Wallingford School, founded with £10 gift, marks its 350th anniversary

Herald Series: A long way on £10 A long way on £10

PUPILS remembered their school’s humble origins as they marked 350 years since lessons began.

It was all thanks to £10 left by the school’s founder.

Wallingford School was established by merchant tailor Walter Bigg, who, on his death in 1659, left £10 for a school building to educate six poor boys in the town.

Now with 1,100 pupils, the school paid tribute to him and marked the milestone anniversary with a drama, dance and musical celebration in Wallingford town centre.

Mr Bigg, who was born and raised in the town, went on to be elected Lord Mayor of London, although he never took up the job.

Headteacher Wyll Willis said that 350 years ago, Mr Bigg arranged for a prayer to be said for the school each day before the start of lessons, a tradition which still continues.

He said: “I like the sense of history the school has. Wallingford is a very old place with a real sense of its heritage and the school being old is good.

“I like to think some of the virtues of Walter Bigg still stand today. I think public service, for example, is important in the school. I think understanding the way you can make a difference matters. Walter Bigg still makes a difference to people’s lives because he chose to do something that would make a difference.

“There’s also a strong sense of community in the school. We try to link the school to the town.

“Walter’s £10 has become a very significant trust fund and the trustees have used it to fund projects like the sixth form extension and our new nursery in recent years.”

Mr Bigg joined one of the great livery companies in London, the Merchant Taylors.

Today, Wallingford School is one of eight schools that are members of the Merchant Taylors’ Company, and a member of the company sits on the school’s governing body.

The celebration, which included entertainment by Wallingford School’s Fun Band, pupils busking, and finger food baked by the pupils, was opened by Johny Armstrong, the Master of the Merchant Taylors’ Company.

Staff and pupils were also joined by a band from the Foyle and Londonderry College in Northern Ireland — also a member of the Merchant Taylors’ Company.

Mr Willis added: “It was very positive. Everyone was very chuffed with how it went.

“I’m certain the school will be here in 350 years time. I’m just looking after the place for the next lot to take it on.”

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