Benjamin Kent founded a school for non-conformist pupils a few years before he leased Radley Hall from Sir George Bowyer in 1819. The school continued at Radley Hall for twenty five years. It closed in 1844 under obscure circumstances described by A.K. Boyd as: ‘the master became embarrassed and was compelled to leave,’ although George Bowyer’s increasing sympathy for the Roman Catholic Church and his eventual conversion must have caused some tensions for the non-conformist Benjamin Kent.

Left to right: (a) The Academy at Radley Hall. (b) The School's Prospectus. [Click on these images to enlarge them.]

Radley Hall School followed a liberal curriculum, outlined in its prospectus:

In the Academy at Radley Hall, Berkshire, conducted by Mr Benjamin Kent, with the assistance of well qualified masters.

The advantages of a Grammar School are combined with those afforded by a more comprehensive system of instruction; and while the utmost attention is paid to intellectual cultivation, religious principles are affectionately inculcated; the moral habits are watched over with unremitted care; and whatever may promote the social and domestic comforts of the Pupils are anxiously consulted.

With the view of exciting the latent genius, and of promoting a spirit of liberal inquiry, a select Library is provided, scholastic Disputations are held, and Lectures are given in some of the most interesting departments of Natural Philosophy.

               Terms:      Guineas per annum

Board, Reading, Writing, Accompts, History and Geography
for pupils under 10 years of Age
Ditto above that Age 30
Parlour Boarders 60
Latin & Greek 4
Mathematics 2

French, Drawing, Music and Dancing on the usual Terms
Washing three Guineas
Or all inclusive excepting Music, on paying Ten Guineas per Quarter in advance
A Quarter’s notice must be given previously to leaving the School

This prospectus indicates that Radley Hall School could be included in the list of experimental schools based on a more liberal curriculum and the influence of religion alongside its contemporary St Columba’s at Stackallan and Monro’s school at Harrow Wheal as well as its successor, St Peter’s College, Radley. It was certainly successful and occupied Radley Hall for a significant period of time. It also indicates that Robert Corbet Singleton and William Sewell did not visit Radley as a purely speculative move: the Hall had already been occupied for exactly their purpose until a very short time before their visit.

Radley College Archives now contain a small number of items relating to Radley Hall School: a copy of the prospectus; the examination paper transcribed below; a copy of Sir Walter Scott’s Marmion (Edinburgh: Archibald Constable, 1825) awarded as the prize for Classics to Master C.J. Tomkins by Benjamin Kent in 1833, and given to Radley College by Mrs C.. Stock (née Tomkins) in 1948; and a book of pencil sketches drawn by Eliza Kent, dated Radley Hall 1830 – this was also inherited by Mrs. Stock and it is likely that there was a family link between the Kents and their pupil C.J. Tomkins.

The drawing of Radley Hall by W. Waite which features on the prospectus is taken from exactly the same point in the grounds as one by Eliza Kent, dated January 28th 1830. Both drawings are the only known representations of the house in its setting after re-modelling by Capability Brown in 1770. The sheep and cattle in a gentle parkland must be what Singleton and Sewell saw on their first visit, and will have inspired Sewell in particular as an Arcadian ideal.

Sample questions from the Radley Hall Academy 1837 Christmas examinations


1. What are the general features of Africa?

2. How are Peterborough, Constantinople, Edinburgh and Paris severally situate with regard to London?

3. For what has France always been remarkable?

14. What peculiar religious notions do the Hindoos entertain?

17. What has rendered Great Britain an object of admiration to all nations?


4. Relate the circumstance of the confusion of tongues and dispersion of mankind.

9. How were Abraham, Moses, Aaron, and David, types of Christ?

12. What was the end of Sennacherib and his army?

14. What did our Saviour say of the widow’s mite?

28. Are all the miracles of our Saviour related in the Scriptures?

Moral Philosophy

4. Why is not virtue either παθος or δυναμις?

8. Describe the fourfold office of deliberation.

17. Whence arose the necessity of money?

21. Give Aristotle’s reasons (4) why true self-love cannot exist in vicious men. 24. How far do external goods contribute to happiness?


5. What is related as an instance of patriotic firmness in Brutus?

8. Mention some of the remarkable facts concerned with Hannibal.

16. Give the characters of Alfred the Great, Cardinal Wolsey, Henry the Eighth, and Queen Elizabeth the First.

18. What was the origin of the House of Commons?

26. What great battle terminated the political life of Napoleon Bonaparte and who was the English general?


4. The hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle is 75, and base 60, what is the perpendicular, and what is the area?

9. The diameters of two concentric circles being 12 and 8, what is the area of the ring they form?

10. Find the length of an arc whose chord is 18, and the chord of half the arc 10 1/3.

[A list of prize-winners is then duly published and there is a nota bene:] N.B. It will be perceived that some of the young gentlemen have been successful in their examinations in several subjects, and yet have but received one prize. This has been in accordance with a standing regulation, in order that a greater stimulus might be afforded to the rest, whilst the relative position of the members of each class, clearly points out their comparative merits.


Last modified 1 February 2013