Jersey has had dozens, if not hundreds, of private schools since the Church of England controls, which imposed a limit of one school in each parish, were relaxed in the late 18th century.
In the days of the British Empire, boarding schools were in great demand for the sons (and sometimes daughters) of families serving overseas. Perhaps attracted by Jersey’s climate, which was often highlighted in advertisements for schools, but more probably by fees of small establishments which were much lower than those at mainstream public schools in England, many placed their children in the island.
There were no controls over schools; many were run purely for profit by people with no teaching qualifications, in sub-standard buildings with a lack of equipment and books. They usually did not last very long.
One which did offer a genuine education and was in existence for many years was Oxenford House School in St Lawrence, also known as Davey’s, after the family which ran it.
The St Lawrence millennium book describes it as the most important school in the parish.
- It was founded in 1824 and finally closed in 1927. In the Census of 1841 it was at Eden Grove with Thomas Hoskins as schoolmaster, with 24 scholars on site, including 15 boarders from outside the Island.
- An advertisement in the Chroniques de Jersey of 3 January 1849 described it as a “Classical, Mathematical and Commercial Boarding School”.
- Patrick Neill had joined Hoskins by 1851, and was headmaster when it moved to a bigger site that became Oxenford House Academy in about 1859. John Edwin Peter Davey took over the thriving school before 1871, when there were 28 pupils born in places as far afield as Jamaica and Tasmania, as well as Guernsey and England.
- Oxenford House had a high reputation locally and overseas, and many leading families of the Island sent their sons to this school. Many day pupils missed full-time education as they were kept away from school during the planting and digging seasons.
- It provided an excellent academic grounding, and also competed on the sporting field with other schools of a similar size, including Victoria College.
- Oxenford House was believed to have formed the first school rugby team in the Island.’
In the early 20th century John Davey was joined by his son Charles Edwin, who was born on 6 June 1863 at Liskeard and educated at the Victoria University of Manchester and Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he graduated as an MA with honours. He had taught for a time before going to Cambridge at Woodhouse Grove School and joined his father as joint headmaster.
Photographs of the school indicate that in its heyday it had upwards of 100 pupils.