By Geoffrey Chaplin Head Teacher
As long ago as 1955 discussion was going on to decide how best to provide education for the ever increasing number of senior boys and girls in the Thame and Tetsworth area. The Bottom School was obviously far too small for any increase of pupil population and it was already obvious that such increase would be coming in the not too distant future. (The Church of England Mixed School in Southern Road was often referred to as the Bottom School and later became Thame Secondary Modern School.) Should the existing school be extended to cope with extra pupils or should a completely new school be built in the town, bearing in mind that the school at that time was well over 100 years old? And what of the children of Chinnor who were then going to an all‐age school in the village which, in turn, was already showing signs of bursting at the seams?
Following a meeting held early in 1955, the usual machinery was set in motion for building a new school away from the Southern Road site, this school to be large enough to cater for the needs of the seniors from Chinnor as well as those from Thame and Tetsworth. It was also suggested that a group of boys – some 50 in number – who were at the time engaged in a course of a secondary technical nature at Rycotewood College should be transferred to the new Thame Secondary School when it was built.
Approval for the proposed school was obtained from the Ministry of Education, the necessary money was guaranteed, land was purchased in Towersey Road for buildings and playing fields and plans were drawn for the new school. The school was to have normal classroom Accommodation together with a large assembly hall, a Science room and five craft rooms for art, Housecraft, woodwork, metal work and needlework – as well as the usual cloakrooms, changing rooms, staff room and library.
By 1959 the builders were hard at work and those people mainly concerned with the new school whether as teachers, pupils or parents – watched the wall rise during 1960, rise so swiftly in fact, that the new school was ready for occupation on the promised date Tuesday Sept 6th 1960.
When the school opened in Sept there were 202 boys and 129 girls on the registers together with a teaching staff of 16. Some of the teachers had come from the old Thame Secondary school, some from Chinnor and Rycotewood College, whilst others had been appointed from areas far away from Oxfordshire. There was also of course, an army of caretakers, cleaners, domestic staff and a School Secretary to deal with the various needs of teachers and pupils.
The official opening of the school did not take place until almost the end of the school year when on July 25th 1961 the school was honoured by a visit from Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, VC, DSO, DFC who first opened the school officially and then presented the prizes at the school’s first prize giving (earlier in the year the School houses had been named after four distinguished living Englishmen – Bannister, Cheshire, Hunt and Whittle – and so it was most appropriate that the opening ceremony should be carried out by one of these four in person.)
During 1961 it was learned that approval had been given for the construction of a small swimming pool on the school, site and work began on this project, the pool being finally in use by the summer of 1962.
Also in 1961 it was announced that the school was to have an official name. In recognition of the services rendered in past years to education in the district by the Wenman family (formerly of Thame Park) it was decided that in future the school should be called the Wenman School.
During the next few years it became obvious that the existing buildings would soon be quite inadequate so further discussions took place regarding the kind of extensions which would be needed.
The first of these extensions was a Youth Wing which was built adjacent to the school and although the building was delayed for a time owing to unforeseen difficulties it finally opened at the beginning of 1967.
By this time work had already started on the major building programme to increase the accommodation of the school. Included in the extensions were two new science rooms, an art and pottery area, a needlework room and enlarged staff room and other administration offices. These with an extra classroom and a second hall, were ready for occupation by the end of 1968.
Still, there was not enough room. There was talk of 63‐ pupils in the near future. Chinnor was growing fast and Buckinghamshire pupils were beginning to press to cross the border for their education. So almost before the cement in the first set of extensions plans were being discussed for a second building programme. In March 1971 work commenced on this second extension which was to include a well‐equipped music room, a Lecture Theatre, another laboratory and additional Classrooms. It was anticipated that these will be ready for occupation early 1972.
By then the Wenman will have closed. At the end of the summer term – July 21st 1971 – the doors of the school will close and when they re‐open in September they will admit pupils to the Lord Williams’s Lower School.
THE SCHOOL UNIFORM
Prior to 1960 there had been no uniform for the pupils of Thame Secondary school but on the opening of the new school a simple uniform was introduced for both boys and girls. The school colours of Maroon and Blue were introduced into a maroon blazer, maroon cardigan or pullover and a blue tie. There were also caps for boys and berets for girls but these were optional and very soon became the exception rather than the rule. School teams soon began to be fitted out in these colours whilst over the years house colours became more prominent in the games dress if pupils. A summer dress was introduced for girls and some years later this was changed to a different material and style. When a 5th Form came into being in 1964 members of this form (all of whom were staying at school on a voluntary basis) were allowed to chose an alternative uniform and their choice was for boys, a black blazer with a special 5th form tie and for girls a skirt and twin‐set which has varied in colour slightly over the years, Colours ties have also been presented to boys and girls who have distinguished themselves as members of sports teams.
THE SCHOOL BADGE
The school badge is made up of three parts; the two upper segments (taken from the Thame badge) represent a sheaf of corn and a pair of sheep shears – a reminder of the agricultural history of the area – whilst the lower part simply depicts an Ox on a ford of a river.