Headington history: Schools

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Headington Girls’ School

Headington School

Above and below: Postcards showing Headington School soon after it was built.
(In the early 1980s a large wing was added on to each side)

Headington School

Headington School was founded in 1915 by an Oxford group of evangelical Christians as an independent school to provide “a sound education for girls to fit them for the demands and opportunities likely to arise after the war”. The Oxford Chronicle of 24 September 1915, page 7 has an article entitled “New School for Girls at Headington”, and reports that the school had been opened at White Lodge by the Bishop of Liverpool the preceding Monday, and that it was intended for “the daughters of university, professional, and other gentlemen, and is open to boarders and day students”.

The school occupied a series of five large houses in Headington before settling on its present site:

  • The school originally opened in Headington Lodge on Osler Road (then called Manor Road) on 20 September 1915 with just ten boarding and eight day girls
  • In 1916 Brookside on the London Road was taken over by the school, and White Lodge was then used only as a boarding house. (Brookside was built in 1886 and first occupied by Thomas Arnall, Oxford’s Head Postmaster. The school confusingly renamed it Napier House when they moved out of the original Headington house with that name. it is now the school’s preparatory department.)
  • In 1917 Napier House in Pullen’s Lane was also taken over. (It was built in 1892 for Professor Arthur Napier, and – now renamed Cotuit Hall – is part of Oxford Brookes University)
  • In 1920 numbers had reached 70, and Davenport House (on the corner of London Road and Pullen’s Lane) was also taken over by the school. This house had a two-acre garden and another 19 acres of farmland attached stretching as far east as the White Horse pub. Eventually this became the site of the present main school (although part of the estate was purchased by the council for the construction of Headley Way)
  • In 1921 the school took over Hillstow (later Dorset House) on the London Road, the fifth large Headington house to be used by the school

In 1930 the present main school was built in the neo-Georgian style: the postcard above shows it shortly after it was opened. It is usually stated to have been jointly designed by Thomas Rayson and Gilbert T. Gardner, but Rayson used to say that “Gardner's only acutal designing was to insist on vases on the roof”. Chiang Yee in The Silent Traveller in Oxford describes the school as having an “atmosphere of spacious dignity”.

By 1947 there were over 300 girls at the school, and in 1985 there were 500 in the senior school (about half of them boarders) and 130 in the preparatory department.

Headington School groundsAbove: the extensive school grounds on a postcard dating from the 1930s.

Below: the school gymHeadington School gym

An early advertisement for the new school read:

HEADINGTON SCHOOL is a Public School for girls, taking both Boarders and Day pupils. The School was founded in 1915, and has just moved into its new and well-equipped buildings, which were opened by H.R.H. Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood, in June, 1930.

In addition to the School building, which stands in its own Playing Fields of 21 acres, there are three Senior Boarding Houses, and a self-contained Junior School, which provides for girls under 12 and for boys under 9.

Girls are prepared for the usual Public Examinations and University Entrance.

Prospectus and all particulars may be had on application to the Head Mistress.

The aerial photograph below shows Headington School in 1936. Notice how Headley Way stops short as soon as it reaches the school grounds. Behind the school on the left are Brookside Nurseries (now the site of Franklin Road), and on the right is Staunton Road.

Aerial view of Headington School, 1936

Headington School centenary, 2015

© Stephanie Jenkins

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