Colfe's School

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Colfe's School
Motto Ad astra per aspera
"Through hardships to the stars"
Established 1568 (restablished 1652)
Type Independent day school
Headmaster Richard Russell
Headmaster (Preparatory) Sarah Marsh
Governors Leathersellers' Company
Founder John Glyn in 1568
Reestablished with Abraham Colfe's name in 1652
Location Horn Park Lane
SE12 8AW
Local authority Greenwich
DfE URN 100202 Tables
Staff 100 (approx.)
Students 1,043
Gender Coeducational
Ages 3–18
Houses Beardwood, Bramley, Norton, Prendergast
Colours Blue & Gold          
Publication The Colfeian
Official Visitor HRH Prince Michael of Kent
Former Pupils Old Colfeians

Colfe's is a co-educational independent day school in Horn Park in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, in south-east London, England. The school is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference. The official Visitor to the school is HRH Prince Michael of Kent.


Colfe's is one of the oldest schools in London. The parish priest of Lewisham taught the local children from the time of Richard Walker's chantry, founded in 1494, until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. Rev. John Glyn re-established the school in 1568 and it was granted a Charter by Elizabeth I in 1574. Abraham Colfe became a Governor in 1613 and the school was re-founded bearing his name in 1652.

Colfe declared that the aim of the school was to provide an education for the boys from "the hundred of Blackheath". He invited the Leathersellers' Company, one of London's livery companies, to be the trustee of his will. Links between the school and the Leathersellers remain strong.

The school was originally built around Colfe's house with an entrance in Lewisham Hill. The site was progressively developed and extended until 1890, when it was completely rebuilt on the same site with its entrance now in Granville Park. During the Second World War the school was first evacuated to Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and then to Frome in Somerset. A period of inactivity on the Western front led about 100 boys to return to London, so the school was split for a few years. In 1944 a V2 (Flying bomb) almost totally destroyed the school.

At the end of the War, with no school buildings and the pupil roll having halved, it was uncertain if the school would continue. In London the school was split between two sites - Beacon Road School in Hither Green and Ennersdale Road School, about a quarter of a mile away. "Temporary" buildings (rows of pre-fabricated concrete construction) were erected and the school came together again in 1947 under the headmastership of Herbert Beardwood MSc. The "temporary" buildings were still being used until the move to the new site in 1963.

Herbert Beardwood updated Leland Duncan's "History of Colfe's Grammar School" in 1952, in celebration of the school's tercentenary under Colfe's name. The book was further updated by Beardwood in 1972, to reflect both the move to the present campus at the east end of the playing fields, and the impact on the school of the machinations of early 1970s UK politics.

The school moved to its current site in 1963 and since then there has been much change: improved facilities have been provided, such as an all-weather sports pitch and a new performing arts centre. The Leathersellers' sports ground has been renovated to make it the home of senior sport (rugby football and cricket).

Having been a voluntary aided grammar school, Colfe's became independent again in 1977. Although founded as a school for boys, girls have been admitted to the Sixth Form for over thirty years. In 1997, it was decided to allow girls throughout the school, and today the school is fully co-educational.

Current organization

The School admits pupils at the age of 3 into the Nursery and Pre-prep, from which they progress to the Preparatory school aged 7. From here pupils make the transition to the Senior school at the age of 11.

Senior School (Ages 11-18)

The Senior School is based at the top of the main school site. An all-weather playing field (funded in part by donations from parents and former pupils) was opened in 2006. The school also has a new Performing arts centre, a Sports Complex complete with a 25 m swimming pool, 2 gyms and a Sports Hall, excellent IT and Music facilities and over 30 acres (120,000 m2) of playing fields. Many of the facilities are shared with the Preparatory School.

There is a House system at Colfe’s. The Houses are named after four long serving Headmasters; Beardwood, Bramley, Norton and Prendergast. Throughout the school year each pupil takes part in a full and varied programme of activities outside the main curriculum, in which the pupils participate in healthy competition by age groups to help his or her house win at the end of the year. From September 2012, Colfe’s has also introduced tutoring in Houses. Pupils are in mixed age tutor groups with other students from the same House. A team of House tutors is led by a Head of House who has oversight of pastoral and academic progress of the students in their House.

Preparatory School (Ages 3-11)

The Preparatory School is located at the bottom of the school site, in two self-contained buildings. One of the buildings is for Pre-Prep and Nursery and the other for Preparatory. The preparatory school has the same high standards as the Senior School. The preparatory school also shares many of the facilities with the Senior School including the sports complex, the fields and the Performing Arts Centre.

Notable Colfeians

Barry Roberts-Jones, banker and LDS bishop

Further reading

  • Leland L. Duncan The History of Colfe's Grammar School and a life of its founder 1910.


The History of Colfe's Grammar School by Leland L. Duncan (revised and updated by H Beardwood), pub: University of London Press, 1952

External links

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