Fencing at Radley

By Christoph Wallendahl.  [Christoph wrote this article during  his second year at Radley]

Fencing was one of the original sports played at Radley, and it was encouraged by William Sewell from the foundation of Radley in 1847, and even before during his earlier experiments with education. In fact it was a compulsory sport, putting it on the same footing as Rugby or Cricket.1

As a result, it is believed that Radley was one of the first groups to practice fencing in Britain, for the oldest known club is the London Thames Fencing Club, established in 1848, (one year after Radley started to practice fencing in 1847). This means that fencing has been practiced at Radley for 169 years.2

The club has also had some rather distinguished coaches, counting the founder of Summer Fields, Archibald Maclaren, who also was one of the key founders of Army Fencing, and a close friend of the artist and designer William Morris and the artist Edward Burne-Jones. Together with his son, the Maclarens coached Radley successfully in fencing for almost 40 years. There was also Professor Cromarty-Dixon, who coached the Oxford University Fencing Club, as well as others.3


A pair of prize foils presented to A J Richards, Radley College, 1862 Source: The Fencing Museum

A pair of prize foils presented to A J
Richards, Radley College, 1862
Source: The Fencing Museum

There has also previously been a fencing prize, presented by the Dimitriades family in 1939, to be won in an internal competition, multiple teams, a full-time fencing option, a Gaudy fencing display, Don coach and a full time coach, as well as a fencing Rep. and secretary. Colours have also in the past been awarded multiple times for fencing. A part of the gymnasium was previously specially reserved and equipped especially for fencing.4

The club has also in the past fenced and often beaten leading schools such as Abingdon, Bedford, Bradfield, Bryanston, Charterhouse, Cheltenham, Cranleigh, Dulwich, Eastbourne, Epsom, Eton, Felstead, Hailebury, Harrow, Lancing, Marlborough, Merchant Taylors, Pangbourne, Rugby, Stowe, St. Edwards, St. Paul’s, Tonbridge, Wellington, Westminster, and Winchester, among others, who all still fence. The club has also previously fielded several teams. The school has also successfully participated in the Public Schools Fencing Championships and the Nationals.5

The British Olympic team, 1906 (photographed by Theodore Cook)

The British Olympic team, 1906 (photographed by Theodore Cook)

The club has produced many talented fencers over the years, numbering Olympic captains and members, as well as other international and national fencers among its members. The school has also produced many members of the Army Fencing Team.6 For example, an old Radleian, Cosmo Duff-Gordon, the second from the left in the photograph above, was a silver medallist in the team epee at the 1906 Olympic games, and went on to become a member of the Olympic Committee.


There was also Theodore Cook, another Radleian, who captained the British Fencing Team in Paris in 1903, and did the same with the Olympic Team in 1906. He was also a member of the British Olympic and Olympic Committees, and was key in the selection of London as the 1908 Olympic location, and its organisation and success. He also founded the Oxford University Fencing Club, and was vice president of the Amateur Fencing Association.8 In addition, there was Augustus Fitzclarence, yet another old Radleian, who fenced in the British sabre team in the 1912 Olympic games, and who was also one of the best army fencers in both epee and sabre, winning several medals in the Army and Navy competition.9 Besides individual successes, the club has recorded over 35 medals in the Public Schools Fencing Championships.10Therefore, the Radley College Fencing Club has rich, historic and important history in the development of the college and the sport, it having been intertwined with the school from the very beginning, and has been involved in every stage of the evolution of the game. It has always previously attracted both talented players and Don-coaches.

Recent Developments

However, around 2010, the club ceased to exist, which is believed to have occurred due to the sad death of the coach and the group he was attached to failing to find a replacement. More recently, however, since the revival of the club in 2014, the club has tripled in size, having started with three members, and now has nine. The club has also achieved some notable individual successes, such as 4th in the Premier Junior Foil Series, silver and two bronze and one silver medal in the GB Youth Series, and the bronze overall prize, and gold and bronze representing Kensington and Chelsea in the London Youth Games, among other competitions. The club will soon be participating in the Public Schools Fencing Championships, is again an official school sport, and is generally improving its status. Radley was also used for Olympic Fencing Training during the 2012 Olympic games.11

Latest news. Christoph and the team competed at the Public School Fencing Championships in 2017. Their account can be read on the school website.


Bibliography.  Christoph accessed The Radleian online at Radley Archives

1 Sources: The History of Radley College 1847-1947 by A K Boyd. Oxford, Blackwell, 1948, pages 7 and 90

2 Sources: http://www.londonthamesfencingclub.com, accessed 19/10/15, http://www.britishfencing.com/news/latest-news/?n=1085, accessed 19/10/15

3 Sources: ONDB, Register 1847-1923 – page 30- Bursars & Social Tutors, The Radleian No.630 May 1955 page 24

4 Sources: The Radleian 1909 – No. 356 April-page 2, Register 1847-1904 – page 137, The Radleian No.645 May 1960-page 33, The Radleian, No.302, June 1902-page 9, Register 1847-1923 – page 30- Bursars & Social Tutors, THE RADLEIAN 2005 page 10, THE RADLEIAN SUMMER 1970 page 37, The Radleian No.646 October 1960 page 21, THE RADLEIAN MAY 1969 page 6, THE RADLEIAN AUTUMN 1972 049

5 Sources: The Radleian No.587 March 1941-page 5, The Radleian No.654 May 1963-page 27, THE RADLEIAN 1976-page 43, The Radleian No.577 March 1939-page 1, The Radleian No.571 May 1938-page 8, The Radleian, No.269, June 1898, page 6, THE RADLEIAN AUTUMN 1977, page 34

6 Sources: Register, 1847-1962 – page 87, Register 1847-1912 – page 157, THE RADLEIAN 2006, page 104, search college registers ‘fencing’ on http://www.radleyarchives.co.uk

7 Sources: Fencing at the 1906 Intercalated Games, Wikipedia, accessed 19/10/15, http://melbourneblogger.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/baron-cosmo-duff-gordons-finest.html, accessed 19/10/15, Register, 1847-1962 – page 87, Register 1847-1912 – page 157

8 Source: ONDB

9Source: https://radleyarchive.wordpress.com/tag/olympian/

10 Sources: search in Radleian ‘public schools fencing championship’ on http://www.radleyarchives.co.uk, Register 1847-1923 – page 45511 Source: THE RADLEIAN 2006 page 104, http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/olympics/london_2012/7275442.stm

Image Sources:

1 Source: http://www.fencingmuseum.com/19_century.htm

2 Source: http://melbourneblogger.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/baron-cosmo-duff-gordons-finest.html, accessed 19/10/15