Slough Secondary School first opened its doors in January 1912. The new buildings were sited in William Street in the centre of Slough, and the school was co-educational – the fore-runner of today’s Upton Court Grammar School. By 1915, a number of masters and senior boys were serving their country in the Great War and others were reaching school-leaving age to take their place in society. It was suggested that an Old Boys and Old Girls Association be formed and its first social meeting was duly held in the School Hall. Following a suggestion from the Headmaster, Mr W. Francis Smith, the Association was named The Old Paludians (from the Latin palus, paludis – a slough, mire or muddy place) and thus it has remained.
By the end of the War, four masters and two old boys had given their lives – their names are recorded on a Roll of Honour at the school. There are a further 50 names of those who served, although records do not show how many of these made the ultimate sacrifice. Meetings began again in 1920; the Cricket Club was founded in 1922 followed by the Football Club two years later – many members going on to play for local teams over the coming years.
A major change took place in 1936: the boys went to their new premises in Lascelles Road now called Slough Grammar School, whilst the girls remained in William Street, renamed Slough High School, until their new school in Twinches Lane was ready in September 1939. The site of the old school in William Street became in turn Slough College, the Slough Campus of Thames Valley University, the University of West London and is now being redeveloped again. In the autumn of 1936, the Old Paludians Association also split into two separate Sections such was the feeling at the time against co-education with “joint functions serving no purpose”.
Another War came and went. Once again, Old Paludians were fighting in all Services throughout Europe, Africa and Asia – many never to return, their names, too, proudly recorded at the school. Some were mentioned in dispatches and others were decorated for gallantry. The Old Girls held regular Annual Meetings together with many social events from 1940 onwards, all held at their school by special invitation of the Headmistress, Miss J. M. Crawford. They were also active in hockey, tennis, drama and music. The Old Boys resumed in 1946, largely sports-orientated and with the formation of the Hockey Club in 1948. Many fund-raising activities over 5 years culminated in the opening of a club house at Taplow in June 1958. Much of the building work was done by the Old Boys themselves. As a result of this new undertaking, the Old Boys or Sports Section reformed themselves as the Old Paludians Ltd. The Old Girls continued as the Old Paludians Association.
In 1962, a Thanksgiving Service was attended by both Old Boys and Old Girls to mark the golden anniversary of the founding of the school and, in 1979, the girls celebrated the 40th anniversary of their school premises. Both sections continued along their separate ways until 1982 when the sale of the Twinches Lane site forced the merger of the Slough High School and Slough Grammar School on the Lascelles Road site. The combined school, renamed Upton Grammar School, was once again co-educational.
There was a wind of change in 1988 when Mrs Margaret Lenton was appointed Headteacher and the following March came the first Joint Reunion (for both Old Boys and Old Girls) for 50 years. Mrs Lenton became President and the Old Paludians Association was renamed Old Paludians Association (Grammar School) as gradually more and more Old Boys were joining us. The Association was then independent of the Sports Section / Old Paludians Ltd, which nowadays plays under the name Taplow United Football Club.
The school reverted to the Slough Grammar School name in 1993 and remained co-educational. In 2002, the school was formally recognised as a specialist language school. It was additionally a specialist science and mathematics school, and recently appointed an Academy. In 2010, Mrs Mercedes Hernández Estrada assumed the role of Principal from Mrs Lenton. In early 2013, a substantial Sixth Form Centre was added on the site of the previous tennis courts. With further building work in hand, Mrs Hernández Estrada and the Governors renamed the school to Upton Court Grammar School, replacing the chained swan by a phoenix rising.
The current Principal, Mrs Mercedes Hernández Estrada, welcomes the Old Paludians Association for the annual reunion held each March and kindly allows us use of the school. With current membership nearing 1000, each reunion is a joyous coming-together of many old friends. It is never too late to join – one new Life Member joined in 1999 having left school in 1928! One of our oldest members celebrated his 101st birthday in March 2000 having attended the opening day of the school in 1912. Sadly, he died shortly after this birthday but lives on in his message to the Association printed on our book cover (see below). Our current oldest member is 104.
Thanks to the generosity of members, each year the Old Paludians gives 2 prizes for Speech Day, as well as donating a special gift to the school after consultation with Mrs Hernández Estrada. Recent gifts include books to mark the millennium, silver Head Boy & Head Girl badges, colours for sports achievements and a lump sum to start the Piano Fund reflecting interest in music and the arts, and books for the library. At Mrs Lenton’s request, our gift to mark the school’s 90th anniversary in 2002, as well as HM the Queens’s Golden Jubilee, was a commemorative clock for the hall, together with further books and other items for the library. A book entitled “Recollections of SLOUGH SECONDARY SCHOOL and THE OLD PALUDIANS as remembered by Peter Bennett and others” has been produced. Written by Peter Bennett (SSS 1930-1936) it was published in March 2000 in time for the 2000 Reunion to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Old Paludians. (These notes are based on Peter Bennett’s text for which acknowledgement is duly given). Peter Bennett’s book is now available for download in 5 parts – please see:
***23rd March 2018 – Site under Construction. A new copy of Peter Bennett’s book will be available shortly. Please bear with ***
The success of the Old Paludians ultimately depends on the present students. Under its Principal, Mrs Mercedes Hernández Estrada, Upton Court Grammar School is held in high esteem; its students are high achievers making their way in all walks of life.
Membership of the Old Paludians Association is open to all ages, although it is often only some years after leaving School that memories of schooldays are re-kindled. Career and family life are uppermost – a chance meeting with a former schoolfriend can start a chain of thought ‘whatever happened to … ?’ More than likely the Old Paludians will know the answer. Life Membership for former pupils is just £5 – we look forward to having you join us. Former staff are offered complimentary Life Membership.
In her final contribution to the Slough High School Magazine, Miss J M Crawford, Headmistress 1936-1962, wrote
“So many have contributed through the years to the success of our Schools and we trust that the present generations will prove themselves to be worthy successors.”
After all, the motto remains Ad Astra.
News of individual members is given in an annual Newsletter. Letters are sent out each January giving details of the forthcoming annual Reunion and asking for news items for the Newsletter. The letters are sent to all Members and to those who have expressed an interest over the previous year and may be undecided whether or not to join. The Newsletter is available at the Reunion and is sent on to those Members not attending.
Annual Reunions are held on a Saturday each March. There is a lunch for those wishing to spend longer with their friends and, after a short formal business meeting in the afternoon, there is tea. One highlight of the day is always a display of archive material, photographs, programmes of sporting events, drama productions, newspaper items, etc – everyone can spot themselves on at least one photo.
For any further information on membership or news of former school friends, please contact the Secretary of the Old Paludians Association (see https://www.oldpaludians.org the Old Paludians Association main website which redirects here).
A number of Old Paludians have achieved wide recognition by the public, including but not limited to:
- Steve Bell – satirist and cartoonist
- Matthew Benham – owner of Brentford F.C.
- Jon Benjamin – British diplomat
- Dr Jeremy Black (1951-2004) – the noted Assyriologist
- William Bradshaw, Baron Bradshaw
- Susan Cooper – the children’s author
- Prof John Fothergill – the Pro-Vice Chancellor at City University
- Philip Hinchcliffe – the BBC TV producer
- Jeanne Hoban (1924-1997) – the trade unionist and politician
- Philip Hubble – the British butterfly swimmer
- John King – English novelist
- Keith Mansfield – composer and arranger
- Prof Peter Marler (1928-2014) – emeritus professor of neurobiology, physiology and ethology of the University of California, Davis
- Gary Numan (Gary Webb) – cult musician
- Prof John Pickering – former professor of industrial economics
- Baroness Beryl Platt – (1923-2015) – Member of the House of Lords – nee Myatt
- Prof Martin Schröder – Dean of Science and Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at University of Nottingham
- Prof Ian Simmons – retired Professor of Geography at University of Durham
- Prof James Q. Smith – Professor of Statistics at the University of Warwick
- Prof Matthew Spriggs – Professor of Archaeology at the Australian National University