Downe House School
|Type||Independent day and boarding|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Headmistress||Mrs Emma McKendrick|
|DfE URN||110123 Tables|
The Good Schools Guide described it 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".
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.
By 1921 Down House was too small for the school, so Willis bought The Cloisters, Cold Ash, Berkshire, to which the school moved in 1922, and where it remains. It now accepts day pupils but is still predominantly a boarding school.
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, exposed by The Times, 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 three million pounds into a trust designed to benefit pupils who attended the schools during the period in respect of which fee information was shared.
As most girls are boarders, the house system is incorporated with the boarding programme.
- Hill (ages 11–12)
- Hermitage (ages 11–12)
- Darwin (ages 12–13)
- Ancren Gate North (ages 13–16)
- Ancren Gate South (ages 13–16)
- Aisholt (ages 13–16)
- Holcombe (ages 13–16)
- Tedworth (ages 13–16)
- Willis (ages 16–18)
- York (ages 16–18)
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.
Entry into the school is competitive, with entrants needing to pass the Common Entrance Examination.
The core subjects 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.
Notable former pupils
- Clare Balding, BBC sports presenter
- Elizabeth Bowen (1899–1973), novelist and short story writer
- Angie Bray, British Conservative Party politician and MP
- Constance Collier, actress, writer
- Hermione Corfield, model 
- Sophie Dahl, daughter of Tessa Dahl, model and author
- Tessa Dahl, daughter of Roald Dahl and Patricia Neal
- Geraldine Gardner, actress
- Susannah Fiennes, artist
- Valerie Finnis, Lady Scott (1924-2006) gardener, V.M.H.
- Amaryllis Fleming (1926-1999) cellist
- Lillian Fontaine, actress
- Rosie Fortescue, Made in Chelsea
- Aileen Fox, archaeologist
- Valerie Goulding, member of Seanad Éireann
- Miranda Hart, comedian and actress
- Aletha Hayter (1911–2006), author and British Council representative
- Geraldine James, actress
- Kristin Linklater, vocal coach, now at Columbia University
- Susan Marsden, lawyer
- HRH Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, née Catherine Middleton, attended the school for a term before being moved to Marlborough College
- Philippa Middleton, socialite and sister of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge
- Mary Midgley, philosopher
- Dame Rosemary Murray, Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, founder of Murray Edwards College, Cambridge
- Priscilla Napier (1908–1998), author
- Betty Rea (1904–1965), sculptor and educationist
- Audrey Richards (1899–1984), social anthropologist who worked mainly in sub-Saharan Africa
- Anne Ridler (1912–2001), poet
- Evelyn Rothwell, oboist
- Georgina Rylance, actress
- Laura Solon, comedian
- Louise Thompson, Made in Chelsea
- Lena Townsend, politician
- Lady Gabriella Windsor, journalist and daughter of Prince Michael of Kent
- Rosie Tapner, model
- "Schools Guide 2012 - Downe House". Tatler.
- Profile on the Good Schools Guide
- Atkins 1976, pp. 106–110.
- Independent schools face huge fines over cartel to fix fees - Times Online
- "OFT names further trustees as part of the independent schools settlement". Office of Fair Trading. 21 December 2006.
- "Cold Ash school named Tatler’s school of 2011". Newbury Weekly News. 7 October 2011.
- Liberated learning, through liberated teaching
- Cochrane, Kira (11 January 2013). "Clare Balding: 'I want to make the world better, for women mainly'". London: The Guardian.
- "Success for Cirencester teen Hermione Corfield, who graces the cover of Tatler". This is Gloucestershire.
- "Out Of The Shadow". Chicago Tribune. 9 April 1989.
- Gilbert, Gerard (3 December 2011). "Miranda Hart: 'I was never in the cool gang'". London: The Independent.
- "Not too Cool for School!" (1). Cloisters. Summer 2011. p. 5.
- Oglethorpe, Tim (18 January 2013). "I never thought I'd be a secret agent at 62! Geraldine James feared her career was over. Now she's made a film with James Bond - and landed a spy role herself". London: Daily Mail.
- Party Pieces Princess in News of the World dated 21 November 2010, p. 4
- Pukas, Anna (20 November 2010). "Kate Middleton's eligible little sister". Daily Express.
- Atkins, Hedley (1976). "Downe House School". Down: the Home of the Darwins: the story of a house and the people who lived there (2nd ed.). [Chichester]: Phillimore. pp. 106–110. ISBN 0-85033-231-1.
- Bowen, Elizabeth (1950). "The Mulberry Tree". Collected Impressions. London: Longmans Green and Co. pp. 185–194. (Describes life at Downe House during World War I)
- Horsler, Val; Kingsland, Jenny (2006). Downe House: a Mystery and a Miracle. London: Third Millennium Publishing. ISBN 978-1-903942-50-5.
- Ridler, Anne (1967). Olive Willis and Downe House: an adventure in education. London: John Murray. At openlibrary.org