Headington history: Schools

Go backwards
Go forwards

The Rookery School

The Rookery

The Rookery (now Ruskin Hall) in Dunstan Road was the Rookery School from 1861 to 1897

The Revd. John William Augustus Taylor (1818–1886) bought the Rookery and turned it into a prep school in about 1858.

1876 map showing Rookery



Right: This extract from the 1876 map of Headington shows the Rookery School, with its playground clearly marked.


The April 1861 census lists just a housekeeper and four servants in residence at the Rookery. One of these servants is described as a “Pupils’ Maid”, and a directory for that year lists the Rookery as being occupied by the Revd Taylor’s “Boys’ Boarding School”. In other directories, his school variously described as a “preparatory school for Eton and Harrow” and a “school for young noblemen”.

The 1871 census shows the Revd John Taylor and his wife Jane living in the Rookery with two of their children, Sarah (27) and Arthur Mould Chapman (7), plus two nieces in their twenties and a housekeeper, butler, cook, nurse, and four housemaids. Boarding with them at the Rookery were the following 23 schoolboys aged between 9 and 14; their place of birth (given in brackets) shows that they came from far and wide, with no local boys.

Charles MacCarthy (Ceylon)
Thomas Martin (Bermuda)
Harry Buddicon (France)
Norman Sibley (Sussex)
Algernon Hankey (Dorset)
Herbert Hope (Staffs)
Philip Bulman (Newcastle)
Charles Wilson (Durham)
Hercules & William Porteus (Scotland)
Bernard Gunston and Benjamin Jones (Liverpool)
William & George Pilkington (Lancs)
Francis Slaney and Edgar & Alfred Kenyon (Shropshire)
Llewellyn Thomas and Herbert Wilson (Surrey)
Henry Cooke and John Bateson (Cheshire)
Sidney Owen (Hants)
William Myers (Herts)

Jane Taylor died in April 1877, and the 1881 census shows the Revd Taylor as a widower, living at the school with the same children and five servants, and only nine pupils. In 1883 the Revd Taylor sold the Rookery and its school to Walter Sumner Gibson and retired to Stoke House.

Gibson continued as head of the Rookery School until 1897. He lived there with his wife Julia Elizabeth Olivier (the aunt of Lord Olivier), his growing family, and six female servants, as well as a dozen or so pupils. He appears to have done all the work himself: this postcard shows him putting in an order of ink for the school in 1885.

An advertisement in The Times on 27 December 1888 reads:

Preparation for Public Schools. – W.S. GIBSON, Esq., Oxford Graduate (first-class classical honours and prizeman, nine years assistant master at Charterhouse) assisted by C.B. Philpott, Esq., Oxford Graduate. Individual teaching. Special attention to delicate boys. High and bracing situation. Cricket and football fields, gymnasium. Terms moderate and inclusive. – The Rookery, Headington, near Oxford

In 1897 the Rookery reverted to being private house, until Ruskin College took it over in 1946 and it again became an educational establishment.

© Stephanie Jenkins

Headington home Shark Oxford History home