Petergate is a warm, friendly and inclusive house in which a broad range of pupils are encouraged to make the most of a humbling diversity of talents. I strongly encourage participation and involvement in the life of the house as this allows the individual to get the most out of their time with us. We are a cohesive society in which individuals are valued for their individual talents as well as the contributions that they can make to the community as a whole and, as a result, we have enjoyed success in competitions varying from Public Speaking to football. It is this diversity which is at the root of our success.
I am very keen that members of the house are able to take leadership roles as they progress through the school and there are a myriad of opportunities for them to do so. We are very proud, for example, of the annual pupil-run House Play. This allows a member of the Lower Sixth to select, cast, direct and rehearse a play without staff involvement. It is through these sorts of opportunities that pupils learn so much about themselves and those around them.
It is my hope that members of Petergate leave with a sense of having belonged to a caring and friendly house whose members are mutually supportive. They will have had an opportunity to lead and to contribute as well as to grow in confidence and ability through what are the most formative years of their lives. They will forge friendships that will remain long after they have left The Gate.
Petergate was opened in 1887 by G.H. Norman, but it was soon felt necessary to add another wing, which was completed in 1890. One of Petergate’s strengths was rugby; in winning the 1900 House Competition they beat School House 103-0, Day Boys 32-0, and Westlake 9-0. Cricket and hockey were probably also taught at a high standard, for one Petergate boy, Cyril Wilkinson, went on to play for Surrey, and won a gold medal for Great Britain at hockey in the 1920 Olympics.
Norman left the School in 1913 and was succeeded as Housemaster by Rev. O.F. Granlund, the School Chaplain. Petergate chalked up what still remains the highest rugby score in a House Match in 1916 when they trounced the Day Boys 156-0. Granlund enlarged the House to take up to 50 boys, and when he left in 1933 he sold it to the Governors. The Housemastership passed to W.W. French, a talented Geography master, under whose eye, the House magazine ‘The Beaver’ was first published in 1934. Another innovation at Petergate was weaving, introduced in 1937, which produced many items to sell at the House Fete. Peter Schidlof came to Petergate in 1938 as a refugee from Nazi Germany, and his musical prowess led to him becoming one of the finest viola players and a founder member of the Amadeus Quartet. French moved in 1940 and the new Housemaster was W.M. Thoseby.
Thoseby was appointed Headmaster of St. Edmund’s, Canterbury, in 1945, and ‘Jimmy’ Gibbs took over Petergate. He had a most unfortunate start, as a serious fire in November of that year made the house uninhabitable for the rest of the term. The House Matron, Miss Betts, in recognition of the help she had given during and after the fire, was awarded her House Tie. In the following year one of the new intake was Christopher Ondaatje, who was sent to Blundell’s from Ceylon. He later achieved fame in Canada as the founder of the successful Pagurian Corporation and as part of the victorious Canadian bobsleigh team in the 1964 Olympics. Over the years the School has benefited enormously from his generosity, especially by his gift of the Ondaatje Hall.
Gibbs left Petergate at the end of 1957, but not before the House had undergone a series of extensions and alterations. He was succeeded by W.H. ‘Bill’ Francis, a hardworking Chemistry master who, as Housemaster. He moved on to a Deputy Headship in 1963 and was succeeded by Tom Clough, who was actually born in the School – his father had been Housemaster of Francis House, and Tom himself had boarded in Old House. During his time Petergate boys gained a reputation for good manners, integrity and effort. Tom moved on to Lambrook School in 1971, and Derrick Denner took on the Housemastership.
An ambitious scheme for alterations at Petergate was proposed in 1974, but because of the prevailing economic climate a modified plan was undertaken and was completed in 1975. Derrick, through the social changes of the 1970s, was well to the fore among the Housemasters in adopting new attitudes, while always working for the benefit and welfare of his Petergate boys. During his reign the House virtually monopolised the House Music Competition.
Alan Furse succeeded Derrick in 1984. Under Alan’s watchful eye the House achieved a perfect balance of arts, sports and academic work. When North Close became a girls’ house in 1994, the boys from that house joined Petergate, and Alan left to concentrate on his role as Director of Studies. His place was taken by Clive Hamilton who moved with the boys from North Close. When he left in 1999, Andrew Berrow took over at Petergate. Under Andrew’s compassionate care and encouragement, Petergate boys were often among the highest achievers at Blundell’s. In the last couple of years the house has become much more comfortable to live in, thanks to its complete refurbishment. Andrew, who remains at Blundell's as Senior Master and Head of Religious Studies, stepped down in 2012 and was succeeded by Dylan Smart.