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Schoolmaster

William Alder Strange, headmaster of Abingdon School, was a great-nephew of John Alder, ‘the lucky cooper’, whose lottery win in 1767 funded his family’s social ascent. William Alder was born in 1813. Most of his school education was at Christ’s Hospital in London, but he returned to Abingdon in time to take advantage of Abingdon School’s scholarships to Pembroke College, Oxford. He matriculated in 1829 and took his B.A. degree in classics in 1833. With only fourth-class honours, his academic credentials were not outstanding.

It is not every schoolmaster who can retire to great wealth and a landed estate, but Robert Jennings, Master of Abingdon School from 1657 to 1683, did so. Born about 1622, he was the second son of John Jennings, a prominent Reading mercer. John Jennings was Mayor of Reading in 1630-40, but his name disappears from the corporation records after the taking of the town by the parliamentarians in the Civil War. This suggests a strong royalist allegiance, which was shared by his son.

James Cobban was headmaster of Abingdon School from 1947 to 1970. He is credited with transforming the school from the rather undistinguished institution it had become to one that enjoyed (as it still does) a very high status in the educational world.

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