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St. John's School, Leatherhead


St. John's School, Leatherhead

Coordinates: 51°17′49″N 0°19′23″W / 51.297°N 0.323°W / 51.297; -0.323

St John's School
Motto Quae Sursum Sunt Quaerite (Latin for Seek those things which are above)
Established 1851
Type Independent school. Co-educational day, weekly and flexi boarding
Religion Church of England
Head Master Martin A R Collier MA (Oxon)
Preceded by Nicholas Haddock MBE MA (Oxon)
Founder Ashby Haslewood
Location Epsom Road
KT22 8SP
United Kingdom United Kingdom
DfE URN 125353
Students 625
Gender Mixed
Ages 13–18

Green and White

Former pupils Old Johnians
Visitor The Archbishop of Canterbury
Patron The Duchess of Gloucester

St John’s School, Leatherhead, is a fully co-educational independent school for pupils aged 13 to 18. It is a school of around 625 pupils which offers day education as well as weekly and flexible boarding. St John’s recruits heavily from local prep schools; notably Danes Hill, Downsend, Feltonfleet, Aberdour, Lanesborough, Shrewsbury House, Cranmore and Parkside.

The School was founded in 1851 to educate the sons of the clergy. It relocated from St John’s Wood, London, to its current site in Surrey in 1872. The School’s site is dominated by mid-Victorian buildings. These are complemented by the recently built classroom block, the Henry Dawes Centre and the new Churchill House.


The school was founded in 1851 as St John's Foundational School for the Sons of Poor Clergy. Its founder was a clergyman, Ashby Haslewood, who was vicar of St Mark's, Hamilton Terrace in St John's Wood, north London. He had a dual purpose in founding the school - to offer free education for the sons of poor clergymen and to provide a choir for his large church.

The school was a success but the dual purpose imposed restrictions. So in 1854 the school moved outside the parish boundaries of St Mark's into neighbouring Kilburn. This was the first of three moves before the school moved to Leatherhead in 1872. Reverend Edward Connerford Hawkins was one of the first headmasters, when the school was still at Clapton in north-east London. He and his wife Jane Isabella Grahame (an aunt of Kenneth Grahame, author of Wind in the Willows) brought up their family there; their son Anthony Hope, who also grew up to be an author, was educated at the school until he was old enough to be sent to Marlborough College.

Despite much progress, it remained essentially a charity school until the significant headmastership of Arthur Rutty (HM 1883–1909) when the school developed all the characteristics of a public school.

The school began to attract fee-paying parents while remaining loyal to the sons of poor clergymen. The school expanded throughout the twentieth century despite the problems faced by all public schools due to the Depression. After the Second World War, St John's was fortunate to attract the interest of Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, himself the son of a clergyman, who was chairman of the governing body from 1951 to 1966. Monty's contribution to the development of the school was enormous – he promoted it, raised money for it and gave generously of his own time and wealth. His assistance facilitated the building of the new chapel, completed in 1962, as the school had outgrown the more diminutive old chapel, which subsequently became the library. The pews towards the back of the new chapel have the names inscribed of those who died in conflict from WWI to the Korean War. The 1914–1919 roll remembers the 156 who fell in battle, the 1939–1945 panel contains 88 names, and the Korean War board bears 3 names.

Since the 1970s St John's, while maintaining a substantial boarding community, has taken in an increasing number of day pupils and in 1989 the first Sixth Form girls entered the school. In 2010 girls were able to join the school in the first year (fourth form) for the first time and the school has been fully co-educational since September 2012.[1]

The school is currently a community of 650 pupils and continues to remain loyal to the principles of its foundation and offers subsidised education to the sons and daughters of clergymen. Until July 2010 the school conducted lessons on Saturday mornings.

House system

St John's is divided into nine Houses each with its own characteristics and Housemaster/mistress. There are six boys' houses and three girls' houses.

  •           West - Yellow and Black (boarding)
  •           East - Green and Black (boarding)
  •           Haslewood - Violet and Blue
  •           Montgomery (Monty) - Burgundy and Blue
  •           North - Red and Black
  •           South - Purple and White (boarding)
  •           Surrey - Red and White
  •           Churchill - Blue and White
  •           Gloucester - Blue and Pink

South – renamed from Hallaton – is a girls' house and comprises two buildings. The other girls' houses are Haslewood and Gloucester, both of which are located in the heart of the School on the Quad.

Sports and co-curricular activities

The main sports of the school are rugby, football, hockey, cricket, tennis and athletics for boys and hockey, netball, tennis and athletics for girls. The pupils also compete in biathlon, cross country, shooting, rounders, skiing, sailing, squash,fives, badminton and swimming. There is strong rivalry with local schools such as Epsom College, Reeds and Cranleigh. Most matches are played on Saturdays. The main school pitches are located adjacent to the estate in the heart of Surrey. It is also one of only a handful of schools to have a Fives court.

St John's is a participant in the Combined Cadet Force (compulsory for four terms) and the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

Cricket ground

The first recorded match on the school cricket ground came in 1879 when the school played the Marylebone Cricket Club.[2] Since then the school has used the ground for a number of fixtures against other prestigious schools and colleges. The ground has also held 2 List-A matches, the first of which came in 1969 when Surrey played Northamptonshire in the Player's County League. The second and final List-A match at the ground came in 1972, when Surrey played Worcestershire in the John Player League.[3]

Feeder schools

St. John's is fed by a wide range of schools, including: Danes Hill, Downsend, Feltonfleet, Aberdour, Lanesborough, Shrewsbury House, Cranmore and Parkside.

Notable Old Johnians

The school has a number of notable alumni - see Old Johnians

Notable staff

List of Headmasters

  • Anthony Thomson (Oxon), 1851-1857
  • Lewis Mercier (Oxon) 1857-1861
  • Edwards Hawkins (Oxon), 1861-1883
  • Arthur Rutty (Cantab), 1883-1909
  • Edmund Downes (Oxon), 1909-1932
  • Jack Carter (Oxon), 1933-1947
  • Hereward Wake (Oxon), 1948-1960
  • Ian Sutherland (Cantab), 1960-1970
  • Edward 'Ted' Hartwell (Oxon), 1970-1985
  • David Brown (Cantab), 1985-1992
  • Christopher Tongue (Cantab), 1993-2004
  • Nicholas Haddock (Oxon), 2004-2011
  • Martin Collier (Oxon), 2011-

Southern Railway Schools Class

The School lent its name to the fortieth example of the Southern Railway's V Class steam locomotive, no. 939. This Class was known widely as the Schools Class because all forty of the class were named after prominent English public schools. 'Leatherhead', as no. 939 was called, was built in 1934. The locomotive bearing the School's name was withdrawn in the early 1960s. A nameplate survives in the reception at the school, along with a small model of the engine.


  • The School has provided a setting for a number of television programmes including the Inspector Lynley Mysteries. The School was the primary location in the episode 'Well Schooled in Murder', which featured Bill Nighy, John Sessions and future Superman, Henry Cavill.
  • The School song is "Seek those things which are above" composed by Howard Goodall was commissioned for the school centenary.
  • The grassed area of St John's Quad is reserved exclusively for Masters, Mistresses and Prefects.
  • The building used as a library before the Henry Dawes Centre was built used to be the chapel; still visible on the walls of the Old Chapel are the carvings of names and sayings of former pupils who during chapel services chose to 'leave their mark'.
  • Joseph Gedge, an Old Johnian, was the first British officer to be killed in the First World War on 6 August 1914 when his ship, HMS 'Amphion', sank in the Thames Estuary after hitting a German mine. The 'Gedge medal' was subsequently issued in his honour, the School itself has named its Physics laboratories in honour of him.
  • The main classroom block, 'The Henry Dawes Centre', is so called because Henry Dawes was the Leatherhead landowner who sold his land which permitted the School to be built on its current site.
  • The School had a major fire on 9 June 1913 which destroyed a vast amount of the main building, and had to be rebuilt. It was front page news in most national newspapers, who blamed it on the Suffragettes. However, this was inaccurate. In fact, the fire occurred when a group of boarders managed to get into a Master's room, that of Charles Cole, (who they knew had been taken ill in the Sanatorium) and held a party in which a lit cigarette was carelessly left and thus the fire began. Tragically, one of the two student eyewitnesses, Charles Morley, who was fourteen at the time of the fire, would be killed in the First World War just five years later in 1918.
  • During the First World War, students would play football with wounded Belgian soldiers who were recuperating in Leatherhead, and the hallowed quad was dug up in order to grow potatoes. When the war was officially recognised as over on 19 June 1919, Headmaster Edmund Downes hosted a grand lunch in the Dining Hall for 350 returning servicemen.
  • The initial Houses, 'East', 'West' etc, are so called because boys were originally placed into Houses according to the geographical location of their home, until this practice was ended by Headmaster Edmund Downes. 


External links

  • Official website

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