Wednesday, July 10, 2013

St Philip's School and Downton Abbey

Mr Tibbits's Catholic School is the name of a wonderful book which tells the story of St Philip's, a school which may be familiar to NLM readers from previous posts here and here. St Philip's was founded at the request of the Fathers of the London Oratory by the intrepid and eccentric Mr Tibbits in 1930s South Kensington. This small and traditional Roman Catholic School for boys aged 7-13 provides a wealth of stories which are humorous, moving and poignant, beautifully told by Ysenda Maxtone Graham.

Cartoon of St Philip's Schola © Kath Walker 2011

The book's preface was written by A.N. Wilson and appeared as an article in The Spectator here. Julian Fellowes, former pupil of St Philip's and author of Downton Abbey wrote in the Afterword: 'We loved one teacher in particular who received, via a telegram delivered to him in class, the news of his father's death and consequent inheritance. With a cry of 'Yippee!' he flung the cable into the air, jumped up, left the room and was never seen again.'

This afternoon Fellowes returned to St Philip's, where I am Director of Music, to give out the prizes. I was lucky enough to meet him afterwards at the reception in the school garden. As I poured him more champagne I pressed him for any information about the next series of Downton for which filming is nearly complete, however he was infuriatingly discreet.

Here is a recent photograph of the St Philip's Schola which was taken just before the Patronal Mass this year:

It is always sad to say goodbye to the leavers at the end of the academic year. It has been an absolute privilege to teach them, and I wish them every success in their next schools. (Photos: Lily Canterbury)

The Kindle Edition of Mr Tibbits's Catholic School is available from and The paperback edition can be ordered direct from Slightly Foxed.

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