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Downe House School is an independent girls' boarding school in the Englishmarker county of Berkshire.


Downe House was founded in 1907 by Olive Willis, its first headmistress, as an all-girls' boarding school. Its first home was Down Housemarker in the village of Downe, Kentmarker, now part of the London Borough of Bromleymarker, a house which had been the family home of Charles Darwin. By 1921 this was too small for the school, so Willis bought The Cloisters, Cold Ashmarker, Berkshire, to which the school moved in 1922. It remains there.

In 2005 the school was one of fifty of the country's leading independent schools which were found guilty of running an illegal price-fixing cartel, exposed by The Times, which had allowed them to drive up fees for thousands of parents. Each school was required to pay a nominal penalty of £10,000 and all agreed to make ex-gratia payments totalling three million pounds into a trust designed to benefit pupils who attended the schools during the period in respect of which fee information was shared.

Entry and education

The Good Schools Guide called the Downe House "A green and spacious school which leads its pupils into independence as they move round the campus and makes sure they experience life outside it."

Downe House educates girls between the ages of eleven and eighteen, taking them from the last years of junior school through to the sixth form and A-levels. Girls can join the school at the ages of eleven, twelve, or thirteen, on leaving a primary or prep school, or at sixteen after completing GCSEs.

The school is selective, with most entrants needing to pass the Common Entrance Examination.

Notable former pupils

See also Downe House Seniors.


  • Ridler, Ann, Olive Willis and Downe House: an adventure in education (London: Murray, 1967)
  • Horsler, Val, & Jenny Kingsland, Downe House: a Mystery and a Miracle (London: Third Millennium Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1903942500 & ISBN 978-1903942505)


  1. Independent schools face huge fines over cartel to fix fees - Times Online
  2. The Office of Fair Trading: OFT names further trustees as part of the independent schools settlement
  4. Olive Willis and Downe House at

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