Soham Grammar School reaches the end of its 286-year history

The curtain fell yesterday on the long and distinguished history of Soham Grammar School as a separate establishment with an hour-long service service at the parish church.

As each of the 350 boys filed out of church, they shook hands with the headmaster, Mr. Edward Armitage, and the staff lined up under the trees alongside the churchyard path, and then went on their way to their summer holidays.

The school dates back to 1686, although a school had existed at Soham, in some form, for 100 years before that.

When the boys return next term, it will be to an 11 to 16 comprehensive school made up of their ex-grammar school and the neighbouring village college. The new school, keeping the name Soham Village College, becomes part of the Ely-Soham comprehensive set up - the Ely Federation of colleges.

Earlier, the boys, headed by Mr Armitage, staff and governors had paraded the half mile from the grammar school to the Church for this last ceremony.

Mr Edward Armitage, headmaster of Soham Grammar School, leads the parade of pupils and staff to Soham Church. [Cambridge Evening News 29th July 1972: the article is in part badly typeset] : source John & Ed Kisby: photo via Mike Petty

And, joined by old boys, parents and friends, they heard the vice-chairman of the governors, the Rev Max Williams, Vicar of Cheveley, say: "This is not only the end of term, it is the end of an era."

Mr Williams said: "We are commemorating a school which has existed in some form or another for nearly 400 years. Now the pattern is changing and the grammar school as such ceases to exist. We move into a greater world, a federation of schools." 

He recalled the small group of men who, in 1686, felt there should be some kind of institution whereby education, which was the privilege of the rich should also become the right of the poor.

Mr Williams said it was a moment of nostalgia, but they should be thankful to those who contributed to making the school what it became. "Today we leave it perhaps with regret, but I am sure that the spirit that has been engendered over nearly three centuries cannot possibly die. I am sure that if the .... new federation, then we need have no .. [text unreadable in the original]

source: Mr Dick Bozeat: publication not specified, date presumed to be during the first week of August 1972

'Messiah' closes Soham school's final chapter

Top: Boys of the school arriving at church for the final ceremony.

Above: Mr. Armitage (wearing mortar board), senior staff members and Governors lead the procession from the school
(Pictures: Nigel Bloxham)

The last chapter in the history of Soham Grammar School came to a close to the strains of Handel's "Messiah." On Friday morning a commemoration service was held in the Parish Church of St Andrews, to mark the end of a 400-year [sic] reign and the beginning of a new comprehensive order.

At about 11am [sic] 400 boys and masters from the school, led by Headmaster, Mr Edward Armitage, in full mortar board and gown, marched through the town to church to meet 200 assembled parents, old boys and guests.

The service was conducted by the Rev Max Williams, Vicar of Cheveley and Vice-Chairman of the Governors. It started with fanfare of trumpets, drums and organ and then a hymn. Readings were given by Mr EH Tabraham, the senior master, and Mr Armitage.

Mr Williams took as the theme for his sermon a verse from Genesis 12 which led him to talk about adventure in life, especially school life. He said of the school: "It was the only grammar school in the Cambridgeshire CC area outside the city of Cambridge, and it was a great blow to learn that it was becoming part of a great conglomeration. But there was nothing we could do about it."

The choir sang three anthems, the last of which, completed the service. It was the Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah, Mr Armitage's favourite piece from his favourite composer, and a wonderful way to bring his own 25 years [sic] of devotion to the school to an end.

After the service, the masters formed what could almost be called a guard of honour outside the church and shook the hands of every pupil as they filed past as a fond farewell gesture - on both sides.

Philip Green SG68: Here is a photo of me and my friends walking past Lyon’s shop as we were going to church in Soham on the last day of term as a Grammar school. My Mother took the photo, standing on the path near the wall surrounding St Andrew’s Church, as we passed on our way to the Church:

Chap in front is Richard Formby.
Next row of four,  L-R:
Richard Berney, Kevin Parsons, Robert Hardwick, Paul Granger.
Next row of four, L-R:
Paul Newman, Phil Green, Robert Medlock, Keith Summerhill.
Final row, L-R: 
Stephen Oakey, Nicholas Richardson, Adrian Coe, Brian Capper.

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