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1980 The First Twenty-Five Years

A short 1980 history by J M Coates and A Kennedy

At the suggestion of some Petreans it was decided to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Peterhouse by issuing a brief account of its foundation and history. The history of a school is usually, by its very nature, restricted if not parochial in scope. It may include some of the achievements of its old boys while at school, but to go farther than this is to write not a history of the school but of its former pupils.

Yet Peterhouse is an exceptional school and it has grown in exceptional circumstances; and if most of its doings do fall into this narrow category it has, besides, played an important part in the educational history of Zimbabwe.

This account, then, is not so much a list of' its old boys' achievements (notable though some of them have been) but rather of its genesis and its achievements on a larger scale.

The Peterhouse Estate in the 1960s and then in the 1980s.

Canon Grinham
The need for a senior independent school in the Anglican tradition was felt as long ago as the early thirties. At that time, however, Canon Grinham who was both founder and headmaster of Ruzawi the independent preparatory school near Marandellas, also realised that such a senior school could not survive until there were enough other preparatory schools to keep it supplied with pupils. By the 1950s there were enough, for, besides Ruzawi, Eagle, Whitestones and Springvale had been established. The Board of Governors of' Ruzawi accordingly put matters in motion.
Fred Snell

A prime mover at this stage was Fred Snell. Then Rector of Michaelhouse in Natal he had close contacts with Ruzawi and was soon to become the driving force behind the scheme. Early in 1952 he set about looking for a suitable site with the assistance of Commander Hugh Hodgkinson R.N. This connection of the school with the Senior Service is remembered in the name ''Quarterdeck'' for the place where a shell-case is rung as a gong before meals. In July of that year the first school committee was established under the chairmanship of the Honourable (now Sir) Humphrey Gibbs.
The school's debt to Commander Hodgkinson is very great, for it was largely due to him that the present site was eventually chosen - the Liddles' farm - some eight kilometres from Marandellas. Besides affording superb views towards Wedza Mountain it also provided a wealth of the excellent stone which adds so much to the character of its present buildings.

By this time the name "Peterhouse" had been decided upon, as had the school's motto 'Conditur in Petra', the Vulgate version of St. Matthew, Chapter VII, verse xxv. Any enterprise such as the founding of a new school needs finance, and in this Peterhouse was extremely fortunate in obtaining the good offices of Sir Ellis Robins. He became the Chairman of the first Board of Governors; a constitution for the school was drawn up and Fred Snell, having resigned his post at Michaelhouse, was appointed Rector.
The lay-out of the school and the design of its buildings were the works of Messrs. Montgomerie and Oldfield, a firm of Salisbury architects. Their plan was chosen after a number of plans had been submitted on a competition basis, and with some exceptions the original concept has been adhered to.

Construction starts
Fred Snell took up residence at Ruzawi in 1954 in order to supervise the work of construction, for it was clear that to keep costs down to a manageable figure the school would have to provide its own building organisation. The first thing he built was accommodation for a large number of labourers. It was decided to make as much use as possible of local building materials, especially of stone. The quarry on the school grounds most fortunately provided stone of unusually varied colour and texture and it is this which has been used to face most of the buildings and which gives them their uniquely attractive appearance. Under Fred Snell building went on apace and in July 1954 the Foundation Stone was laid.

Laying the Foundation Stone
This ceremony was performed by Sir Ellis Robins (photo above right) before a distinguished gathering which included Archbishop Paget (photo right) , Lord Malvern (photo left)and Canon Grinham. The names of four of the school's boarding houses are, of course, memorials to them and the part they played in the school's genesis. This ceremony did not, however, mark the opening of the school, which was planned for February of the following year. Fifty boys arrived then, all aged twelve or thirteen, Fred Snell changed his builder's overalls for academic dress and the school began to function with a teaching staff of five.
The beginning
At this stage the only boarding house was Ellis. The four other houses were started in successive years, each finally receiving some fifty to seventy boys. By 1959 when the last house, Founders, was occupied, the school was a thriving entity with Forms I to VI. As the number of boys increased so did the number of staff. Those who did not live in the boarding houses as Housemasters or House Tutors were accommodated in the houses to the north of the school, many of them designed by Fred Snell's daughter, Pippa.

The ChapelThe last major building to be completed was the Chapel which dominates the school and emphasises its Christian principles. It was dedicated in 1958 by the then Bishop of Mashonaland (The Right Reverend Cecil Alderson) in the presence of Archbishops Hughes and Paget. Fred Snell, himself an organist, was most anxious that this magnificent building should have an equally magnificent organ: such things are expensive, however, and it was not until 1967 that the splendid instrument the school now owns was installed.
Theatrical productions

An important feature of the school, too, is its open-air theatre which has helped to establish the firm dramatic tradition Peterhouse enjoys. Few years have passed without the excellence of its productions, indoor as well as outdoor, being recognised by success in schools' drama competitions.

Richard III set in the amphitheatre (front and back)

The set for Oliver on the indoor stage
The first Housemasters and staff
It is significant that of the first six Housemasters to be appointed five became Headmasters. Charles Fisher (photo left) went first to be Headmaster of Scotch College, Adelaide and then on to Australia' s most famous Independent School, Geelong. Tony Cheetham became first of all Headmaster of Whitestones Preparatory School in Bulawayo and recently of St. Anne's in Natal. Bryan Curtis has been Headmaster of Ruzawi School, Marandellas, since 1963. Anthony Mallet (photo right) was Principal of Bishop's in the Cape and widely held to be one of the most influencial South African Headmasters of all time. Bruce Fieldsend, a former Rhodes Scholar, succeeded Fred Snell as Rector of Peterhouse in 1968, and remains so today.
Also from the staff of the school the following have become Headmasters: P. B. (Sam) Stoyle of the English School in Montevideo; Ian Campbell of St. Stephen' s Balla Balla, and then of King's College, Auckland; and Tony Brooker of Bunbury Grammar School, Western Australia. One old boy, David Bawden, is Headmaster of St. John's Preparatory School. Salisbury.
Boys came then, as they do now, not only from the five Independent Schools (St. John's had been added to their number) but from the Government Primary Schools as well. Besides them were boys from abroad; from Zambia in particular, but from Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa as well. From 1964 to 1976 numbers ranged from 360 to 380. Predominantly they were white; there were a few Asians. For part of the time the law of the land forbade the enrolment of Africans.

Multi-racial education
Perhaps the most significant contribution made by Peterhouse to education in this country, and to the improvement of race relations, was the pioneering of multi-racialism in schools. The legal bar to the admission of Africans into European schools was removed by the Federal Government - one of its last acts before it was dissolved. Despite the virulent opposition of the then Dominion Party, Fred Snell set about winning the support of not only other Independent Schools and of their Boards of Governors, but the setting up, too, of a Central Bursary Fund to assist African pupils. Again the great business houses willingly contributed. Permission was obtained from the Minister of Education, who was sceptical but made no objection, and the first four Africans arrived at Peterhouse for the Easter Term, 1964. Since then they have been enrolled regularly, and other Independent Schools have followed suit.

It seems odd, in retrospect, that so much care had to be taken in preparing public opinion for this move; that there were fears expressed that white parents might be alienated and might withdraw their sons; that there might be 'trouble' among the boys. But in 1963, when the move was first publicised and in 1964 when it was realised, the public as a whole was not prepared. It says much for the calibre of Peterhouse parents that only one boy was removed; and as much for the innate decency of Peterhouse boys that, far from their being 'trouble' the Africans were accepted without fuss. But still more credit is due to Fred Snell for the care he took over the selection and preparation of these and subsequent Africans.

But if there was no 'trouble' over the admission of Africans of the sort feared, there was trouble of another kind. Soon after the first African boys entered Peterhouse came UDI, with a change in the Governmental hierarchy and a hardening of racial attitudes. The new Government soon began to put difficulties in the path of Independent Schools' accepting Africans and did its best to reduce the number of Africans in them. In 1967 it placed a ban on Africans playing games or attending educational functions at European Government Schools. Thus a Peterhouse boy who happened to be an African was allowed, if selected to play for the first XV, to play against a Government school's Ist XV if the match was held at Peterhouse, but not if it was played on a Government School field. This ban, despite the almost unanimous opposition of the teaching profession, whether Government or Independent, was not relaxed until 1977. It is surely the saddest chapter in the history of education in Zimbabwe.

That those Africans who had their secondary education at Peterhouse have benefited enormously is, of course, obvious. Most have gone on to centres of higher education. There are several doctors, lawyers and teachers now qualified and practising in Zimbabwe, including Edmund Katso (photo right) who now teaches biology here. One of them, David Hatendi, is numbered among our three Rhodes Scholars - the others being A I.D. Ledingham and M. A. B. Williams. How the white boys have benefited cannot be gauged so easily, but there is now a number of Zimbabweans who have grown up with and learned to accept as equals people of the other major race in this country. They have learned to communicate, compete and be friends with them at school, and these friendships have continued in their lives outside school. The importance of this in a multiracial society is inestimable.

Nuffield Science and New Maths
Peterhouse also pioneered the teaching of the Nuffield Sciences and the New Maths in Zimbabwe. This is, of course, one of the supreme advantages that an Independent School has over its Government equivalent: it is free to make experiments. The new Nuffield courses in Physics and Chemistry were introduced in 1967 and the New Maths, in the guise of the Southampton Mathematics Project, in 1966. Though widely used in Independent Schools in England it is a comparative rarity here.

The effects of UDI
UDI and the war it later engendered had, of course, their effects on Peterhouse in other ways. They were insignificant at first - such as the censorship of the School Magazine - but as the war became more violent in its last years the effects were serious and tragic. The flow of boys from Zambia slowed and almost stopped, the number of people leaving the country grew alarmingly; many of these were professional people or others who would normally have sent their sons here. The school's enrolment fell accordingly to a level that was well below the economic.
Restrictions for security reasons had to be placed on such normal school activities as the annual Chimanimani Expedition. This ceased altogether. Expeditions mounted by the Natural History Society annually to the remoter areas of Botswana became impossible and tamer parts of South Africa had to be selected. Boys were no longer allowed to roam at will through the neighbouring countryside on Sundays. Visits to the school's cottage, Peterhaven, in the Inyanga Downs, ceased. The activities of the Angling, Climbing and Sailing Societies were severely curtailed or stopped altogether. A fence was built round the school and armed guards were engaged.

The war
As boys left year after year to join the armed forces, and as year by year the war became more grim and more deadly, the inevitable tragedies occurred. Those who fell were M. D A. Betts. M. J. Chance, D. A. Friedman, D. Hutchinson, G. M. Maguire, H. N. Nagar, T. M. S. Peech, W. J. O. Perkins, T. Small and O. Young.
In this context mention must be made of' N. G. C. Fawcett, who was awarded the Bronze Medal for Gallantly and the Military Forces Commendation Medal, and who is an Officer of the Legion of Merit (Military Division); of R.V. Maine who was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal; and of I. B. Rodwelland C T. Thornton who were awarded the Military Forces Commendation Medal.
Such were the outward and visible effects of the war. Far more difficult to assess are the unseen effects but to most boys now at the school normality has been a state of armed conflict, and a conflict particularly brutal and hideous. This is bound to leave its mark on them.

Weathering the stormPeterhouse weathered this storm thanks not only to Bruce Fieldsend but also to the energy and enthusiasm of its Board, and in particular to Bob Williams. He was appointed Chairman of the Executive Committee in 1964 and became Chairman of the Board of Governors in 1976. It was thanks to them that a number of schemes designed to put the school more firmly in the public's eye were set in motion, and that funds were raised to keep the school viable when its numbers dropped.

Although the school's normal activities were inevitably curtailed for security reasons, it continued to do what it could with its usual enthusiasm. When, for example, it was no longer safe to travel to and from the school after four-thirty, dramatic productions did not cease: instead those who came to see them were entertained by the school and the staff overnight. This has certainly helped, incidentally, in further cementing the close relationship between staff and parents which already existed.

Peterhouse makes its mark
The school has existed for but a brief twenty-five years - insignificant when compared with, say, Winchester's five centuries. Yet it has already made its mark. If the success or failure of a school be judged on its academic achievement, Peterhouse's three Rhodes Scholarships and some eighty other awards in so short a time speak for themselves. If it is judged by sporting achievement, Peterhouse has more than held its own with all the major schools in this country, and with many in South Africa.. Particularly memorable was the 1966 Rugby season, when the Ist XV was unbeaten. A headline in the National press 'Peterhouse Powerhouse!' was the origin of the team's war-cry. Regular and successful tours of South Africa for both Rugby and Hockey teams have been staged, and the Cricket team has frequently toured the Country Districts in August/September. For many years now the school has been host at athletics meetings in which European, African, Coloured and Asian schools have competed. Besides these major sports eight others are regularly played. Some of them, like squash and soccer, lead to close contacts with local clubs and local African schools, and have done much for public relations in the Marandellas area.

Sport in a boarding school may tend to become unduly important, and to off-set this a large number of societies and clubs were established, some of them such as Chess, Sailing and Fencing involving competition with other schools or clubs, but most intended to develop skills and interests of a non-competitive nature. The best known of these is the Natural History Society which under Mr. P. J. Ginn has done valuable work in bird-banding, species-counting and the like for a number of years in Botswana and South Africa.
The Natural History Society's magazine 'Wagtail' has a wide readership: so has a totally different school publication, 'Vortex'. This is a medium for boys to express their views on school matters and to publish their literary efforts. A number of girls from Arundel School also contributes. It is published two or three times a term and its readership includes, besides boys and girls at school, a considerable number of Old Boys and Parents.

Petrean SocietyThe Old Boys have their own association, the Petrean Society, with its headquarters in Salisbury and a flourishing overseas branch in London. Its interest and support have been notable, not least in raising funds for specific amenities such as the cricket score- box. Its latest contribution was a magnificent set of reference books for the Library in memory of one of its members, Tim Peech.
The future

This has been an account of the schools past and present. What of its future? It seems bright. Not only have many restrictions on school-boy activities imposed for security reasons already been lifted, but there is every prospect of' peace and prosperity in the country. This can only be beneficial to the school. That the school will continue to benefit the country need hardly be stated. It is built on the firmest foundations, as its motto reminds us. Its founders, in the words of the school prayer, were men of faith and vision: neither their faith nor their vision will prove to have been vain.

June 1980

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