James Allen's Girls' School

James Allen's Girls' School, abbreviated JAGS, is an independent day school situated in Dulwich, South London, England. It is the oldest girls’ independent school in Greater London.[1]

James Allen's Girls' School
James Allen's Girls' School.svg
James Allen’s Girl’s School (JAGS).jpg
144 East Dulwich Grove,

Coordinates51°27′17″N 0°05′07″W / 51.45469°N 0.085366°W / 51.45469; -0.085366Coordinates: 51°27′17″N 0°05′07″W / 51.45469°N 0.085366°W / 51.45469; -0.085366
TypeIndependent day school
Religious affiliation(s)Church of England
Established1741; 279 years ago (1741)
FounderJames Allen Warden and later Master of College of God's Gift
Department for Education URN100863 Tables
Chair of the Governing BoardMrs Frances Read
HeadmistressSally-Anne Huang
Age4 to 18
Enrolment1000 (approx.)
Colour(s)Red and blue          
AffiliationCollege of God's Gift

It is a registered charity and was originally part of Edward Alleyn's College of God's Gift charitable foundation, which also included Alleyn's School and Dulwich College.[2]

It has a senior school for 11- to 18-year-old girls, a prep school for 7- to 11-year-old girls (James Allen's Preparatory School), and a pre-preparatory school for 4- to 7-year-old girls. It is the sister school of Dulwich College and Alleyn's.


1741: Dulwich Reading SchoolEdit

The Bricklayer's Arms, the original site of the Dulwich Reading School

In 1604 the hamlet of Dulwich, its name recorded well before the Norman Conquests, was bought by the Elizabethan actor and entrepreneur, Edward Alleyn, for £4,900. Fourteen years later, Alleyn invested his fortune establishing the College of God's Gift, buying land for a school, a chapel and the alms houses in Dulwich. In June 1741 James Allen, Master of the College of God's Gift from 1723, founded the original Reading School for poor children, both boys and girls living in Dulwich.

The Dulwich Reading School started in two rooms in the Bricklayer’s Arms, later called The French Horn in Dulwich Village. The boys were taught to read as preparation for entry to Dulwich College and the girls to read and sew.

Early 1800s: Dulwich Free SchoolEdit

By the 1800s it was known as the Dulwich Free School. Classes were growing in size and moved into an empty old inn building near the village crossroads and was renamed the Dulwich Free School.

1842: Dulwich Girls’ SchoolEdit

The school continued to grow and when the College was reorganised in the 1840s, the boys were moved, leaving the Free School with improved teaching for the girls from 1842. It was renamed The Dulwich Girls’ School with mostly local girls as pupils. It was housed in the building now inhabited by Dulwich Hamlet School.

1878: James Allen’s Girls’ SchoolEdit

The school became known as James Allen’s Girls’ School in 1878 and finally moved with 141 pupils to its present site in East Dulwich Grove in 1886 with Miss Bettany as its first Headmistress.

Botany Gardens were created in the school grounds soon after Dr Lilian Clarke joined the staff in 1895. It was the first such experiment by a school in this country. In 1902 the first school laboratory equipped solely for botanical study was opened. She was a pioneer and influential in science teaching nationally. In 1890 the school roll had grown to 200 and the curriculum expanded.

20th centuryEdit

The school in 1922

In the early 20th century, Ralph Vaughan Williams worked at the school as a singing master, and his friend Gustav Holst worked as music teacher at JAGS from 1904 for 16 years. Holst collaborated on Tennyson’s Songs from the Princess whilst at JAGS. He stopped teaching there in 1920 but maintained a close connection with the school. Choral music and singing developed into a core part of school life. By 1916 a school orchestra emerged for the first time and in 1920 JAGS girls participated in Holst’s 4th Thaxted Festival in Suffolk as a farewell to the composer. A series of stained glass windows was installed in 1969 in the Holst Hall.

Sports Mistress Mildred Knott was appointed in 1921; she was an excellent hockey player who became captain of the England hockey team.

The school was evacuated at the beginning of the war to Walthamstow Hall school in Sevenoaks, Kent but in May 1940 returned to Dulwich.

In the 1950s and 60s JAGS expanded and community work was popular. Under Miss Prissian a new theatre was opened by Jonathan Miller in 1983; the first girls’ school to have a purpose built theatre.

The 1990s saw a great deal of building work in the school, Community Action was developed and links with local state schools were established.

21st centuryEdit

A new Community Music Centre was officially opened in 2018. The Vaughan Williams Auditorium was named after the composer who worked at the school.

Notable former pupilsEdit


  1. ^ JAGS website, History of School: "JAGS is the oldest girls’ independent school in Greater London"
  2. ^ "Chaplaincy at Alleyn's". Alleyns.org.uk. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  3. ^ British Olympic Association > Athletes > Shani Anderson
  4. ^ "Lisa St. Aubin de Terán". Arlindo-correia.org. Retrieved 19 February 2011.

External linksEdit