150th Anniversary of the Royal Albert Orphanage

It was an opportunity to welcome back pupils, and even a teacher, who had attended the School up to 60 years ago.

Pupils, governors and Old Scholars came together to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Royal Albert Orphanage. In 1864, a group of gentlemen met in a London tavern to ‘establish an Asylum for thoroughly destitute orphan children’. This was the beginning of what was to become the Royal Albert School, one of the two founding institutions of the Royal Alexandra and Albert School.

For boys who joined the Royal Albert School in the late 1940s, Mr Ray Davies was a constant presence. He started his teaching career in 1945, continued at the Royal Albert School as a full time teacher in 1949, and followed its relocation to Gatton Park in 1953 after the school amalgamated with the Royal Alexandra School. He went on to become Housemaster of Kent House and Deputy Head later in his career. He stayed with the School for all of his teaching career, which spanned 43 years, until his retirement in 1989.

His past pupils still hold Ray and his wife, June, in high regard and with much affection. They were invited to their weddings, receive Christmas cards, and are visited in their home by Old Scholars and their families. He remembers of his time at the School, “They were good lads. Anything constructive and enjoyable for the boys, which we had the potential to do, we did.” He put on films in the dining hall, encouraged the boys to take part in sport, and on one occasion organised a play called The Monkey’s Paw.

But Ray was a favourite for other reasons. For many of the pupils, Ray and June gave them support and care when they needed it the most. Ray explained, “The majority of the boys in that first intake into Kent House had lost their father, in some cases both parents, to the war. We were the ones who looked after them. My wife was a strength to them, a shoulder for them to cry on.” It is no wonder that Ray and June continue to be thought of with such fondness by the very boys that Ray describes as “wonderful”.

Even now, after 25 years of retirement, Ray continues to be involved with the School and the children, now grown men, whom he taught and looked after. As a valued ex-staff member and President of the Gatton Association for Old Scholars, Ray still attends a number of events at the School. Ray and June were invited by Headmaster Paul Spencer Ellis to reopen the refurbished Kent House in 2003, nearly 50 years to the date of when Ray and his family moved in. “The School still means a lot to us; it was an honour and a joy to be asked to reopen Kent House.”

The 150th Anniversary of the Royal Albert Orphanage was another special occasion attended by Ray and June. There was a moving service which included readings from Ray and Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant in Surrey, Dame Sarah Goad, and music by the School’s choir, to remember the early beginnings of the School.

After the service, a piece of the balustrade from the staircase of Collingwood Court, near Bagshot, the School’s original location, was unveiled in Albert House as a tangible reminder of the School’s history. The piece of balustrade was obtained by Robert Jamieson, a past pupil of the Royal Albert School, when the building was demolished. When Mr Jamieson passed away, the piece was kindly donated by his sister, Mrs Maggie Glover. After the unveiling, the Old Scholars made their way to Gatton Hall for lunch.

During lunch it became clear how important Ray was to his past pupils, many of whom were excited to have the opportunity to reminisce and have photographs taken with their old Geography teacher. A past pupil described Ray as “indefatigable”, and he certainly is that. To this day, Ray is still an important part of the School.

But Ray is quick to point out that, “I was one of many. My colleagues and other housemasters were of the same dedication. I could not have done what I did without their backing. They were a solid support.”

Mr Spencer Ellis said of the event, “It was a pleasure to welcome back our Old Scholars to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Royal Albert Orphanage. It was particularly special to have Ray Davies and his wife June in attendance. This School has been an important part of their life for over 60 years and it wouldn’t have been the same without their dedication and effort, and that of other members of staff who were here at the very beginning.”

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