph was sent to us by Neil Bright, who is pictured back row, far left.

Devizes School Year 4 Wiltshire Shield Football Team

From Students to Staff

For two of our reception staff, looking back at the history of Devizes School has been a personal journey. Ann Land and Katy Sneyd both attended Devizes School as children, and before the summer holidays, they brought in their school photos and proudly displayed them for staff and students to see.

Ann Land and Katy Sneyd

Another member of our current staff who previously attended the school as a student is Gill Wheeler. Now PA to the Principal, Gill was one of the original cohort who joined Devizes School as a first year in 1969. She has subsequently worked at the school for 24 years, serving under 4 headteachers.

Returning 50 Years On

One of the guests at our anniversary celebration on Saturday will be Kevin Farmer. Kevin, who still lives locally, was part of the original intake at Devizes School, alongside Gill Wheeler, in September 1969. He remembers Mr Holford being his first form tutor and is excited to see how our school has progressed over the last five decades.

Kevin During His School Days

Producing a Competition Winner

Another of our guests on Saturday will be Andrew Truckle, a student at Devizes School in the 80s. During his time at school, in 1985, Andrew came joint first in the Awdry Wyles and Bailey new logo competition, winning £20 for his efforts.

Newspaper Report on Andrew's Competition Win
Andrew (Back Row, Second Left) and His 1JXS Classmates

Recent Record Breakers

While we have been focusing on Devizes School’s past, it would be remiss of us not to mention our more recent history.

Despite the high standard of students who have attended our school over the years, it was the class of 2019 who recorded the best KS4 results in the history of Devizes School.

We are also extremely proud of our recent Ofsted record, which has seen Devizes School sustain a ‘good’ rating for more than 20 years. In fact, we are doing more than just sustaining our rating. In April this year, Ofsted inspectors determined that we had continued to improve since their last visit in 2015, which allowed us to maintain our ‘good’ rating despite the requirements for achieving such a grade becoming much more challenging.

Celebrating the Past and Looking Forward to the Future

Tomorrow’s 50th anniversary event promises to be an exciting, emotional, and joyous celebration of Devizes School, with friends reuniting and our school community coming together.

As we remember our history and reminisce fondly about the past, we also look forward to what the future holds for our school, students, staff, and community.

We can’t wait to find out what the next 50 years has in store for us!

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