Highgate School

Sir Roger Cholmeley's School at Highgate
Motto Altiora in Votis
(Latin: "Higher through prayer")
Established 1565
Type Independent day school
Religion Church of England
Head Adam Pettitt, M.A.
Founder Sir Roger Cholmeley
Location North Road
N6 4AY
Local authority Haringey
DfE number 309/6001
DfE URN 102163 Tables
Staff 126 full-time
Students 1455
Gender Mixed
Ages 3–18

Maroon and Navy

Affiliations HMC, IAPS, Eton Group
Former pupils Old Cholmeleians
Website www.highgateschool.org.uk

Highgate School, formally Sir Roger Cholmeley's School at Highgate,[1] is a British educational charity, founded in 1565. Its main purpose is maintaining a coeducational day-only independent school in Highgate, London, England. It educates over 1400 pupils in three sections – Highgate Pre-Preparatory School (ages 3–7), Highgate Junior School (ages 7–11) and the Senior School (11+) – which together comprise the Highgate Foundation. As part of its wider work the charity was from 2010 a founding partner of the London Academy of Excellence and it is now also the principal education sponsor of a new Academy, the London Academy of Excellence Tottenham, opening in September 2017.[2] The principal business sponsor is Tottenham Hotspur F.C..[3] The charity also funds the Chrysalis Partnership, a scheme supporting 26 state schools in six London boroughs.[4]


The Foundation is governed in accordance with a Charity Commission Scheme dated 1 September 2005 (and amended in 2014).[1] Its governing body consists of 16 members; 4 are nominated (one each by the Universities of Oxford and London, by the Bishop of London, and by the Lord Chief Justice), and the rest are co-opted. The Visitor is Her Majesty the Queen.[5] The Head is assisted by Principals of the pre-prep and junior schools, by deputy heads and a Bursar, in managing the Foundation. The school is a member of HMC and IAPS and is one of the twelve schools of the Eton Group.


The school was founded in 1565 by a Royal Charter of Elizabeth I whose letters patent, sealed on 29 January, authorised Sir Roger Cholmeley to establish the ‘’’Free Grammar School of Sir Roger Cholmeley, Knight at Highgate’’’.

Cholmeley, a former Chief Justice and local landowner, decided to found a charitable school “for the good education and instruction of boys and young men” in Highgate and the local parishes. On 27 April 1565 he was granted by Edmund Grindal, the Bishop of London, some land on the site of the old gatehouse to the Bishop's park and hermit's chapel (opposite the Gatehouse Inn, which still exists). A new chapel and buildings for the school and the local curate, who was expected to be the teacher, were built. The chapel also served as a chapel of ease for Highgate residents.[6]

However, by the early nineteenth century a dispute arose because the charity was spending more money, and the curate more time, on the local chapel than on the pupils. A House of Commons commission visited in 1819 and found the Master, the Rev Samuel Mence, was paying a sexton to teach the boys. In a long and bitter action brought in the High Court against the Trustees it was contended that this was contrary to its founding charitable deed. Lord Chancellor Eldon, in his 1827 judgment, agreed, finding "the charity is for the sustenance and maintenance of a free Grammar school".[7] The trustees were forced to comply and a separate local church for Highgate, St Michael's, was built in South Grove after a successful local appeal. Mence struggled on at the school until 1838 when there were only 19 pupils.[7]

An expansion of the school occurred under the next headmaster Rev Dr John Bradley Dyne (Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford) between 1838–1874. Under Dyne, by the 1870s the school had largely dropped free provision for local parish boys and alongside the day places boarding was encouraged for boys from the upper and upper middle classes; fees were introduced and academic standards improved.In the period up to this time the school was known commonly as The Free Grammar School at Highgate, The Highgate Grammar School, or the Cholmeley School. Like other public schools, Highgate followed Dr Arnold at Rugby School in introducing the house system. Also like other public schools, Dyne mercilessly flogged the pupils with a birch rod.[7]

In the 1860s land was acquired in Bishopswood Road, which provided extensive sports fields and on which several boarding houses and private residences were built. During this period the current chapel and main buildings were erected, designed by Reginald Blomfield (who had also designed Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford). A fragment of the older school building, a gateway with a rusted bell mechanism above between the porter's lodge and the main school building, remained intact until 2006 when the bell was refurbished and the old entrance itself rebuilt in a more modern style. The senior school continues to occupy today the island site in Highgate Village on which it was founded.[6]

During the Second World War the school's buildings were commandeered by the British government and the school was evacuated to Westward Ho! in Devon, returning to Highgate in 1943. This return was maybe slightly premature because one afternoon in 1944 a V‑1 Doodlebug flying bomb landed and exploded in the field behind the Junior School. Luckily, the only serious casualty was a cricket scorebox.

The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge was buried in the school chapel, his grandson an Old Cholmeleian. However, in 1965 after a row with the council there was a ceremonial disinterring of Coleridge at which the then Poet Laureate John Masefield spoke and the remains were reburied at St Michael's parish church just a few hundred yards away. There are currently weekly services for pupils and staff in the Chapel, and monthly celebrations of Evensong, which are open to the general public. There are also twice-termly Communion services.

Highgate School has the oldest Public School freemasons' lodge, Cholmeley Lodge No 1731, formed in 1878, part of the Public Schools Lodges Council.

Until recently the school had two blocks of Eton Fives courts, one structure with ten courts (of which six were built in 1899 and a further four added c.1913); a second block of eight courts constructed in the 1920s was removed in 2014.[8]

Boarding and weekly boarding at Highgate declined in the years up to the early 1990s when the last boarders left. In 1993 one of the former houses was converted to create the coeducational pre-preparatory school.[9]

In 2001 the school announced its intention to become fully co-educational ending over four hundred years of single sex education, and girls joined the Senior and Junior schools from 2004.[10] According to the Good Schools Guide "Its decision to go co-ed has helped to put its popularity and academic standards on upward trajectories".[11]

In April 2006 the Mills Centre for Art, Design and Technology was opened, incorporating an area commemorating former director of art Sir Kyffin Williams.

In January 2013 the Charter building was opened by former pupil and Governor Lord Hill.[12]

In May 2014 the Sir Martin Gilbert Library was opened by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.[13]

Throughout 2015 the School celebrated its 450th anniversary. In January 2015 a Museum opened, which can be visited by the public on Saturday mornings in term-time.[14]

In September 2016 a new building for the Junior School opened.[15]


Chapel Quad, with "Big School" on the left, and the chapel

The school operates a house system like many other public schools and upon reaching Year 9,[16] pupils are placed in a house according to where they live (although the boundaries of each house can flex based on numbers and gender balance). These houses are Northgate, Southgate, Westgate, Eastgate, Queensgate, Kingsgate, Midgate, Fargate, Heathgate, The Lodge, School House and Grindal. Each house has a Housemaster in charge of the pastoral, as well as academic well-being of house-members, and tutors for each year group. This system, which Dyne, like other public school headmasters, copied from Arnold's at Rugby School, was established to create "house spirit" among the students, allowing for both academic and sporting competitions among the houses. Some of these, like School House, Grindal and The Lodge used to be boarding houses. Grindal and Westgate are the only houses to have their own old boys' clubs, the Mitre Club and the Zephyr Club respectively. However, other houses, such as Kingsgate, are newer, having been created by a dissaffected group of Westgateans in the 1970s.

Head Masters

The title Head has been used since March 2015.[17]

  • 2006–date Adam Sven Pettitt
  • 1989–2006 Richard Paul Kennedy
  • 1974–1989 Roy Curtis Giles
  • 1954–1974 Alfred John Farre Doulton
  • 1936–1954 Geoffrey Foxall Bell MC
  • 1908–1936 Dr John Alexander Hope Johnston
  • 1893–1908 Rev Arthur Edmund Allcock
  • 1874–1893 Rev Dr Charles McDowall
  • 1838–1874 Rev Dr John Bradley Dyne
  • 1816–1838 Rev Samuel Mence
  • 1793–1816 Rev Dr Thomas Bennett
  • 1780–1793 Rev William Porter
  • 1746–1780 Rev William Felton
  • 1733–1746 Rev Bexworth Liptrott
  • 1728–1733 Rev Thomas Horton
  • 1712–1728 Rev John Browne
  • 1712–1712 Henry Mills
  • 1699–1712 W.M.Chapman
  • 1699–1699 John Cole
  • 1694–1699 Peter Cook
  • 1686–1694 Thomas Brown
  • 1680–1686 Robert Peirce
  • 1677–1680 Robert King
  • 1673–1677 John Seely
  • 1670–1673 Ellis Price
  • 1670–1670 Richard Bestwick
  • 1670–1670 Joseph Gwillym
  • 1660–1670 Thomas Carter (restored)
  • 1659–1660 Benoni Barke
  • 1659–1659 – Chamberlaine
  • 1645–1659 George Marsden
  • 1644–1645 Christopher Laurence
  • 1639–1644 Thomas Carter (ejected)
  • 1625–1639 John Ridley
  • 1615–1625 John Bright
  • 1609–1615 John Mann
  • 1599–1609 Abdias Tuer
  • 1593–1599 Ralph Williams
  • 1592–1593 John Williams
  • 1589–1592 Christopher Goffe
  • 1586–1589 William Becket
  • 1580–1586 Edward Smythe
  • 1571–1580 Johnson Charle

Notable members of staff

With year of joining

The Cholmeleian Society and Notable Cholmeleians

Former pupils of Highgate School are called Cholmeleians or Old Cholmeleians (OCs) (after Sir Roger Cholmeley). The alumni organisation is the Cholmeleian Society, founded as the Old Cholmeleian Club in 1893, although annual dinners had been held since 1859.[18] The school and the society organise social events and a magazine The Cholmeleian is published twice a year. Notable Cholmeleians include:

Arts, design and literature

Business and commerce

Classical music

Film, stage and television



Politics and public service

Popular music


Science and engineering



  1. 1 2 Charity Commission. SIR ROGER CHOLMELEY'S SCHOOL AT HIGHGATE, registered charity no. 312765.
  2. Davies, Aanna (12 May 2016). "Tottenham Hotspur teams up with top school to open new academy". Evening Standard. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  3. "London Academy of Excellence Tottenham". Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  4. "Chrysalis Newsletter" (PDF). Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  5. "Governors". Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  6. 1 2 Palmer, Alan, A Short History of Highgate School(1964), in Highgate School Register 1833-1964 pp9-32.
  7. 1 2 3 Richardson, John, Highgate Past(1989), pp61-63.
  8. Michael L. Chiavone; Simon Inglis (1 September 2014). Played in London: Charting the Heritage of a City at Play. English Heritage. p. 283. ISBN 978-1-84802-057-3.
  9. "Pre-Prep". Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  10. "The Coeducation Issue" (PDF). Cholmeleian (Winter 2014): 20–21, 57–59. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  11. http://www.goodschoolsguide.co.uk/school/highgate-school.html
  12. Beioley, Kate (21 January 2013). "Leader of the House of Lords opens new building at Highgate School". Ham & High. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  13. "Sir Martin Gilbert Library, Highgate School". Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  14. Blake, Imogen (20 January 2015). "Highgate School treasure trove including World War Two exploded bomb on show for first time at new museum". Ham & High. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  15. "New Junior School opens". Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  16. http://www.highgateschool.org.uk/about?catid=0&id=138
  17. Blake, Imogen (28 April 2015). "Highgate School headteacher: 'Michael Gove was brilliant as education secretary'". Ham & High. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  18. Hughes, Patrick; Davis, Ian (1988). Highgate School Register 1833-1988 (7th ed.). pp. 452–453.

External links

Coordinates: 51°34′18″N 0°08′57″W / 51.5717°N 0.1493°W / 51.5717; -0.1493

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