Downe House School

Downe House School
Downe House School
Downe House School logo.png
Established 1907
Type Independent all-female
Headmistress Mrs Emma McKendrick
Location Cold Ash, Berkshire
RG18 9JJ
Students 550
Gender Girls
Ages 11–18

green, red

Main entrance
Bird's-eye view

Downe House School is an independent girls' boarding school in Cold Ash, a village near Newbury, Berkshire, for girls aged 11-18.



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. By 1921 this was too small for the school, so Willis bought The Cloisters, Cold Ash, Berkshire, to which the school moved in 1922 where it remains.

In 2005, the school was one of fifty of the country's leading independent 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.[1] 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.[2]

Before the cloisters were bought by Olive Willis they were part of a nunnery. One of the nuns, Elizabeth Day went crazy and killed herself.[citation needed] It is said that many of the girls in the house Tedworth in particular have seen her ghost roaming around the dorms at night. However, she in fact hung herself over a balcony in what is now a computer room.[citation needed]

Entry and education

The Good Schools Guide called[when?] Downe House:

A green and spacious school which leads its pupils into independence as they move round the campus and makes sure they experience life outside it.[3]

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 and Pre-U. 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 school is selective, with most entrants needing to pass the Common Entrance Examination.

Notable former pupils


  • Ridler, Ann, Olive Willis and Downe House: an adventure in education (London: Murray, 1967)[6]
  • Horsler, Val, & Jenny Kingsland, Downe House: a Mystery and a Miracle (London: Third Millennium Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1903942500 & ISBN 978-1903942505)

External Links


Coordinates: 51°26′14″N 1°16′25″W / 51.4373°N 1.2737°W / 51.4373; -1.2737

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