Colfe's School, previously Colfe's Grammar School, is a co-educational private day school in Horn Park in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, in southeast London, England, and one of the oldest schools in London. The school is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference. The official Visitor to the school is Prince Michael of Kent.

Colfe's School
Horn Park Lane

SE12 8AW

Coordinates51°27′00″N 0°01′16″E / 51.45°N 0.021°E / 51.45; 0.021
TypePrivate day school
Public school
MottoAd astra per aspera
(Through hardships to the stars)
Established1568; 456 years ago (1568)
(reestablished 1652)
FounderJohn Glyn in 1568
Reestablished with Abraham Colfe's name in 1652
Local authorityGreenwich
Department for Education URN100202 Tables
GovernorsLeathersellers' Company
HeadmasterRichard Russell
Age range3–18
Enrolment1,150 (approx.)
HousesBeardwood, Bramley, Norton, Prendergast,(starting from September 2024) Glyn
Colour(s)   Blue and gold
PublicationThe Colfeian
AffiliationHeadmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference
AlumniOld Colfeians
Official VisitorPrince Michael of Kent



Colfe's is one of the oldest schools in London. The parish priest of Lewisham taught the local children from the time of Richard Walker's chantry, founded in 1494, until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. Rev. John Glyn re-established the school in 1568 and it was granted a Charter by Elizabeth I in 1574. Abraham Colfe became a Governor in 1613 and the school was re-founded bearing his name in 1652.

Colfe declared that the aim of the school was to provide an education for the boys from "the Hundred of Blackheath". He invited the Leathersellers' Company, one of London's livery companies, to be the trustee of his will. Links between the school and the Leathersellers remain strong.

The school was originally built around Colfe's house with an entrance in Lewisham Hill. The site was progressively developed and extended until 1890, when it was completely rebuilt on the same site with its entrance now in Granville Park. During the Second World War the school was first evacuated to Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and then to Frome in Somerset. A period of inactivity on the Western front led about 100 boys to return to London, so the school was split for a few years. In 1944 a V2 (Flying bomb) almost totally destroyed the school.

At the end of the War, with no school buildings and the pupil roll having halved, it was uncertain if the school would continue. In London the school was split between two sites – Beacon Road School in Hither Green and Ennersdale Road School, about a quarter of a mile away. "Temporary" buildings (rows of pre-fabricated concrete construction) were erected and the school came together again in 1947 under the headmastership of Herbert Beardwood MSc. The "temporary" buildings were still being used until the move to the new site in 1963.

Herbert Beardwood updated Leland Duncan's "History of Colfe's Grammar School" in 1952, in celebration of the school's tercentenary under Colfe's name. The book was further updated by Beardwood in 1972, to reflect both the move to the present campus at the east end of the playing fields, and the impact on the school of the machinations of early 1970s UK politics.

The school moved to its current site in 1963 and since then there has been much change: improved facilities have been provided, such as an all-weather sports pitch, a performing arts centre, and new classroom facilities. The Leathersellers' sports ground has been renovated to make it the home of senior sport (rugby, football and cricket).

Having been a voluntary aided grammar school, Colfe's became independent again in 1977. Although founded as a school for boys, girls have been admitted to the Sixth Form for over thirty years. In 1997, it was decided to allow girls throughout the school, and today the school is fully co-educational.

Current organisation


The School admits pupils at the age of 3 into the Nursery, from which they progress to the Junior School aged 4. From here pupils make the transition to the Senior school at the age of 11.

Senior School (Ages 11–18)


The Senior School is based at the top of the main school site. An all-weather playing field (funded in part by donations from parents and former pupils) was opened in 2006. The school also has a Performing arts centre, a Sports Complex complete with a 25 m swimming pool, 2 gyms and a Sports Hall,[1] IT and Music facilities and over 30 acres (12 ha) of playing fields. Many of the facilities are shared with the Junior School. Opened in September 2015, the Stuart building housed the Maths and RP departments and the sixth form area up until September 2023, when the Laurel building opened and both the RP and Classics departments where moved there. The Laurel building is located next to the all weather playing field and doubles as several year 7 form rooms, with the other 4 dotted around the school. There is a café and a sixth form common room.

There is a House system at Colfe's. The Houses are named after four long serving Headmasters; Beardwood, Bramley, Norton and Prendergast. Throughout the school year each pupil takes part in a full and varied programme of activities outside the main curriculum, in which the pupils participate in healthy competition by age groups to help his or her house win at the end of the year. From September 2012, Colfe's has also introduced tutoring in Houses. Pupils are in mixed age tutor groups with other students from the same House. A team of House tutors is led by a Head of House who has oversight of pastoral and academic progress of the students in their House. In the 2023-4 academic year, Colfe's School Council decided to add a 5th house; Glyn House, named after John Glyn; this house was created due to the record number of new year 7's joining the school community, with 7 forms worth of year 7's instead of the usual 6 year 7 forms. (one "form" in this context is equal to a maximum of 24 pupils)

Junior School (Ages 3–11)


The Junior School is located at the bottom of the school site, in two self-contained buildings. One of the buildings is for EYFS and KS1 and the other for KS2. The Junior School has the same high standards as the Senior School and also shares many of the facilities including the sports complex, the fields and the Performing Arts Centre.



Further reading

  • Leland L. Duncan The History of Colfe's Grammar School and a life of its founder 1910.


  1. ^ "Sport".
  2. ^ Sir John Bennett (1814–1897), Politician and watchmaker
  3. ^ Brady, Sir Antonio (1811–1881), Admiralty official, naturalist, and social reformer
  4. ^ Times Obituary 17 May 2007
  5. ^ News
  6. ^ Sir Alan Goodison – Telegraph[dead link]
  7. ^ Sir Alan Goodison obituary – Times Online
  8. ^ Guardian Obituary 30 June 2005
  9. ^ Old Colfeians, Colfe's School website
  10. ^ Edmund Nelson: Uncompromising portrait painter Archived 1 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Independent Obituary 13 February 2007
  11. ^ "Crystal Palace's Steve Parish visits his old school in Lee to inspire pupils". 27 February 2014.
  12. ^ "Former student is Colfe's own Football Olympian". Archived from the original on 25 February 2017. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  13. ^ "LET IT ROCK – Tony REEVES interview". Archived from the original on 3 April 2019. Retrieved 30 June 2007.
  14. ^ "Obituary" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 4 July 2007.
  15. ^ "Keith Colin Smith, 1965–2000: Fellow of the RAS, stellar spectroscopist and dedicated teacher". Archived from the original on 30 September 2012. Retrieved 17 February 2009.
  16. ^ Telegraph Obituary 25 January 1997

The History of Colfe's Grammar School by Leland L. Duncan (revised and updated by H Beardwood), pub: University of London Press, 1952