Founded in 1851 by a clergyman, Ashby Haslewood, St John's was established to provide a free education for the sons of poor clergymen. Expanding throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries , St John's has evolved to become a fully co-educational day and boarding school for over 800 pupils from 11 to 18. This timeline shows some of the schools most important milestones so far but why not delve deeper into our school archives or the history of The Great War at St Johns.
The First Headmaster and Pupils
The first headmaster was the Reverend Anthony Thomson (headmaster 1852-1857), curate of St Mark’s and the first eight boys, known as ‘Foundationers’, joined the School in January 1852.
Edwards Hawkins became headmaster (headmaster 1861-1883).
The two-storey building, next to the Dining Hall was built in 1881 as the School Infirmary. By this time, there were 135 boys in the School.
Arthur Rutty became headmaster (1883 – 1909).
The School continued to expand and two boarding houses, known as Block A and Block B, were constructed in 1891 and 1894.
The new Dining Hall - which remains the School's Dining Hall to this day - was opened.
The first cricket pavilion cost £360. It was designed to look like a Swiss chalet with a red tile top, veranda, tea room and changing rooms.
New fives courts were built in 1908 in memory of Charles Churchill, founder of the School.
Edmund Downes became headmaster (1909-1932)
On 9 June 1913 a serious fire destroyed the main school building. Dormitories, classrooms, assistant Masters’ rooms, the matrons’ room, the large schoolroom and the library were completely destroyed. Roofs and ceilings fell in and the wooden floors were burned beyond recognition.
The School was rebuilt and officially opened on Speech Day 1914 by HRH the Duchess of Albany. There were 265 boys in the School.
Jack Carter became headmaster (1933-1947)
Hereward Wake became headmaster (1948-1960)
A new gymnasium was built to take the place of a former building damaged by the blast from a land mine in the Second World War. Field Marshal the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein formally opened the building with a golden key. There were 348 boys in the School.
Ian Sutherland became headmaster (1960-1970)
The School Chapel was constructed in 1962 thanks to an anonymous benefactor. Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, Chairman of the Governing Council, persuaded a friend to provide the money (£50,000). The Chapel was dedicated by the Bishop of Guildford, the Right Revd George Reindorp, at a service on Speech Day, 13 June 1963. There were 341 boys in the School. In 2010 it was revealed that the anonymous donor was Garfield Weston of the Garfield Weston Foundation.
Edward Hartwell became headmaster (1970-1985)
By 1973 the number of boys in the School had grown and a new day house was needed. It was named Montgomery House after Field Marshal Montgomery, Chairman of the Governors, 1950 – 1966. Space for Montgomery House was created by splitting the former Block A (North House) into two, so that Monty occupied one side of the building and North the other side. There were 396 boys in the School.
David Brown became headmaster (1985-1992)
Christopher Tongue became headmaster (1993-2004)
Performing Arts Centre
The new Performing Arts Centre was built on the site of the former gymnasium and theatre. The building was opened by the Duchess of Gloucester in 2003. There were 448 pupils in the School.
Nicholas Haddock became headmaster (2004-2011)
Henry Dawes Centre
The Henry Dawes Centre opened in September 2010, providing St John’s with state-of-the-art teaching space, a new library and specialist facilities for design technology, art and graphic design.
Martin Collier became headmaster (2011-2017)
The former Churchill House building was refurbished and re-opened in 2013 as a boarding house for girls. It was named Gloucester House after our Patron, HRH the Duchess of Gloucester. There were 660 pupils in the School.
A high-tech and high-spec building was created to provide St John's with eight new science labs for chemistry and biology. It was officially opened on 25 May 2016 by Field Marshal Montgomery’s granddaughter, Lady Arabella Stuart-Smith.
Rowena Cole became The Head of St John's.
Sports Centre Opens
The new sports centre opened in Autumn 2019 housing swimming pool, sports hall, fitness suite and studio.
A girls’ day house, Hawkins, opened its doors at the start of the academic year in September 2019 taking on Cambridge blue and white as their colours. Hawkins House was named after Reverend Edwards C Hawkins, the headmaster of St John’s from 1861 to 1883 who moved the School to Leatherhead and formed the basis of the School that we recognise today. There were 833 pupils in the School.
Rebecca Evans became the Acting Head of St John's.
Fire at St Mark's Church, London
The St John's School community were deeply saddened by the fire at St Mark's Church in January 2023. The church holds huge significance to our history; consecrated in June 1847, our connection began in 1851, when St John’s School was founded there by Reverend Ashby Haslewood with the dual purpose of offering free education to the sons of poor clergymen and to provide a choir for his large church.
Alex Tate became the Head of St John’s.