Putney High School History

From its beginnings in 1893 the school has grown from a population of 54 students to over 1,000. It has evolved from 5 scattered houses to today’s Putney Hill site and has been under the auspices of twelve headmistresses: this is the history of Putney High School.

Founded in 1893 Putney was the 35th school of the Girls’ Public Day School Company, as the GDST was then called. The Company provided a school only when it was asked for by people living in the locality. Mary Gurney, a local resident and a great pioneer of women’s education supported Putney’s application.

The school opened in Burlington House in the Upper Richmond Road as the East Putney High School. As the popularity of the school grew, additional premises were acquired: first Albert House on the opposite side of Upper Richmond Road, and then 18 Carlton Road (later renamed Carlton Drive). Lessons were held only in the mornings as girls were considered too delicate to withstand the rigours of a full scholastic day! Boys were admitted to the school from 1894, when the kindergarten was introduced, until 1947.

Numbers continued to rise and larger premises were sought on Putney Hill. In 1906 the Homefield was bought and opened in 1910 as the Junior Department. Cromwell Lodge, next door at 35 Putney Hill, was bought and an assembly hall, covered walkway and laboratories were added between the two houses. The old stable on the site was converted into an art studio, thanks to a gift from the Old Girls’ Association.

In 1915 the whole school moved from Carlton Road onto the new site. When Lytton House, which adjoined the grounds of the Homefield, fell vacant in 1918 it was bought and became the permanent home of the Junior Department. The whole school has remained united on one site to this day.

During the Second World War, the Metropolitan Police took possession of the school buildings. Some girls and staff were evacuated to Queen Anne’s School at Caversham near Reading whilst the Putney contingent was installed in a large empty house at 378 Upper Richmond Road, now the site of the Putney Leisure Centre. During this time the Headmistress spent part of each week at Caversham, providing a link between the two branches of the school.

In 1959 a building fund was launched to raise money for a sixth form block to be built over newly created classrooms and in 1962 the Sixth Form moved into their own rooms.

In the 1970s the school transferred from direct grant to independent status. In 1977 the enforced move heralded a new financial endeavour: a Bursary Appeal with a fundraising target of £10,000 which was achieved within one year. The Science Block was completed in 1973 and freed up much-needed space in the Long Corridor, its previous location.

The 1980s saw the successful appeal for a new Junior School Hall and the Lockley CDT Centre, with the introduction of computer lessons for both staff and students.

In 1983 a complex was added to the school comprising a new school hall, a canteen and classrooms. Princess Alice, the Duchess of Gloucester, opened the new building in her role as patron of the GDST. The Galbraith Building, consisting of three floors dedicated to Maths, Modern Languages and English teaching, was opened in 1991 by alumna Virginia Bottomley MP.

The school celebrated its centenary widely in1993. The whole school was ferried by coach to Westminster Abbey for the Centenary Service and later enjoyed a boat trip from Putney to Greenwich.

In 1996 the Sports Hall was created with viewing galleries and the Art Department was updated in 1999 with a new studio added.

Towards the end of the 20th century, Lytton House grew with Garden House being built as a permanent base for Reception and Years 1 and 2. An outdoor adventure playground was added, as was a science room. Since 2000, the Junior School has undergone a major transformation with the Junior Hall being incorporated into the main building by means of a curved corridor. A specialist ICT suite has been added along with new classrooms.

Recent developments include a refurbished Senior School Library, a new Sixth Form Centre with seminar rooms, a diner, a fitness suite and an art studio for the growing number of sixth formers, and a Performing Arts Centre complete with a gallery, balcony and roof terrace.

Sports facilities have been expanded with the addition of a lacrosse practice pitch and a long jump runway in the grounds which are used alongside off-site sports fields. Rowing has increased as a major sport at Putney and with the recent acquisition of the Boathouse we have the only all-female boat club on the Putney riverside.

Subjects now taught include Government and Politics, Mandarin, Psychology, Computer Studies, and Economics and Business. iPads are issued to all girls from Year 4 to the Sixth Form to enhance their learning.

Putney High School’s story continues with pupils growing from little acorns to mighty oaks. We look forward to the next 125 years!