Whitgift school was established in 1596 by John Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury and is the first of the three schools that are operated by the Whitgift Foundation on Croydon. In present day, when people here the name Whitgift, what comes to mind isn’t the esteemed alumni that once strolled the halls, it isn’t the long-lasting, deep-rooted buildings that cluster within the 45-acre parkland site and it isn’t the memorable sporting achievements that will live eternally on the achievement boards of the sports centre, but instead the thing that sets Whitgift apart from all other schools, the thing that expresses Whitgift’s uniqueness: the wildlife. The school’s finely cut grass, undulating lawns and decorative ponds are home to several wildlife areas which include exotic species of birds such as flamingos and macropods like the wallabies that are commonly native to Australia, New Guinea and New Zealand. An Independent Schools Inspectorate Report even stated that “the inspirational grounds and gardens have several wildlife areas and enclosed spaces which foster calmness, peace and an opportunity to appreciate a sense of place and self-awareness.”

 

In most British schools, you wouldn’t find a zoo filled with the bright and polychromatic birds and you definitely wouldn’t find Peacocks that roam the school freely along with the students as they walk to their next class. Even though the blue peacocks are native to India and Sri Lanka whilst the green originates from Java and Myanmar, this exotic bird species has been apart of Whitgift culture for as long as most people can remember, but how did these magnificent creatures end up on this establishment?

 

After talking to Whitgift’s resident archivist, Mr William Wood, and searching through the archives for any articles upon this matter. I found out the origin of these majestic birds. In December of 1936, a peacock and a peahen had been gifted to the school by Captain Harry Lethbridge-Abell (a member of both the Royal Zoological Society and the Croydon Education Committee from 1930 to 1931) and his wife, Mrs Elizabeth Phillip Lethbridge-Abell. From there, the two peacocks mated and created the large family tree of peacocks that strut across the school grounds to this day.