"It's fascinating to think that pupils have been studying at Westminster for hundreds of years"

Where tradition sustains innovation

Marcus, 13, Martlets

“It’s interesting to think that pupils have been studying at Westminster for hundreds of years and that we are learning in same environment as they did, but the world is so different now.”

Westminster is an ancient boarding and day school with a unique sense of place. It is, in fact, the only long-established school to remain on its original site in the centre of London.

Westminster’s origins can be traced to a charity school established by the Benedictine monks of Westminster Abbey. Its continuous existence is certain from the early fourteenth century. After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1540, Henry VIII personally ensured the School’s survival by statute. Elizabeth I, confirmed royal patronage in 1560 and is celebrated as the School’s Foundress.  For several hundred years the School continued to be joined with Westminster Abbey, forming one collegiate foundation, until the 1868 Public Schools Act gave the School independence.

Then, in 1943, the School expanded its educational scope by forming the Under School, educating boys aged 7-11. Initially both sections of the School shared a site, as the Under School began with just 17 boys. However, we experienced fairly rapid growth and by 1950 were educating 80 boys. So, in 1951, we secured our own premises in Eccleston Square. Yet as pupil numbers continued to increase during the sixties and seventies it became apparent that larger premises were required and in 1981 the Under School moved again to its present site overlooking the Westminster playing fields in Vincent Square.

More detailed information about the rich history and tradition of Westminster School can be found on the Great School premises in The Westminster School Archives and the Library, or at Westminster Abbey in the Muniment Room. The Great School’s Archivist, Elizabeth Wells, manages these in addition to our heritage collections, which include works of art, rare books, manuscripts and a wide range of artefacts.

The History of Westminster School

"The School has always been closely connected to Westminster Abbey and the Monarchy, but the Archive Collections reveal a much broader picture of changing fortunes, famous pupils and events which have shaped Westminster's identity"