Suvarna Garge (Editor)

Downe House School

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Mrs Emma McKendrick

+44 1635 200286


Church of England

DfE number

Olive Willis

Number of students

Downe House School

Independent day and boarding

Cold Ash Berkshire RG18 9JJ England

Downe House Hermitage Rd Col, Hermitage Rd, Cold Ash, Thatcham RG18 9JJ, UK

Queen Anne's School, The Downs School, Brockhurst Preparato School, Marlboro College, Pangbour College


Downe house school 2015

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


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".


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 Down House was too small for the school, so Willis bought The Cloisters, Cold Ash, Berkshire, to which the school moved in 1922, and where it remains. It now accepts day pupils but is still predominantly a boarding school.

In 2005, Downe House 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. 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. However, Mrs Jean Scott, the head of the Independent Schools Council, said that independent 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 that they were unaware of the change to the law (on which they had not been consulted). She wrote to John Vickers, the OFT director-general, saying, "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."

Downe House won the Tatler 'Best Public School Award' in 2011.


As most girls at Downe House are boarders, the house system is incorporated with the boarding programme.

  • Hill (ages 11–12)
  • Hermitage (ages 11–12)
  • Darwin (ages 12–13)
  • AGN (ages 13–16)
  • AGS (ages 13–16)
  • Aisholt (ages 13–16)
  • Holcombe (ages 13–16)
  • Tedworth (ages 13–16)
  • Willis (ages 16–18)
  • York (ages 16–18)
  • Admissions

    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.

    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.

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

    Notable former pupils

  • Margaret Aston, Medieval historian
  • Clare Balding, BBC sports presenter
  • Elizabeth Bowen (1899–1973), novelist and short story writer
  • Angie Bray, British Conservative Party politician and MP
  • Venetia Burney, named the ninth planet Pluto
  • Constance Collier, actress, writer
  • Sophie Dahl, daughter of Tessa Dahl, model and author
  • Tessa Dahl, daughter of Roald Dahl and Patricia Neal
  • June Eric-Udorie, journalist
  • Susannah Fiennes, artist
  • Valerie Finnis, Lady Scott (1924-2006) gardener, V.M.H.
  • Amaryllis Fleming (1926-1999) cellist
  • Aileen Fox, archaeologist
  • Prudence Glynn, fashion journalist and writer
  • Valerie Goulding, member of Seanad Éireann
  • Miranda Hart, comedian and actress
  • Aletha Hayter (1911–2006), author and British Council representative
  • Geraldine James, actress
  • Kristin Linklater, vocal coach, now at Columbia University
  • HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, née Catherine Middleton, attended the school for a term before being moved to Marlborough College
  • Philippa "Pippa" Middleton, socialite, columnist and sister of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge
  • Mary Midgley, philosopher
  • Dame Rosemary Murray, Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, founder of Murray Edwards College, Cambridge
  • Priscilla Napier (1908–1998), author
  • Betty Rea (1904–1965), sculptor and educationist
  • Audrey Richards (1899–1984), social anthropologist who worked mainly in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Anne Ridler (1912–2001), poet
  • Evelyn Rothwell, oboist
  • Georgina Rylance, actress
  • Laura Solon, comedian
  • Rosie Tapner, model
  • Anne Patricia Phillips, (née Tiarks), mother-in-law of Princess Anne
  • Lena Townsend, politician
  • Lady Gabriella Windsor, journalist and daughter of Prince Michael of Kent
  • References

    Downe House School Wikipedia

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