History of Downsend
Read more about the rich history of our private school here, following the timeline all the way from 1898 to today.
Downsend Preparatory School for boys was founded
In 1898 Peterborough Lodge School was founded in Hampstead by Arthur Howard Linford. The school having flourished for twenty years, decided just after World War One to look for an out of town site to give parents the choice of a day and/or boarding school.
1918 – 1939
Current Downsend site
Peterborough Lodge School bought out the school owned by a Mr J. Johnson on the current Downsend site to create ‘Downsend Preparatory School for boys’. Arthur Linford’s son, Cedric, started at the school in 1919 and went on to become Headmaster. In 1921 the first Public School Scholarship was won. In 1923 the cricket field was added to the school. The current Dining Hall was built as a Senior School building in 1930, followed by the Junior School building in 1934.
Dangerous years at Downsend
By 1937 Downsend had celebrated its 50th Public School Scholarship. It had purchased Ermyn Way House (now Howard House) to extend its staff quarters and Nursery facility, however unfortunately this was hit and destroyed by a rocket during the war. In 1945 Arthur Linford retired and handed the reigns to his son Cedric.
1945 – 1977
In 1946 the 100th Scholarship was recorded, shortly followed by the 200th in 1962. Ermyn Way House (Howard House) was rebuilt and the first Science Laboratory was installed. Christopher Linford joined the school in 1966 and Cedric retired shortly afterwards in 1968 having run the boarding house for many years. Boarding at Downsend ceased in 1968. Both the Senior School and extensions to the now Junior School were added between 1969 and 1974, as the school continued to expand and reach its 300th Public Scholarship in 1975.
1977 – 2000
In 1979 Leatherhead Pre-Prep was purchased, followed by extensive works between 1981 and 1990. During this period the school added 6 tennis courts, the car park, art room and sports complex, having gained funds for the sale of land to make way for the M25. In 1987 it also purchased two further Pre-Preps in Ashtead and Epsom. Along with this expansion, Downsend had started the co-education process, with one of their schools accepting girls for the first time. In the late nineties Downsend had a rather odd mix of three schools all under the same umbrella, on one site; the Lower School being fully co-educational along with 2 single sex Upper Schools, with the girls from Years 5 and 6 and boys from Years 5 -8 being taught separately. With the desire of 13+ education for girls, these eventually merged creating the school we have today.
2000 - 2017
A change of ownership
In 2002 the Linford family sold Downsend School to Asquith Court Schools Limited, who in 2006 sold it on to its current owners Cognita. Since that time the school has undergone further investment of an all-weather astroturf hockey pitch, administration block, science laboratories and a 6 lane indoor swimming pool. Under its current Headmaster Ian Thorpe, the existing Junior, Middle and Upper Schools have been streamlined to create Lower and Upper Schools. In 2016 the school completed its new Anniversary Sports Pavilion, ensuring Downsend continued to offer the best facilities and opportunities within the co-educational Preparatory School world, even after 125 years.
2017 - 2020
A significant investment
In 2017, Cognita announced an £8m investment in Downsend’s future. Over two phases, Downsend will gain specialist STEAM facilities, fully refurbished Libraries, ICT suites and a brand new Creative Arts Centre.
Downsend becomes an 'all-through' school
In September 2020, Downsend will began a new journey as an all-through school, offering education for children from the age of two to sixteen. A brand new 3 year GCSE programme was launched to the first cohort of Year 9’s.