Famous faces who attended high schools in Dorset – from Hollywood stars to soap opera starlets
Across Britain, pupils and their parents will anxiously apply for high school places. These selective high schools trace their origins back to the Middle Ages, when they specialized in Latin and the classics.
Many still teach these subjects, unlike their publicly funded counterparts, while also offering the full range of subjects required by the national curriculum. And unlike comprehensive schools, students must prove they are worthy of a place by passing entrance exams.
Dorset is home to several grammar schools, both single-sex and co-educational, whose alumni have excelled in areas ranging from sport to fashion and academia to politics. In fact, all of these schools are in the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) area, with BCP being just one of 31 local authorities outside London to host the Selective Grammars, according to the Good school guide. Scroll down for a selection of the most notable Dorset grammar school alumni.
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Cherry Marshall, model and agent
Irene Maud Pearson left Bournemouth School for Girls in 1938, aged just 15, to become a lead singer in a dance group – but could never remember the lyrics. In 1942 she met and married poet and human rights activist Emanuel Litvinoff at a ball and they were married the following year.
She chose the stage name Cherry Marshall when she started modeling for Vogue and clothing company Susan Small, holding London’s record for shortest waist. But she soon grew tired of posing for pictures and became a public relations professional, before opening a modeling school and becoming one of the most important agents of the 1960s.
In 1956, she published the book Fashion Modeling as a Career. This was followed in 1978 by her memoir The Cat-Walk and in 1986 by Primetime Woman.
Christian Bale, actor
Although best known as the savior of Gotham City and an American psychopath, Christian Bale was actually born in Wales to English parents in 1974. He attended school in Bournemouth, which he left in 16 years to become an actor. Although he had no formal dramatic training, he quickly rose from the school stage to roles on stage alongside Rowan Atkinson and on screen in Spielberg’s blockbuster Empire of the Sun.
After winning Best Performance by a Juvenile Actor from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, he appeared in Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V and opposite Charlton Heston in Treasure Island. After experiencing a critical and commercial plunge in the 2000s, Bale’s career rebounded when he was cast as Batman in the Dark Knight Trilogy.
Lisa Dillon, actress
Born Lisa Stawiarski in 1979, Dillon attended Bournemouth School for Girls until 1997. She gained a place to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and went on to perform on stage in Sheffield and London. She is best known for her work as Mary Smith in the BBC One period drama Cranford. She also starred in BBC productions Cambridge Spies, Hawking and Dirk Gently.
Mark Austin, journalist
Born in 1958, Austin attended Bournemouth School and then Highbury College in Portsmouth. Starting his career at the Bournemouth Daily Echo, he later joined the BBC as a news editor and then ITV as a sports reporter.
He covered most major sporting events, as well as the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. This foray into hard news continued with assignments in Hong Kong and South Africa, after which he covered the Bosnian crisis and the war in Kosovo.
The 2000s saw him promoted to presenter on ITV Evening News, following his coverage of the 9/11 attacks and the war in Afghanistan. He took over as chief presenter when Trevor McDonald retired in 2005 and has since moved to Sky News.
Daniel Avery, musician
After attending Bournemouth School, Avery followed his passion for music production. He worked for Little Boots and Metronomy under the name Stopmakingme until 2012 when he started using his birth name.
The debut album Drone Logic was released in 2013, followed by the second record Song for Alpha in 2018. In 2019 he tried his hand at radio, replacing Mary Anne Hobbs on BBC Radio 6 Music.
Beth Kingston, actress
Born in 1986, Kingston attended Bournemouth School for Girls. She then joined the Redroofs Film and Television School (now Redroofs School for the Performing Arts). She is best known for playing India Longford on the soap opera Hollyoaks from 2009 to 2010, when her character was killed off (only to return later as an hallucination). She also appeared on stage, in panto.
Dennis Curry, geologist
The grandson of the founder of Currys electronics, Curry studied geology at Cambridge University from 1930 to 1933. He then became manager of the family business before enlisting in the RAF, teaching pilots how to use their new radio equipment.
He continued his geological research in parallel, publishing hundreds of articles on the subject and eventually becoming president of the Association of Geologists. Curry used his family’s wealth to create an annual award for excellence in postgraduate geological research.
Richard William Palmer-Jones, musician
Born in 1947, Palmer-James is a musician and songwriter best known as a founding member of Supertramp. The Bournemouth School alumnus has also written for King Crimson and others.
Charles Gray, actor
Having attended school in Bournemouth during the Second World War, Gray became a clerk to an estate agent, but left to become an actor. Starting out on stage, he became an accomplished actor best known for his work as Blofeld in the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever.
Sophie Rundle, actress
Born in Buckinghamshire, Rundle moved to Dorset and attended Bournemouth Girls’ School until 2006. Five years later she graduated from RADA and has been making a name for herself ever since.
Credits include Ada Thorne in BBC’s Peaky Blinders, Ann Walker in HBO’s Gentleman Jack, Vicky Budd in BBC series Bodyguard and codebreaker Lucy in ITV series The Bletchley Circle. Rundle also appeared as Labia in episodes of the British-American sitcom and as Alice’s 2017 drama Jamestown in Sky One, on the set of which she met costar Matt Stokoe.
Benny Hill, actor and comedian
Hill was born in Hampshire in 1924. Both his father and grandfather had been circus clowns, which foreshadowed his own career as a stratospheric comedian. He was formally enrolled at Taunton’s School in Southampton, but was evacuated to Bournemouth School during the Second World War.
Hill was a truck driver and projector operator, before moving to the Combined Services Entertainment division. He made a name for himself on radio, but it’s on television – particularly the 60s hit The Benny Hill Show – that the burlesque actor is best remembered.
James Grigg, politician
Born the son of a carpenter in 1890, Grigg won a scholarship to Bournemouth School and went on to study mathematics at Cambridge. He joined the civil service and worked for the Treasury, becoming chief of staff to the chancellor.
After a posting in India, he returned to Great Britain and became permanent Under-Secretary of State for War in 1939. He was promoted to Secretary of State for War by Winston Churchill, a position he retained until 1945 , date on which he loses his seat as a deputy and retires. of public life.
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