Our History

“Our lives would’ve been very different had we not been in the Club so I count myself lucky … because when I joined in 1946 there weren’t the opportunities [there are today] and they gave us so many opportunities. I shall be forever grateful.”

Patrick Smith

Two East London boys from the turn of the century

East London Boys

We are over 100 years old and our history provides a fascinating insight into society over time.


The Early Years – Eton Manor Boys’ Club

Four old Etonians (Arthur Villiers, Gerald Wellesley, Alfred Wagg and Sir Edward Cadogan) set up the Eton Manor Boys’ Club in East London in 1909. The Manor Charitable Trust was founded in 1924 to administer the Club.

The history of the Eton Manor Boys’ Club, and the lifelong impact it had on its members, is a fascinating story.

Up the Manor Project team

Up the Manor Project Team

The importance of this social history was recognised in 2007 when the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded the Trust a grant of £50,000 to create a permanent oral history of the Club. During 2007-2008 the Trust ran an inter-generational oral history project involving a group of Year 10 students from a school in Leyton and former members of the Eton Manor Boys’ Club.

 Find out more about the ‘Up the Manor!’ project.


Thank you to Lee Valley Regional Park Authority who have produced a short film on ‘The History of Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre’ which was originally ‘The Wilderness’, the sports fields for the Eton Manor Boys’ Club.  The film includes photos showing the Boys enjoying the various activities the Club provided whilst upholding the tradition for fair play and togetherness.



Education – Middleton Stoney

Our educational work has developed from this earlier interest in the youth of Hackney. In 1951 Sir Edward Cadogan started running educational courses during school holidays at his home in Oxfordshire for members of the Boys’ Club. When he died in 1962, the Hon. Arthur Villiers expanded the number of courses as a tribute to him, these being held at Hertford College, Oxford (for A-level students) and at Eton College and Timsbury Manor, Hampshire (for O-level students).

Arthur Villiers’ family estate had once encompassed the village of Middleton Stoney in Oxfordshire, and The Manor Charitable Trust purchased land and buildings there, establishing an educational centre. The first course was held in December 1965 and, after the closure of the Boys’ Club in 1967, these subject-based courses were made available free of charge to state and independent school students throughout the country, thus bringing together students from different backgrounds to the benefit of all. Following the death of Arthur Villiers in 1969, the programme was expanded substantially.

Derek Marsh, a member of Eton Manor since 1950; a Manager of the Boys’ Club from 1956 to 1968 and from 1968 to early l996 the Manager of Villiers Park at Middleton Stoney, Oxfordshire, has written about ‘How it all Began and Developed‘ which charts the birth of the modern day charity.


The last 28 years

The success of these courses led the Trustees to expand the number of places available by building a second study centre in 1989 at Foxton, near Cambridge. From 1991 onwards professional development courses for teachers were also held at the two centres.

Following a strategic review in the late 1990s it was decided to close the study centre at Middleton Stoney and to expand the centre at Foxton. The number of courses for teachers was increased and regional networks were established linking schools, colleges and universities in seven locations. In 2000 the charity changed its name to Villiers Park Educational Trust, giving full recognition to the part played by Arthur Villiers in the development of the Trust and to its focus on educational activities.

We are the leading national expert in providing for high academic potential students aged 14-19 from across the UK. Based at our Cambridge Centre we provide an Inspiring Excellence Programme of courses and online extension activities. In 2009 we launched the Villiers Park Scholars Programme to support less advantaged bright students in areas of socio-economic deprivation. Our Advisory Service supports teachers and school leaders in their work to create outstanding lessons that stretch and challenge all learners.

Most recently we have developed two new initiatives to support our students and alumni.  The first is the Shaping Your Future Programme which uses our network of supporting organisations and professional alumni to provide career guidance to recent alumni.  The second is the INVOLVE Initiative which enhances the school experience by empowering our students to enrich the learning community in their schools and colleges.