A Blog about the Wardour Castle Summer Schools 1964, 1965

The end of the WCSSs

The end of the WCSSs

With this second Wardour Castle school the venture came to a somewhat premature end. Premature because this 1965 school ended with a riotous party that went on all night, featured large numbers of people being sick in interesting places, and, most unfortunately, involved a fair amount of minor damage to the Cranborne Chase premises. It is interesting, though, of course, idle, to speculate on how different the course of recent British musical history might have been had the Wardour Castle experiment been able to continue for a few more years. (Seabrook, Mike (1994), Max: The Life and Music of Peter Maxwell Davies (London: Victor Gollancz), 93.).

The end of the WCSSs provided the impetus and the space needed for Gilbert, Lumsdaine and Banks to start the SPNM Composer Weekends, where composers continued to gather and which are of vital significance to understanding British music in the latter years of the 1960s. Although this blog is concerned with the two WCSSs, my wider research project seeks to detail the SPNM Composer Weekends.

Research into the Composer Weekends will also address the significant lack of literature about both series’, the scarcity of which privileges the Manchester-three.

But if the Wardour Castle schools thus saw the first germination of a phase of Max’s life and career, they also signalled the end of another: the 1965 school, with its nauseous and drunken conclusion, was the last time the so-called ‘Manchester School’ of composers did anything of any significance together.


After the second of the two events, Max, Goehr and Birtwistle had finally taken their places as fully acknowledged new leaders of British music, and were at last taken seriously as such. Max’s own last work on the school was typically generous: ‘This will be remembered’, he said, ‘for the arrival of Harrison Birtwistle.’ (Seabrook, Mike (1994), Max: The Life and Music of Peter Maxwell Davies (London: Victor Gollancz), 94.)

There is a further practical reason for no further Wardour Castle Summer Schools, since Birtwistle left in 1965 for Princeton (where Maxwell Davies had been) on a Harkness, the fellowship during which Punch and Judy was composed. 1 Stephen Pruslin had also been at Princeton until 1963.

Northcott confirms the reasons for the end of the WCSSs:

(LS100049, 1:53’28”)

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