Downe House School

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Downe House School
Downe House School logo.png
Hermitage Road

, ,
RG18 9JJ

Coordinates51°26′14″N 1°16′25″W / 51.4373°N 1.2737°W / 51.4373; -1.2737Coordinates: 51°26′14″N 1°16′25″W / 51.4373°N 1.2737°W / 51.4373; -1.2737
TypePrivate day and boarding
Religious affiliation(s)Church of England
Department for Education URN110123 Tables
HeadmistressEmma McKendrick
Age11 to 18
Colour(s)    [1]
Main entrance

Downe House School is a selective independent girls' boarding and day school in Cold Ash, a village near Newbury, Berkshire, for girls aged 11–18.[2]

The Good Schools Guide described Downe House 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".[3]


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.[4]

By 1921 Down House was too small for the school, so Willis bought The Cloisters, Cold Ash, Berkshire, from the religious order known as the Order of Silence. The school moved to the Cloisters in 1922, where it has since remained. It now accepts day pupils but is still predominantly a boarding school.

Downe House won Tatler's "Best Public School" award in 2011.[5]


As most girls at Downe House are boarders, the house system is incorporated with the boarding programme. Three boarding houses home the youngest students, after which they progress to a mixed-age house until Sixth Form[6]

The houses are:

  • Lower School (ages 11–13)
    • Hill
    • Hermitage
    • Darwin
  • Upper School (ages 13–16)
    • AGN (Ancren Gate North)
    • AGS (Ancren Gate South)
    • Aisholt
    • Holcombe
    • Tedworth
  • Sixth Form (ages 16–18)
    • Willis
    • York

Students in the Lower Fourth year spend a term boarding at Downe House's campus at Sauveterre near Toulouse, France.[7]


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. The biggest intake of girls is at 11+.

Entry into Downe House is competitive, with entrants needing to pass the Common Entrance Examination.


The core subjects at Downe House 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.[8]

In 2010, the Cambridge Pre-U was introduced as an alternative to A Levels at Downe House.[9]

2004 fees story[edit]

In 2004, as reported by The Times, Downe House was one of about sixty of the country's leading independent schools which were accused of running an unlawful price-fixing cartel, contrary to the Competition Act 1998, enabling them to drive up fees charged to thousands of parents.[10] After an Inquiry later that year, in 2005 the school was ordered to pay a nominal penalty of £10,000, and with the other schools agreed to make ex-gratia payments totalling three million pounds into a trust to benefit pupils who attended the schools during the period in question.[11] However, the Independent Schools Council said the investigation had been "a scandalous waste of public money". Jean Scott, its head, said that the schools had always been exempt from anti-cartel rules applied to business, were following a long-established procedure in sharing the information with each other, and had been unaware of a change to the law, on which they had not been consulted. She wrote to John Vickers, the Office of Fair Trading director-general, "They are not a group of businessmen meeting behind closed doors to fix the price of their products to the disadvantage of the consumer. They are schools that have quite openly continued to follow a long-established practice because they were unaware that the law had changed."[12]

Notable former pupils[edit]


  1. ^ "A new School uniform is in the offing". Downe House. Downe House School. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  2. ^ "Schools Guide 2012 - Downe House". Tatler.
  3. ^ Profile Archived 13 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine on the Good Schools Guide
  4. ^ Atkins 1976, pp. 106–110.
  5. ^ "Cold Ash school named Tatler's school of 2011". Newbury Weekly News. 7 October 2011. Archived from the original on 3 June 2013.
  6. ^ "Boarding". Archived from the original on 9 May 2012.
  7. ^ "Downe House Sauveterre". Downe House School. Downe House School. Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  8. ^ "curriculum". Archived from the original on 3 July 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  9. ^ "Liberated learning, through liberated teaching". Archived from the original on 11 August 2011.
  10. ^ Independent schools face huge fines over cartel to fix fees - Times Online
  11. ^ "OFT names further trustees as part of the independent schools settlement". Office of Fair Trading. 21 December 2006. Archived from the original on 10 June 2008.
  12. ^ "Private schools send papers to fee-fixing inquiry". The Daily Telegraph. London. 3 January 2004. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  13. ^ Sheppard, Martin (14 December 2014). "Margaret Aston: Historian who illuminated the study of religious life in England between the late Middle Ages and the Civil War". The Independent. Retrieved 3 January 2015.
  14. ^ Cochrane, Kira (11 January 2013). "Clare Balding: 'I want to make the world better, for women mainly'". The Guardian. London.
  15. ^ Bowen, Elizabeth (1950). "The Mulberry Tree". Collected Impressions. London: Longmans Green and Co. pp. 185–194.
  16. ^ "Out of the Shadow". Chicago Tribune. 9 April 1989.
  17. ^ Quinnell, Henrietta (2009). "Fox [née Henderson], Aileen Mary, Lady Fox (1907–2005)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/96247. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  18. ^ Gilbert, Gerard (3 December 2011). "Miranda Hart: 'I was never in the cool gang'". The Independent. London.
  19. ^ "Not too Cool for School!" (PDF). No. 1. Cloisters. Summer 2011. p. 5.[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ "An interview with Marina Hyde (Dudley-Williams DH 1992)". Alumnae News. Downe House Foundation. 18 January 2019. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  21. ^ "Downe House". Tatler. 20 November 2022. Retrieved 28 January 2023.
  22. ^ Roberts, Laura (17 November 2010). "Royal wedding: 50 things you may not know about Kate Middleton and Prince William". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 5 June 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  23. ^ Heal, Jane (12 October 2018). "Mary Midgley obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 January 2023.
  24. ^ "Dame Rosemary Murray, First woman to be Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University (Obituary)". The Independent. 18 October 2004. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  25. ^ May, Alex (2009). "Murray, Dame (Alice) Rosemary (1913–2004)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/94367. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  26. ^ Tolstoy family at, accessed 6 January 2019
  27. ^ Currie, Jean I. (15 February 2001). "Edith Whetham". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  28. ^ Etherington-Smith, Meredith (31 August 2015). "Annette Worsley-Taylor: London Fashion Week founder whose passion for the best design helped turn British fashion into a global success". The Independent.


  • 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

External links[edit]