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.

Elizabeth IWestminster’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 established the school as an independent body. The school still enjoys a close relationship with the Abbey and the Dean of Westminster is chair of the School’s Governing Body.

In 1943 the School expanded its educational scope by forming Westminster Under School, educating boys from the age of 7. Initially both sections of the School shared a site, until 1951 when the Under School secured its own premises. Then in 1973 the School expanded its scope once again, admitting girls as full members of the school at 16+. Today the School proudly educates boys and girls in the Sixth Form and approximately 70 girls join the school each year.

Westminster Milestones

1394

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

1461

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

1540

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

1560

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

1562

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

1564

Elizabeth I attends the annual Latin Play.

1599

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

1638

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

1649

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

1659-65

The Busby Library and Ashburnham House are built.

1666

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

1685

Westminster boys first formally attend a Coronation.

1731

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

1746

First recorded cricket match: Old Westminsters vs Old Etonians.

1750

Grant family begins to manage a boarding house.

1753

First recorded ‘Pancake Greaze’.

1796

First cricket match against Eton at Hounslow Heath.

1810

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

1815

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

1837

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

1855

Last wholly oral ‘Challenge’ (scholarship examination).

1858

Prince Albert and the Prince of Wales attend Latin Play.

1868

Public Schools Act gives Westminster independence from Westminster Abbey.

1881

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

1883

First non-classical curriculum.

1905-06

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

1919

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

1921

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

1940

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

1941

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

1943

The Under School is started in Dean’s Yard.

1973

Girls first become full members of the School.

1986

Opening of the Robert Hooke Science Centre.

2001

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

2005

Opening of the Manoukian Music Centre and the Weston Building.

2010

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.

2012

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

2017

First female Queen’s Scholars join College.
Little Dean's Yard 1933
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Westminster School 1560-1960
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