Downe House School

Last updated

Downe House School
Downe House School logo.png
Downe House School
Hermitage Road

, ,
RG18 9JJ

Coordinates 51°26′14″N1°16′25″W / 51.4373°N 1.2737°W / 51.4373; -1.2737 Coordinates: 51°26′14″N1°16′25″W / 51.4373°N 1.2737°W / 51.4373; -1.2737
Type Private day and boarding
Religious affiliation(s) Church of England
Department for Education URN 110123 Tables
HeadmistressEmma McKendrick
Age11to 18
Colour(s)   [1]
Main entrance The Downe House School - - 11377.jpg
Main entrance

Downe House School is a selective independent girls' boarding and day school in Cold Ash, a village near Newbury, Berkshire, for girls aged 11–18. [2]


The Good Schools Guide described Downe House as an "Archetypal traditional girls' full boarding school turning out delightful, principled, courteous and able girls who go on to make a significant contribution to the world". [3]


Downe House was founded in 1907 by Olive Willis, its first headmistress, as an all-girls' boarding school. Its first home was Down House in the village of Downe, Kent (now part of the London Borough of Bromley), which had been the home of Charles Darwin. [4]

By 1921 Down House was too small for the school, so Willis bought The Cloisters, Cold Ash, Berkshire, from the religious order known as the Order of Silence. The school moved to the Cloisters in 1922, where it has since remained. It now accepts day pupils but is still predominantly a boarding school.

Downe House won Tatler 's "Best Public School" award in 2011. [5]


As most girls at Downe House are boarders, the house system is incorporated with the boarding programme. Three boarding houses home the youngest students, after which they progress to a mixed-age house until Sixth Form [6]

The houses are:

Students in the Lower Fourth year spend a term boarding at Downe House's campus at Sauveterre near Toulouse, France. [7]


Downe House educates girls between the ages of eleven and eighteen, taking them from the last years of junior school through to the sixth form. Girls can join the school at the ages of eleven, twelve, or thirteen, on leaving a primary or prep school, or at sixteen after completing GCSEs. The biggest intake of girls is at 11+.

Entry into Downe House is competitive, with entrants needing to pass the Common Entrance Examination.


The core subjects at Downe House are English, Mathematics and Science as well as Humanities, Classics and Social Sciences subjects and there are options such as Fine Arts, Foreign Languages and Business Studies. [8]

In 2010, the Cambridge Pre-U was introduced as an alternative to A Levels at Downe House. [9]

2004 fees story

In 2004, as reported by The Times , Downe House was one of about sixty of the country's leading independent schools which were accused of running an unlawful price-fixing cartel, contrary to the Competition Act 1998, enabling them to drive up fees charged to thousands of parents. [10] After an Inquiry later that year, in 2005 the school was ordered to pay a nominal penalty of £10,000, and with the other schools agreed to make ex-gratia payments totalling three million pounds into a trust to benefit pupils who attended the schools during the period in question. [11] However, the Independent Schools Council said the investigation had been "a scandalous waste of public money". Jean Scott, its head, said that the schools had always been exempt from anti-cartel rules applied to business, were following a long-established procedure in sharing the information with each other, and had been unaware of a change to the law, on which they had not been consulted. She wrote to John Vickers, the Office of Fair Trading director-general, "They are not a group of businessmen meeting behind closed doors to fix the price of their products to the disadvantage of the consumer. They are schools that have quite openly continued to follow a long-established practice because they were unaware that the law had changed." [12]

Notable former pupils


  1. "A new School uniform is in the offing". Downe House. Downe House School. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  2. "Schools Guide 2012 - Downe House". Tatler.
  3. Profile Archived 13 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine on the Good Schools Guide
  4. Atkins 1976, pp. 106–110.
  5. "Cold Ash school named Tatler's school of 2011". Newbury Weekly News. 7 October 2011. Archived from the original on 3 June 2013.
  6. "Boarding". Archived from the original on 9 May 2012.
  7. "Downe House Sauveterre". Downe House School. Downe House School. Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  8. "curriculum". Archived from the original on 3 July 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  9. "Liberated learning, through liberated teaching". Archived from the original on 11 August 2011.
  10. Independent schools face huge fines over cartel to fix fees - Times Online
  11. "OFT names further trustees as part of the independent schools settlement". Office of Fair Trading. 21 December 2006. Archived from the original on 10 June 2008.
  12. "Private schools send papers to fee-fixing inquiry". The Daily Telegraph. London. 3 January 2004. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  13. Sheppard, Martin (14 December 2014). "Margaret Aston: Historian who illuminated the study of religious life in England between the late Middle Ages and the Civil War". The Independent. Retrieved 3 January 2015.
  14. Cochrane, Kira (11 January 2013). "Clare Balding: 'I want to make the world better, for women mainly'". The Guardian . London.
  15. Bowen, Elizabeth (1950). "The Mulberry Tree". Collected Impressions. London: Longmans Green and Co. pp. 185–194.
  16. "Out of the Shadow". Chicago Tribune. 9 April 1989.
  17. Quinnell, Henrietta (2009). "Fox [née Henderson], Aileen Mary, Lady Fox (1907–2005)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/96247.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  18. Gilbert, Gerard (3 December 2011). "Miranda Hart: 'I was never in the cool gang'". The Independent . London.
  19. "Not too Cool for School!" (PDF). No. 1. Cloisters. Summer 2011. p. 5.[ permanent dead link ]
  20. "An interview with Marina Hyde (Dudley-Williams DH 1992)". Alumnae News. Downe House Foundation. 18 January 2019. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  21. "Downe House". Tatler. 20 November 2022. Retrieved 28 January 2023.
  22. Roberts, Laura (17 November 2010). "Royal wedding: 50 things you may not know about Kate Middleton and Prince William". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 5 June 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  23. Heal, Jane (12 October 2018). "Mary Midgley obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 January 2023.
  24. "Dame Rosemary Murray, First woman to be Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University (Obituary)". The Independent. 18 October 2004. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  25. May, Alex (2009). "Murray, Dame (Alice) Rosemary (1913–2004)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/94367.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  26. Tolstoy family at, accessed 6 January 2019
  27. Currie, Jean I. (15 February 2001). "Edith Whetham". The Guardian. ISSN   0261-3077 . Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  28. Etherington-Smith, Meredith (31 August 2015). "Annette Worsley-Taylor: London Fashion Week founder whose passion for the best design helped turn British fashion into a global success". The Independent.


Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Winchester College</span> Public school in Winchester, England

Winchester College is a public school with some provision for day pupils, in Winchester, Hampshire, England. It was founded by William of Wykeham in 1382 for New College, Oxford, and has existed in its present location ever since. It is the oldest of the nine schools considered by the Clarendon Commission. The school has begun the transition to become co-educational and has accepted day pupils from September 2022, having previously been a boys' boarding school for over 600 years.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Westminster School</span> Public school in Westminster, England

Westminster School is a public school in Westminster, London, England, in the precincts of Westminster Abbey. It derives from a charity school founded by Westminster Benedictines before the 1066 Norman Conquest, as documented by the Croyland Chronicle and a charter of King Offa. Continuous existence is clear from the early 14th century. Its academic results place it among the top schools nationally; about half its students go to Oxbridge, giving it the highest national Oxbridge acceptance rate.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marlborough College</span> Public school in Marlborough, Wiltshire, England

Marlborough College is a public school for pupils aged 13 to 18 in Marlborough, Wiltshire, England. Founded in 1843 for the sons of Church of England clergy, it is now co-educational. For the academic year 2015/16, Marlborough charged £9,610 per term for day pupils, making it the most expensive day school in the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) – the association of British independent schools.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mill Hill School</span> Public school in Mill Hill, London

Mill Hill School is a 13–18 co-educational private, day and boarding school in Mill Hill, London, England that was established in 1807. It is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Oundle School</span> Public school in Oundle, Northamptonshire, England

Oundle School is a public school for pupils 11–18 situated in the market town of Oundle in Northamptonshire, England. The school has been governed by the Worshipful Company of Grocers of the City of London since its foundation by Sir William Laxton in 1556. The school's alumni – known as Old Oundelians – include renowned entrepreneurs, scientists, politicians, military figures and sportspeople.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Down House</span> Former home of Charles Darwin

Down House is the former home of the English naturalist Charles Darwin and his family. It was in this house and garden that Darwin worked on his theory of evolution by natural selection, which he had conceived in London before moving to Down.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Downe</span> Human settlement in England

Downe, formerly Down, is a village in Greater London, England, located within the London Borough of Bromley but beyond the London urban sprawl. Downe is 3.4 miles (5.5 km) south west of Orpington and 14.2 miles (22.9 km) south east of Charing Cross. Downe lies on a hill, and much of the centre of the village is unchanged; the former village school now acts as the village hall. The word Downe originates from the Anglosaxon word dūn, latterly down, hence the South and North Downs. In April 1965, it, which was abolished, were transferred from the historic county of Kent and placed within the newly created London Borough of Bromley.

Millfield is a public school located in Street, Somerset, England. It was founded in 1935.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cold Ash</span> Human settlement in England

Cold Ash is a village and civil parish in West Berkshire centred 1 mile (1.6 km) from Thatcham and 2.5 miles (4 km) northeast of Newbury.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Clare Balding</span> English broadcaster, journalist, TV presenter and author

Clare Victoria Balding is an English broadcaster, journalist and author. She currently presents for BBC Sport, Channel 4 and BT Sport and formerly presented the religious programme Good Morning Sunday on BBC Radio 2. Balding was appointed as the 30th president of the Rugby Football League, serving a two-year term until December 2022.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Worth School</span> Public school in West Sussex, England

Worth School is a private co-educational Roman Catholic boarding and day school for pupils from 11 to 18 years of age near Worth, West Sussex, England. Until 2008, Worth was exclusively a boys' school. The school is located within Worth Abbey, a Benedictine monastery, in 500 acres (2.0 km2) of Sussex countryside. It is one of the three prominent Benedictine independent boarding schools in the United Kingdom; the other two being Ampleforth and Downside. For the academic year 2015/16, Worth charged day pupils up to £7,275 per term, making it the 42nd most expensive HMC day school. It is a public school in the British sense of the term.

In September 2005, fifty prominent private schools in the United Kingdom were found guilty of operating a fee-fixing cartel by the Office of Fair Trading. The OFT found that the schools had exchanged details of their planned fee increases over three academic years 2001–02, 2002-03 and 2003–04, in breach of the Competition Act 1998.

St Mary's School Ascot is a Roman Catholic independent day and boarding school for girls in Ascot, Berkshire, England. It is a member of the Girls' Schools Association. It was named 2015 "Public School of the Year" at the annual Tatler Schools Awards. It was ranked No. 1 in the U.K. by The Daily Telegraph in the 2018 GCSEs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Queen Margaret's School, York</span> Private boarding school and day school in York, North Yorkshire, England

Queen Margaret's, York is a private boarding school and day school for girls age 11–18 in Escrick Park near York, England. The school was named after Queen Margaret, the Queen of Scotland from c. 1070 to 1093.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Godolphin School</span> Girls school in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England

Godolphin School is an independent boarding and day school for girls in Salisbury, England, which was founded in 1726 and opened in 1784. The school educates girls between the ages of three and eighteen.

Olive Margaret Willis was an English educationist and headmistress. She founded Downe House School and was its head for nearly forty years, from 1907 to 1946.

Downe House or Down House may refer to:

Annette Worsley-Taylor was a British fashion entrepreneur and the founder of London Fashion Week.

The Order of Silence was a small Christian community based in Cold Ash, Berkshire between 1912 and 1921.