Remembering Patteson – Becky Jacobs

Bishop John Coleridge Patteson attended the King’s School in Ottery St Mary, near his family’s home, before going away to boarding school at Eton. In memory of Patteson, today one of the school’s four houses is named after him. Here Head of Patteson House, Mrs Becky Jacobs, explains why Patteson still inspires her and the King’s pupils today.

Becky Jacobs at Patteson's Cross
Becky Jacobs with students from Patteson House at the rededication of Patteson’s Cross in 2017, attended by the Rt Revd Ellison Quity and the Most Revd Leonard Dawea

I became Head of Patteson House at the King’s School, Ottery St Mary in January 2010. I was instantly intrigued by the man who was our figurehead and as an historian wanted to know all about him. I have tried to read as much as possible about him and use this information to try to translate to my students some of Patteson’s values and aspirations. I love the fact that education was at the heart of Patteson’s life and he sought not only to educate others but at a time when it was very much a privilege.  I am delighted too that he tried to include women as well as men in his quest. This was forward thinking for the 19th century.

I am fascinated with Patteson’s journey to the other side of the world and the remoteness he must have felt. I wonder if he missed East Devon. I have never been to the Solomon Islands, maybe one day I will go there. I have an image of this tall, bearded man wading ashore at Nakapu with gifts and then being tragically struck down. I am immensely proud that Patteson was an anti-slavery pioneer. Other houses at the King’s school cannot necessarily testify to the great character of their figureheads but we can…like the suffragettes Patteson’s colour (green) suggests growth and development. Again and again, education and personal belief is all important. I am proud to be able to talk about Patteson in assembly and show he is so incredibly relevant today. I can use him as a role model for students, someone who expressed a need to learn continually and someone willing to take risk, to travel and to learn about other cultures.

I have pinned my colours firmly to the mast as Head of Patteson at the King’s school. I ALWAYS wear something green every day, have some wonderful banners and I talk about Patteson’s memory often.  I was really proud that my students raised over £100, four years ago to help towards cleaning up the memorial at Patteson’s Cross. I also remember several years ago abseiling down Feniton Church tower to raise money for causes in the Solomon Islands, a great experience!

Becky Jacobs with ACoM staff
Becky Jacobs with ACoM’s General Secretary Dr Abraham Hauriasi and Mission Secretary Fr Nigel Kelaepa on a visit to the King’s School

I hope later in the year to inspire students to find a 21st century equivalent to Patteson, to partner his ideas and aspiration in the modern age. Having said that, Patteson belongs as much in the 21st century as he did in the 19th. I could not be prouder than to have this person as our House figurehead at The King’s School.

Becky Jacobs
Head of Patteson House and Teacher of History and Politics
The King’s School, Ottery St Mary, Devon

The King’s School is formally linked with the Bishop Norman Palmer School in the Solomon Islands. There have been teacher exchanges and visits, and pupils have exchanged letters and worked on joint environmental projects.