How can we help you today?

Old Oswestrians


David Holbache

David Holbache, the founder of Oswestry School, was born in 1355 and died in about 1422.

Oswestry School's founder, a local wealthy landowner, lawyer and politician, David Holbache, together with his wife Guinevere, put into trust some lands, the rents from which would pay for a schoolmaster. This far-sighted man, friend of Owain Glyndwr and war treasurer for the newly-crowned Henry IV, had the kind of vision and love of learning which characterized this early period of the Renaissance. Taking advantage of a gradual loosening of the restrictions imposed by the Feudal System, and perhaps hoping to heal some of the wounds and bitter feelings amongst the local people following such an unsettled period in the Marches region, Holbache’s new school made provision for the teaching of Latin, Greek and English grammar.

A brief Biography of David Holbache: (cited History of Parliament).

Holbache, was the son of Welsh parents, coming from Dudleston in the Fitzalan lordship of Oswestry. It is recorded that he became a highly competent lawyer. His services as legal adviser to the Fitzalan earls of Arundel began as early as 1376. By the following year Holbache had also entered royal service as King’s pleader and attorney for the whole of Wales.

Holbache’s life for the next twenty years involved being appointed, joint justiciar of south Wales, associations with Earl Richard, imprisonment in the London Tower but soon followed by release and pardons for wrongful imprisonment from the archbishop of Canterbury. Holbache was soon afterwards confirmed as steward of the now forfeited Fitzalan lordship of Oswestry.

In 1406, possibly through the influence of the earl of Arundel, Holbache secured election to Parliament for Shropshire, and immediately turned this event to his own advantage, for he then obtained the Commons’ support for his petition for denization.

In this petition he asserted that he, like his ancestors, had always been a true and faithful subject. Henry IV granted the request and so, on 19 October, did he another petition of Holbache’s, one which asked for a grant of the estates late of David ap Yonet of Iffnal in the lordship of Whittington, North Wales, worth £20 annually; and only a week later, in compensation to the true heirs, Holbache secured for them royal pardons for having taken part in the rebellion. Holbache’s own reinstatement was complete: on 19 Dec., three days before the dissolution of the Parliament, he was one of the few Members of the Lower House to be appointed as auditors of the accounts of the parliamentary treasurers for the wars, Thomas, Lord Furnival, and (Sir) John Pelham; and at the very end of the session he was among the 12 MPs assigned by the Commons who, along with some of the Lords, were to witness the engrossment of the Parliament roll.

Following this, Holbache very frequently received appointments to royal commissions, particularly relating to Wales and Shropshire. From early in 1407 for over 13 years he was a member of the Shropshire bench,

Holbache himself had inherited or acquired by marriage lands in Sweeney, Treflach and Maesbury, in the lordship of Oswestry, and to these he added lands in Worthenbury, Flintshire and Croesmere by Ellesmere, as well as property in the Welsh borough of Mawddwy and the English one of Shrewsbury. Holbache is now best remembered for his foundation of the grammar school at Oswestry.

Holbache is last recorded on 19 Dec. 1421.

Further Information

William Spooner

The Rev Canon William Archibald Spooner DD (1844–1930) OO 1856 - 1962, was educated at Oswestry School and then New College, Oxford.

The first non-Wykehamist to be so, and became an Anglican priest and a scholar.

In 1856 William and his brother H.Maxwell were sent to Oswestry School. As an albino William had a difficult time at School, but with his brother and firm friend Burnaby, William progressed successfully through his education which led him to New College, Oxford.

During a 60-year association with Oxford University, he became fellow, lecturer, tutor, dean and warden (from 1903) of New College, lecturing ancient history, philosophy (especially Aristotle's ethics) and divinity.

Although Spooner's scholarship, devotion to duty, and wisdom were highly regarded he has become famous for his "spoonerisms", funny misstatements that result from the transposition of initial consonants. Few if any of his own spoonerisms were deliberate, and many of those attributed to him are apocryphal. Spooner himself hated the reputation he gained for getting his words muddled.

"Come into the arms of the shoving leopard" instead of the "come into the arms of the loving shepherd" that he meant to say in one of his homilies.

"You have hissed my mystery lesson" instead of "you have missed my history lesson", talking to a group of students who were late for a class.

Spooner's portrait painted by Hugh Riviere, can still be found at Oswestry School in the Sigi Faith Learning Resource Centre.

John Godfrey Parry-Thomas

John Godfrey Parry Thomas, twice holder of the world land speed record and Old Oswestrian 1894-1902.

John Godfrey Parry Thomas was the son of a vicar and born in Wrexham in April 1884. The Parry Thomas family moved to the Oswestry area when he was five years old and he was educated at Oswestry School.

John's fascination with engineering started at a young age and was enhanced at the City & Guilds Engineering College in London in 1902 where he studied electrical engineering. After numerous jobs Thomas decided to pursue his passion for racing cars.

In 1926 Parry Thomas rode his famously known car 'Babs' along the Pendine beaches and broke the world record of 152.33 mph by Henry Seagrave with his run of 169.30 mph. In January 1927 he achieved a top speed of 174.883 mph.

There was furious competition to break Parry-Thomas's world record and in March 1927 he returned to the Pendine shores to raise and protect his record. However, John was ill with flu and on his timed run the car skidded, rolled several times and then slewed round to face the sea. Parry-Thomas did not survive the crash.

From the biography written by John Godfrey Parry Thomas's great-nephew, there was a great sense of pride and ambition in Parry Thomas which helped him to become the two time land speed world record breaker. Such shrewd talent and ambition was seen during his school days where he is said to have raffled his sixpence-a-week pocket money at a penny a chance to as many takers as he could find!

Parry Thomas Biography

Sigi Faith

The Old Oswestrian Society is extremely proud to call Sigi Faith an Old Oswestrian.

Born Siegfried Samuel Feitlowitz in Hamburg in 1928, Sigi had arrived in England on the Kindertransport in 1938 and was sent to Oswestry in 1939 where he was welcomed at Oswestry School by the headmaster Ralph Williamson. From this start, Sigi progressed, leaving school in 1945, having been Head Boy, to work for an accountancy firm and qualify as an accountant. Sigi moved to London and worked with his father (who had sheltered in Shanghai during the war) exporting textiles. In 1964 he opened his first shoe shop and Faith Shoes went on to become a national brand. Sigi sadly passed away following failing health aged 82 in 2010.

Sigi always regarded himself as extremely fortunate in the way his life turned out from such a difficult start and retained a fondness for the school where he had arrived in such a parlous state. Sigi regularly attended Old Oswestrian events; many classmates from over 60 years ago were among his best friends and he was still returning to the area to meet up with them until his ill health prevented him from travelling.

Strong supporters of the school, Sigi and his wife Terry often returned to Oswestry. In March 2006, Sigi opened the new Holbache Sixth Form boarding house when he recalled "I had a fantastic education here. It was secure and happy. Anyone who goes to this school is very lucky. I am enormously indebted to Oswestry."

Sigi Faith's dedication to the school was clear when he gave a talk to some of the sixth form pupils in 2007. He came to talk about his experiences as one of the Kindertransport children who escaped from Nazi Germany in 1938. His parents sent him away from Hamburg by train to safety in England when he was just 10 years old. He came to Oswestry via a Butlins holiday camp in Lowestoft and Colchester Isolation Hospital where he was looked after while suffering from scarlet fever.

In September 1939 he arrived in Oswestry and stayed as a boarder at the school throughout the war. He described how he immediately felt at home and was welcomed by all the other boys despite not speaking any English. Sigi told us that it was such a contrast from his time in Germany where after Hitler came to power his family didn't have anything to do with non-Jews but in Oswestry his Jewishness was never an issue. He even became Head Boy and has remained close friends with his schoolmates to this day. The current sixth form were studying Anti-Semitism in Germany and it was interesting for them to be able to meet and talk to someone who had suffered first hand under the Nazi regime. Sigi described the fear felt by the Jewish community and the methods by which Hitler came to hold such influence over Germany. He said that he didn't feel any bitterness towards the German people but felt puzzled how the rest of the world had allowed the Holocaust to happen. Luckily Sigi's story had a very happy ending as he was reunited with his parents after the war and then went on to have an extremely successful business career.

He happily answered a wide range of questions from the group and all agreed that he was a very charming, engaging and interesting speaker. We are delighted that he came to see us and would like to thank him for making the time to come back to his old school once again.

Sigi and Terry also sponsored the first Peter Edwards Art Award which was held so successfully and also the naming of the Library as the Sigi Faith Learning Resource Centre.

Other Notable OOs

If there are other Old Oswestrians (from 1407 to the present day) you would like to see on this page please let Victoria Evans know.

  • Rev Thomas Bray DD (founder of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel). OO 1660s
  • Edward Lhuyd (botanist, linguist, geographer and antiquary) OO, pupil and School master, 1670s.
  • Bishop Humphrey Humphreys (translated the Bible into Welsh) OO 1660s/70s
  • Col. Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (famous army officer, adventurer, journalist, balloonist) OO 1850s
  • The Rev Canon William Archibald Spooner DD. 1950s (Warner of New College, Oxford, of ‘Spoonerism' notoriety) OO 1850s.
  • Sir Charles Moses (general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for thirty years). OO 1910s
  • Ivor Roberts-Jones CBE RA OO 1920s. (sculptor and portraitist whose most famous works is, perhaps, the definitive statue of Sir Winston Churchill in London’s Parliament Square). His"The Borderland Farmer" still stands in Oswestry town centre to this day.