Howell's School, Denbigh

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Howell's School
Motto Deo Soli Sit Honor Et Gloria
(Unto God Only Be Honour and Glory)
Established 1859
Closed 2013
Type Independent, day & boarding
Location Denbigh
53°11′03″N 3°24′55″W / 53.184217°N 3.41531°W / 53.184217; -3.41531Coordinates: 53°11′03″N 3°24′55″W / 53.184217°N 3.41531°W / 53.184217; -3.41531
Gender Girls
Ages 3–18
Colours Maroon

Howell's School Denbigh (Welsh: Ysgol Howell Dinbych) was an independent girls only school located in Denbigh, Denbighshire. The school taught girls from the age of 3 up to 18 and contained a pre-prep, preparatory, senior and sixth form. The school was established in 1859 with funding from Thomas Howell's trustees who later established Howell's School Llandaff in 1860. The school had many facilities including a sports hall, 120 acres of grounds and an equestrian centre.[1] In the 2011 Telegraph Independent League Table results Howell's School came 298th in the UK with 22.03% A* Grade and 45.79% A* or A grade.[2]

Following some years of decline in numbers, and a series of tribunals involving staff wrongfully dismissed amid allegations of poor management, the school announced on 2 August 2013 that it would not be reopening for the next academic year citing financial difficulties as the primary reason, although this is disputed.[3][4]

The school went into liquidation on 22 August 2013 following a meeting with creditors.


Thomas Howell was a Welshman and a merchant draper of the city of London who made his fortune trading with Spain and Portugal from 1519 to 1527. When he died in 1537, he bestowed in his will 12,000 golden ducats (about £2,200,000) to the Drapers' Company, the proceeds of which were to be given every year for ever to four maiden orphans of his lineage. If such could not be found, then to other maiden orphans at the discretion of the Master and Wardens.[5]

Howell's Rear in the snow

The Drapers’ Company had great difficulty in getting this money from Spain. Eventually, in 1541, £570 was received in cash as well as a consignment of wine and oil, which was sold to young men of the Company. There still remained a large sum of money to be recovered and the services of the Bishop of London were enlisted. The money was invested in freehold property in the City of London.The difficulty of the administering the Trust began at once, because it was usually hard to find orphan maidens of Howell’s kin. In the year 1853, more than three hundred years after the death of Thomas Howell, an Act of Parliament was passed, empowering the Court of Chancery to extend the Trust to the establishment of girls’ schools in Wales. Two girls’ schools in Llandaff and Denbigh were built in 1858, and were both carried on by the Drapers’ Company. The School was originally built for fifty-five boarders and fifty day girls. A system of houses was afterwards begun, in addition to the original block of buildings. There were three; Haulfryn, Bodgwilym and Minffordd. In 1914 a wing was built, containing additional classrooms, music rooms, gymnasium and an Assembly Hall which has now become the Library. In 1931, another milestone was reached with the opening of extensive new buildings, the Great Hall, the Dining Hall and Kitchens, and three new Houses; St George’s, St Andrew’s and St Patrick’s. From time to time many other improvements have been made, such as a sports pavilion, swimming bath, and tennis courts.[6]


The school held extensive grounds backing onto the Denbighshire countryside. It also housed its own equestrian centre with several arenas, jumping and livery facilities.[7]


In June 2012 Rebecca Raven, an art teacher, won an unfair dismissal case against the school after an application for maternity leave.[8] The school claimed that Mrs Raven had been employed to cover a teacher with long term sickness who had since decided not to return.[8] A subsequent audit had shown only a part-time post was required, which Mrs Raven declined.[8] They had been unaware that she was pregnant.[8] However the tribunal believed the real cause was the "extremely precarious" state of the school finances and that the school did not want to "waste money on maternity pay".[9] Dr Philip Dixon, of ATL Cymru, stated that: "This is an appalling example to give to pupils who are, hopefully, being educated to be young, independent women with fulfilling careers and lives. We are delighted to have won this case for Mrs Raven. It is a victory for natural justice and common sense."[8] The school is considering an appeal.[9]

Rebecca Raven was awarded over £33000 in compensation from the case and a progress update shows that as of August 2013 she has yet to receive any money at all from Howell's.[10]

In March 2013 sacked headmaster Bernie Routledge and teacher Helen Price both won their cases for unfair dismissal.[11] The tribunal chairman found that there was no evidence that either had deserved their sackings. He described the disciplinary procedure undergone by Mr. Routledge (which was carried out by the brother of Robbie Locke, a school trustee) as "cack-handed" and "chaotic", saying the panel felt the dismissals were as a result of issues raised by Mr Routledge regarding the conduct of a member of staff (Sarah Hickman) who was a good friend of the Robbie and Nicola Locke (both trustees of the school) who allegedly pressured staff to fill out inspection questionnaires dishonestly. Mr Routledge also aired concerns about irregularities in pension payments. The head teacher told the tribunal that during a break Nicola Locke had called him a paedophile.The tribunal ruled that both teachers were entitled to "[12] substantial" damages.[13] On 12 September Routledge was awarded £217000 and Price £84000. They are unlikely to receive their awards as the school went into receivership about 3 weeks earlier.

Another member of staff, senior mistress Morwen Murray, was awarded damages in September 2013 for unlawful deduction of earnings after she took sick leave. She was sacked the day before the school announced its closure and is pursuing a further claim.

The NASUWT have pursued nearly ten claims against the school (as of September 2013) and have won every one.[12]

The school announced that it would be closing on 2 August 2013.[14] An independent auditor's report in August 2012 outlined concerns which cast doubt on the ability of the school to remain a going concern. On 22 August the school went into liquidation,[15] calling into question the payment of awards still owing to staff (Rebecca Raven, Bernie Routledge and Helen Price among others) and other creditors. It has emerged that the bankruptcy was brought about by the withdrawal of goodwill by the Lockes themselves, with regard to rent. The school had been operating rent-free and the Lockes insisted on charging rent, changing the balance sheet substantially.[16]

The school was run by H2000, directors Robbie and Nicola Locke, who give their main residence as the Cayman Islands.[17]

Notable former pupils[edit]


  1. ^ "Howell's (Denbigh) | Junior and Senior Girls Independent School | Wales". Guide to Independent Schools. Retrieved 2011-11-09. 
  2. ^ Payne, Sebastian (20 September 2011). "GCSE results 2011: independent schools". The Daily Telegraph. London. 
  3. ^ "Howell's School at Denbigh announces its closure". BBC News. 4 August 2013. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  4. ^ "Former head of Howell's School in Denbigh in 'scapegoat' claim". BBC News. 7 August 2013. 
  5. ^ Stone, M.K. Howell's School Denbigh. Denbighshire Historical Society Transactions, 8, 1959, pages 157 - 162
  6. ^ More than 400 years of school tradition; advertisement feature. Country Quest, Volume 19, Number 9, February 1979, pages 74 - 80
  7. ^ "Howell's School (Denbigh), Denbigh, Wales (North), Independent Schools". Retrieved 2011-11-09. 
  8. ^ a b c d e "Howell's School in Denbigh sacked pregnant teacher unfairly". BBC News. 6 June 2012. Retrieved 6 June 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Sam Marsden (6 June 2012). "Private school 'sacked pregnant teacher to avoid wasting money on maternity pay'". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Howell's School, Denbigh: Head wins unfair dismissal case". BBC News. 12 March 2013. 
  12. ^ a b "Howell's School, Denbigh: Dismissed Bernie Routledge awarded £217,000". BBC News. 11 September 2013. 
  13. ^ Hough, Andrew (13 March 2013). "Howell's School head teacher unfairly sacked over Facebook pupil contact". The Daily Telegraph. London. 
  14. ^ "Howell's School at Denbigh announces its closure". BBC News. 4 August 2013. 
  15. ^ "Howell's School, Denbigh, goes into liquidation". BBC News. 22 August 2013. 
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Billington, Michael (20 October 2011). "Sheila Allen obituary". The Guardian. London.