Berkhamsted is famous for education, and this week we look at the history of the town’s noted seats of learning
Berkhamsted Boys School.
Berkhamsted School was founded in 1541 by Dr John Incent.
It is assumed that his own education had been received at the castle where his father Robert probably served as secretary to Cecily, Duchess of York.
John graduated at Oxford and became a lawyer and at the age of 60 was appointed to the Deanery of St Paul’s.
As President of the Brotherhood of St John the Baptist he encouraged them to invest their funds, together with his own landholdings, in a new school.
In 1541 he applied to Henry VIII for a licence to found a school and by 1544 the building had been erected and was ready for use under the first headmaster Richard Reeve.
After the Dean’s death in 1545 disputes arose over the legality of the original foundation, but five years later a new Act saw the founding of the King Edward VI Free Grammar School for 144 pupils.
The school survived severe declines during the next three hundred years, but these were overcome, and it embarked on a vast expansion in late Victorian times and attained high educational success which it still achieves.
Berkhamsted School for Girls
John Evans, an archaeologist, and a local shop keeper Henry Nash, saw the need for an equal education for girls and set about creating it.
In 1887 a revised scheme for the government of Berkhamsted Boys’ School included a clause that ‘so soon as the income of the foundation shall be sufficient, the governors shall apply a yearly sum of not less than £250 in promoting the secondary education of girls resident in and around Berkhamsted.’
The Bourne School building in the High Street had been empty for some years and this was leased and became the Berkhamsted Girls’ Grammar school.
It was opened on May 1st, 1888 by the Countess Brownlow.
The first headmistress was Miss Charlotte Disney who struggled with increasingly cramped teaching conditions which lead first to extensions being built, and finally to the construction of a new school in Kings Road.
The new school, which forms the basis of today’s premises, was formally opened in 1902, with classrooms on the lower floors and dormitories on the top floor.
It has been constantly expanded with many extensions added, and with adjacent houses purchased for use by the school.
By 1910 there was also a preparatory department under Miss A. Downes which was listed in a directory that year.
Berkhamsted Collegiate School
In 1997 the Boys’ School was amalgamated with the Girl’s School and also with Berkhamsted Preparatory School to become Berkhamsted Collegiate School.
The buildings in Castle Street were renamed Castle Campus and those in Kings Road became Kings Campus.
In December 2008 the school reverted to just Berkhamsted School. It is a ‘diamond’ school with pupils taught co-educationally in the prep school and sixth form, but in single sex departments between 11 and 16.
Today the school has 1,500 pupils and the principal is Mark Steed.