Written by Martin Jones (staff: 1977-98)
Sunday, 19 June 2005

Some terrifically fascinating facts about Brighton College include...

  1. Brighton College is the oldest indigenous Sussex public school. Founded in 1845, the College is 3 years older than Lancing, 4 years older than Hurstpierpoint, 13 years older than Ardingly and 22 years older than Eastbourne. Christ's Hospital, founded in 1552, moved out of London only in 1902.
  2. Brighton College is responsible for most charities enjoying special tax status in English law. A running battle between Brighton College and the Inland Revenue from 1916 to 1926 produced a series of changes to tax law in the 1918 Income Tax Act, the 1921 and 1922 Finance Acts and, above all, section 24 of the 1927 Finance Act. Brighton College v Marriott went all the way to the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords (November 1925). In recognition of Brighton's exceptional achievement, the Headmasters' Conference met at the College in December 1926.
  3. Brighton College has a motto unique among English public schools: it is in Greek ("Let Right Prevail"). In Great Britain, only one other HMC school has a Greek motto - Edinburgh Academy, founded in 1824. The College's motto comes from Aeschlyus' play Agamemnon, written c.458BC. The first known use of the motto comes from 1849 so it may have been chosen when the school was founded. 
  4. Brighton College was the first school in England to have a purpose-built science laboratory. The young College was a pioneer among English schools in teaching science and the specially designed building was the gift of the third Principal, Rev Dr John Griffith, in 1871. Put to various other uses over the years, the long thin single-storey red brick and flint building was the music school for most of the second half of the 20th century.
  5. Brighton College did not invent the althletics sports day, as is often claimed. That honour belongs to Cheltenham College in 1852 whereas Brighton held its first such meeting in 1856. The College did, however, invent the school magazine. The first issue appeared in November 1852.
  6. Brighton College is the only school ever to have won all eight trophies for shooting at a single meeting at Bisley. The annus mirabilis for Brighton's VIII occurred in 1927. Shooting was the most important sport at Brighton during the 1920s and 1930s. At least one cup was won every year at Bisley. Brighton headed the annual Bisley averages from 1926 to 1936.
  7. Brighton College had no complusory games until 1902. The cult of sport, so significant to the Victorian public school and inspired not (as is usually claimed) by the legendary Dr Arnold but by Charles Kingsley, thus came very late indeed to Brighton College.
  8. Brighton College acquired its present site (in the dry valley known as Bakers Bottom) very gradually. The present campus was not fully in College ownership until 1969 when the land now occupied by the Woolton Quad was at last bought - for the (then) vast sum of £20,000.
  9. Brighton College has one winner of the Victoria Cross: Harry Dalrymple North Prendergast (BC 1849-50). He won his Cross as a subaltern in the Madras Engineers for a series of acts in 1858 during the Indian Mutiny. A soldier of the Indian army, Prendergast rose to the rank of full general (1887) and became a Knight Grand Cross of the order of the Bath (1902). In 1885, he commanded the Burma Field Force in a brilliant short campaign up the Irrawaddy to seize Mandalay at the start of the Third Burmese War. A bronze plaque commemorates him in the College Chapel, but his sword (which used to hang above it) was stolen in the 1960s.
  10. Brighton College pupils elected the School Captain until 1878. The image of the Victorian public school we hold now owes far more to the 1950s or the 1920s than the 1850s. The realm of the masters was confined to the classroom and the chapel. Everything else was the province of the boys because, in the words of the College's prospectus on 1866, the independent exercise of such responsibilities "formed manliness of character and habits of self-control." The boys thus ran all the societies, entirely by themselves. They wrote and published the magazine, entirely by themselves. They organised and financed all the sport and other recreational activities that took place, entirely by themselves. Each sports team elected its own captain. No master came anywhere near any of these activities. The balance of power was totally different from anything that we would recognise but, then, it is we who, despite the Thatcher era, do not understand Victorian values.
  11. Winchester Cathedral was saved from certain collapse and ruin in 1905 by two OBs: the architect Thomas Graham Jackson (BC 1850-53) and the engineer Francis Fox (BC 1859). Between them, they devised the famous undepinning of the cathedral with blocks of concrete by a diver. Jackson went on to carry out a major restoration of the building, completed in 1912. For their work, Jackson was created a baronet while Fox was knighted.
  12. Old boys and staff have more entries in the sixty volumes of the new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (published 2004) than almost any of the 68 HMC schools founded during the 19th century. With 56 entries, the College is beaten by only 8 other such schools. In stark contrast, Lancing musters 39 entries, Eastbourne 20, Hurstpierpoint 5 and Ardingly 4.

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