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Igniting sparks since 1876

History

Since its foundation in 1876 by the Girls’ Public Day School Trust, South Hampstead High School has always provided an aspirational learning environment at the heart of the local community in Hampstead. Its unique atmosphere has made it an outstanding school, both intellectually and culturally, where the arts and sport are celebrated as much as academic success. The school can look back to pioneering women cricketers in Edwardian England, supporting the country’s First World War efforts and proudly championing women’s rights.

The school house system, which engenders a sense of camaraderie and competition across year groups, is named after some of our Headmistresses in the Senior School: Miss Benton (1886-1918), Miss Walker (1918-1926), Miss Potter (1927-1953) and Miss Bodington (1954-1969). In the Junior School, houses are named after trailblazing women throughout history, as voted for by the girls: Charlotte Brontë, Marie Curie, Rosa Parks and Anna Pavlova.

But great schools do not just look back nor stand still. New buildings have been added and acquired in recent decades as well as an expansive sports grounds on Lymington Road. In 2013, the original Senior School building was demolished, with a state-of-the-art building – designed by Hopkins Architects, of Westminster Tube Station and Glyndebourne Opera House fame – rising up in its place. An equally progressive approach is evident inside these buildings: from digital learning resources and ergonomic furniture to an enlightened and holistic curriculum, our educational ethos is outward-looking and forward-thinking.

Nothing sums up South Hampstead better than the late Gillian Ayres’ colourful abstract murals, commissioned in 1957, now adorning the walls of the light-filled atrium: the artist’s bold brushstrokes reflect a spirit very much in evidence here – nearly 150 years after its inception, South Hampstead continues to be a vibrant academic powerhouse, rich in colour, independent in spirit and pioneering in its ambition.

South Hampstead High School timeline

1876

‘St. John’s Wood High School’ opens with 27 pupils; by 1878, pupil numbers increase to 197

1887

School name changes to South Hampstead High School; moves to a purpose-built site in Maresfield Gardens for 300 pupils aged 8 and up

1921

Acquisition of Waterlow House enables the school to take girls from the age of 5

1939

The school evacuates to Berkhamsted School for Girls, Hertfordshire until 1944

1957

Pupils increase to 500; 12 Netherhall Gardens is acquired to house the growing Junior School; the late abstract artist, Gillian Ayers, is commissioned to create The Hampstead Murals – her first large scale work

1971

Nobel Prize winner Professor Dorothy Hodgkin opens the new science block

1988

The new Waterlow Building is opened by the Duchess of Gloucester; the school now has a new sports hall, canteen, theatre, a Sixth Form common room and art studios

1991

Oakwood House is purchased for the Sixth Form

1993

A second building, 5 Netherhall Gardens, is purchased to house the growing Junior School

1997

Acquisition of the sports ground in Lymington Road

2012

Work begins on the new Senior School building in Maresfield Garden; pupils move to a temporary site at the Lymington Road sports ground

2014

660 Senior School pupils move into their new Hopkins-designed, 7-storey building, from basement sports hall to the panoramic roof terrace, opened by alumna Helena Bonham-Carter

2016

South Hampstead marks its 140th anniversary with a celebratory dinner with guest speaker Fiona Bruce

2017

Planning gets underway to transform Waterlow Hall into a contemporary, flexible performing arts space

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