Red Maids' High School

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The Red Maids' School
The Read Maids' School coa.png
Established 1634
Type Independent
Headteacher Isabel Tobias
Founder John Whitson
Location Westbury Road
51°29′24″N 2°36′50″W / 51.4901°N 2.6140°W / 51.4901; -2.6140Coordinates: 51°29′24″N 2°36′50″W / 51.4901°N 2.6140°W / 51.4901; -2.6140
DfE URN 109371 Tables
Ofsted Reports
Capacity 600
Students 611
Gender Girls
Ages 6–19
Houses Maryflowre, Seabrake, Discoverer, Speedwell
Colours Light Blue, Green, Yellow, Dark Blue
Publication 1634

The Red Maids' School is an independent school for girls in Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol, England. The school is a member of the Girls' Schools Association.

The school is due to merge with Redland High School for Girls in September 2017, with the new merged school named 'Redmaids' High School' and based at the current Red Maids' site.[1]


The Red Maids' school was founded in 1634 from the bequest of John Whitson,[2] Mayor and MP of Bristol, making it the oldest surviving girls' school in England. His original Red Maids’ Hospital, on Denmark Street in the centre of Bristol, was founded to provide a secure home for the orphaned or destitute daughters of freemen or burgesses of the City of Bristol, where they were taught to read and sew. The site was irreparably damaged and had to be completely rebuilt in the 1840s. The new school building was designed by architect James Foster[3] in 1844.

The entrance lodge of the existing site in Westbury-on-Trym dates from 1830 and has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade II listed building.[4]

During World War I, the Red Maids' School was moved to Manor House, which is now part of the University of Bristol, while the school buildings in Westbury were used as a Red Cross hospital.[5]


Numerous collections of records of the Red Maids' School and John Whitson are held at Bristol Archives, including (Ref. 33041/BMC/6) (online catalogue) and (Ref. 20193) (online catalogue).

Founder's Day[edit]

The Red Maids' School Founder’s Day is the annual celebration of the life and vision of the founder, John Whitson, Mayor and MP of Bristol. The event commemorates the attempted murder of Whitson on 7 November 1626: Christopher Callowhill stabbed him in the face with a dagger on that day. Whitson survived for two years after this attack before dying after falling from a horse. On Founder’s Day all the girls march from Welsh Back, through the city, to the cathedral, where a service takes place. In keeping with school tradition the girls are then allowed the afternoon off.[6]

Facilities and campus[edit]

The Junior School and Senior School are separate, but located close together, allowing the junior school full use of the secondary school's facilitation.

The secondary school, set in extensive grounds, consists of three main buildings: Burfield House, the 300 Building (opened in 1934) and Denmark; there are also a music block and a sports hall. Attached to Denmark is the Whitson Centre, which houses the sixth form; the latter has been extended and refurbished to house increasing student numbers. The junior school was extended in 2015.

There is an astroturf (opened in 2005) and two additional netball/tennis courts. Hidden under the grounds of the school is a former bomb shelter used during World War II. It is off-limits to students although it is usually opened during the Bristol Open Doors Day or for history trips from the Junior School.

The Music Department has a Mac suite; there are also four computer labs in the school and extensive textiles and artwork facilities.

School life[edit]

The school is divided into three sections: the junior school (7-11), secondary school (11-16), and sixth form (16-18).


The school has a house system with competitions in activities such as dance, music, hockey, netball and drama. The four houses are named after four of John Whitson's major ships:

  • Speedwell (Dark blue)
  • Maryflowre (Light blue)
  • Discoverer (Yellow)
  • Seabreake (Green)


The uniform differs between the junior school and the secondary school. In the secondary school the uniform consists of a distinctive red kilt and matching jumper, with a white blouse. From the year 2008, a black blazer was introduced. The school has recently changed outfitters from IKON to John Lewis Schools. A red blazer has been introduced for the 2013 Year 7s and below.

In the sixth form, the students may wear their own clothes, though a "smart and sensible" dress code is implemented and clothes such as jeans, hoodies, short skirts, trainers, shorts, strap tops or logo-branded clothes are banned.

ISI report[edit]

The Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) visited the school in October 2003. Their Inspection Report was published in January 2004.[7]

Among the main strengths of the school the report noted: "the warm and friendly ethos that is achieved strongly supports pupils’ learning and personal development" and "the realistic and committed leadership of the Headmistress and the Head Teacher" alongside a number of other positive remarks about the school.

Recently (January 2013), the school received 'Excellent' in every area, the top score.

International Baccalaureate[edit]

From 2009 Red Maids sixth formers could study for A-levels or the International Baccalaureate (IB). Red Maids was the first independent school in Bristol to offer the IB.

Notable former pupils[edit]

  • Alice Roberts (born 1973), anatomist, osteoarchaeologist, anthropologist, TV presenter, and author
  • Kate Sedley (born 1926), novelist — writer of medieval historical whodunnits

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bristol private schools to merge". BBC News. Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  2. ^ "Bristol Education" (PDF). The Great Reading Adventure. Bristol Cultural Development Partnership (BCDP). Archived from the original (pdf) on 30 May 2008. Retrieved 20 February 2008. 
  3. ^ James Foster (architect)
  4. ^ "No.145 Entrance lodge to Red Maids School". Images of England. Retrieved 17 May 2007. 
  5. ^ "Manor Hall & Sinclair House". University of Bristol. 23 November 2000. Retrieved 20 February 2008. 
  6. ^ Stories of Bristol
  7. ^ Independent Schools Inspectorate Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]