History of the OWA
The Old Wimbledonians Association exists to provide charitable, social and sporting facilities for former pupils of Wimbledon College and Donhead Preparatory School.
The Association also acts as a channel through which "Old Boys" of whatever vintage can stay in contact with each other and also maintain links with the school. Links with the College are strong and the Association is committed to supporting its work in whatever ways it can.
Old Wimbledonians traces its origins to 1905 when, with the Presidency held by successive Rectors of the College, the pursuits of the Association appear to have been more academic than sporting. But in the autumn of 1922 Tommy Neylon announced the formation of a Rugby Club using, by kind permission of the College, the school field when not used by the boys. In 1923 the Association was entitled 'Wimbledon College Old Boys Association' with its first lay President, Thomas Lloyd.
Sport was played under the OWs banner during the early 1930's when it transferred its activities to Home Park and later to the Kings College, London ground where rugby was played until 1950. The search for a permanent home ended when a ground was purchased in October 1951 at Clayton Road, Chessington for the princely sum of £5,000. This brought cricket, football and rugby together on the same site and was a huge step forward, but the distance of the ground from its alma mater was always a difficulty, especially in attracting young College sportsmen.
In 1996 the Old Wimbledonians Association together with Donhead, purchased from the Civil Service the current ground in Coombe Lane, a few hundred yards from the College Field and subsequently sold its Chessington Ground.
The school stands on a site where in 1860 John Brackenbury had purchased two large meadows below the Ridgway known as Tree and Boggy Fields. Brackenbury had helped to run Nelson House School, in Eagle House, Wimbledon High Street. His success there was such that in 1859 he took out a mortgage on the land below the Ridgway and founded in 1860 the Anglican Preparatory Military Academy, also known as “Brackenbury’s”. The grounds of this college were so attractive that the College used to be opened to the public once a week.
Initially a successful school, Brackenbury’s declined under the control of the Rev. Charles Wynn, and closed down in 1887. In 1892 it was purchased by the Jesuits and reopened as Wimbledon College. The school became a grammar school in 1944 and a comprehensive school from 1969.
Improvements at the College since the turn of this century, include an entire renovation of the old gym and swimming pool into a new Sports Hall, Learning Resources Centre (LRC) and IT Suite. There is a new visitors' entrance; refurbished classrooms, the addition of an electronic registration system which is used in parallel with the traditional registration system.
The current headmaster is Adrian Lang who was appointed in September 2011 and was the school’s first non-Jesuit headmaster in its long history.
Donhead opened its gates for the first time on September 25th 1933. Summer holidays were obviously even longer in those days! The school opened with 75 pupils and was for boys from 7 to 11 years of age. Donhead was founded by Fr Oscar Withnell, the Rector of Wimbledon College at the time.
Providentially, he was given the chance of buying the house immediately opposite the College gates, which was already called 'Donhead Lodge'. In Anglo-Saxon 'head' means top and 'don' means hill so we can only assume that is how the house got its name. The house was bought from Mr and Mrs Smail for the princely sum of £6,000. Since then the House has been enlarged and expanded quite considerably.
1993 saw the opening of the Diamond Jubilee Building by Fr Wetz SJ, Headmaster of Donhead from 1971-1985, and was named the 'Fr Wetz Building'. In September 2006 the St Ignatius building development was completed. n October 2010, the Berchman's Building was opened by The Most Reverend Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark.