We are delighted to announce that from 2023, Stamford will become fully co-educational at all stages. For more information, please visit Stamfordcoed.org

SES Sporting Heritage

SES Sporting Heritage

In this article, our Schools’ Archivist, Mr J Buckman, summarises the history of some of the sports played at the Stamford Endowed Schools. Please scroll down to read more about the origins and highlights of these sports.

“Sport brings another dimension to peoples’ lives.  It provides fun, excitement, physical and mental health, and a sense of commitment.  Sport gets people out of their armchairs, out of the house, and to places where they can meet new people, make new friends, and widen their personal horizons and opportunities to enjoy life.  Through physical education we aim to give young people skills, an understanding of the value of fitness and good health, and a desire to be involved in recreation.  This is the relatively easy part – the difficult part is getting you to continue with sport, making it a lifelong habit … and that is up to you!” (SHS Magazine, 1991)


Badminton started as a Club at Stamford School overseen by Basil Deed, the then-Headmaster; the School Team was not formed until the 1960s.   Stamford High School formed its first badminton team in 1975.  Their team did not have an optimistic start, losing to both Rutland and Oakham, but the girls had no intention of giving up.  In the 2010s, the SES mixed badminton team was formed.  They competed for the first time on Tuesday 23rd September 2014.


The first record of a boxing match at Stamford School comes from 1919, but after that it disappears from the magazines for more than a decade, probably because Canon Day did not consider boxing to be a sport.  It was revived in 1935, and the enthusiasm displayed by School House (nowadays known as Browne and Byard Houses) inspired the organisation of a school boxing class and an annual tournament.  Stamford’s main opponent in boxing matches was Oundle School.  In 1962, boxing was banned from all schools.

Cricket and Football

Cricket and football were the earliest sports to be played at Stamford School.  We do not know for certain when both these sports were first played at the School, but the recollections of the Rev. J.S. Clarke (OS 1835-9) tells us that both were played as far back as the 1830s.  In their early days, cricket and football were not as well organised as they are today.  When it came to football, for example, according to J.H. Philpotts (OS 1859-64), the boys had to devise their own rules and improvise their own goal posts.  It was under Dr Barnard (Headmaster, 1884-1906) that both sports began to follow a more organised system, and the School’s first cricket pavilion was built in 1887.

M.J.K. Smith (left above) attended Stamford School from 1943-51.  His athletic achievements are too numerous to list,  however, he was Captain of the Cricket Team and won the School Cricket Colours.  Afterwards, he became Captain of the Warwickshire Team and was the first player in ten years to score 3,000 runs during a season.  In this picture, he is standing next to H.E. ‘Bill’ Packer, who attended Stamford School as both a pupil and a teacher.  As a schoolboy, Bill was Captain of the Cricket Team for three consecutive years;  as a member of staff, he coached cricket and rugby and was a major influence on M.J.K. Smith.  Most of his former pupils acknowledge that the renowned cricketer was a hard act to follow.


During the nineteenth century, sport was not recognised as an essential topic for schoolgirls.  A simple walk around the dining hall was the only exercise the first students at Stamford High School ever got.  The first sport they played was Hockey.  Miss Monro, the then-Headmistress, secured the Burghley Polo Ground to serve as the venue.  Stamford School did have a hockey team prior to 1885 but this was soon replaced by lacrosse.  Hockey was taken up again after the turn of the century as an alternative to Rugby which was considered too strenuous to play during the Lent Term.  For their first game, the boys had to borrow hockey sticks from the High School.


In 1947, Miss Lomax (pictured below) was appointed Headmistress at Stamford High School.  She was very enthusiastic about sports and, during her university days, had represented Newnham College, Cambridge in both hockey and netball.  Under her watch, netball became part of the High School’s curriculum.  In 1958, the Senior Netball Team were entered into the Lincolnshire Tournament at Lincoln for the first time.


Stamford School first took up Rugby during the headship of Edwin Lovegrove.  It appears the sport lapsed during the First World War, but was revived in 1917 – the team did not have a good time practising in four inches of snow.  After the war, the School counted on assistant master (and former pupil) F.J. Cummins to nurture a rugby team ‘prepared to take the field against all corners’.  Cummins achieved this, and by 1923, the team were working well together.  As a result, their performances improved.

Rugby was another favourite of Bill Packer.  When he was a pupil at Stamford School, he captained the team for two years, and then in later years he coached the sport.  The above photograph depicts the Rugby Team from 1948.  M.J.K. Smith and Colin Dexter are seated in the front row.

Mike Barton, who was P.E. Teacher from 1975-2008, organised the School’s first ever rugby tours on both national and international scales.  One team visited Australia in 1990, and another went out to Canada in 2000.


Stamford School did have a tennis club as far back as the autumn term of 1885, but like hockey, this sport was more prominent at Stamford High School.  However, in its early days, tennis was regarded as ‘a social affair’ and the High School on the whole did not show enthusiasm towards the sport.  Nevertheless, it was a popular game for Reunion Days.  It was under Miss Lomax that enthusiasm towards the sport resurged.

The above photograph depicts the tennis team from the summer of 1947.  The team captain, Margaret Emerson (third from the left in the front row) was ‘one of the most outstanding tennis plays the School ever had’.  She later became Vice-Captain of the Junior Lawn Tennis Club of Great Britain.

For more news from the Stamford Schools’ Archive, please click here, or browse the digital archives yourself.

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