Carmel College, Oxfordshire

Carmel College was a predominantly Jewish co-educational boarding school in England operating between 1948 and 1997. It was first situated at Greenham Common near Newbury and then at Mongewell Park near Wallingford, Oxfordshire. It was one of Europe's only two Jewish boarding schools, the other being in Gateshead. It also had a very small number of pupils who were not of Jewish descent, as day pupils. Carmel College alumni are known as "Old Carmelis"; in 1973 the school was referred to as the "Jewish Eton"[1] by The Observer correspondent, Chaim Bermant.

Typical boarding fees in 1996 were £10,000 per school term (i.e. £30,000 per year). The selection process was competitive and applicants were required to sit entrance exams, as well as demonstrate the ability to contribute to the school ethos and uphold core school values. In 1990 and through to 1997 it topped the list of the 20 most expensive boarding schools in the country.

The school had a substantial number of international students from Europe and the Americas and an ethos of respect, diligence and social responsibility was instilled in students as part of the pastoral care provided by housemasters and tutors.

The school practised a mainstream Orthodox Judaism, more Orthodox than the practice of most of the pupils' families. The aim was to turn out young international students who were authentically both secular and appreciative of religion.

Pupils who attended were generally upper/upper middle class or had parents with incomes that allowed private schooling.

Many students went on to university, including top tier major universities in Britain and overseas.

A small number of scholarships were provided to those who demonstrated exceptional ability in subjects like Mathematics and Sciences. Most of these scholarship students went on to contribute significant funds to the school when they had succeeded in professional life.

The school was particularly strong in mathematics and science subjects, with a chemistry department developed by the innovative chemistry master Romney Coles, author of Chemistry Diagrams, a book illustrating industrial chemical processes. Coles had the position of Headmaster when Kopul Rosen was Principal.


The school was founded in 1948 by the late Rabbi Dr Yaacov Kopul Rosen. It was closed in July 1997, mainly owing to diminishing pupil numbers and severe financial difficulties, having been seriously affected by the termination of government assisted places by the Labour government and the rise of the Jewish Day School Movement. The grounds were sold to property developers for an undisclosed sum. The sale was overturned by the Charity Commission, however, following significant pressure from parents and former students who claimed the land was undersold. The distinctive concrete synagogue, with its stained glass windows created by Israeli artist Nehemia Azaz, dining hall, and amphitheatre, designed by local architect Thomas Hancock, are Grade II listed buildings; the Julius Gottlieb gallery and boathouse, designed by Sir Basil Spence, is Grade II* listed[2].

The principals or headmasters were: the founder, Kopul Rosen, until his death in 1962; David Stamler, 1962–71; Kopul Rosen's eldest son, Jeremy Rosen, 1971–84; Philip Skelker, until the school closed.

Upon closure of the school, many pupils were transferred to another boarding school in Bristol, Clifton College, which had, until May 2005 a Jewish boarding house, Polacks House.

In October 2015 former housemaster Trevor Bolton was convicted of abusing boys at the school over a period of 20 years.[3]


The school grounds in Mongewell Park had the straightest run of the River Thames flowing past it, and Oxford University made full use of this during their preparation for the annual university boat race.


It was attended by children from the age of 11 until 18 – although earlier on there was a preparatory school which took children from around the age of 8. Later a girls' school was built – about a mile from the main campus, although the buildings were never actually used for this purpose. Instead, it was turned into a junior school in the late 1960s for children up to the age of 13, when they then moved to the main school. Girls were later admitted into the main school, starting at the sixth form in 1968. However, there were daughters of teachers at the school even before this, including the daughter of Carmel's founder Rabbi Kopul Rosen, who was a pupil in the late 1960s. The junior school was closed down several years before Carmel closed, and the buildings sold.

Carmel had several boarding houses, which changed regularly throughout the school's life. The final boarding houses were as follows:

  • Mansion House — 1st, 2nd, 3rd year male.
  • Ridgeway House — 4th & 5th year male.
  • School House & Sherman House — L6 & U6 male.
  • Newnham House — 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th year female.
  • River Court — L6 & U6 female.

Earlier house names included Gilbert House, Montefiore House, Alexander House, Raleigh House and others.

Notable people connected with Carmel College

The Mansion House was an old manor house with particular significance. Agatha Christie (who lived nearby in Wallingford) used it as the basis for the mansion in her 1952 play The Mousetrap. The headmaster's study was also the room used for the final briefing of the reconnaissance mission following the Dam Busters raid. There is a pillbox on the school grounds, beside the river.

A scene in the 2011 film The Iron Lady, where Margaret Thatcher is perfecting her prime-ministerial voice, was shot on location within the synagogue of Carmel College.

In 2013 and 2014 Kylie Minogue and the Kaiser Chiefs shot videos in the school's Gymnasium.

In the 2016 film, Mindhorn, the Carmel College synagogue is used as the location for scenes depicting the exterior and interior of fictional civic hall offices on the Isle of Man (approx timestamp 00:53:40 and 01:08:40).

Also in 2016, The Darkest Dawn on IMDB, the mansion house and gardens feature in the final 10 minutes of the film.

The science fiction film, Annihilation (film) (2018), starring Natalie Portman, uses the Carmel College swimming pool and other areas for scenes involving the Fort Amaya military base (approx timestamp 00:42:05-00:49:05).

In 2017, the library of the mansion house was used for filming interior scenes of Stalin’s living quarters in the film The Death of Stalin.

In 2018, the art room in the teaching block, the interior of the Julius Gottlieb Gallery, the exterior and interior of the mansion house, the lake and the ruined church were used in scenes from BBC's production of John le Carré's The Little Drummer Girl

See also


  1. Bermant, Chaim (23 October 1973). "The Jewish Eton" (PDF). The Observer Magazine. pp. 40–47. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  2. "JULIUS GOTTLIEB GALLERY AND BOTHOUSE AT CARMEL COLLEGE". Historic England. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  3. Carmel College sex abuse: Boarding school teacher jailed for 19 years BBC News, 23 October 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  4. "Faith". Greater London Lieutenancy. 30 July 2017.

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