Aldenham School, Founded 1597


A long history

Founded in 1597 by Richard Platt, proprietor of the Old Swan Brewery in the Parish of Garlickhithe in the City of London, Aldenham School boasts a mixture of tradition coupled with a sense of history. Richard Platt had been Master of the Brewers' Company in 1576 and 1581. In 1596 he obtained Letters Patent to build "the Free Grammar School and Almshouses" at Aldenham from Queen Elizabeth 1 and the Foundation Stone was actually laid in 1597.

Before his death in 1600, he completed the formal endowment of the School by a covenant between himself and the Brewers' Company. For the first two hundred years of its existence the School limped along and since Richard Platt had sited his "Grammar School" in a location where there were so few local pupils, it is remarkable that it survived. It operated as a village elementary school with the Master taking in private pupils, who lived with him, to add to his salary and provide intellectual stimulation. A far reach from the school of today!

Major changes occurred in the early 19th Century when an investigation by the Education Charities Commission of the Poor coincided with a sudden rise in value of the Platt lands at Pancras. The report did not flatter Aldenham and the Brewers' Company took action. The old Tudor Grammar School was demolished and replaced by two new schools; a Lower School which provided an elementary education for the local population, and a Grammar School which was for boarders who paid fees.

Schools in the countryside

Despite the changes there was no real success until the Reverend Alfred Leeman was appointed as Headmaster in 1844. He transformed the School into an academic one with Aldenhamians proceeding to the universities and a waiting list of prospective pupils. At the end of his Headmastership another combination of circumstances influenced the development of the School. The compulsory purchase of the Platt estate at Pancras by the Midland Railway Company for its London terminus (the present St Pancras Station), coincided with the Taunton Report into the country's Grammar Schools.

The result was a scheme for the future of Aldenham School, approved by the Queen in Council in 1875, which saw £41,000 of the £81,000 compensation payment for the Platt estate diverted away from Aldenham to other educational areas. This was clearly a financial blow for the future of the School. Alfred Leeman was succeeded by John Kennedy who built, with enormous success, on the foundations he inherited with staunch support from the Governors. Between 1877 and 1899 the School grew from 47 pupils to 175 with a major building programme and an extension of the grounds, an enlarged academic curriculum and the introduction of a games programme. It built an academic and sporting reputation second to none and thus a small Grammar School became a Public School.

The 20th Century and into the new millennium has seen the developments continue and every challenge met. The size of the School has increased, the facilities updated, the academic timetable revised and extended and a wide range of activities added to the curriculum. The School is fully co-educational throughout, the ratio of boarders to day pupils has totally altered (an impact of the combustion engine as well as social factors), but the ethos of the School remains the same. The result is that as Aldenham enters into the fifth century of its existence, with the largest number of pupils in its history, it is in good heart to continue to be faithful to its founder's intent to enable pupils to progress in "learning, knowledge, virtue".

Mr James Fowler, previously Senior Deputy Head at Highgate, was appointed as Headmaster in 2006 and is continuing the exciting developments at Aldenham. In October 2000 our new Pre-Prep Department was opened and in November 2000 the new Music School was formally opened by Dame Janet Baker. A new state of the art classroom block was added in 2005 and a modern re-furbished theatre in 2007 followed by a new Sixth Form Centre and extension to the Music School in 2012. The opening of a Prep School for boys and girls in September 2003 and the introduction of girls at 11+ in September 2004 means that since 2007 there has been continuity of education for both  boys and girls from 3-18 years all on one site.

To order a copy of the History book, A Foundation for Success, click here.​

Part of the
Aldenham Foundation