Tonbridge School
Tonbridge School is a British boys' independent school
Independent school
An independent school is a school that is independent in its finances and governance; it is not dependent upon national or local government for financing its operations, nor reliant on taxpayer contributions, and is instead funded by a combination of tuition charges, gifts, and in some cases the...

 for both boarding and day pupils in Tonbridge
Tonbridge is a market town in the English county of Kent, with a population of 30,340 in 2007. It is located on the River Medway, approximately 4 miles north of Tunbridge Wells, 12 miles south west of Maidstone and 29 miles south east of London...

, Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

, founded in 1553 by Sir Andrew Judd (sometimes spelled Judde). It is a member of the Eton Group
Eton Group
The Eton Group is an association of 12 leading English independent schools within the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference including some of the most elite academic schools in the country...

, and has close links with the Worshipful Company of Skinners
Worshipful Company of Skinners
The Worshipful Company of Skinners is one of the Livery Companies of the City of London. It was originally an association of those engaged in the trade of skins and furs...

, one of the oldest London livery companies. It is a public school in the specialised British sense of the term.

There are currently about 800 boys in the school, aged between 13 and 18. 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.

The Headmaster since 2005 is Tim Haynes, previously Headmaster of Monmouth School
Monmouth School
Monmouth School is an HMC boys' boarding and day school in Monmouth, Monmouthshire in south east Wales. It was founded in 1614 by William Jones. It is run as a trust, the William Jones's Schools Foundation, by the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers, one of the Livery Companies...

 and Deputy Master at St Paul's School.

The Good Schools Guide describes the school as "truly excellent". It is one of only a very few of the ancient public schools not to have turned co-educational, and there are no plans for this to happen.

Tonbridge's fees are among the highest of all the independent schools in Britain, at £31,263 per year, compared to Eton
Eton College
Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor"....

's £29,862 or Harrow
Harrow School
Harrow School, commonly known simply as "Harrow", is an English independent school for boys situated in the town of Harrow, in north-west London.. The school is of worldwide renown. There is some evidence that there has been a school on the site since 1243 but the Harrow School we know today was...

's £29,670. However, a variety of bursaries and scholarships are available to ensure that boys from less well-off backgrounds can also attend.

Sixteenth Century foundation

The school was founded in 1553 by Sir Andrew Judd, a local landowner, member of the Skinners Company as well as the East India Company, who was Lord Mayor of London more than once. Judd was also grand-nephew of Archbishop Henry Chichele
Henry Chichele
Henry Chichele , English archbishop, founder of All Souls College, Oxford, was born at Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire, in 1363 or 1364...

, the founder of All Souls College, Oxford
All Souls College, Oxford
The Warden and the College of the Souls of all Faithful People deceased in the University of Oxford or All Souls College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England....

 (a fellow of the college still comes to Skinners' Day at the school each year and a school essay competition is judged by that college). The school was founded under the Letters Patent
Letters patent
Letters patent are a type of legal instrument in the form of a published written order issued by a monarch or president, generally granting an office, right, monopoly, title, or status to a person or corporation...

 of King
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

 Edward VI
Edward VI of England
Edward VI was the King of England and Ireland from 28 January 1547 until his death. He was crowned on 20 February at the age of nine. The son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, Edward was the third monarch of the Tudor dynasty and England's first monarch who was raised as a Protestant...

, making it one of the oldest of Britain's major public schools.

The Charter
A charter is the grant of authority or rights, stating that the granter formally recognizes the prerogative of the recipient to exercise the rights specified...

 ordained that the Governors of the school after the death of the Founder were to be the Worshipful Company of Skinners
Worshipful Company of Skinners
The Worshipful Company of Skinners is one of the Livery Companies of the City of London. It was originally an association of those engaged in the trade of skins and furs...

 (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.

Unlike many of the great public schools which were founded in this era, Tonbridge was not set up for poor scholars, as shown in the original statutes, in which a clause reads that any boy admitted to the school had to be able to "write competently and to read perfectly both English and Latin". This shows that the school was founded for the sons of the local gentry and 'county families'; few if any boys who lived in or around Tonbridge itself would have qualified for entry.

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 (which was never "free" in the sense of payment, but in the sense of being an independent institution; places were only for the aristocracy, gentry and those associated with the Worshipful Company of Skinners
Worshipful Company of Skinners
The Worshipful Company of Skinners is one of the Livery Companies of the City of London. It was originally an association of those engaged in the trade of skins and furs...

), The Skinners' School
The Skinners' School
The Skinners' School , is a British grammar school for boys located in the town of Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent...

 and Sir Andrew Judd's Commercial School (now called The Judd School
The Judd School
The Judd School is a state secondary school in Tonbridge, Kent, southeast England. It was established in 1888 at Stafford House on East Street in Tonbridge, where it remained for eight years before moving to its present location on Brook Street, in the south of the town...


Sir Andrew, himself a distinguished member of this Company, left property in the City of London
City of London
The City of London is a small area within Greater London, England. It is the historic core of London around which the modern conurbation grew and has held city status since time immemorial. The City’s boundaries have remained almost unchanged since the Middle Ages, and it is now only a tiny part of...

 and in the parish of St Pancras
St Pancras, London
St Pancras is an area of London. For many centuries the name has been used for various officially-designated areas, but now is used informally and rarely having been largely superseded by several other names for overlapping districts.-Ancient parish:...

 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
Summer term
Summer term is the name of the summer academic term at many British schools and universities and elsewhere in the world.In the UK, 'Summer term' runs from the Easter holiday until the end of the academic year in June or July, and thus corresponds to the Easter term at Cambridge University, and...


The school remembers its founder every year on Skinners' Day, and also remembers other benefactors such as Sir Thomas Smythe, Judd's grandson, who was governor of the East India Company
East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

 for fifteen years and who took part in establishing the colony of Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

; as well as Henry Fisher, who founded a scholarship from Tonbridge to Brasenose College, Oxford
Brasenose College, Oxford
Brasenose College, originally Brazen Nose College , is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. As of 2006, it has an estimated financial endowment of £98m...

; and Sir Thomas White
Thomas White (merchant)
Sir Thomas White was an English cloth merchant, civic benefactor and founder of St John's College, Oxford.He was born in Reading, Berkshire, the son of William White, a clothier of Reading, and his wife, Mary, daughter of Henry Kibblewhite of South Fawley, also in Berkshire. He was brought up in...

, founder of St John's College, Oxford
St John's College, Oxford
__FORCETOC__St John's College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford, one of the larger Oxford colleges with approximately 390 undergraduates, 200 postgraduates and over 100 academic staff. It was founded by Sir Thomas White, a merchant, in 1555, whose heart is buried in the chapel of...

 and Merchant Taylors' School, who gave Tonbridge a fellowship, later converted into a scholarship, at his college.

Many headmasters came and went in the intervening period, including one James Cawthorne (head from 1743 to 1761), a severe disciplinarian, so severe that his ghost is said to have remorselessly haunted the dormitories of the school's various houses for over a century after his death.

The British Empire

The school first 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".

Tonbridge, as a provincial public school, is not one of the nine public schools mentioned in the Public Schools Act 1868
Public Schools Act 1868
The Public Schools Act 1868 was enacted by the British Parliament to reform and regulate nine of the leading English boys' schools. They were described as "public schools" as admission was open to boys from anywhere and was not limited to those living in a particular locality...

, but it is as old as, or older than, five of those which are (the Act was not intended to define which schools were "Public Schools", but to apply certain conditions to some of them). It is among the 25 public schools mentioned in the Public Schools Yearbook of 1889, and is one of the founding schools of the HMC
Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference
The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference is an association of the headmasters or headmistressess of 243 leading day and boarding independent schools in the United Kingdom, Crown Dependencies and the Republic of Ireland...


In the Victorian Era, Headmaster Welldon introduced "Praeposters" in the Sixth form, who were allowed to wear tall hats and tailcoats, to be absent from "Call" or detentions, and to inflict corporal punishment on younger boys. The chapel, and the institution of "Fagging", grew in importance in this period as well. It was also at the time of the expansion of public schools in the Victorian era that Tonbridge can be said to have become one of Britain's major public schools, there having only been about three before the expansion, often defined by the list of schools that play Racquets
Racquets (sport)
Rackets or Racquets is an indoor racket sport played in the United Kingdom, United States, and Canada...


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 . In the years that followed Tonbridge produced many first-class cricketers, including Colin Cowdrey in the late 1940s. No. 905 of the SR "Schools" class railway engines was named after the school.

In the 1880s it was finally decided, after much wrangling with various governments, that the Skinners' Company should continue in its ancient trusteeship of the school; it is said that Tonbridge is alone among the ancient public schools in retaining the exact governing body of its sixteenth-century foundation.

The Great War

The school
A school is an institution designed for the teaching of students under the direction of teachers. Most countries have systems of formal education, which is commonly compulsory. In these systems, students progress through a series of schools...

 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
A fabric is a textile material, short for "textile fabric".Fabric may also refer to:*Fabric , the spatial and geometric configuration of elements within a rock*Fabric , a nightclub in London, England...

 of the school was unscathed. The OTC expanded, and had parades instead of work on Monday mornings, and Wednesday half-holidays were given over to field operations. Munitions were made in the school workshops. An area which is now covered by tennis courts was used by boys to grow potatoes and vegetables, in order to make the boarding houses more self-sufficient. It became a point of honour among OT flying officers to swoop down over the school in their aeroplanes, flying low over School House or the Chapel roof. At least once a boy on London Road was able to greet an older brother of his who was doing this. Once an Old Tonbridgian was forced to land on Martins, so hard that his plane reportedly rushed through a hedge into a hop field opposite. The propellor hung for many years in the bottom corridor of the New Buildings. Headmaster Lowry was so stressed by the vast numbers of deaths in battle of his old pupils (he had taught at Eton College
Eton College
Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor"....

 and Sedbergh School
Sedbergh School
Sedbergh School is a boarding school in Sedbergh, Cumbria, for boys and girls aged 13 to 18. Nestled in the Howgill Fells, it is known for sporting sides, such as its Rugby Union 1st XV.-Background:...

 as well as Tonbridge) that he had to take a brief rest from his duties as Head, and many among the boys and the staff feared that he would not return, but he recovered and came back.

At the start of the Great War, 234 OTs held commissions in the active lists of the Army and Navy, with 124 in the reserve and territorial forces. The total number of Old Tonbridgians who eventually served was 2382, and 21 masters. The Roll of Honour includes the names of 415 OTs and 3 masters. Like many public schools, which provided the officer class of the British military, Tonbridge School lost many of its sons in those years. In 1925, Baron Ironside
Baron Ironside
Baron Ironside, of Archangel and of Ironside in the County of Aberdeen, is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1941 for Field Marshal Sir Edmund Ironside, previously Governor of Gibraltar and Chief of the Imperial General Staff. the title is held by his only son, the...

, an Old Tonbridgian, unveiled the School's war memorial, which was dedicated by the Bishop of Birmingham, also an Old Tonbridgian, which the whole school passes every day in the ante-chapel.

World War II

Tonbridge itself had a more eventful second war. In 1939, Dulwich College
Dulwich College
Dulwich College is an independent school for boys in Dulwich, southeast London, England. The college was founded in 1619 by Edward Alleyn, a successful Elizabethan actor, with the original purpose of educating 12 poor scholars as the foundation of "God's Gift". It currently has about 1,600 boys,...

 was evacuated to Tonbridge, and enjoyed the use of Tonbridge classrooms and playing fields when they were not being used by Tonbridgians. Gas masks were carried by boys during all school periods. During the Battle of Britain, almost every night the siren would sound, and the boarders would hurry to their shelters and spend the nights there, until the all-clear signal at dawn, not an atmosphere particularly conducive to academic study. The headmaster allowed each housemaster to decide for himself whether to go to the shelters, or to keep the boys in bed and "damn the consequences", and eventually all the housemasters drifted toward the latter, as it was realised that the town of Tonbridge had little military importance and so any bombs dropped on Tonbridge would be dropped by accident. Little damage was done to the properties owned by the school in London. It was impossible to black out the chapel during services, so after an experiment of holding Sunday evening chapel in Big School during the Winter terms, it was decided to hold servcies in chapel and hold them progressively earlier as the hours of darkness increased, the earliest being 3.45 pm.

There was a Home Guard contingent at Tonbridge School, who never encountered the enemy but were once engaged in combat by two drunken allied soldiers, who stopped to attack the public schoolboys. These two soldiers lost the fight, one having to leave on a stretcher.

In 1944 a V1 flying 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.

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 Sea Lion 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
Edmund Ironside, 1st Baron Ironside
Field Marshal William Edmund Ironside, 1st Baron Ironside GCB, CMG, CBE, DSO, was a British Army officer who served as Chief of the Imperial General Staff during the first year of the Second World War....

, 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
Caning is a form of corporal punishment consisting of a number of hits with a single cane usually made of rattan, generally applied to the offender's bare or clothed buttocks or hand . Application of a cane to the knuckles or the shoulders has been much less common...

 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
Michael William McCrum
Michael William McCrum CBE was an English academic and ancient historian who served as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and Head Master of Tonbridge School and Eton College.-Life:McCrum was born at Alverstoke in Hampshire...

). McCrum, headmaster 1962-70, abolished the right of senior boys to administer corporal punishment, taking over for himself the task of administering routine canings. Tail-coats and top hats for praeposters were abandoned as archaic. 1st-Year Socials were set up with nearby girls' schools such as Benenden School
Benenden School
Benenden School is an independent boarding school for girls in Kent, England. It is located in Benenden in the Kentish countryside, between Cranbrook and Tenterden....

 and Roedean School
Roedean School
-Roedeanians in fiction:* Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward * Dawn Drummond-Clayton * Emily James...

. Boaters, straw hats worn by boys, were no longer compulsory uniform after a major town-gown fight in the 1970s. By the 1990s the school was larger, richer and more prominent than ever. The Headmaster until 2005 was Martin Hammond
Martin Hammond
Martin Hammond is an English classical scholar and former public school headmaster.Hammond was educated at Winchester College and Balliol College, Oxford, where he studied Literae Humaniores, the Oxford course in Latin and Greek Literature, Roman and Greek history, Ancient and Modern philosophy. ...


In 2005 the school was one of fifty leading independent schools found guilty of running an illegal price-fixing cartel, exposed by The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

, 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. However, Mrs Jean Scott, the head of the Independent Schools Council, said that independent schools had always been exempt from anti-cartel rules applied to business, were following a long-established procedure in sharing the information with each other, and that they were unaware of the change to the law (on which they had not been consulted). She wrote to John Vickers, the OFT director-general, saying, "They are not a group of businessmen meeting behind closed doors to fix the price of their products to the disadvantage of the consumer. They are schools that have quite openly continued to follow a long-established practice because they were unaware that the law had changed."

Basic fees are now around £30,000 per year for boarders, making Tonbridge one of the most expensive British schools, though it provides a large number of scholarships for gifted pupils, and many bursaries for less well-off pupils.


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
Oxbridge is a portmanteau of the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge in England, and the term is now used to refer to them collectively, often with implications of perceived superior social status...

Tonbridge School has been named the top Oxbridge school in the south-east based on admissions to Oxford and Cambridge over the preceding five years.

According to a 'Guide to Independent Schools' published in The Spectator
The Spectator
The Spectator is a weekly British magazine first published on 6 July 1828. It is currently owned by David and Frederick Barclay, who also owns The Daily Telegraph. Its principal subject areas are politics and culture...

on 12 March 2011, Tonbridge is the fourth highest scoring boy's boarding school in the UK by A-Level results, after St Paul's School, London, Westminster School
Westminster School
The Royal College of St. Peter in Westminster, almost always known as Westminster School, is one of Britain's leading independent schools, with the highest Oxford and Cambridge acceptance rate of any secondary school or college in Britain...

 and Eton College
Eton College
Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor"....


According to the Financial Times A-Level league tables for 2011, Tonbridge is the ninth highest-scoring school in the country, overtaking Eton but being overtaken by Winchester College
Winchester College
Winchester College is an independent school for boys in the British public school tradition, situated in Winchester, Hampshire, the former capital of England. It has existed in its present location for over 600 years and claims the longest unbroken history of any school in England...



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
Fives is a British sport believed to derive from the same origins as many racquet sports. In fives, a ball is propelled against the walls of a special court using gloved or bare hands as though they were a racquet.-Background:...

 and fencing
Fencing, which is also known as modern fencing to distinguish it from historical fencing, is a family of combat sports using bladed weapons.Fencing is one of four sports which have been featured at every one of the modern Olympic Games...

 are played to high standards, as well as more modern sports including football, climbing
Climbing is the activity of using one's hands and feet to ascend a steep object. It is done both for recreation and professionally, as part of activities such as maintenance of a structure, or military operations.Climbing activities include:* Bouldering: Ascending boulders or small...

, squash
Squash (sport)
Squash is a high-speed racquet sport played by two players in a four-walled court with a small, hollow rubber ball...

, and tennis
Tennis is a sport usually played between two players or between two teams of two players each . Each player uses a racket that is strung to strike a hollow rubber ball covered with felt over a net into the opponent's court. Tennis is an Olympic sport and is played at all levels of society at all...

. The school has one of the oldest of only about twenty racquet
A racquet or racket is a sports implement consisting of a handled frame with an open hoop across which a network of cord is stretched tightly. It is used for striking a ball in such games as squash, tennis, racquetball, and badminton...

 courts in the country (with another one yet to be built where the Old Gymnasium used to be), and has several fives courts.

Until 1869, Tonbridge had its own distinctive variant of football, which was played with thirteen players per side, with various eccentric rules, which was described by those who played it as a "ferocious" and "dirty" game. In 1869, the school discussed whether to adopt the Harrow, the Rugby, or the Association rules for football, and within two years the decision had been made to adopt the Rugby variant; Rugby Union rules and Football Association rules were rapidly overtaking local customs all over the country at this point, as the public schools started to play against each other as opposed to only playing internal matches.

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 and 2008/09 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
Gipsies Football Club
The Gipsies Football Club was a short lived 19th century rugby football club that was notable for being one of the twenty-one founding members of the Rugby Football Union, as well as producing a number of international players in the sport's early international fixtures.-History:The Gipsies...

, a London-based rugby football club for Old Tonbrigians founded in 1868. This club produced four other internationals including England captain Francis Luscombe
Francis Luscombe
Francis Luscombe was a rugby union international who represented England from 1872 to 1876. He also captained his country.-Early life:Francis Luscombe was born on 1849 in Norwood, then in Surrey...

, and was also one of the founding members of the Rugby Football Union
Rugby Football Union
The Rugby Football Union was founded in 1871 as the governing body for the sport of rugby union, and performed as the international governing body prior to the formation of the International Rugby Board in 1886...


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
Badminton is a racquet sport played by either two opposing players or two opposing pairs , who take positions on opposite halves of a rectangular court that is divided by a net. Players score points by striking a shuttlecock with their racquet so that it passes over the net and lands in their...

, indoor football, cricket
Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players on an oval-shaped field, at the centre of which is a rectangular 22-yard long pitch. One team bats, trying to score as many runs as possible while the other team bowls and fields, trying to dismiss the batsmen and thus limit the...

 nets practice or basketball
Basketball is a team sport in which two teams of five players try to score points by throwing or "shooting" a ball through the top of a basketball hoop while following a set of rules...

, and 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" around the town, 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 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 who served in the Second Boer War
Second Boer War
The Second Boer War was fought from 11 October 1899 until 31 May 1902 between the British Empire and the Afrikaans-speaking Dutch settlers of two independent Boer republics, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State...

. 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 four main sports (rugby, football, hockey and cricket) which have been dominated in recent years by Park House.

The Cras, a cross-country running competition between the houses, is also a major source of house rivalry. The Cras is one of the oldest competitions still run by the school and is highly prestigious to win. Runners score points for their position, and the lowest scoring house (the one with the runners who finished best) receives a trophy. In the last one hundred years, only two boys have consecutively won the Cras in each of their five years at the school. There are various legends as to how the name was given to this race, the two most popular are that it is an acronym for "Compulsory Run Around School", or that the name is down to a mispronounciation by a former head of ground staff who originally came from the West Country, who pronounced "cross-country" as "CRAS-country". Past individual winners of the Cras include Eric Stuart Dougall
Eric Stuart Dougall
Major Eric Stuart Dougall VC MC was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces....

 (winner of the first Cras and a recipient of the Victoria Cross during World War I), Olly Freeman (current international triathlete) and Maurice Holmes (cricketer)
Maurice Holmes (cricketer)
Maurice Gibson Holmes is an English cricketer. Holmes is a right-handed batsman who bowls right-arm off break. He was born in Tenterden, Kent....


On the final Friday of the school year the boys compete for their houses in the house athletics competition. Cups are awarded for events and an overall trophy for the winning house. The senior boy who has won the most events is presented with the Victor Ludorum
Victor Ludorum
Victor Ludorum is Latin for "the winner of the games." It is usually a trophy presented to the most successful team, club, or competitor at a sports event. It is common at rowing regattas and was traditional at some British public school sports days...

 trophy (Latin for "Winner of the games"). This award is not unique for Tonbridge as several other British public schools also award it at similar events. There can be only one winner, and as such it is highly prestigious to win and a sign of outstanding athletic ability.


The main school building was built in the 1800s, on top of the site of the previous main school building.
Recent additions 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 choice of materials for the Sport and Media Centre has attracted criticism from some as the copper is prone to overheat in the summer, and has hence been deemed a minor risk to health and safety.

The Chapel of St. Augustine was opened in October 1995 after its predecessor was severely damaged by fire in 1988. Legend has it that the chaplain had given a stirring sermon on fire and brimstone earlier in the day concerning God's punishment on the unfaithful. This legend is not completely accurate, and an old boy who was at the school at the time of the fire and in the chapel that morning during the 'last service' recalls with absolute clarity that the bible reading that day was given by a master of the school, Mr Burn, on the Tongues of Fire story. 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 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
Punch (magazine)
Punch, or the London Charivari was a British weekly magazine of humour and satire established in 1841 by Henry Mayhew and engraver Ebenezer Landells. Historically, it was most influential in the 1840s and 50s, when it helped to coin the term "cartoon" in its modern sense as a humorous illustration...


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
In Greek mythology, Priapus or Priapos , was a minor rustic fertility god, protector of livestock, fruit plants, gardens and male genitalia. Priapus is marked by his absurdly oversized, permanent erection, which gave rise to the medical term priapism...

 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 has a reputation for excellent facilities, particularly in sport. Its new sport centre is the most expensive in any school in the country and includes a large climbing wall with many routes at all levels, a swimming pool with extra depth at one end for scuba diving, an extremely well equipped exercise gym, a large sports hall with five cricket nets and facilities for badminton and basket ball, and a large multi-purpose room for Judo, other martial arts, table tennis, fencing, pilates, yoga, spin class and the like. The building also hosts a media centre with news room with industry-standard recording and editing equipment. There are also communal areas in the building including a cafe and a bar. The school 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. It has a six-lane floodlit tartan athletics track, used extensively all year round by Tonbridge Athletics Club; it includes facilities for discus, javelin, shot-put, high jump, long jump, triple jump and steeplechase. The School has over 100 acre (0.404686 km²) of very well-maintained pitches, ground keepers at Tonbridge have won awards for their expert upkeep. The main cricket pitch (The Head) is occasionally used for Kent 2nd XI cricket matches. The school also has squash courts, fives courts and two rackets courts (one of which is under construction), of which there are only a tiny handful in the country, mostly in the ownership of similar schools to Tonbridge. There is also a shooting range. Sports also occur off site. These include golf, clay pigeon shooting, horse riding and sailing. The school owns several fleets of boats, most notably a fleet of 6 fireflies and 6 R.S. Fevas, both of which are regularly renewed. The school sailing club successfully competes all over the country and abroad. In 2010 a fleet of R.S. Fevas took part in the world championships in France. The school also has a ski team with one member gaining international recognition for his skiing ability. Scuba diving also is an important sport at Tonbridge with regular trips to Spain and Egypt.

Other facilities at Tonbridge School are large in number. The E.M. Forster theatre is used by production companies from all over the world, and hosts industry level lighting and sound equipment. There is a large design and technology workshop with, again, much industry level equipment including a laser cutter and CNC milling machine, the D.T. department also has two electronics labs. There are two large art studios complete with kiln and dark room. The reprographics department does all the printing in the school. There are a number of computer labs, and many departments have their own (Tonbridge was the first public school to invest in an IT department). The music department comprises dozens of sound-proof teaching and practice rooms, a recording studio and two concert halls. The School Protestant chapel is magnificent and has a world-renowned organ used for many recordings and was featured in a BBC show, along with the then Director of Music, that aimed to teach comedian Jo Brand how to play the organ. The Smythe library is well stocked and holds a number of rare and expensive volumes. Each department also has its own library.

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
  • Trinity Term - Late April to early July


The school's motto (Deus Dat Incrementum) is not to be confused with that of Westminster School
Westminster School
The Royal College of St. Peter in Westminster, almost always known as Westminster School, is one of Britain's leading independent schools, with the highest Oxford and Cambridge acceptance rate of any secondary school or college in Britain...

, 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 College
Marlborough College
Marlborough College is a British co-educational independent school for day and boarding pupils, located in Marlborough, Wiltshire.Founded in 1843 for the education of the sons of Church of England clergy, the school now accepts both boys and girls of all beliefs. Currently there are just over 800...


Tonbridge School slang

Like many other ancient public schools, Tonbridge has its own distinct collection of terms. Here are a few still used to this day:
  • - Bantams = Novi sports teams
  • - Block = Lined paper
  • - The Cras = School Cross Country race
  • - Novi = New boy
  • - Master = teacher
  • - The fifty = 1st XV rugby pitch
  • - The Head = 1st XI cricket pitch (one of the most famous school cricket pitches in the country)
  • - House square = Piece of silk awarded by the House to a boy. It may be turned into a House waistcoat etc.
  • - Rustication = Suspension (literally "to be sent to the countryside")
  • - Off ex = Permission from Housemaster to miss games/sport due to other commitments/injury.
  • - The OC = School tuck shop
  • - The Pound = The school stationary shop
  • - Minors = Cross Country, Fives and Sailing colours
  • - Memoranda = School rules
  • - The pepperpot = tower on the chapel
  • - The Athena Society = in the past it was a 12 man elective dining club; it is now open to all 6th form scholars to hear outside speakers.
  • - Commendation = award for good work to be given to your Housemaster.
  • - Distinction = awarded for outstanding work, the piece of work is kept by the Headmaster for posterity.
  • - Imposition paper = punishment for poor prep. Boy is required to redo or copy something and have his Housemaster sign the sheet.
  • - Headmaster's detention = Three hour detention from 7pm-10pm supervised by the Headmaster on a Saturday evening. Boy must be wearing a suit.
  • - Secondmaster's detention= Wednesday morning detention for poor work.
  • - Railway run = Punishment whereby the boy has to run a mile to the railway bridge and come back with a particular flower which grows there.
  • - Powder Mills handicap= Race between members of the Cross Country club.
  • - School Praeposter = twelve boys who help masters run the school
  • - House Praeposter = boys who help masters run the Houses
  • - Skinner's day = End of the academic year
  • - Second Master = Deputy Headmaster and in charge of discipline
  • - Times Leader = punishment given by praeposters in some houses which involved copying out sections of the Times
  • - Lower Master = Master in charge of Vth form and below
  • - Upper Master = Master in charge of VIth form.

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 there. There is an Old Tonbridgian Masonic Lodge, with branches in London, Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

 and Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

. 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".


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, and Benson and Clegg 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-coloured 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. In times gone by, scholars and Praeposters had to wear gowns, and members of the choir to wear surplices; Praeposters also had to wear tall hats and tailcoats. Boaters are no longer compulsory, and have not been since a major town-gown fight in the 1970s.

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

Head of School

The Head of School is famously allowed to graze his sheep on the Head (the 1st XI cricket pitch) which is next to the main buildings. He is also allowed to grow a beard and historically was permitted to carry a sword. In the past only praepostors were allowed to wear coloured shirts (as opposed to plain white) and have brown shoes.

Sports Colours

Colours are awarded for the majority of sports at junior and senior team level with the presentation of a specific tie related to that sport. First team members in the major sports (Rugby, Cricket, Racquets, Athletics, Golf, Hockey and Shooting) are allowed to wear a Tonbridge blazer with the badge of their discipline sewn over the left breast.

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.

Combined Cadet Force

The School has a CCF (Combined Cadet Force
Combined Cadet Force
The Combined Cadet Force is a Ministry of Defence sponsored youth organisation in the United Kingdom. Its aim is to "provide a disciplined organisation in a school so that pupils may develop powers of leadership by means of training to promote the qualities of responsibility, self reliance,...

) contingent, to which most of the fourth form (14- to 15-year-old boys) belong. Boys can choose to join either the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 (RN), Army
An army An army An army (from Latin arma "arms, weapons" via Old French armée, "armed" (feminine), in the broadest sense, is the land-based military of a nation or state. It may also include other branches of the military such as the air force via means of aviation corps...

 or Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 (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
Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment
"PWRR" redirects here. For the railroad with these reporting marks, see Portland and Western Railroad.The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment is the senior English line infantry regiment of the British Army, part of the Queen's Division...


In 2010, Tonbridge celebrated 150 years of the CCF, as one of the founding schools. An open day was held which was visited by the Chief of Defense Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup
Jock Stirrup
Air Chief Marshal Graham Eric "Jock" Stirrup, Baron Stirrup, GCB, AFC, FRAeS, FCMI, RAF, is a former senior Royal Air Force commander, who was the Chief of the Defence Staff from 2006 until his retirement in late 2010. He is also a Crossbench member of the House of Lords.As a junior RAF officer,...

 and an Apache gunship helicopter. Each of the services was represented on the day including the Royal Marines. The day also included an "incredible" Tonbridge School honor guard drill and was visited by Sevenoaks School, Judd School and Skinners 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) exists.

Also possible are 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
    Martin Hammond
    Martin Hammond is an English classical scholar and former public school headmaster.Hammond was educated at Winchester College and Balliol College, Oxford, where he studied Literae Humaniores, the Oxford course in Latin and Greek Literature, Roman and Greek history, Ancient and Modern philosophy. ...

  • Vicesimus Knox
    Vicesimus Knox
    Vicesimus Knox was an English essayist and minister. He was born December 8, 1752, at Newington Green, Middlesex. Knox was educated at St John's College, Oxford, took orders, and became Head Master of Tonbridge School. He published Essays Moral and Literary , and compiled the formerly well-known...

     - 18th Century Headmaster
  • Reverend John Langhorne
    John Langhorne (King's School Rochester)
    .Reverend John Langhorne was headmaster of The King's School, Rochester and an educational innovator there...

     (1836–1911), classics master and house master from 1860 to 1877.
  • Tony Little
  • Michael McCrum
  • Paul Parker
    Paul Parker (cricketer)
    Paul Parker MA is an English schoolmaster and former cricketer, who played in one Test in 1981.-Life and career:...

  • Anthony Seldon
    Anthony Seldon
    Dr. Anthony F. Seldon MA, PhD, FRSA, MBA, FRHistS is a political commentator best known as Tony Blair's biographer and the Master of Wellington College...

  • Andy Whittall

Notable Old Tonbridgians

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

See also

  • Public school (Britain)
  • Eton Group
    Eton Group
    The Eton Group is an association of 12 leading English independent schools within the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference including some of the most elite academic schools in the country...

  • Worshipful Company of Skinners
    Worshipful Company of Skinners
    The Worshipful Company of Skinners is one of the Livery Companies of the City of London. It was originally an association of those engaged in the trade of skins and furs...

  • List of SR V "Schools" class locomotives

External links

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