Crowthorne Church

26 April 2021

As we mentioned last time, Wellington College has been rediscovering our links with Crowthorne parish church, and helping to renovate their historic lych-gate. This time, we take a look at some of the many people connected with College who are buried in the churchyard.

Possibly the earliest of these is Charles Henry Lane, who joined the Wellington teaching staff in 1875 and was appointed Bursar in 1881. At this time, the College was experiencing a lot of trouble from bad drainage, and the deaths of several students were attributed to this. In 1884, Mr Lane fell ill after inspecting drains near the lake, and died aged only 38. His funeral was attended by many Wellington staff and students, including the 52 boys in the Orange and Beresford, of which he was Housemaster.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries it was not uncommon for students to die at College, infectious diseases being much more prevalent in those days, and travel more difficult. Most such boys would be buried near their parents’ homes, but the grave of John Cyril Olphert, who died in 1907 from pneumonia complicated by asthma, is at Crowthorne. Perhaps his parents made this decision because his family home was in Co. Meath, Ireland. The Wellingtonian records that his funeral was ‘attended by those masters and boys who knew him, and conducted by some members of the Staff and some members of the Choir—the latter at his parents’ special request.’

In 1900, two brothers, Gilbert and Percy Wildman-Lushington, came to Wellington as day boys. This was highly unusual at the time, but permitted in their case because their family home was on the College estate, near the station. They were followed by two younger brothers, Claude in 1904 and Godfrey in 1908.

Sadly, three of the brothers died young. Claude joined the Merchant Navy and died when his ship sank off Tasmania in 1908. Gilbert joined the Royal Marines and was one of the first four officers from the naval service to be selected for flying training. In 1912 he qualified as a flying officer, and in June 1913 amazed Wellington students by unexpectedly landing his plane on Turf, and that evening giving a lecture on aviation. He died in a flying accident later that year.

Percy, the second brother, emigrated to Canada, but at the outbreak of the First World War returned to the UK and was commissioned in the King’s Own Scottish Borderers. He was killed while fighting with them at Arras in 1917, and is commemorated in Crowthorne churchyard along with his wife Agnes.

Many Old Wellingtonians will remember Frank Price, College Porter from 1920 until 1959, and Arthur Hook, who with his wife Nellie was in charge of Grubbies until 1961. Frank is himself buried in the churchyard; Arthur is not, but his father Levi, who ran Grubbies from 1886 until 1922, is there, along with Levi’s brother Albert, Head Porter until 1925. Albert’s wife Clara was a maid at College for over 25 years, and their daughter Gladys was Frank Price’s wife! This veritable Wellington dynasty is shown together in this picture taken on Frank and Gladys’ wedding day in 1922.

Possibly the most recent member of staff to be buried in Crowthorne churchyard is Donald Parkes, who taught at Wellington for over forty years. He was Tutor of the Hopetoun from 1947 to 1953 and Housemaster of the Stanley for the next 15 years, as well as being Head of the Maths Department for 22 years. Students described him as ‘a somewhat avuncular figure but a first class Tutor with the interests of his charges very much to the fore’. He died in 1999.

We know of several other Wellington teachers buried at Crowthorne, but would love to hear of any more, so please get in touch with the Community Office if you know of any. We are also looking into the possibility of our Estates team doing some cleaning and renovation work on a few of the graves which would benefit from it.