Ben And Jan In Office Refurb


Anyone visiting the Development Office will notice that the building has undergone a major refurbishment. Welcoming visiting OS has been a major priority for Jan van der Velde, Director of Development and Alumni Relations, since he arrived at School in January. In the past visiting OS have been invited to sit in a crowded office space at a meeting table piled high with papers. This uncomfortable setting was at odds with the enthusiasm with which visitors are greeted, so the Development Office team have set about creating a cosy and inviting space where visitors can relax and catch up with the latest School news.

Jan originally had plans for mock 1950’s wallpaper and flying ducks to decorate the walls, luckily his team talked him out of this idea. The finished space includes feature walls of deep blue which reflect the rich colour palette of the two oil paintings now adorning the walls.

The two paintings are very different. One is a portrait of an eminent Old Sedberghian, Robert Willan, the other depicts the vessel ‘The Sedbergh’ sailing on the high seas.

The portrait of Robert Willan has recently been returned to the School collection by the Royal College of Physicians to whom it had been on loan for several decades. Willan is often described as having been the founder of scientific dermatology. Arriving at Sedbergh in the 1770’s Willan studied under Headmaster Wynne Bateman. He was described as a ‘first rate classical scholar’ who surpassed Bateman in his knowledge of Greek. After leaving Sedbergh, Willan studied Medicine at Edinburgh University and then trained in London under Dr John Fothergill, also a Sedberghian. Willan was admitted to the Royal College of Physicians in 1785 when he addressed some congratulatory Greek verses to the Board of Censors. Willan was deeply committed to his vocation as a medical practitioner. He also had a great interest in antiques and was admitted to the Society of Antiquaries in 1791. Following his death in Madeira in 1811 he was described as ‘a model of the perfect human character. The best and noblest of mankind.’

The second painting to be mounted on the walls of the newly refurbished Development Office depicts the ship ‘The Sedbergh’ which was owned by merchant William Henry Haynes of Liverpool. Haynes had many friends in the town of Sedbergh and visited frequently. He registered his ship ‘The Sedbergh’ at Liverpool in 1862. The vessel was a double deck fast sailing ship with a tonnage of 614. The ship sailed extensively around the globe, frequently visiting the Americas including the U.S.A, Brazil, Uruguay and Bermuda, but also traveled to Bombay, Sierra Leone and Portugal. Its cargo included cotton, sugar and coconuts. The last known reference to the ship is in the 1872 Mercantile Navy List.

Visitors from the Old Sedberghian community are warmly invited to visit the Development Office to view the paintings, enjoy a cup of coffee and an iced bun while sitting in our very comfy chesterfield armchairs, and catch up with what is happening at School. We’re always delighted to hear your news and will have the kettle on ready for your visit.

Katy de la Rivière

School Archivist