In June 1988, after nine successful years at the helm, Headmaster Peter Lapping left Shiplake College to take up the role as Head of Sherbourne School. Being invited to take over a boarding school of 650 that had been founded in 1550 was a recognition of what he had achieved at Shiplake College and also a tribute to the growing reputation of our young school. The Court magazine held many tributes to this popular member of staff’s contribution to the College, including this delightful read, from pupil Frank Brown:
Extremely charming, with an easy and approachable manner", was the opinion of The Times. Parents, Governors and Masters alike must have shared this view. The boys, almost inevitably due to his position, saw a slightly different person. Boys saw a young, energetic and positive man, full of 'bonhomie', and a perfect gentleman. Peter was 37 when he first arrived at Shiplake, and swore faithfully to the adage that your first time as headmaster was a love affair. He had great trust in the boys, always willing to help, and always with our best interests at heart. He was a calm, humorous and predictable man.
The warm atmosphere that is so unique to Shiplake, and initially struck Peter Lapping when he first visited Shiplake, was encouraged and blended with his own special character. Ask a boy what he will remember his headmaster for, and ironically you may be met with an initial pause. His effect on the boys, though profound, was subtle and unforced. A Christian gentleman himself, he was often a second conscience for all of us, reminding us of our fortunate positions and warning us not to misuse them. A very positive man, with a great trust in us, he was always quick to praise our achievements. This aspect of his nature came out most strongly when Peter preached in Chapel. A natural and effective talker, he always used simple but powerful concepts. He instilled into us a sense of pride, and responsibility in ourselves and also the school we were ambassadors of. The result was that boys from Shiplake are often remarked upon for their forward, friendly and mature bearing.
Peter also left a great material legacy to the College. The ambitious building programme, started in earnest by John Eggar, was continued energetically by Peter Lapping, with an average of £119,000 per annum being spent on improvements and building new college facilities, with the prerequisites that the additions were built to last, and also to blend in architecturally. In the nine years that Peter Lapping has been here at Shiplake the boys' facilities have been greatly developed, not only in the houses but also considerably in the Sports and Music areas. Shiplake College, under Messrs. Eggar and Lapping, emerged as a well-established Public School, enjoying considerable national repute, despite being scarcely 30 years old. Peter Lapping presided over, and encouraged, the growing maturity of the school, and leaves it in a very healthy state.
Nick Bevan took the reins as the fifth Headmaster of Shiplake College in September 1988. When asked about his first impressions of life at Shiplake, it’s comforting to read that the Shiplake ethos and our founders’ vision were as visible thirty years ago as they were when we started and still are today:
“Of course, boys and staff make up a school, and I find the family atmosphere here to be both welcoming and entirely unforced. There will always be exceptions but people seem to be what matters above all else here. There is a place for everyone - no-one feels left out and this sense of belonging is a priceless asset. Long may it remain.”
According to Jeremy Gautrey's report in The Court, 1988 was ‘The busiest and most successful year in the music department’s history’. The number of boys taking up lessons on instruments shot up from 40 to 74 creating the need to recruit new teachers. This influx doubled the orchestra and gave a formidable treble line in the choir! The newly formed Barber Shop Quartet made its debut at the concert 'Music for a Summer's Evening', and were received with rapturous applause. At the Summer Concert on a very hot day in late June, the school performed Mr Lapping's favourites from his previous years at Shiplake. Items included were Mendelssohn's Elijah, Bach's Overture Suite No. 2, Handel's Zadok the Priest and Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. The concert was, as usual, a sell-out.
1988 was also the year we were able to add further Olympians to our Alumni list: Stuart Knowles went to the Calgary Winter Sports but could not take part due to injury. Simon Berrisford rowed in the Coxless IV at Seoul. The crew missed the bronze medal by a tiny margin and finished fourth overall in the final.
Also in 1988:
- Pupil Boris Wolff-Metternichs poem ‘Condemned’ was published in the Cadbury’s Book of Children's Poetry.
- Bernard Weatherill MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, gave out the speech day awards and addressed the College.
- For three days in the Summer Term, school life for the third form (Y9) took on a completely new guise – ‘Writers Week’.
- The first GCSE exams were taken - a "controversial new system of assessment".
- Computers continued to be slowly introduced - third forms received one day per week tuition on an Amstrad 8256 learning word processing.
- The new Welsh House development was completed.
- The Boat Club celebrated its Silver Jubilee Year in the most fitting of manners, by winning an unprecedented number of races. By the time the J16 coxless pair won their final at the National Championships in July, the Club's total of regatta wins for the season had reached thirty six.