About Westminster

Westminster is an independent boarding and day school with a long history, a distinctive ethos, and a unique sense of place.

About Westminster

Westminster is an ancient school in the heart of London, the only one still to occupy its original site, immediately next to Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. Its origins can be traced to a charity school established by the Benedictine monks of the Abbey of St Peter, and it is more than likely that this spiritual and educational tradition goes back as far as 960 AD.

After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1540, King Henry VIII personally ensured the School’s survival by statute. His daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, confirmed the royal patronage in 1560 whereby the Abbey and School formed the one collegiate foundation. She is therefore celebrated as the School’s Founder and her importance is marked by a statue in Little Dean’s Yard by Matthew Spender OW, unveiled by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in June 2010.

Today, Westminster is one of the leading academic schools in the country. Pupils achieve exceptional examination results and entrance to some of the top universities in the world. It is a busy, passionate and purposeful place where independent and deep thinking is enjoyed, encouraged and respected by all, and where holistic excellence is nurtured and valued.

Fundamentally, we want our pupils to engage in a constructive, thoughtful process of “loyal dissent”. While we encourage them to embrace the principles of a liberal education, respect genuine scholarship and appreciate a deep and rigorous learning process, they are equally encouraged to challenge, question and explore the content of that learning, to push boundaries and overturn expectations – mindful at all times of the feelings of others.

Most importantly, we want our pupils to use their skills and intelligence to help others, to build up not put down, and to benefit society. For centuries, Westminster School has been the educational cradle of some very distinguished people. Our task is to help future generations of pupils to follow in their footsteps and make a positive difference in the world.

Open Days
Westminster Milestones


Abbey Account Rolls record payments to the ‘magistro scolarum pro erudicione puerorum’.


The School moves from the Almonry to Dean’s Yard.


The Benedictine monastery is dissolved but Henry VIII ensures the survival of the School.


Following the brief restoration of the monastery under Mary I, Elizabeth I issues a new charter to ‘The College of St Peter at Westminster’.


First Election Dinner following the Election of scholars to Trinity College Cambridge and Christ Church Oxford.


Elizabeth I attends the annual Latin Play.


The former Monks’ Dormitory is first used as the schoolroom.


Richard Busby becomes Head Master, remaining in post until his death in 1695.


Execution of Charles I: Busby leads the School in prayers for the King on the day of his beheading.


The Busby Library and Ashburnham House are built.


Fire of London – Dean Dolben and the Scholars save St Dunstan’s in the East.


Westminster boys first formally attend a Coronation.


The Scholars move into the new dormitory designed by Lord Burlington.


First recorded cricket match: Old Westminsters vs Old Etonians.


Grant family begins to manage a boarding house.


First recorded ‘Pancake Greaze’.


First cricket match against Eton at Hounslow Heath.


Vincent Square is secured as a playing field for the School by Dean Vincent.


The Water ledger, recording rowing at the School, begins.


Westminster’s victory over Eton at rowing hastens the death of William IV.


Last wholly oral format of The Challenge (scholarship examination).


Prince Albert and the Prince of Wales attend Latin Play.


Public Schools Act gives Westminster independence from Westminster Abbey.


Ashburnham House is purchased on the death of Lord John Thynne; new day boy house (Ashburnham) is started.


First non-classical curriculum.


The School’s first science building is built in Great College Street.


George V, Queen Mary, the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) and Prince Albert (later George VI) attend the Pancake Greaze.


The School unveils its First World War memorial – 224 Old Westminsters are known to have died in the conflict.


The Busby Library is destroyed in an air raid and the Head Master’s secretary is killed.


College and School are severely damaged in the air raid that also destroyed the House of Commons.


The Under School is started in Dean’s Yard.


Girls first become full members of the School.


Opening of the Robert Hooke Science Centre.


Opening of the Millicent Fawcett Hall (the School’s theatre).


Opening of the Manoukian Music Centre and the Weston Building.


Queen Elizabeth II visits the school to celebrate the 450th anniversary of the granting of the Royal Charter and unveils a statue of Queen Elizabeth I by sculptor Matthew Spender.


Opening of the Sports Centre in the former Royal Horticultural Hall.


First female Queen’s Scholars join College.

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