Making new discoveries about the history of Bloxham School is always exciting, and especially when they were left in secret.

When moving a bookcase in his study recently, Alex Redpath, our Head of Music, found an envelope fixed behind a large bookcase which had been written 37 years ago. Written on the envelope was:

to be opened and read whenever this bookcase (installed on 17th November 1987) is moved away from the east wall of this room.

In November 1987, the late Martin Roberts, Head of Music and member of staff 1973-1996, wrote an account of the history of the Music School building. In his account, Martin detailed the building’s use from its construction in 1903/04 as a gymnasium, to the building’s conversion into the Music School, when the Dewey Sports Centre was built in the 1980s.

Martin wrote: “During 1986 and 1987, the old gymnasium was converted for use as the school’s new Music School replacing the Park Close premises which had been the Music School for about 34 years.”

Martin also detailed the impressive construction work to convert the building, including the removal of the old plank floor and the girder supports, the major issues of the new load-bearing foundations and how eventually, reinforced concrete beams were constructed and brick pillars were put in place. This remarkable conversion of the building into the Sam Kahn Music School provided state of the art facilities for music, centred at the very heart of the school. Several years later, after a fundraising campaign in the early 2000s, the building was further extended, providing more practice rooms and enhanced facilities.

Enclosed in the envelope, Martin listed the Music School Staff, two full time members and eight part time members, teaching piano, clarinet, flute, bassoon, brass, oboe, guitar, saxophone and cello. Today, these numbers have grown significantly: there are 17 music staff teaching everything from piano, flute and trumpet to bagpipes, guitar and drums. Music production is unsurprisingly a popular choice. The School has over 200 weekly music lessons and last year there were 27 performances.

Martin ended his letter by writing: “The bookcase behind which I shall fix this very brief and unprepared account was made to my drawings by Bill, of the school’s maintenance team, and installed on the afternoon of Tuesday 17 November 1987. It will probably remain in its position for a long time, and it will be interesting to know who first finds this piece of paper.”

While he was at Bloxham, Martin organised a myriad of performances, from great choral and orchestral events to smaller scale ‘Play and Listen’ concerts, highlights of which included two Brahms Requiems and two Mozart Requiems. As well as his musical accomplishments, Martin ran the CCF for many years and led numerous camps and expeditions.

Alex Redpath, Head of Music, comments: “It was really special to unexpectedly find such an interesting part of Bloxham’s history. On a similar note, a few years ago I found some old Chapel Choir group photographs at the back of a store cupboard, so I put them on displayed upstairs in the Music School. It was a wonderful moment when a Third Form student walked past and spotted his parents in one of the photos. They had met at Bloxham, and both sung in the choir. I love these magical moments. Today, I am really proud of music at Bloxham and the progress we have made. 12% of our Fifth Form take the subject for GCSE, compared to 1% nationally, and many of these go on to have a professional music career. Everyone is musical and there are so many opportunities for students and staff alike to get involved.”

Sadly, Martin Roberts passed away on 8th October 2022, but the finding of his letter has been shared with his family who have been deeply touched by this surprise discovery. His daughters commented how the school was such an important part of his life, as well as that of his late wife, Sarah. Jo Roberts wrote: “So typical of our Dad to think of the next generations and pass on this information.”

We wonder where our next historic secret discovery may be hidden…