A copy of the picture of the late Bishop of Bristol, recently found in the National Portrait Gallery collection, was given to Oliver Tomkins Primary School in Toothill in late April to mark the completion of a new building that links together the former infant and juniors.
The school in Beaumaris Road was opened by Bishop Oliver Tomkins in January 1980. He had taken a keen interest in the inclusion of a Church of England school in the early 1970s masterplan for Swindon’s western expansion, before he retired in 1975.
The school operated as separate infant and junior sections until it federated under a single governing body and headteacher in 2011.
Headteacher Rhian Cockwell said: “We had been planning a ceremony to open the new link building when I was contacted by members of the bishop’s family to say they would like to give us a copy of the picture and a book illustrated with photographs of their father’s life, which includes pictures of the school opening”
Ruth Paine said she had taken over her father’s correspondence with the school after he passed away in 1992. “My father and mother always received such wonderful illustrated Christmas cards and we’ve continued to maintain the relationship.”
Stephen Tomkins said: “We only recently discovered via a Google search that the National Portrait Gallery had commissioned a photograph of my father, at about the same time as his four children were compiling a book on his life.
“The school has had a portrait of my father in his formal Bishop’s robes since it opened, but we rather like the simplicity and informality of the black and white picture we’ve presented.”
On their visit Stephen and Ruth took an assembly using hats to tell the story of their father’s life: a pith helmet to illustrate his childhood in China, an air raid protection helmet to show what he did during the war and a bishop’s mitre to explain his work as a clergyman.
Mrs Cockwell said: “We put a lot of emphasis on the history of our school; it’s unusual to have this close link to the person who the school is named after. Our children have a keen interest in the bishop. The book is full of photographs which will help us pass on his story.”
The school is installing a display case to bring together the many different artefacts they have about the bishop.
Pictured: Joel and Evie Howarth hold the portrait with Stephen Tomkins and Ruth Paine, centre, with from left, Janet French and headteacher Rhian Cockwell and school governor Clive Deverill, right.
Party to say farewell to Miss French
Oliver Tomkins Primary School is holding a gathering of former pupils to say farewell to long serving teacher Janet French.
She is retiring after 37 years in teaching, 32 years at Oliver Tomkins. She plans to spend more time looking after her disabled father and helping at Christ Church in Old Town.
“I’m now teaching children of parents I taught in the early days of the school,” said Janet. “It would be lovely to meet them before I leave and also people who don’t have so much contact with us nowadays.”
The party takes place at the school on Tuesday 23 July, 2.30pm.
To help with arrangements, call the school on 01793 870471 if you plan to attend.