Sherborne School

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Coordinates: 50°56′49″N 2°31′05″W / 50.947°N 2.518°W / 50.947; -2.518

Sherborne School
Dorset sherbone school.jpg
Motto Dieu et mon droit
(God and my right)[1]
Established 1550
Type Public school
Independent day and boarding
Religion Church of England
Headmaster Christopher Davis
Chairman of the Governors Professor Richard Hodder-Williams
Founder St Aldhelm
Location Sherborne
DfE number 835/6006
DfE URN 113918 Tables
Students 598
Gender Boys
Ages 13–18
Houses 8

Royal Blue & Gold

Former pupils Old Shirburnians

Sherborne School is a British independent boys school, located in the town of Sherborne in north-west Dorset, England. It is one of the original member schools of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference. It has close partnerships with the nearby girls' school Sherborne Girls and shares some activities and Sixth Form courses.


The school's origins date back to the eighth century, when a tradition of education in Sherborne was begun by St Aldhelm. According to legend, Alfred the Great was one of the school's early pupils. The school was then linked with Sherborne Abbey, formerly a Benedictine house. The earliest known Master was Thomas Copeland in 1437. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Edward VI re-founded the school in 1550 as King Edward's School, a free grammar school for local boys. The present-day school stands on land which once belonged to the abbey's monastery. The Library, Chapel, and Headmaster's rooms, which adjoin the Abbey Church, are modifications of its original monastic buildings.

The present School’s earlier lives take us back four hundred, perhaps a thousand years. In the Beckett Room below the library there survives Anglo-Saxon masonry, a reminder that the School occupies all that remains of the site of Sherborne Abbey (AD705, remodelled as a Benedictine Abbey in 998). The Headmaster and the senior staff now have their offices, appropriately enough, in the Abbot’s house, rather grandly refashioned, like the Abbey itself, in the 15th Century; the library was, perhaps, the Abbot’s ‘Guest Hall’ (13th – 15th Century); the Chapel occupies another monastic refectory (12th-15th Century, but much rebuilt and extended in the 19th Century). Go Just beyond the Headmaster’s block and face the Abbey and you can see quite clearly on the walls to your right the outlines of the monastic cloister with its curious first floor Abbot’s Chapel; the conduit, where the monks wash, was removed by the Victorians and rebuilt outside Bow House.

Illustrated London News, 6 July 1861

Alas, the records are virtually silent on whether the small, but prosperous, medieval Abbey possessed a school. Probably it did, because by the mid-16th Century a schoolmaster was operating with a handful of pupils in Sherborne and, although not a monk (he was married!), the dissolution of the monastery in 1539 so threatened his livelihood that local initiative, the same that saved the Abbey church itself from destruction, was necessary to rescue him. The result was, eventually, the foundation by Royal Charter of Edward VI in 1550, with a small royal donation of land, of a small ‘Free Grammar School’, its governing body virtually identical with that of the Almshouse, another survivor of the Reformation and still situated with its exquisite medieval chapel intact, opposite the Abbey. The School clearly flourished in the 17th and 18th Centuries, perhaps sometimes reaching a maximum strength of 60-80 pupils taught by two masters, doubtless with a handful of assistants. Since the school buildings then merely comprised the Old School Room – a fine Jacobean edifice (1606) – with the ‘Oak Room’ wing of School House (1670), the staff residing in the former Abbey Lady Chapel, it must have been very crowded and noisy. One can still see the names of 18th Century pupils rather theatrically carved onto the windowsills of the Old School Room as they once sat on their forms around three sides of the room. Most pupils enjoyed practically free education as ‘foundationers’, but their numbers were always made up, sometimes even to a half, by ‘tablers’, fee-paying boarders, essential for the School’s financial wellbeing and providing some private profit to top up the Headmaster’s salary. Nearly all came from the immediate Sherborne area, or surrounding counties. The curriculum was narrow – Arithmetic, Hebrew, Divinity and the Classics – but there was an ambitious library much augmented by a huge purchase in 1687, most of which survives in excellent condition in the modern Beckett Room.

By the middle of the 19th Century Sherborne School seems to have hit deep trouble. There were only two boarders left to 38 foundationers. The revolutionary plans of the visionary new Headmaster, H D Harper (formerly Headmaster of Cowbridge Grammar School, Glamorgan, and a Scholar, Fellow and future Principal of Jesus College, Oxford) were, therefore, eagerly embraced by interested parties. The railway was on its way to Sherborne (it arrived in May 1860) and Harper proposed completely to relaunch his ailing school on enterprising lines, with new buildings, more staff, more subjects including ‘modern’ disciplines such as history, and to fill it with fee-paying boarders recruited from all over the country. It was wildly successful: by 1877 there were 248 boarders and 18 staff. From that point onwards it was a story of continuous physical expansion until the end of the century and beyond, a typical ‘boom’ of prosperous late-Victorian Britain – this time, in Educational Enterprises Ltd. Old buildings were commandeered and new ones added - the Library, Chapel, School House (1860) and, beginning with the Big School Room (1879), the Courts, rounded off early in the 20th Century – you can see the dates on various buildings. The School also began to develop beyond the immediate site, establishing boarding houses in the town: The Green (1865), Abbey (1869), Abbeylands (1872), Harper (1873), followed by Lyon (1911), Westcott (1920), Elmdene/Wallace (1931) and the Digby (1964).

Qatar branch[edit]

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the current emir of Qatar received his primary education at the school obtaining his A Levels in 1997.[2][3]

In March 2009, it was announced that a replica of the school would be built in Doha, Qatar, with the first academic year starting in September 2009 and the development being completed by 2012.[4] However, as of the academic year 2012-2013 the school still operates from the building provided by the Qatar Supreme Education Council after adding a new building for seniors next to it. The Qatar preparatory school has five houses as follows (with the house colors indicated between parentheses): Amna (green), Irons (red), Jassim (purple), Powys (yellow) and Sheppard (Navy blue) and for the senior school- purple, red, green, blue, yellow and orange.


As Sherborne is predominantly a boarding school, the house system is based on the boarding programme. Each house has around 70 boys with a mix of both boarders and day pupils. Day boys are fully integrated into after-school and weekend programmes.[5] There are eight houses:

  • School House
  • Abbey House
  • The Green
  • Harper House
  • Wallace House
  • Abbeylands
  • Lyon House
  • The Digby



Sherborne School cricket ground

The school's cricket ground – the Upper – is usually used by the 1st XI cricket team. The ground was first used in 1870, when Sherborne School played Clifton College.[6] The ground is also one of the venues used by Dorset for their home fixtures. Dorset played their first match on the ground in the 1902 Minor Counties Championship against Devon. From 1902 to 1997, the ground played host to 69 Minor Counties Championship matches, with the final Championship match involving Dorset coming in 1997 when they played Herefordshire.[7] In addition, the ground has hosted 13 MCCA Knockout Trophy matches, the last of which was in 2008, when Dorset played Buckinghamshire.[8]

The ground has also played host to a single List A match, when Dorset played Bedfordshire in the 1968 Gillette Cup.[9]

On 30 May 2010, Dorset played Somerset, which included international players such as Marcus Trescothick and Craig Kieswetter in a friendly Twenty20 fixture on the ground. On 27 May 2011, the Upper hosted Dorset against Gloucestershire.[10]


  • 2010– Christopher J Davis
  • 2000–2010 Simon Flowerdew Eliot
  • 1988–2000 Peter Herbert Lapping
  • 1974–1988 Robert Donnelly Macnaghten
  • 1970–1974 David Ackfield Emms
  • 1950–1970 Robert William Powell
  • 1934–1950 Very Rev Alexander Ross Wallace
  • 1928–1933 Charles Lovell Fletcher Boughey
  • 1909–1927 Charles Nowell Smith
  • 1892–1909 Rev Frederick Brooke Westcott
  • 1877–1892 Rev Edward Mallet Young
  • 1850–1877 Hugo Daniel Harper
  • 1845–1850 Charles Thomas Penrose
  • 1823–1845 Rev Ralph Lyon
  • 1790–1823 Rev John Cutler
  • 1766–1790 Rev Nathaniel Bristed
  • 1751–1766 Rev Joseph Hill
  • 1743–1751 Rev Thomas Paget
  • 1733–1743 Rev John Gaylard
  • 1720–1733 Rev Benjamin Wilding
  • 1695–1720 Rev George Gerard
  • 1683–1694 Rev Thomas Curgenven
  • 1670–1683 Joseph Goodenough
  • 1663–1670 Rev Joseph Allen
  • 1653–1663 Rev William Birstall
  • 1641–1653 Ralph Balch
  • 1639–1641 Richard Newman
  • 1603–1639 George Grove
  • 1601–1603 Rev John Geare
  • 1581–1601 William Wood
  • 1575–1581 Rev Thomas Seward
  • 1565–1573 John Hancock
  • 1565–1565 John Delabere
  • 1563–1565 William Wolverton
  • 1561–1561 Thomas Parvys
  • 1560–1561 Francis Myddelton
  • 1553– Thomas Coke
  • 1449– Gibson
  • 1437– Thomas Copeland


The Usher, or Lower Master was an official appointed by the Governors, independent of the Head Master; he must have been least be a B.A. of Oxford or Cambridge, and might have been in Holy Orders. From the fragment of an account Roll, still extinct, of 1549, showed that there was also an Usher before the Refounding in 1550, but unfortunately the name of the then Usher is not given.[11]

[OS] = Old Shirburnians

  • 1560. Henry Bagwell, B.A.
  • 1561. John Martin, B.A.
  • 1563. Thomas Penye, B.A.
  • 1565. Rev George Holman, B A.
  • 1569. Nicholas Buckler, B.A.
  • 1570. Rev Hammet Hyde, B.A.
  • 1572. Rev Walter Bloboll, B.A.
  • 1573. John Elford, B.A.
  • 1574 – 1581 No name given
  • 1581. - Wornell
  • 1581. Philip Morris, B.A.
  • 1584. Rev Lawrence Fuller, B.A.
  • 1589. John Rooke, M.A.
  • 1595. William More, M.A.
  • 1605. George Gardiner, B.A.
  • 1611. Rev George Harrison, B.A.
  • 1625. Rev Randell Calcott, B.A.
  • 1629. Rev Richard Camplin,
  • 1629. John Jacob, B.A.
  • 1635. John Mitchell, B.A.
  • 1638. Rev Proctor
  • 1638. Rev John Fyler, B.A.
  • 1647. Thomas Martin B.A.
  • 1664. Jonathan Grey, B.A.
  • 1667. John Walker, M.A.
  • 1667. Rev William Plowman [O.S.] , M.A.
  • 1675. Rev Peter Blanchard, B.A.
  • 1682. Abraham Forrester, B.A.
  • 1695. Robert Forrester, [O.S], B.A.
  • 1695. Rev John Butt [O.S.] M.A.
  • 1718. Rev Edward Cosins, B.A.
  • 1723. Rev John Gaylard, M.A.
  • 1728. James Martin, B.A.
  • 1737. James Thomas, M.A.
  • 1760. Rev William Sharpe, M.A.
  • 1766. Rev John Bristed, M.A.
  • 1779. Robert Pargiter, B.A.
  • 1780. William Glasspoole, M.A.
  • 1800. James Knight Moore, M.A.
  • 1801. Rev William Hoblyn Lake, M.A.
  • 1804. Henry Cutler, B.A.
  • 1805. Rev David Williams, B.A.
  • 1813. Rev Thomas James, M.A.
  • 1860. Arthur Mapletoft Curteis, M.A., ceased to be Usher when the office was abolished under the new scheme, 1871

Old Shirburnians[edit]

For further details of notable old boys see Old Shirburnians.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]