Our history

Discover more about the history of Downe House using our interactive timeline.

1900
1907

Founded by Miss Olive Willis and Miss Alice Carver at Down House, the former home of Charles Darwin, in the village of Downe in Kent.

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1922

The School moved to Berkshire In March 1922 to start the Summer Term. Whole buildings are moved from Kent to Cold Ash. Construction of a new kitchen, music rooms and a gym started. Six classrooms and a laboratory are built and the Studio is completed.

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1925

The rebuilt Chapel is opened. The organ is dedicated and played by its builder, Mr Daniels of Somerset. Old Seniors present the Chapel Bell and the first Old Seniors’ Dance is held at the Hyde Park Hotel.

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1929

The Library is opened by the Duchess of Atholl. The staff house on Red Shute Hill became the San.

1930

Excavation and construction of an outdoor swimming pool begins

1932

The new Dining Room and the South Wing (now Tedworth) are opened. Each year at Christmas, Choral would process around the gallery, singing carols by candlelight to the delight of the school community.

1934

The Concert Room, Chemistry and Biology Labs were built.

1940s

A view from the Cloisters

1946

Every year, Seniors’ Weekend welcomed back alumnae with a massed gym display in the Cloisters

1957

The School’s 50th birthday: Construction starts on the Jubilee Hall and a commemorative tree is planted behind the Chapel

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1967

The first Science Block is opened by Professor Dorothy Hodgkin and Garden House was built as a Sixth Form Block.

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1970s

Aerial view of the Downe House campus

1990

The new Science Block is opened by Lady Plowden, Old Senior.

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1990-96

The French Project begins and moves to Veyrines-de-Domme in 1991. Cohorts of girls start to spend a term in France which has become a highlight of every girl’s education at Downe House.

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1997

Mrs Emma McKendrick is appointed Headmistress.

2001

The Farr Centre is opened by Old Senior, Clare Balding

2007

Downe House celebrates 100 years! Centenary celebrations include a Thanksgiving Service at St Paul’s Cathedral attended by four Headmistresses, Reunions for the DHSA, an Academic Study Day, Institution of the Medley Lectures, a Staff Fun Day and a Girls’ Fun Day. Dr Christian Alexander, a member of the music staff, is commissioned to compose an opera ‘Olive Triumphant’ and a commemorative mulberry tree is planted by the Concert Room.

2015

New Lower School Boarding Houses are opened to accommodate Darwin, Hermitage and Hill.

2018

The Murray Centre opens – with a new 250-seat Auditorium, Library, Collaborative Learning space and a Coffee Shop

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From the Archives

Find out more about the history of the school and see photographs of Downe House through the years.

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Our Headmistress

Mrs Emma McKendrick has been the Headmistress of Downe House for over twenty years and has successfully guided and inspired thousands of girls as well as overseeing extensive development and change. Read about her ethos and approach in the Headmistress’ Welcome to Downe House.

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Visits & Open Mornings

The best way to find out more about Downe House, is to come and experience it for yourself – arrange a visit or join us for one of our Open Mornings?

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