Sedbergh School

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Sedbergh School
Sedbergh School.png
Sedbergh School
, ,
LA10 5HG

Coordinates 54°19′19″N2°31′54″W / 54.32182°N 2.53153°W / 54.32182; -2.53153
Type Public school
Private day and boarding
MottoDura Virum Nutrix
(Latin: "A Stern Nurse of Men")
Religious affiliation(s) Church of England
Established1525;499 years ago (1525)
Founder Roger Lupton [1]
Department for Education URN 112451 Tables
HeadmasterDaniel Harrison
Age4to 18
Enrolment530 pupils~
Former pupils Old Sedberghians

Sedbergh School is a public school (English private boarding and day school) in the town of Sedbergh in Cumbria, North West England. It comprises a junior school for pupils aged 4 to 13 and the main school for 13 to 18 year olds. It was established in 1525.



The school's playing field Sedbergh School Field.JPG
The school's playing field

Roger Lupton was born at Cautley in the parish of Sedbergh, Yorkshire, in 1456 and he provided for a Chantry School in Sedbergh in 1525 while he was Provost of Eton. [2] By 1528, land had been bought, a school built, probably on the site of the present school library, and the foundation deed had been signed. Lupton's subsequent donations to the school's Sedbergh scholars of numerous scholarships and fellowships to St John's College, Cambridge succeeded in binding the school to St John's, and gave the Cambridge college power over the appointment of Sedbergh's Headmasters. Lupton's statutes state that if any of the last four of the St John's College scholarships are left vacant for a year, unless for a reason approved by the provost and fellows of King's College Cambridge, the lands are to revert to Lupton's next of kin. Lupton added that he was certain that St John's would not be found negligent in so pious a work. [3] It was this link to St John's that probably saved Sedbergh in 154648 when most chantries were dissolved and their assets seized by Henry VIII's Commission.

Sedbergh was re-established and re-endowed as a grammar school in 1551 and the fortunes of the school in the coming centuries seem to have depended very much on the character and abilities of the headmasters with pupil numbers fluctuating and reaching as low a total as 8 day boys in the early 19th century.

One particularly successful period was during the Headship of John Harrison Evans (183861) who restored the prestige and achievements of the school and also funded the building of the Market Hall and Reading Room in the town. By 1857, the fellowships and scholarships which, since Lupton's time, had formed this link between the Sedbergh scholars and St John's College, ceased to be specially connected with Sedbergh. By 1860, the Lupton scholarships were combined and re-arranged under the name of the Lupton and Hebblethwaite Exhibitions. [4]

A more independent Governing Body was established in 1874 in a successful bid to maintain Sedbergh's independence (amalgamation with Giggleswick had been suggested) and the first meeting took place in the Bull Inn in Sedbergh in December.

In the 1870s there was a tremendous amount of development and building work at Sedbergh, under the careful eye of the headmaster, Frederick Heppenstall. This included the Headmaster's House (now School House), classrooms, a chapel and four other boarding houses.

Henry George Hart took over as headmaster in 1880 and his tenure saw a new chapel built in 1897, the founding of the Old Sedberghian Club in 1897/98, the creation of the prefectorial system, the inaugural Wilson run and the confirmation of the school motto "Dura Virum Nutrix" (Stern Nurse of Men).

In 1989 the number of boys in the school exceeded 500 for the first time, during the headship of Dr R G Baxter. Two years later a new coat of arms was granted to the school and it was visited by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

In 2005 the school was one of fifty of the country's leading independent schools which were found guilty of running an illegal price-fixing cartel which had allowed them to drive up fees for thousands of parents. Each school was required to pay a nominal penalty of £10,000 and all agreed to make ex-gratia payments totalling £3 million into a trust designed to benefit pupils who attended the schools during the period in respect of which fee information was shared. [5] [6]

The governing body decided to open the school to girls in 1999 and the first girls were admitted in 2001. [7] While the pupils are still predominantly boys, the number of girls attending has increased dramatically since the move into coeducation. The previous headmaster, Christopher Hirst, brought in the change to co-educational schooling from single-sex."

In January 2009 the Junior School moved from Bentham to join the senior school in Sedbergh. The Junior School has accommodation for both day and boarding boys and girls aged 3–13. On 26 February 2013, it was announced that the school would merge with Casterton School.

Despite its long history, The Good Schools Guide notes how “Sedbergh has faced up to the demands of the 21st century but managed to retain traditional values and ethos. Its increasing numbers indicate parents very much approve. It rightly retains its formidable reputation on the sports field but away from it, provides a happy and caring environment for all its pupils regardless of ability or sports prowess.” [2]

Junior School

Sedbergh Junior School
Sedbergh School
Type Preparatory day and boarding
Department for Education URN 121739 Tables
HeadmasterWill Newman
Age4to 13
Number of students200

The junior school was opened in 2002. It was previously located on the site of the former Bentham Grammar School after it was closed and Sedbergh took over its premises. In 2009 it moved to a site next to the main school. [8] The school relocated again in September 2013 to the site of the former Casterton School for girls and is now known as Casterton, Sedbergh Preparatory School. Casterton was absorbed into Sedbergh, with senior girls transferring to the main school and junior pupils remaining at the Casterton campus. Boarding is offered to Junior School pupils aged 8 and above.

Rong Qiao Sedbergh School

Opened in 2018, Sedburgh's international school, Rong Qiao Sedbergh School is located in Fuzhou, Fujian Province, China. It is a partnership between Sedbergh School and the Rong Qiao Group. Offering education for children from the ages of 3 to 18, its ethos draws on both English and Chinese teaching practice. 10% of students are international students, and 90% are Chinese nationals. [9] [10]

House system

Like most traditional public schools, the house system is incorporated with the boarding programme and most pupils are boarders. Most pupils at Sedbergh live in a boarding house, of which there are nine (six for boys, three for girls) chosen when applying to the school. It is here that he or she both sleeps and takes their daily meals. Day pupils are fully integrated into the programme and participate in activities. Houses compete amongst one another in school competitions such as debating, academic challenge (a University Challenge-style quiz) and 'House Unison' (a traditional singing competition), and in particular in sporting competitions, for example the seriously contested Senior Seniors (Inter-House rugby) and the Wilson Run. Houses are named mostly after illustrious Old Sedberghians or Headmasters.

Each house also has a set of house colours, which adorns the blazers of boys and girls in fifth form and below as well as on various house sports clothing. Pupils who throughout their school career demonstrate great service to their house are awarded their house colours by their Housemaster/ mistress. Sedberghians take immense pride in being awarded house colours which take the form of a scarf and a tie in the colours of their house.

The boarding houses also each have their own house magazine, named after the emblem of the house (for example, the magazine of Hart House is called The Jay), written and edited by the pupils within the house.

Sedbergh Junior School, now Casterton, Sedbergh Preparatory School, located in Casterton, near Kirkby Lonsdale, also has Cressbrook House for boarding boys and Beale for boarding girls.

Senior houses

EvansBoysYellow Wasp
HartBoysGreen Jay
PowellBoysPink Chameleon
SchoolBoysBlue Kingfisher
SedgwickBoysRedRouge et Noir
WinderBoysPurple Mole
LuptonGirlsWhite/Black Wolf
RobertsonGirlsTurquoise Butterfly
CarusGirlsRed/Blue Eagle

Junior houses

Extracurricular activities

Clubs and societies

Sedbergh offers outdoor pursuits as well as academic societies, including 'The Headmaster's Society' which is for Academic Scholars in the Sixth Form and chaired by the Headmaster. It is a forum for debate and discussion of major topical issues based upon papers delivered by the pupils and it also hosts talks given by intellectuals and public figures. The junior academic society is known as the 'Phoenix Society'.

Sedbergh's other academic club is the Dinner Debating Society which meets twice termly for black-tie 'dinner debates' hosted by Housemasters. [11]

Sedbergh's has an Outdoor Pursuits Club. Activities organised in the local area by the club include climbing, gill scrambling and pot-holing as well as mountain biking and fell walking.


Sedbergh has a sporting tradition. [12] [13] Many Old Sedberghians have national caps and international tournament experience or have represented the school at county or national level. [2] [14] [15]

Sedbergh is renowned for producing rugby football players, including the England captains Wavell Wakefield, John Spencer and Will Carling, and the world cup winner Will Greenwood. Sedbergh is represented in the Rugby Union Guinness Premiership at the time of writing by seven players at first or second team level in four different clubs. In November 2010 the school rugby team was named "School Team of the Year" at the Aviva Daily Telegraph School Sport Matters Awards after going the entire previous season undefeated. [16]

The school has hosted Cumberland and Minor Counties cricket matches on several occasions. [17] In 2019, Lancashire County Cricket Club played their County Championship match against Durham at Sedbergh School. They also faced Essex there in 2023. [18]

Anti-Assassins Rugby Club

The Anti-Assassins Rugby Club (A-As) was founded in 1950 when Sedbergh Old Boys were invited to pick a Northern team to play against the masters and Old Boys (The Assassins) of Sedbergh School. Now this invitational team plays as SpoonAAs (Spoon Anti-Assassins) as it raises funds for the Wooden Spoon charity.


As with many English public schools, Sedbergh has developed its own traditions unique to the school.

Wilson Run

Start line of the Wilson Run Wilsonrun 1-1-.jpg
Start line of the Wilson Run

One of the unique school traditions is the Wilson Run, also known as the "Ten Mile" or "The Ten"; it is named after Bernard Wilson (the first housemaster of Sedgwick House). The race distance is just over 10 miles (10 miles 385 yards), about 7 miles of which crosses the surrounding fells with the rest going along roads. Pupils must qualify to take part in the race over an 11-mile training route which covers most of the race route. The race is one of the longest, hardest and most gruelling school runs in the country and has been a tradition for well over 100 years. The run has been cancelled only three times, owing to epidemic (1936), snow (1947) and the foot and mouth epidemic.

School song

Winder is the school song for Sedbergh School, named after the fell that dominates the northern skyline of the school. The hill is a gateway to the Howgill Fells and school tradition dictates that pupils must climb it at least once during their time at Sedbergh.

The song is sung at all major school events such as the Wilson Run.

Buildings and features


Sedbergh School Chapel Relig chapel-1-.jpg
Sedbergh School Chapel

This was built in Perpendicular style in 1895–97, and was designed by the Lancaster architects Austin and Paley. [19] [20]

Chapel organ

The school took delivery of a custom built, four manual organ console in November 2015, which replaced an organ that was acquired from the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Hucknall. This two manual instrument had been built by Nigel Church and moved to the school by David Wells in 1994. The instrument can now be found in a church in Lincolnshire.

War cloisters

The cloisters at Sedbergh are a monument to old boys and masters of the school killed during the Great War and the Second World War. The cloisters were dedicated in 1924 and then re-dedicated after the Second World War. The cloisters were restored and partially rebuilt in 2005 and on Remembrance Day again re-dedicated after an appeal had raised over £130,000 for the necessary work.

The school also has a separate memorial for Old Sedberghians awarded the Victoria Cross, of which there are four. Brigadier Jock Campbell who won the Military Cross in the First World War and the Victoria Cross at the battle of Sidi Rezegh in the Second and was a member of Evans House. Three of the Old Sedberghian winners of the Victoria Cross were Old Sedgwickians, RJT Digby-Jones at Wagon Hill in 1900 in the Boer War, George Ward Gunn at Sidi Rezegh in 1941 and Kenneth Campbell over Brest Harbour, also in 1941.

Four Battle of Britain pilots attended the school. Pilot Officer Desmond Kay DFC & Bar, Pilot Officer Noel Benson were killed during the war, but Flt Lt Kenneth Stoddart AE, and Flying Officer Alec Worthington survived.


Notable Old Sedberghians


Politics and law


The arts, literature and humanities

A former teacher at the school was Henry Watson Fowler, the writer of A Dictionary of Modern English Usage

Science and exploration



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