OO Club President 2017-2018 and MD of I-Design Furniture Ltd Ben Walsgrove (87) describes how three friendships he formed while at Oakham have been integral to shaping his post-school career.
Armed with a degree in Estate Management from Reading University when he housing market was in the doldrums, Ben decided that this was not the moment to join a London ﬁrm of surveyors. Whilst Ben was on holiday with David Webb (86), his friend recommended that Ben join the Army. Ben duly did and spent the next ﬁve years travelling the world, serving in Bosnia and Northern Ireland, among other locations.
The housing market had picked up by the time Ben left the Army in 1995 and after doing his apprenticeship with Hamptons International in London, he founded a property development company with Ollie Wheatcroft (83). Nearly twenty years later, Braemore Group, the company Ben and Ollie set up, is still designing and building award-winning properties in the UK and Turkey.
In 2014 Ben co-founded a new company with Adam Ross (89), a friend he had known since the age of 4. The company, i-Design Furniture, specialises in the design, production and installation of furniture for the educational sector, with clients ranging from Oxford and Goldsmiths, University of London to various public schools. Most recently, they installed a new kitchen in School House and their next Oakham School-related project will be to add a fresh look to the bedrooms in Round House.
One of Ben’s strongest memories from his time at Oakham was also inspired by a friendship made at School. Ben’s sister Hannah (85) had a friend whose sister tragically died of cancer whilst a pupil at the School. Encouraged by Reverend Darryl, Ben founded Oakham School Charitable Association (OSCA) in 1986 and organised the charity’s ﬁrst event: a sponsored fancy dress race around Oakham from the Sports Hall to the Market Place. The event raised an incredible £4,000 for Macmillan Nurses.
Over two decades later OSCA is still going strong with Oakhamians raising thousands of pounds every year for some very worthwhile causes.
Becoming OO Club President for 2017–18 isn’t the ﬁrst time that a member of the Walsgrove family has held this title. Ben’s sister, Hannah, served as OO Club President in 2001–2002, which we believe makes Ben and Hannah the ﬁrst siblings to both hold the office of OO Club President.
During his year as President, Ben is particularly keen to get involved in raising awareness of The Hub, Oakham School’s networking platform for Old Oakhamians. Ben knows from ﬁrst-hand experience how much Old Oakhamians can help one another, in particular how they can help develop each other’s careers. Most recently Ben was the keynote speaker at the School’s ﬁrst ever Hub breakfast networking event. During his speech Ben described how his career path had been aided by his fellow OOs and he expressed his desire to pass on his knowledge and to give something back to help his fellow OOs. “Much of what I have achieved in my life is thanks to the friends I made at Oakham School.”