Felsted School celebrates a 450-year legacy

PUBLISHED: 12:09 27 May 2014




Founded in an era when William Shakespeare was first penning his plays, Felsted School has a history and legacy that has brought so much to life in Essex. Here Sophy Aitken explores this history and the plans to celebrate its 450th anniversary

Not many schools can boast 450 years of teaching excellence, but this year Essex’s own Felsted School will join the likes of Eton among the handful of illustrious institutions that can claim this historic milestone. Older than America, Great Britain, the vote, Mozart, Darwin’s theory of evolution, the Spanish Armada and the same age as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, Felsted School has an unrivalled heritage and today continues to flourish as a leading co-educational Independent School, rated 100% excellent by the Independent Schools Inspectorate in 2013.

Felsted School was founded by one of Henry VIII’s courtiers, Richard Lord Riche. This link with royalty has been maintained over the years and was marked by a visit from the Queen Mother for the school’s 400th anniversary, a visit by Princess Anne to open the Lord Riche Hall in 1989 and even Old Felstedian Marcus Setchell delivering the latest member of the royal family, Prince George, in 2013.

At the peak of his career Richard Lord Riche had been Lord Chancellor under King Edward VI and it was in 1564 that he founded Felsted School. The school, originally a grammar school housed in the centre of the village in a converted Guild Hall, is now a thriving co-educational boarding and day school for pupils aged four to 18, set in a stunning 80-acre rural site.

From a handful of pupils in 1564, the school has grown exponentially and now boasts nearly 1,000 students. A number of contemporary boarding options meet the needs of today’s modern family, with most students boarding either three, five or seven nights in the senior school, to take full advantage of all that is on offer at the school.

Felsted Grammar School was not in existence long before its educational reputation was fully established. Under the fifth schoolmaster, Revd Martin Holbeach (1627 to 1649), the school educated Richard Cromwell, future Head of State, and produced a steady stream of brilliant scholars to light up the groves of academe. John Wallis and Isaac Barrow were to become respectively Savilian Professor of Mathematics at Oxford and Regius Professor of Greek (as well as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics) at Cambridge; a double distinction few schools in the land could have matched. The stellar successes of Felsted’s alumni continued under Revd Christopher Glascock (1650-1690), himself a worthy product of the school he came to lead.

By the early years of the 19th century, 
a new era in education had begun to dawn. Thomas Arnold’s reforms of the curriculum and ethos at Rugby School ushered in the public boarding school revolution of the Victorian age. Under Revd WS Grignon, new buildings were erected and numbers considerably expanded. With the development of the railways too, Felsted’s accessibility to a broader clientele was assured. By the turn of the 20th century, with Revd Frank Stephenson (1906-1933) at the helm, Felsted’s credentials as a leading boarding school were fully established.

After two world wars, which included an exile of nearly five years in Herefordshire for both the senior and junior schools (1940-1945), the traditional public school mintmark was a somewhat tarnished concept. It was the ground-breaking decision taken by headmaster Tony Eggleston (1968-1983) to admit girls into the Sixth Form in 1970 which began the process by which modern Felsted School has been reformed. Under Dr Mike Walker, appointed in 2008, the school’s horizons have been further widened, with admission to membership of the world-wide organisation of Round 
Square Schools in 2010.

The 450th celebrations mark the triumphant opening of a new chapter in the long and distinguished history of Lord Riche’s ancient charitable foundations, as Dr Walker explains: ‘In our 450th year, we are drawing even closer as an extended community and continuing to re-define ourselves as a place of exceptional achievement, but most importantly as a school which develops young people of exceptional character. Our community is underpinned by a common set of values: compassion, care and service to others. We have accomplished great things as a school, but it is not what we have accomplished that matters in the end. It is instead who our young people are; their values and a will to make a genuine difference and to help others. It is their attributes that exemplify all that is amazing about this community.’

Rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted and ‘Excellent’ in all aspects by the Independent Schools Inspectorate 2013, Felsted School offers pupils a wealth of co-curricular opportunities while still maintaining top academic success year on year in both the International Baccalaureate Diploma and A Levels.

Academic achievements of this calibre validate Felsted’s position in the top 10% of all schools nationally in both 2012 and 2013 for Value Added – in simple terms pupils are more likely to improve their academic performance at Felsted than at 90% of other schools, either state or independent in the UK.

National achievement is not limited to the classroom, as Felsted holds a reputation for sporting success on a national scale. Recent top achievements include Felsted School teams being crowned national U13 netball champions, national finalists at six levels across hockey and netball, plus Essex champions across all core sports. Last year Felsted made history again by being the first school ever to take two age groups to the National Daily Mail Vase School Rugby finals, held at Twickenham.

Felsted is also building an international reputation for the recently launched Felsted Diploma, harnessing all the 
great aspects of Felsted’s co-curricular programme. The diploma allows students in all year groups to select a programme of activities that is specially geared to their individual requirements, ensuring the right balance between breadth of opportunity and specialising in areas where each student’s enjoyment, potential and ability are the greatest. n

Marking 450 years

Celebrations of this incredible and historic landmark began in March, with a Service of Celebration at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. The Tour de France will be whizzing through Felsted School on July 7 and later in the year will see the grand opening of Follyfield House, a new girls’ boarding house which will include the bronze award-winning Felsted garden from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2013.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Essex Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Essex Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Essex Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Essex Life

Friday, November 16, 2018

Escape to the Chateau star Angel Adoree is currently reaping the benefits of her incredible vision and drive to build an overseas wedding and lifestyle business from scratch with husband Dick Strawbridge. Here she tells Essex Life about series five of the hit Channel 4 show and how a strong Essex work ethic helped her dream so big | Words: Denise Marshall

Read more
Friday, November 16, 2018

Being home to so many wonderful places to eat choosing where to go for dinner can often be difficult. With that in mind we’ve picked 20 of our favourite places to help you decide

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Hannah Salisbury from the Essex Record Office tells the story of an exciting project that is taking memories on tour around the county

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

For those still figuring out how to spend your Friday through Sunday, we’ve rounded up 5 of Essex’s best things to do to ensure no second of your weekend is wasted

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

We’ve put together 15 questions that will push your knowledge of Essex to the limit - let us know how you’ve done on social media!

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Stephanie Mackentyre continues her tour of Essex’s best eateries by stopping to eat at Dedham’s Sun Inn with her pooch

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

From James Bond to Batman, Essex has been known to bask in a little Hollywood glitz. Here are 19 that have used our county’s incredible locations on the big screen

Read more
Friday, November 2, 2018

With the Christmas celebrations seemingly starting earlier every year, it all feels a little too ‘soon’ sometimes, but what if you want to look your best for Christmas & New year celebrations and are considering having cosmetic non-surgical procedures? The Bella Vou Pantiles Clinic offers surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures and treatments from a purpose-built private clinic in the heart of Royal Tunbridge Wells

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

Whether you know him for his madcap antics, his reality TV appearances or his unique voice, Essex boy Joe Pasquale has earned his place as one of the nation’s favourite entertainers. Kate Everett caught up with Joe to hear what’s next in his 30-year showbiz career

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

How do you fancy winning a weekend away to relax and unwind in the stunning Cotswolds countryside? Well, here is your chance!

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search