In 1918 John was enrolled at Winchester College.
While still a student there, his mother died — a circumstance which created an extremely tight bond between John and his father. Despite his father’s remarriage, their relationship remained extremely close, and it is from the detailed weekly letters from John to his father that we know many details of his daily life, routine, activities and travels during his later years in Greece and Egypt.
John Devitt Stringfellow Pendlebury was born in London on October 12, 1904 to Lilian Dorothea and Herbert Stringfellow Pendlebury, Consulting Surgeon to St. George’s Hospital London. While an infant, John suffered the loss of his right eye and for the remainder of his life had to wear a glass replacement. Nevertheless, John had inherited a love of sports and physical activity from both his parents and became an avid athlete, devoting himself particularly to tennis, track and field, and fencing. Throughout his life, John maintained his athletic form and excelled so well in track and field that years later, when at Cambridge, he managed to achieve a record in the high jump (6 feet) that no other Cambridge student had met in over fifty years.
John’s studies at Winchester sparked his interest in the ancient world and the energy that John had always brought to sports was now also channelled into academics. He was an ardent and earnest student, but by all accounts always maintained an air of affability mixed with a sense of romanticism. John was initially drawn to Egyptian studies, but studied Classics as well and soon developed a parallel interest in ancient Greece.
He first visited Greece in 1923 during his Easter Break with John Cullen, a Classics Master from Winchester College. They crossed into Greece by train from the north and travelled down through the Vale of Tempe. [PEN 2/5/5] John fell for the country immediately. “If I’d been the Greeks in the Persian War,” he wrote to his father, “I’d have hung on like hell!”