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Tonbridge School is a British boys' independent school for both day and boarding pupils in Tonbridgemarker, Kentmarker, founded in 1553 by Sir Andrew Judd (sometimes spelled Judde). It is a member of the Eton Group of leading academic schools, and has close links with the Worshipful Company of Skinners, one of the oldest London livery companies, and is a public school in the specialised British sense of the term.

The school occupies a site of 150 acres (607,000 m²) on the edge of Tonbridge, and is largely self-contained, though the boarding and day houses are spread through the town. Since its foundation the school has been rebuilt twice on the original site.

There are currently about 770 boys in the school, aged between 13 and 18.

The Headmaster since 2005 is Tim Haynes, previously Headmaster of Monmouth Schoolmarker.

The Good Schools Guide describes the school as "truly excellent". It is not one of the nine public schools mentioned in the Public Schools Act 1868, but it is just as old as, or older than, five of those which are. It is among the 25 boarding schools mentioned in the Public Schools Yearbook of 1889.

Tonbridge's fees are among the highest of all the public schools in Britain, at around GBP 30,000 per year in basic fees for boarders (higher than Etonmarker or Harrowmarker). However, bursaries and scholarships are available, including the Foundation Award.


The school was founded in 1553 by Sir Andrew Judd under the Letters Patent of King Edward VI, making it one of the oldest of Britain's major public schools.

The Charter ordained that the Governors of the school after the death of the Founder were to be the Worshipful Company of Skinners (known as The Skinners Company), one of the "Great Twelve" City Livery Companies with a history going back some 700 years. It is one of the oldest City Guilds and developed from the medieval trade guild of the furriers: members dressed and traded furs that were used for trimming and lining the garments of the rich.

The company, as the guild is now called, is no longer associated with the craft but continues to contribute to educating the young and helping the older in need, through their almshouses, charities and schools. The Skinners' Company's School for Girls is the fourth school opened by the Skinners' Company. The other schools respectively are the Sir Andrew Judd's free school (now called Tonbridge School), The Skinners' Schoolmarker and Sir Andrew Judd's Commercial School (now called The Judd Schoolmarker).

Sir Andrew, himself a distinguished member of this Company, left property in the City of Londonmarker and in the parish of St Pancrasmarker as an endowment for the school. The income from these estates is at the disposal of the Governors for the general benefit of the Foundation. The memory of Sir Andrew Judd and other benefactors is honoured in an annual Commemoration Service, held on Skinners' Day at the end of the Summer term.

The school first really began to flourish in the 19th century when it and other public schools supplied the demand for capable men to administer and soldier for the British Empire. It is recorded that alumni served in the Crimean War, the Indian Mutiny, the Boer War and even under the 8th Earl of Elgin during the Second Opium War. Indeed Headmaster Knox once noted that "wherever the Union Flag stands o'ershadowed, there you will find a Tonbridge boy ready to bring it into the light".

The Edwardian period saw considerable sporting success for the school. In 1905 and 1906 its 1st XI cricket team enjoyed two unbeaten seasons under its captain, Archibald Featherstonehaugh (pronounced "Fanshaw"). In the years that followed Tonbridge produced many first-class cricketers, including Colin Cowdrey in the late 1940s.

World War I

The school suffered heavy losses during the Great War. Great numbers of alumni were killed, as well as several members of staff who volunteered for service. The fabric of the school was unscathed.

World War II

In June 1941 a V1 bomb launched by the enemy almost succeeded in killing Headmaster Eric Whitworth when it landed near Ferox Hall . A bomb dropped by a lone German bomber almost destroyed the Chapel earlier in the War.

However, papers found by the Allies after the fall of Berlin suggested that Hitler's staff intended to make Tonbridge School the Upper-Medway regional HQ for occupying forces, had Operation Sealion gone ahead.

During the War an anti-tank trench was dug alongside the Head (the school's main cricket pitch). The OTC (Officer Training Corps) issued the groundsmen with grenades, rifles and German phrase-books.

On the recommendation of Edmund Ironside, 1st Baron Ironside, Chief of the Imperial General Staff and an Old Tonbridgian, an evacuation plan was drawn up by the school in case of a German invasion. Boys were to disperse across the country while teachers formed resistance cells.

Post-War years

Lawrence Waddy took over as Headmaster in 1949. The Tonbridge he inherited was still a largely Victorian institution; fagging and ritual caning were still in place, and sport was considered more important than academia. Over the next 40 years personal fagging was abolished (ending in 1965), and the intellectual life of the school was revitalised (particularly under the Headmastership of the scholarly Michael McCrum). McCrum, headmaster 1962-70, abolished the right of senior boys to administer corporal punishment, taking over for himself the task of administering routine canings. 1st-Year Socials were set up with neighbouring girls' schools. By the 1990s the school was larger and richer than ever, regularly appearing in the top 50 in independent schools examination league tables. The Headmaster until 2005 was Martin Hammond.

In 2005 the school was one of fifty leading private schools 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. Full fees are now over GBP 28,140 per year for boarders, making Tonbridge one of the most expensive British public schools (more expensive than either Eton or Harrow, for example), though it provides a large number of scholarships for gifted pupils, and many bursaries for less well-off pupils.

A section of the main school building.


The Good Schools Guide described the school as academically "Truly excellent," noting that "In 2008, the average GCSE candidate achieved 4A*s and 6As. 87 per cent got all A*/A and 98 per cent got all A*/A/B."

The School, as of 2008, has the highest performing Politics and Economics Departments in the Eton Group, and the second highest-performing History Department after Westminster.

Almost all boys go on to University, with between thirty and forty every year going to Oxbridge.


The school has a strong sporting tradition, especially in rugby and cricket, with many other sports played as well. Traditional public school sports like rugby fives and fencing are played to high standards, as well as more modern sports including football, climbing, squash, and tennis. The school has one of the oldest of only about twenty racquet courts in the country, and has several fives courts.

Tonbridge's 1st XV rugby team was undefeated for 3 straight seasons (2004/5, 2005/6 and 2006/7), and is the only public school 1st XV since the Second World War to have two unbeaten seasons in a row, let alone three. The 1st XI Hockey team was unbeaten in its regular fixtures in the 2006/7 season, while the Athletics squad has enjoyed two consecutive unbeaten seasons - 2005/6 and 2006/7.

The school has produced a number of international rugby players throughout the history of rugby union. In 1871, in the first ever international rugby match, Tonbridge was represented by two players, J.E. Bentley and J.H. Luscombe. These players were also members of a team called the Gipsies Football Club, a London-based rugby football club for Old Tonbrigians founded in 1868. This club produced four other internationals including England captain Francis Luscombe, and was also one of the founding members of the Rugby Football Union.

With the opening of the Tonbridge School Centre for Sports and Media in summer 2008, a much greater focus has been given to sports within the school. The centre was opened by Sebastian Coe in front of a crowd of thousands. The new centre contains a 25-metre swimming pool, a gym, a climbing wall, a sports hall suited for badminton, indoor football, cricket nets practice or basketball, and most importantly a fully equipped, high-tech media centre.


There are twelve houses at Tonbridge School; seven boarding, and five day houses. Each house has its own house colours. The houses, in order of foundation, are:
School House Boarding Black and Blue

Judde House Boarding Magenta and Black

Park House Boarding White and Purple

Hill Side Boarding Red and Black

Parkside Boarding Yellow and Amphibione

Ferox Hall Boarding Orange and Yellow

Manor House Boarding Green and Red

Welldon House Day Light and Dark Blue

Smythe House Day Chocolate and Cerise

Whitworth Day Green and White

Cowdrey House Day Purple and Green

Oakeshott House Day Scarlet and Gold

Each house contains some 65 pupils. The names are either drawn from the location of the house itself (e.g. Park House, Parkside House, School House (originally located in the main school building) and Hill Side), or are names of benefactors, headmasters and others who have left their mark on the school over the years (e.g. Smythe House, named after Sir Thomas Smythe (see also Smythe Library), Judde House, named after the founder of the school, Whitworth and Welldon, both named after headmasters of the school, and Cowdrey House, named after Colin Cowdrey, arguably the most famous Tonbridge alumnus). The only exceptions are Ferox Hall, which takes its name from the Latin for ferocious, and Manor House, which was named by a former Housemaster.

There are also several "out-houses" dotted around the town, which are intended to help further prepare boys for university life. Boys retain affiliation to the house they lived in previously during their time in out-houses.

Competitions between the houses are held in many fields, particularly sport, as well as other activities such as music, art, debating, and design & technology. One example is the inter-house shooting competition; the winning house is awarded the Hansard Trophy, named after Cornelius Hansard, an Old Tonbridgian. The trophy, having been held by School House for two years running (2006 & 2007), is now held by Smythe House. The most prestigious of all of the house competitions are the senior house match competitions for each of the three main sports (rugby, hockey and cricket) which have been dominated in recent years by Park House.

The Cras (compulsary run around school) is also a major source of friendly house rivalry. Runners score points for their position, and the lowest scoring house receives a trophy.


Recent additions to the school's infrastructure include the Vere Hodge Centre, the E.M. Forster Theatre, and the Tonbridge School Sport and Media Centre. All three are of modernist design, incorporating quantities of glass and steel and high levels of technology, while the latter contains a swimming pool, gym, fencing salle and multiple changing rooms, and is to be used as a training facility for the 2012 Olympics.

The Chapel of St. Augustine was opened in October 1995 after its predecessor was severely damaged by fire in 1988. The Marcussen organ is a four-manual tracker-action instrument with 66 speaking stops, including two 32' stops; it is well known throughout Europe by those familiar with such instruments as a fine and impressive example; it is the largest Marcussen organ in the south-east of England.

The Smythe Library, built in 1962, was designed by Sir William Holford in 1962. It contains approximately 26,000 volumes, some of which have been in the school's possession since the 17th century. Its collection includes a complete set of Punch.

Now offices, the former Headmaster's House (located next to the High Street) is the oldest part of the school, dating in parts from the 16th century. Its structure contains Roman masonry, most likely quarried from a temple to the god Priapus that is believed to have stood by the Medway near where Tonbridge Castle stands today.

Old Judde, which now houses the Modern Languages Department, was built in the 19th century and is remarkable for the enclosed terrace garden at its rear. The garden is raised several feet above ground level because it was built directly on top of the building that formerly occupied the site.


Tonbridge School is known locally for its excellent facilities, particularly in sport. It has three hockey astros - one floodlit water-based astro and two sand-based astros, used by Tunbridge Wells Hockey Club and Sevenoaks Hockey Club as well as by the school itself in the Lent term. It has a six-lane floodlit tartan athletics track, used extensively all year round by Tonbridge Athletics Club, and on which Kelly Holmes was often seen to be training. The School is also famous for its well-maintained pitches. The main cricket pitch (The Head) is often used for county-level cricket matches.

The new sports centre complex was opened officially on 13 June 2008 by Lord Sebastian Coe. It includes a new swimming pool, indoor sport facilities (such as indoor hockey), a gym, and a sports studio where activities such as fencing, judo, karate and table tennis take place. Due to its excellent location overlooking the athletics track and water-based astro pitch, the new centre now forms an integral part of the local sporting community.

School terms

All terms have a half-term holiday and two weekend exeats within.

  • Michaelmas Term - Early September to mid-December (most new boys join the school during this term)
  • Lent Term - Early January to late March
  • Summer Term - Late April to early July

School traditions


The school's motto (Deus Dat Incrementum) is not to be confused with that of Westminster Schoolmarker, London (Dat Deus Incrementum). The two have quite different meanings due to their word order. Whereas Tonbridge's lays emphasis on the fact that God, and nobody else, gives growth, Westminster's emphasises the fact that God gives growth and does not, for example, receive it, buy it or rent it. However, the motto "Dat Deus Incrementum" can be seen on the main school building at the entrance to the Physics department. The motto is the same as that of Marlborough Collegemarker and The Judd Schoolmarker.

Tonbridge Society

The Tonbridge community has, in addition to boys, three main groups which come together in the Tonbridge Society to support each other and the school. The Parents' Arts Society provides a focus for parents and other friends of the school and gives them the opportunity to benefit from its educational and cultural facilities. The Old Tonbridgian Society provides a social and support network for the boys after their five years here. There is an Old Tonbridgian Masonic Lodge, with branches in London, Oxfordmarker and Cambridgemarker. Finally, the Tonbridge School Foundation is committed to supporting the development of the school in many different ways. Collectively the Tonbridge Society represents all members of the Tonbridge family and brings the groups together for events of overlapping interest.

The Novi

In Tonbridge terminology 1st Year boys are known as novi (rhyming with "no guy") which in Latin means "new males". However, according to classical Latin pronunciation, the word should actually be pronounced as "no vee". To an ancient Roman's ears the Tonbridge pronunciation would indicate the Latin word novae, which unfortunately means "new women".


Normal weekday dress, according to the Memoranda (school rules), consists of the traditional school tweed blazer, white shirt, school trousers, black or grey socks and black plain dress shoes. Boys must also wear a school tie with their jackets or suits; at least thirty varieties are available at the School Shop, including two varieties of leavers tie made by T.M. Lewin of Jermyn Street (many old school and regimental ties are traditionally from here). Boys may wear a house waistcoat if they have had one made. All students are expected to dress accordingly on all regular days of school. School boaters (straw hats with a ribbon in the school colours) are available in the School Shop, but these are no longer mandatory and almost never worn by the majority of boys. Stiff collars are no longer necessary either. On Sundays, students are expected to put on formal wear. This consists of the school suit, and polished shoes. Boys in the sixth form may wear lounge suits. Boys in the upper sixth can wear a light-colored shirt on weekdays. School Praepostors may wear brown polishable shoes on weekdays but not on formal occasions. School coloured scarves may be worn during the winter. After lessons and games and at some weekends, boys can choose to wear casual wear as long as it is acceptable and inoffensive in nature.

House Traditions

Houses tend to have their own traditions, especially in the older boarding houses. These are normally not well-known outside of the house community.

Skinners Day

Skinners Day marks the end of the school year. Historically it was used by the Worshipful Company of Skinners (to whom Sir Andrew Judd bestowed the school) as a formal inspection. The day starts with the last Chapel service of the year, attended by the Governors and the Court of the Skinner's Company. During the service, the Commemoration of the Benefactors is read aloud (which essentially gives a brief history of the school), before ending with the School Hymn. After Chapel, there is a prize-giving service on the Upper Hundred, after which the cricket match against the Old Tonbridgians begins on the head. The day concludes with house afternoon teas, hosted by the various housemasters. This ends the school year. Senior Skinners inspect the school wearing ceremonial robes and furs.

Other information

Combined Cadet Force

The School has a CCF (Combined Cadet Force) contingent, to which most of the fourth form (14-15 year old boys) belong. Boys can choose to join either the Royal Navy (RN), Army or Royal Air Force (RAF) sections of the CCF. Many older boys keep on CCF as an activity right up to and including their last year at school, the Upper Sixth, by which time they have become Non-Commissioned Officers, and are helping to run the contingent by teaching the younger boys. This allows them to exercise leadership skills which they have been taught as they have moved up through the ranks and through the school. The Army Section is affiliated with the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (PWRR).

The CCF was last inspected by Air Commodore Stinton, OC Air Warfare School.

Third, Fourth and Fifth Years

Community Service (helping the old, the infirm and handicapped members of the local community, or working in local primary schools or hospitals).

Advanced Chemistry; Aero-Modelling; Art, Ceramics and Photography; Assistance to the Librarian; Assistance with some of the first-year activities; Bridge; Chess; Computing projects; Conservation; Design Technology Projects; Film-making; Music, primarily for music specialists; Phytology; Play-writing; Preparation of the School Magazine; Rackets; Radio; Recording Studio; Stage sets, props and lighting; Tonbridge's Literary Supplement; Work within a boy's house.

Almost all of the activities listed above can be used for a component of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme, should a boy choose to enrol.

Notable Masters

Martin Hammond

Tony Little

Michael McCrum

Paul Parker

Anthony Seldon

Andy Whittall

Notable Old Tonbridgians

Upon graduation, all Tonbridgians join an organization called the Old Tonbridgians Society (OTs).

See also


  1. Halpin, Tony. "Independent schools face huge fines over cartel to fix fees", The Times, London, 10 November 2005.
  2. "OFT names further trustees as part of the independent schools settlement", Office of Fair Trading press release, 2006.
  4. Marshall, Francis, et al. Football; the Rugby Union game, Cassell, London, 1892.

Further reading

External links

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