The Leys

A History of The Leys


John, who is Honorary Secretary of the Old Leysian Society, taught history at The Leys for many years. Concerned that knowledge of the School's early history would be lost, he has spent the last year researching and writing his latest book.

A Methodist Education: The Leys Under Moulton and Barber, 1875-1914

"The Leys was a unique experiment in Methodist public school education," he explains. "It differed from the classical Victorian model set up by Dr Arnold at Rugby School in two ways: firstly, it was much more liberal and individualist, and secondly it laid a greater emphasis on science and languages than in a 'classical' public school education."

John's book examines the educational philosophy of the first headmaster of The Leys, William Fiddian Moulton, and his successor, the Reverend W T A Barber. It is illustrated with many fascinating photographs of The Leys in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It can be purchased for £15 plus postage and packaging at cost. If you would like to purchase a copy please contact the Development Office by email ( or telephone 01223 508927.


The Leys was set up in 1875 at a time of rapid changes in education. Its establishment reflected the interest of Methodism in improving secondary education for its sons and developing access to university education, especially in Cambridge. The book explores the network of Methodist families who lay behind the setting up of the School, examines the careers of its earliest pupils and masters, and describes the educational philosophy of its first Headmaster, Dr William Moulton, and the atmosphere in the School he led. By the end of the century, on Moulton’s death, the School was still heavily in debt. The book goes on to explore the changes under the second Headmaster, the Rev W T A Barber, which led to the clearing of the debt, and the bringing of the School more in line with the prevailing philosophy of the great Anglican public schools.

The leys in the era of world war:

a history of the leys 1914-1950 by john harding

'The Leys in the Era of World War’ has just been published as part of the School’s commemoration of the outbreak of the Great War. In his first book, ‘A Methodist Education’, John Harding examined the early history of The Leys from its foundation in 1875 until the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, emphasising its unique Methodist origins and educational vision. In this second volume he looks at the School during the momentous events of the middle years of the twentieth century. How did two World Wars and, between them, two decades of unrest at home and in Europe impact upon the microcosm of a small boarding school? How far were its pupils aware of these great events and what was their attitude to them? Interleaved with this, the book examines the roles played by Old Leysians in national and international affairs, especially their contributions to the two World Wars.

Copies of the book can be purchased from the Development Office at the cost of £15.00 + P&P. The first volume is also available at the same price. The pair cost £25.00.

The Chapel: A Brief History

This booklet outlining the history of the Moulton Memorial Chapel has been written to commemorate the Centenary of the Chapel’s dedication.

Price: £7 (postage and packaging: £1 per copy)

To order please visit our school shop.



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The Leys School