Wycombe Abbey

Wycombe Abbey

Infobox Secondary school
name = Wycombe Abbey
native_name =

motto =
established = 1896
address =
city = High Wycombe
state = Buckinghamshire
province =
country = United Kingdom
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type = Girls' Independent Boarding School
affiliation =
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headmaster =
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dean =
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chairman =
head_label = Headmistress
head = Mrs PE Davies
faculty =
teaching_staff =
students = 540
enrollment =
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district =
oversight =
accreditation =
mascot =
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free_label_1 = Email
free_1 = [mailto:schoolsecretary@wycombeabbey.com schoolsecretary@wycombeabbey.com]
free_label_2 =
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free_label_3 =
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website = [http://www.wycombeabbey.com/ www.wycombeabbey.com]
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Wycombe Abbey is one of the most famous independent girls' schools in Britain. It is situated in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England. It is academically one of the top schools in the United Kingdom, and the top girls' boarding school (in terms of academic results). The school was founded in 1896 by Dame Frances Dove who was previously headmistress of St Leonards School in Scotland. Its present capacity is approximately 540 girls aged 11 to 18.

The school is situated in 160 acres (650,000 m²) of ground in central High Wycombe. The land includes woods, gardens and a lake, and rises up to 500 feet (150 m) above sea level in the Chiltern Hills. The valuable land is owned freehold by the school.

In 2005 the school was one of fifty of the country's leading private schools which were found guilty of running an illegal price-fixing cartel, exposed by "The Times", which had allowed them to drive up fees for thousands of parents. [ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/education/article588559.ece Independent schools face huge fines over cartel to fix fees - Times Online ] ] Each school was required to pay a nominal penalty of £10,000 and all agreed to make ex-gratia payments totalling three million pounds into a trust designed to benefit pupils who attended the schools during the period in respect of which fee information was shared. [ [http://www.oft.gov.uk/news/press/2006/182-06 The Office of Fair Trading: OFT names further trustees as part of the independent schools settlement ] ]

The "Good Schools Guide" described the school as "Well-known, well respected, traditional girls' boarding school which suits self-starters and undoubtedly does well by them." [http://www.goodschoolsguide.co.uk/school/wycombe-abbey-school.html]

As at most public schools, the pupils are divided into houses. The houses at Wycombe Abbey are: Airlie, Barry, Butler, Campbell, Cloister, Pitt, Rubens, Shelburne and Wendover. Girls in Upper Sixth live in Clarence House, while the junior-most girls, the Upper Thirds, live in the Junior House. Every house at Wycombe Abbey is linked to a colour and, as part of the school uniform, girls wear ties which correspond to their house colour i.e. pale blue - Barry, green - Cloister, brown - Airlie, pink - Rubens, yellow - Pitt, orange - Butler, purple - Campbell, dark blue - Shelburne, red - Wendover. Each girl also has her own 'house mother,' a girl in the year above in the same house who looks after her, particularly when new to the school. Each house also has a housemistress and a matron.

The current headmistress is Mrs Pauline Davies who is shortly to retire. She will be replaced, in September 2008, by Mrs Cynthia Hall who is currently headmistress of The School of St Helen and St Katherine in Abingdon, Oxfordshire.

Early history of Wycombe Abbey

The history of the school building itself predates Dame Frances Dove's acquisition of it. In the 13th century the area, with the parish church, was part of the holding of the Abbess of Godstow, (Ironically the priory at Godstowe, 600 years later, was too refounded as a school by Dame Frances Dove, and today is a 'feeder' preparatory school for Wycombe Abbey).

On the site of the present Wycombe Abbey was a large manor house known as 'Loakes House' which until 1700 was the seat of the Archdale family, when Thomas Archdale sold it to Henry Petty, 1st Earl of Shelburne. The first Earl of Shelburne in turn bequeathed the estate to his grand nephew William Petty (who inherited a different Earldom of Shelburne† in 1761, and became Prime Minister in 1782). The Shelburnes, however, had a far larger and grander residence at Bowood House in the Savernake Forest. They spent little time at Loakes House.

Consequently, Lord Shelburne sold his estates in the area. Loakes House was purchased from them at auction by Robert Smith, 1st Baron Carrington in 1798. He then employed the architect James Wyatt to transform Loakes House into the present Wycombe Abbey as we see it today.

†Henry Petty was created Earl of Shelburne in 1719, but when he died without heirs in 1751, the earldom became extinct. It was recreated for his kinsman, John Petty in 1753; it was this latter earldom that William Petty inherited.

The 'new' Wycombe Abbey

As an architect James Wyatt, captured the romantic spirit of his era, creating a gothic ecclesiastical style. While building Wycombe, he was also engaged in the building of the greatest gothic extravaganza of the age Fonthill Abbey, a mansion that was a complete replica of a medieval cathedral complete with soaring tower; it was supposed to resemble the fictitious Castle of Otranto. Fonthill is now demolished which leaves Wycombe Abbey as one of the most important examples of this type of architecture remaining.

While a far less ambitious project than Fonthill, Wycombe Abbey is a jewel of the romantic gothic style. The castellated 3 floored central block has turrets on each corner, and is 7 bays wide, with sash windows. On the ground floor they are ogee topped in the ecclesiastical manner. There is a slightly incongruous bay oriel window in the centre of the 2nd floor. Attached, by a 2 floored wing: is a chapel-like block clearly indicating the architect's intention to emulate an abbey; this wing is completed by statues in niches on the external wall in the medieval catholic manner.

The whole composition is an echo of the house's larger sister at Fonthill. Like Fonthill Abbey, the whole structure was intended to imitate one of the older country houses genuinely converted from an old abbey or monastery. Perhaps it was the intention of the former Mr. Smith, 1st Lord Carrington, to provide his new family seat with some ancient grandeur: he certainly succeeded.

The final stage of the transformation was the renaming of Loakes House to Wycombe Abbey. This suited the mood of the era admirably.

Notable alumnae (Wycombe Abbey Seniors)

:See also .

*Eve Best, actress
*Elsie Bowerman, suffragette, Titanic survivor and lawyer
*Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, British judge, Deputy Coroner of the Queen's Household
*Judith Chaplin, Member of Parliament
*Lorraine Copeland, archeologist
*Penelope Fitzgerald, novelist and biographer
*Jackie Forster, actress, TV personality, feminist and lesbian campaigner
*Molly Hide, English cricketer
*Elspeth Howe, Baroness Howe of Idlicote
*India Knight, journalist
*Sally Phillips, actress
*Polly Stenham, playwright
*Rachael Stirling, actress
* Lady Jessie Street (nee Lillingston), a prominent Australian social reformer recognised both in Australia and internationally for her activism in women's rights, social justice and peace.
*Kathy Wilkes, philosopher
*Lady Nicholas Windsor, wife of Lord Nicholas Windsor

Notable staff

*Dame Mary Cartwright


*Elsie Bowerman "Stands there a School - Memories of Dame Frances Dove, D.B.E., Founder of Wycombe Abbey School" 1965
*"Wycombe Abbey School 1896-1986: A partial history 1989 ISBN-0950383619"

External links

* [http://www.wycombeabbey.com School Home Page]
* [http://www.goodschoolsguide.co.uk/school/wycombe-abbey-school.html Profile at the Good Schools Guide]

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