Boys’ day and boarding house (Years 9 – 12)
"The game is greater than the player,
the ship is greater than the crew."
House Parent Profile
Charlie Hamilton was educated at Blundell’s. He was in the Royal Hong Kong police before starting his teaching career. He returned to the School in 2001 as Head of Geography and was appointed Houseparent in 2008. He lives in FH with his wife Nicki, their three children and chocolate labrador Bailey.
Francis House is a close-knit community whose success over the years is down to the friendly and supportive atmosphere generated by its pupils. Central to this is their understanding of certain core values: kindness and good manners, tolerance of each other, respect for the environment, support for House events and a willingness to do ones best. It also helps to have a healthy sense of humour!
FH has a tradition of being a very sporty house but members are also involved in annual drama productions as well as raising money to sponsor two boys through their education at a school in Africa run by the charity TanzanEar. FH hosts a multitude of events every year from the Hog Roast to the hotly contested table-tennis tournament. These are greatly enjoyed by pupils, who integrate well across the different year groups.
All pupils in FH have a ‘voice’ and can express their wishes through the system of House Representatives. Two pupils are elected from each year and have twice termly meetings with the Head of House in which they can raise their concerns. House meetings are a regular spot in which academic and extra-curricular prowess is recognised publically.
FH is well placed in terms of the school's facilities and the Sports Hall, Astro and Tennis courts are all well used at the weekends and in the evenings. The house itself is well-equipped with a gym, IT room, Sky TV, Table Tennis and Snooker table, Library and Wi-Fi connectivity throughout.
Begun in 1924, the house was completed in May 1926, and named after the Headmaster, Augustus Lawrence Francis, who had died in the previous year. Its first Housemaster was Rev. Vernon Clough who moved from Cowley Lodge, which was used as a waiting house. Francis House was built for 50 boys, at a cost of £16,500, complete with the ‘modern’ asset of central heating.
Two of the first boarders were Crew Stoneley and Philip Keun. Stoneley dominated School Sports Days, and later became a member of the British Olympic team at the 1932 Games, when he was one of the 4 x 400m runners that won the silver medal. Philip Keun, the son of a French mother and Anglo-Dutch father, served in the French army during WWII. After the collapse of France in 1940 he became a prominent member of the Resistance Movement, receiving the Croix de Guerre and the Legion d’Honneur. He was captured by the Germans, sent to Buchenwald and executed on Sept 9th 1944. In his honour, a Philip Keun Cup was given in 1946, to be awarded to the best athlete in Francis House. It was no surprise that Francis House won the inaugural Duckworth Relay Races in 1928.
Following Clough’s untimely death in 1930, W.R. Lewin took over. As the building was relatively new, very little work needed to be done, but when a fire escape was installed in 1933, one problem found was that it ended 10 feet from the ground! In 1937 Lewin left for the Headmastership of Monmouth School, and T.R.K. Jones, ‘Jonah’, took over Francis House with a staff comprising a Matron, cook, 6 maids, a gardener and a houseboy. Jones resigned as Housemaster in 1940, and A.R.B. Thomas was appointed. The House’s 180 windows were difficult to monitor in the wartime blackout and on one occasion the authorities charged the School for Francis House’s failure to comply.
Richard Clement ‘Clem’ Thomas was a boarder from 1942 to 1947, and while in Francis House he won 4 schoolboy rugby caps for Wales as well as being House Captain of billiards! He went on to captain Wales and tour with the British Lions. Sam Burton took over as Housemaster in 1955, and was soon followed by C.H.P. Silk, who, in turn, relinquished the post to Chris Reichwald in 1958. A Jazz Club was formed in the House in the early 60s, and everyone was welcome ‘to come along in soft cool slippers’. Francis House produced some exceptional cricketers during Reichwald’s time; Roger Davis, Jeremy Lloyds and Vic Marks. In the same year as Lloyds and Marks left Blundell’s, 1973, Chris Reichwald retired from Francis House after 15 years.
In the 1973 summer holiday the House was extensively remodelled, with two dormitories being converted into 12 single and 8 double bedsits, before the new Housemaster, Chris Tomlinson moved in. Chris presided over Francis House’s 50th birthday celebrations in 1976. Following Tomlinson’s departure in 1979, Paddy Armstrong, a former Housemaster of Milestones, took on Francis House. He remained for ten years before going on to become Director of Studies, Overseas Maketing Director, etc., and Rod Tranchant took his place at Francis House. Rod started the School 6th Form Club and, against all expectations, made it both profitable and restrained.
Norman Ridgway became Housemaster in 1993, at a time when there were only about 30 boys. Norman coached the 1st XV, was Head of Boy’s Games and Director of Sport, so it was hardly surprising that a lot of this rubbed off on the Francis House boys, and during his 15 years as Housemaster, they never lost the Russell Cup. Nevertheless, he also encouraged the more intellectual pursuits. When he left in 2008, everyone knew he would be a hard act to follow, but Charlie Hamilton, an Old Blundellian himself, has filled Norman’s place with an abundance of enthusiasm and humour.