Wycombe Abbey

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Wycombe Abbey School
Wycombe Abbey Lozenge Grey on Blue for Wikipedia 19.02.20 KL.jpg
Wycombe Abbey
, ,
HP11 1PE

Coordinates 51°37′34″N00°45′06″W / 51.62611°N 0.75167°W / 51.62611; -0.75167 Coordinates: 51°37′34″N00°45′06″W / 51.62611°N 0.75167°W / 51.62611; -0.75167
Type Independent boarding school
Motto Latin: In fide vade
(Go in faith)
Religious affiliation(s) Church of England
FounderDame Frances Dove
Department for Education URN 110547 Tables
Chairman of the councilPeter Warren
HeadmistressJ. Duncan
Staff117 Teaching
167 Support [1]
Age11to 18 [2]
Enrolment650 [2]
CapacityApprox. 650 [2]
Website www.wycombeabbey.com

Wycombe Abbey is an independent girls' boarding and day school in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England. It is consistently ranked as one of the top all-girls schools in academic results. [3] [4]


The school was founded in 1896 by Dame Frances Dove (1847–1942), who was previously headmistress of St Leonards School in Scotland. Its present capacity is approximately 650 girls, aged 11 to 18. [5] The current headmistress is Jo Duncan.

The school is on a 170-acre (69 ha) campus in central High Wycombe. The land includes woods, gardens, a Cold War bunker (RAF Daws Hill) and a lake, and rises up to 500 feet (150 m) above sea level in the Chiltern Hills. The freehold is owned by the school; the main house and several buildings at Wycombe Abbey are Grade II* listed.


Early history

The "Dove Window" in All Saints' Church, High Wycombe, memorialising Wycombe Abbey's founder, Frances Dove Dove.png
The "Dove Window" in All Saints' Church, High Wycombe, memorialising Wycombe Abbey's founder, Frances Dove

In the 13th century, the area, with the parish church, was part of the holding of the Abbess of Godstow. 600 years later, the priory at Godstowe was also re-founded as a school by Dame Frances Dove, and today is a 'feeder' preparatory school for Wycombe Abbey.

On the site of the present Wycombe Abbey was a large manor house known as 'Loakes House' which was the seat of the Archdale family, until 1700, when Thomas Archdale sold it to Henry Petty, 1st Earl of Shelburne. The earl, in turn, bequeathed the estate to his grandnephew, William Petty, (who inherited a different Earldom of Shelburne in 1761 [6] and became Prime Minister in 1782). The Shelburnes, though, had a far larger and grander residence at Bowood House in the Savernake Forest and spent little time at Loakes House.

Consequently, Lord Shelburne sold his estates in the area. Loakes House was purchased from them at auction by Robert Smith, 1st Baron Carrington, in 1798. He employed the architect James Wyatt to transform Loakes House into Wycombe Abbey as we see it today. The original house and other parts of the school are listed Grade II* on the National Heritage List for England with the landscaped grounds of the school listed Grade II on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. [7] [8]

World War II

The Air Ministry requisitioned Wycombe Abbey School in March 1942 to serve as the headquarters of the United States Eighth Air Force after the entry of the United States into World War II. It was returned to Wycombe Abbey on 9 May 1946. [9]


As at most independent schools, the pupils are placed in houses. The houses at Wycombe Abbey are: Airlie, Barry, Butler, Campbell, Cloister, Pitt, Rubens, Shelburne and Wendover. Girls in UVI live in Clarence, while the junior-most girls, UIIIs, live in Junior House. Every house at Wycombe Abbey is linked to a colour and, as part of the school uniform, girls wear ties which correspond to their House colour i.e., sky blue – Barry, green – Cloister, brown – Airlie, pink – Rubens, yellow – Pitt, orange – Butler, purple – Campbell, dark blue – Shelburne, red – Wendover, lavender – Junior. Each girl has her own 'House Mother', a girl in the year above in the same house who looks after her, particularly when new to the school. Each house has a housemistress and matrons.

Notable alumnae (Wycombe Abbey Seniors)

Notable staff

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  1. "Staff List". wycombeabbey.com. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 "Wycombe Abbey School". Edubase. HM Government. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  3. Griffiths, Sian (21 July 2013). "The richest pickings". The Sunday Times .
  4. "Schools Guide 2016: Wycombe Abbey". Tatler .
  5. "School census data". Edubase. Departement for Education. Retrieved 17 April 2013.
  6. Henry Petty was created Earl of Shelburne in 1719, but when he died without heirs in 1751, the earldom became extinct. It was recreated for his kinsman, John Petty in 1753; it was this latter earldom that William Petty inherited.
  7. Historic England, "Wycombe Abbey (parts of Wycombe Abbey School) (1310649)", National Heritage List for England , retrieved 22 August 2017
  8. Historic England, "Wycombe Abbey (1000609)", National Heritage List for England , retrieved 22 August 2017
  9. "History of the School" . Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 "Wycombe Abbey". Archived from the original on 15 September 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2009.
  11. Somerset Webb, Merryn (11 December 2007). "Such a Waste, the 'Cupcake Revolution'". The Evening Standard . Archived from the original on 28 December 2013.
  12. "Whitelaw, Annie Watt (1875–1966), headmistress and educationist | Oxford Dictionary of National Biography" . Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/70074 . Retrieved 16 January 2019.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

Further reading