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Sevenoaks School

Sevenoaks School
Motto Servire Deo Regnare Est
(Latin for To serve God is to rule)
Established 1432
Type Independent day and boarding school
Head Katy Ricks
Chairman of the Governors Anthony Evans
Founder William Sevenoke
Location Sevenoaks
DfE URN 118952 Tables
Students 1023
Gender Mixed
Ages 11–18
Houses 7

Blue, red and white

Former pupils Old Sennockians
Website .orgsevenoaksschool

Sevenoaks School is a highly selective coeducational independent school in Sevenoaks, Kent. It is the second oldest non-denominational school in the United Kingdom, dating back to 1432, only behind Oswestry (1407). Over 1,000 day pupils and boarders attend, ranging in age from 11 to 18 years. There are approximately equal numbers of boys and girls. The current Headteacher is Katy Ricks. The school was a pioneer in attracting international students during the 1960s. Today the pupils come from over 40 countries. The Good Schools Guide called it a "Trail-blazing co-ed day and boarding riding high academically."[1]

In 1999 it became the first major UK school to switch entirely from A level exams to the International Baccalaureate. The school is a member of the G20 Schools group.

In 2012, the Independent review of A level and IB results, based on government issued statistics, ranked Sevenoaks School 1st in the UK, ahead of Westminster (17th), St Paul's (22nd), Harrow (34th), Winchester (73rd) and Eton (80th).[2]

Sevenoaks School is among several leading UK schools that now charge annual boarding fees in excess of £30,000, making it one of the most expensive schools in the country.[3]


  • Academic 1
  • Facilities 2
  • History 3
  • In literature 4
  • Notable students and alumni 5
    • Royalty 5.1
      • Other 5.1.1
  • References 6
  • External links 7


(I)GCSE results: In 2014 over 94% of the GCSE, IGCSE and Sevenoaks School Certificate examinations taken by the 139 candidates were awarded A* or A grades. Over a quarter of the year-group gained ten A*s or more each, and 118 students gained 9 or more A* or A grades. All but seven results out of 1436 examinations were grade B or above. [4] In Years 10 and 11, all students pursue the school's own certificated and UCAS-approved qualification in English Literature.[5] IB results: In 2014 the average IB Diploma score at Sevenoaks School was 39.1 points (ten points above the world average). Nine students achieved the maximum 45 points, with 22 securing 44 points and another 16 securing 43 points.[6]


Sevenoaks School entrance
Old School at Sevenoaks

Three buildings were constructed for the school prior to the 20th century – Old School (formerly School House, which was built with the Almshouses in the early 18th century in the Palladian style and designed by Lord Burlington),[7] the old Assembly Hall (1890) now part of the Swanzy Block, and the Cottage Block (late 19th century). Additional early buildings, previously private houses, include Park Grange (mid-19th century),[8] Girls International House (c1700), Claridge House (18th century), Manor House (late 18th century) and Temple House (1884).[9]

In the April 2010, a new 13-million pound performing arts centre, The Space, was opened on the school campus. The Space was designed by Tim Ronalds Architects with Price & Myers acting as consulting engineers and has won several awards: the Commercial & Public Access category in the 2010 Wood Awards, Best Education Building in the 2010 Brick Awards, and an RIBA Award (South East Region) in 2011.[10] It was also nominated for Best Public Building award of the 2012 Kent Design Awards.[11]


Founded in 1432 by William Sevenoke as a part of his last will and testament, the school was intended to give a classical education to boys from the town, free of church constrictions. Sevenoke's will also provided for almshouses for poor men and women.[12] Sevenoaks School is one of the oldest lay foundations in England. Sevenoke was Mayor of London and, as a friend of Henry V, may have been influenced by the MP for Shropshire and King's pleader, David Holbache, who founded Oswestry in 1407. According to William Lambarde and Richard Johnson (Nine Worthies of London), Sevenoke was a foundling, whose decision to establish the school and almshouses may have been inspired by his early history.

In 1560, in response to a petition by Ralph Bosville and Sevenoaks parishioners, Elizabeth I issued letters patent incorporating the school, giving it the right to use her name, and changing its governance. A seal was issued bearing Bosville's initials and the motto Servire Deo Regnari Est. Ralph Bosville was Clerk of the Court of Wards and Liveries, a JP and owner of the Manor of Bradbourne near Sevenoaks, and under the conditions of the letters patent, he and his heirs were to serve on the governing body as long as they lived in Kent. He has been described as the school's 'second founder'.[13] Supporting the letters patent, statues and ordinances were issued in 1574 and a private Act of Parliament passed in 1597. The school also received a number of bequests during the sixteenth century and during this period was brought to wider attention by William Lambarde's A Perambulation of Kent (1576).

The school is thought to have been initially housed in small buildings near the present site, before a school house was built. Rebuilding took place in 1631, under the supervision of Thomas Pett. It was again rebuilt in 1724, to the designs of Lord Burlington, a friend of the headmaster of the time, Elijah Fenton. Building work was completed in 1732. During this period the Master and scholars were housed outside the town.

The school remained small until the late 19th century. School records show that between 1716 and 1748, under the headmastership of the Revd Simpson, school numbers dropped from 'a great many scholars' to only four boys. Simpson resigned and was replaced by Edward Holme, a distant relative of Sir Richard Burton. By 1778 there were around 60 pupils, and the same is indicated in the School Inquiry Commission of 1868.

In 1884 the governors appointed Daniel Birkett as headmaster. It was Birkett's vision to elevate the school's status to that of a First Grade Classical School. He started this revolution, reducing the number of free places to the townfolk and expanding boarding. When he resigned in the 1890s the school had over 100 boys. Birkett's revolution was continued by George Heslop who increased the size to a peak of 134 boys, although numbers dropped towards the end of the First World War (during which 350 Old Sennockians enlisted). Geoffrey Garrod followed Heslop in 1919. In the same year, the headmaster's wife, Mrs Garrod, started a new school for younger boys; Sevenoaks Prep School started with six pupils in the school Cottage Block. An element of selection entered the admissions process in the early 1920s.

James Higgs-Walker succeeded Garrod in 1924. Higgs-Walker, or "Jimmy" as he was known by the boys, started a revolution at the school with the introduction of day houses, the expansion of school sports and extracurricular activities and the vast expansion of the school with the help of the school's greatest benefactor since the founder, Charles Plumptre Johnson (or C.P.J.), who served as a governor from 1913 to 1923 and chairman from 1923 to his death in 1938. Johnson donated many gifts to the school with his brother, Edward:

  • The Flagpole, 1924
  • Thornhill, 1924 (Johnson's House)
  • Johnson's Hall, 1936 (Now Johnson's Library)
  • The Sanitorium, 1938
  • Park Grange and the surrounding estate, 1946

Higgs-Walker led the school until 1956 when he was succeeded by L.C. (Kim) Taylor.

In literature

  • Sevenoaks Schoolmaster William Painter introduced his translation of William Fulke's Antiprognosticon (1560) with a letter written from Sevenoaks.
  • The finding of William Sevenoke is described by William Lambarde in A Perambulation of Kent (1576).
  • William Camden mentions the school and almshouses in Britannia (1586).
  • A school tradition, cited in the prospectus and school history,[14] maintains that Sevenoaks is the 'grammar school' of Jack Cade's speech in Henry VI Part 2, Act 4, scene 7. Jonathan Bate would appear to support this (The Genius of Shakespeare, 1997).
  • William Sevenoke is one of Richard Johnson's Nine Worthies of London (1592).
  • John Stow refers to William Sevenoke's civic roles and the founding of the school and almshouses in his Survey of London (1603), as does Anthony Munday in A Brief Chronicle (1611).
  • Daniel Defoe refers to the school in A tour through the whole island of Great Britain (1724–27).
  • John Wesley preached 'at an open place near the Free-School', on Saturday 4 October 1746. (Journal of the Rev John Wesley)
  • Maurice Henry Hewlett reflects on friendships of his schooldays in Lore of Proserpine (1913).
  • The Sevenoaks education of Huang Ya Dong (Wang Y Tong) and the son of John Frederick Sackville and Giovanna Baccelli is mentioned in Vita Sackville-West's Knole and the Sackvilles (1922).
  • Charlie Higson's fictional boarding school, Rowhurst (The Dead, 2010) was inspired by Sevenoaks.[15]
  • In Ian McEwan's novel Sweet Tooth (2012), the character Tom Haley is described as 'the product of a good grammar school, Sevenoaks'.

Notable students and alumni

Former pupils are known as "Old Sennockians".



In 1942, Vita Sackville-West suggested that William Caxton might have been born in Sevenoaks Weald and attended Sevenoaks School.[16]


  1. ^ The Good Schools Guide
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ The Telegraph: Top school scraps dull GCSEs in favour of new exams
  6. ^
  7. ^ William Kent (1727) The Designs of Inigo Jones
  8. ^ Sevenoaks Society
  9. ^ Sevenoaks Society
  10. ^ Sevenoaks School: The Space
  11. ^
  12. ^ Sevenoaks Almshouses
  13. ^ J T Lennox, Sevenoaks School and its Founder, 1432-1932 (1932)
  14. ^ Brian Scragg, Sevenoaks School, A History (1993)
  15. ^ Sevenoaks Chronicle: Actor Charlie Higson explains how Sevenoaks inspired his comedy
  16. ^ Sackville-West, V, ‘Caxton's Parentage’, Letters to the Editor, The Times, 23 December 1942

External links

  • Sevenoaks School website
  • Sevenoaks School on Ofsted.
  • Profile at the Good Schools Guide
  • William Sevenoke, The History of Parliament

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