Friends' School, Lisburn

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Coordinates: 54°31′05″N 6°02′42″W / 54.518°N 6.045°W / 54.518; -6.045

Friends' School, Lisburn
Lisburn, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Type Preparatory Department and Voluntary Grammar
Motto Quae sursum sunt quaerite - seek the things that are above
Established 1774
Principal Mrs Elizabeth Dickson
Enrollment 950
Colours Red, Green and Yellow
Age Range 5 to 18
Denomination Quaker

Friends' School, Lisburn is a Quaker voluntary grammar school in the city of Lisburn, Northern Ireland founded in 1774.


Founded in 1774 on the basis of a bequest from John Handcock, a Quaker linen trader, when twenty acres were purchased at Prospect Hill from the Earl of Hertford. In 1774 the first Headmaster, John Gough, took up his post. The school was known as the Ulster Provincial School, and in 1794 became the responsibility of the Ulster Quarterly Meeting, the body representing the Religious Society of Friends in Ulster.

Pupils going to school in the c. 1920s.

Friends' is one of two Quaker schools in Ireland, the other being Newtown School, Waterford. There are nine in the United Kingdom. Friends' still embraces the Quaker ethos inherent within Quaker schools across the United Kingdom, and members of the Religious Society of Friends still have seats on the Board of Governors. The school has a strong heart for people of all races and religions to come together in a spirit of community and friendship. It originally only accepted pupils from Quaker families and could have been described as a public school, although this term is no longer in use in Northern Ireland due to the introduction of Grammar Schools. A period of silence is still observed in morning Assemblies, and is used for reflection and silent worship.

In 2011 the school was named by the Sunday Times as the best in Northern Ireland.


The School consists of a fee-paying Preparatory Department, Prospect House, and a Grammar School, the latter of which, until recently had a boarding department attracting pupils from abroad (mostly Hong Kong) due to its reputation. Friends' now only accepts day pupils, of around 140 a year contributing to a full enrollment of 970 for the Grammar school.

The latest addition to the school was a playground, opened in 2009. It stands in the place of the old swimming pool, beside Harding House. The swimming pool was reputed to be the oldest heated one in Ireland (1901).

Recent building programmes have included a new Preparatory Department, the refurbishment of all the science laboratories and significant improvements in the provision of disabled access, including the construction of two lifts, giving access to all floors of the West Wing and to all floors of the Main Building.

The refurbishment of the former Boarding Department has included the provision of new accommodation for the Geography Department and the expansion of ICT facilities. A purpose built greenhouse and potting shed was completed in November 2004. Improvements to pupils’ cloakroom areas were made during the 2004 – 2005 school year.

A purpose built preparatory department was completed in 1996 and retains the name Prospect House, after the old building which housed the department for almost fifty years. The Preparatory Department houses Lisburn's Friends meeting House.

Every year pupils from Friends' participate in the annual Quaker Pilgrimage with pupils from other Quaker Schools, such as Bootham School and Leighton.


The school offers a wide range of sports to partake in as extracurricular activities. Among the sports are rugby, hockey, Badminton netball and cricket. Friends' have won the Burney Cup a total of 15 times, sharing it on 4 occasions. in 2009, the rugby team made it to the quarter-final of the Ulster Schools' Cup narrowly losing out to eventual winners Ballymena Academy. The school is also highly successful in netball competitions.

Notable former pupils[edit]

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