Westlake represents an exciting opportunity for the whole of the U6 to combine within a purpose-built boarding house and to prepare itself for the future beyond school. Pupils are encouraged to gradually accept a greater level responsibility for their own lives, with independent learning being an essential element of a successful transition to University and Higher education. This unique environment allows them to be treated more like young adults, but still retaining the strong academic and pastoral support so inherent in a Blundell’s education. The year group is still fully engaged in all extra-curricular activities and they are encouraged to maintain their links with their previous houses, both in a mentoring capacity and within the House Sports competitions. There is an extensive programme of informed advice on careers, GAP years, UCAS, Oxbridge entry, student finance, personal safety and study skills, thus preparing them in the best possible way for life after Blundell's.
Westlake provides a calm, mature and scholarly atmosphere, which allows the U6 to really enjoy a happy and successful final year of schooling. The year group develops a strong bond and almost to a person they leave Blundell’s having thoroughly enjoyed a stimulating U6 year.
"Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends."
Preparation for Life
At Blundell’s, whilst qualifications are very important, and we work very hard together to ensure strong academic success, we also believe in a sense of wholeness; an entire education. The crowning experience for Blundellians is their U6 in the purpose-built Westlake House, where the whole year group is brought together in a pre-university collegiate environment. This gradually allows them to take greater responsibility for their own lives and to concentrate on their A Level studies. Their horizons are broadened still further by discussion groups and seminars on topics such as GAP years and University financing as well as an on-going and comprehensive careers service.
Throughout the many generations who have been fortunate enough to enjoy their most formative years at Blundell’s, there remains a deeply felt loyalty to their alma mater and their final year in Westlake reinforces this strongly. Blundellians cement many friendships for life during their time within the calm, mature and scholarly atmosphere of the U6 house.
The present building of Westlake is modern, having been first occupied in 2004, but the original Westlake, now the site of Popham Close, had a long history. It was built in 1886 and first occupied in the following year, with E.P. Rooper as Housemaster. The bathing facilities were rather basic to begin with; no baths or showers, instead the boys had half-tubs in a small lead-floored room. One of the first pupils in the House was George O. May, who went on to become known as ‘the father of American accountancy’ but never forgot Blundell’s – he founded the Thornton Scholarship, and gave a valuable Elizabethan chalice to the School Chapel. Mayfield was named in his honour.
Rooper gave up the Housemastership in 1901, but still retained ownership of the House. He was succeeded by Reginald Owen and John Browne who ran Westlake together for two years, until Owen took over as sole Housemaster. He saw off one threat, when he objected to the Borough Council’s proposal to deposit the town refuse near to the House. He retired in 1912 and his place was taken by Browne. There was a lot of sporting talent present in Westlake during this time; Westlake won the first inter-house boxing competition in 1914, Madhuvsinhji of Chak was the first Indian to skipper an English public school side when he led Blundell’s 1st XI in 1916, and S.G.U. Considine, who scored 342 out of Westlake’s 481 in the 1919 house competition, went on to play cricket for Somerset and rugby for England. The sporting prowess continued when Gerald Hotblack became Housemaster in 1921. One of his boarders, John Rinkel, was Head of School and captain of the 1st XV in 1924, but his forte was athletics, and he represented Great Britain in the Quarter Mile at the 1928 Olympics.
Rooper sold Westlake to the Governors in 1923 for £3,750. Hotblack was appointed Second Master in 1938 and relinquished the House to Ronnie Seldon. After the austerities of War, he persuaded the Governors to update the accommodation, and after the summer holidays of 1948 the boys returned to a ‘new’ house, where fitted hand-basins and showers had replaced jugs and portable washbasins. Seldon gave way in 1954 to Graham Parker, who was to witness the rise and subsequent success of Blundell’s greatest rugby player, Richard Sharp. At School, Richard was captain of cricket and fives, but curiously not of rugby. He went on to win 14 international caps and captained England in their victorious 1963 Five Nations Championship, in the game against Scotland, scoring what is still considered the most elegant try of all time.
Grahame Parker stepped down in 1968, and Nick Swarbrick became Housemaster. Towards the end of his term, in 1979, a much-needed extension was added to Westlake to provide additional study accommodation. Robin Wellesley took over as Housemaster in 1980. Hugh Morris was the sporting star of Westlake at this time; making his debut for Glamorgan while still at Blundell’s, eventually becoming County Captain, and winning 3 Test caps for England.
Robin handed over a thriving, energetic Westlake to Nick Hall, a Biology master, in 1988. During his time, the House was fitted with smaller dormitories and purpose-built computer and music rooms. Peter Gordon inherited the House from Nick in 1998, and immediately introduced weekly barbecues, and ‘Lad of the Week’ award for the best contribution to House or School. In 2002 the decision was taken to sell the site and to build a brand new Upper Sixth Form house elsewhere, but to retain the name of Westlake. The state-of-the-art building was aimed at providing a stepping stone towards independent living for boys and girls alike. The pupils eventually moved in at the beginning of 2004, and the venture has proved an enormous success; the pupils have blossomed intellectually and personally in an atmosphere of freedom, yet all the while under the caring and watchful eyes of Peter and Jenny Gordon. These values and traditions look set to be continued by their successors, Peter and Nicky Klinkenberg.