New Hall School

New Hall School is a Catholic co-educational independent boarding and day school in the village of Boreham in the City of Chelmsford, Essex, England. It was founded in 1642 in Belgium by sisters of the Catholic order Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre and moved to its current location, a former Tudor Palace of Beaulieu in Essex, in 1799. The school is now mostly run by lay staff but still retains its Catholic ethos and ties with the local diocese. It is the only independent Roman Catholic school in the Diocese and one of the largest and oldest of its kind in the country.[1]

New Hall School
School view small file.jpg
New Hall School in 2014
The Avenue

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Coordinates51°45′47″N 0°30′45″E / 51.76307°N 0.51241°E / 51.76307; 0.51241Coordinates: 51°45′47″N 0°30′45″E / 51.76307°N 0.51241°E / 51.76307; 0.51241
TypePublic school
Independent school
Boarding school
Day School
MottoThe Best Start in Life
Religious affiliation(s)Roman Catholic
Established1642 (in Belgium)
1799 (current school)
Department for Education URN115387 Tables
Chair of GovernorsDr Miriam Edelsten
PrincipalKatherine Jeffrey
Age1 to 18
PublicationThe Beaulieu Bulletin
Former pupilsOld Fishes / New Hallians

The school operates in "diamond" format. The Preparatory Divisions and Sixth Form are co-educational, while the Senior Divisions teaches in single-sex classes. The senior girls' section is a member of the Girls' Schools Association and the school principal is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference.


The school was founded in Liège, Belgium in 1642 by Susan Hawley, who also formed the English Community of the Canonesses Regular of the Holy Sepulchre.[2] The founding Religious Order, the Canonesses Regular of the Holy Sepulchre, is one of the most ancient in the Church and was established in Europe long before the English Religious Community was founded in 1642. The school expanded considerably in size and scope from 1770 under the leadership of Mary Dennett.[3] The school began to offer a Catholic education to girls who were denied this in England in the Post-Protestant Reformation period and to girls from other countries too.[3] In 1794, the French Revolutionary Wars forced the nuns to leave the Low Countries. The school reopened on its present site in 1799.

In 1994, the Preparatory Divisions was re-established on the campus at New Hall. Opening with 40 pupils, the school grew rapidly over the following years. In 1995, the Preparatory Divisions welcomed its first boarders and the boarding programme was later extended to boys as well.

In 2001, New Hall appointed its first lay principal, Mrs Katherine Jeffrey. In April 2005, the administration made a landmark decision to go fully co-educational, ending over 360 years of single-sex education. The announcement was made that the Senior Divisions would be embarking on a period of further expansion, with the establishment of a separate Boys' Division (11–16) and a co-educational Sixth Form.[4] The Senior Divisions now accepts boys throughout the 11–18 age range and there are 3 boys' boarding houses fully established, in addition to the 3 girls' boarding houses.[5]

The move towards co-education using the "diamond model" proved extremely successful. New Hall was commended by judges at the 2011 Independent School Awards for the "ambitious and pioneering move" and won the award for "outstanding strategic initiative".[6]


In 1517, the estate was acquired by King Henry VIII, who greatly enlarged and enhanced the building and called it Beaulieu. The Royal Arms of Henry VIII are now to be seen in the school Chapel. For many years the home of Mary Tudor, New Hall was subsequently granted to the Earl of Sussex by Queen Elizabeth I. Oliver Cromwell later procured the estate for 5 shillings.[7]


There are six vertical houses named after figures venerated in the Catholic church:

  • Acutis House
  • Augustine House
  • Bahkita House
  • Miki House
  • Romero House
  • Teresa House

The Preparatory Divisions Houses are named after saints from the Four Gospels:

  • St Matthew (Red)
  • St Mark (Yellow)
  • St Luke (Green)
  • St John (Blue)

The Boarding Houses follow a horizontal structure and are named as follows:


New Hall has a strong academic record and regularly tops the exam results table for Essex county.[6][14][15] In the 2013 A Levels, it achieved a 100% pass rate and a record 52% of grades at A*-A at GCSE. In A Levels 76% of A level grades were at A*-B.[16]

Pastoral careEdit

Pupils are required to attend regular chapel services. Practicing Catholic pupils may choose to actively participate in spiritual activities such as Bible studies and the annual pilgrimage to Lourdes. The school chapel runs weekly Sunday mass which is open to the public and serves the Parish of St Augustine of Canterbury, Springfield.[17] Pupils and staff often serve as musicians, choristers, altar servers, sacristans and readers.[1]

Co-curricular activitiesEdit


Students compete at county, regional, national and international level in a wide range of sports and have met with success.[18][19] In recent years, there has been a significant investment in the sports facilities on campus. The first-class provision now includes: The Waltham Centre 25m 6-lane indoor swimming pool; a national standard athletics track and floodlit Astroturf; 10 floodlit tennis/netball courts; two sports halls; Parsons Hall dance studio; junior and senior cricket wickets and indoor training nets; hockey, rugby and football pitches. New Hall also has well-established links with a local riding school and a golf club.

The more popular sports are cricket, hockey, netball, rugby, and tennis. There is a wide variety of other sports, including aerobics & pilates, athletics, badminton, basketball, cross country, fencing, football, golf, riding, swimming, volleyball and triathlon.

Performing artsEdit

The Walkfares Performing Arts Centre is the home of thriving Music, Dance and Drama Departments. Performances, from Shakespeare to modern plays and musicals, give students the opportunity to develop their confidence and creative talents.

All students are encouraged to participate in the English Speaking Board (ESB) or London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) programmes. Students take individual lessons in orchestral instruments, piano, singing, drums and electric guitars. A growing number of students take lessons on the newly restored Norman & Beard organ in the chapel.

There is a host of performing groups, including senior and junior choirs, chamber choirs, a chapel choir, a senior orchestra, a strings academy, wind bands, a guitar ensemble, and chamber groups. Students are also encouraged to form jazz and pop bands and specialist support and facilities are available.

Regular performances are given by students in assemblies, lunchtime recitals and formal concerts. Students take part in regional and national musical festivals and competitions, and groups tour regularly to perform in major venues in Europe.

New Hall School Choir, directed by Andrew Fardell, has performed at St. Peters, Rome, St. Marks, Venice, Westminster Cathedral, London as well as on BBC Television. The choir sings a wide range of music from sacred to secular, classic to modern.

The Dance Company was founded in September 2003 to facilitate the increased demand from students who wanted more opportunities to train and perform. The company has students from Year 10 upwards. The company has taken parts in a variety of events in and around Chelmsford and has an important role in supporting the Dance Department within the School.

Drama forms a part of student activity at New Hall. Each year the Senior School produces a large scale production just before Christmas during which many students experience the exhilaration of being part of this tradition. Recent productions have included 'Oliver', 'High School Musical', 'Othello' and 'West Side Story' and pupils from all age groups play the leading parts. Other notable productions are provided by the Drama and Theatre Studies students whose productions have included Woyzeck, Waiting for Godot, Teechers, Arabian Nights and Grimm Tales. Students have the option to do GCSE and A Levels drama.

The Eaton Theatre, equipped with lighting and sound technology, provides a traditional performance venue whilst in Walkfares, two well equipped, versatile studios provide the environment for both teaching and for a range of performances. The nearby Jubilee Hall also was fitted with lights and retractable seating and is where weekly assemblies are held.

Past headmistresses and principalsEdit

At Liege and then in England it can be assumed that the Prioress was also in charge of the school. At some unknown stage a First Mistress became a quasi-Headmistress in the school under the Prioress. The term headmistress was first used in 1942 and the term principal from 2005.

From Till Name
1942 1957 Sister Margaret Helen Terney
1957 1963 Sister Mary Ignatius Brown
1963 1986 Sister Mary Francis Wood
1986 1997 Sister Margaret Mary Horton
1997 2001 Sister Ann-Marie Brister
2001 Now Katherine Jeffrey

Notable former pupilsEdit

Former pupils are known as "Old Fishes" or "New Hallians". The term Old Fishes has been used for former pupils from as early as 1799. At the time of Catholic persecution in mainland Europe, the founding Religious Community were forced to leave the Low Countries and to move to England. Whilst they were seeking a suitable venue in England, the nuns used the word "Fishes" as a code word for students and the term eventually stuck.[20]

Notable staffEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Catholic provision
  2. ^ "Hawley, Susan [name in religion Mary of the Conception] (1622–1706), Sepulchrine prioress". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/66982. Retrieved 14 February 2021.
  3. ^ a b "Dennett, Mary [name in religion Christina] (1730–1781), prioress of the Holy Sepulchre, Liège". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/105821. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  4. ^ "Chelmsford: School to let in boys". The Echo. 4 May 2005.
  5. ^ About New Hall
  6. ^ a b "Top award for New Hall School's diamond success". Essex County Standard. 21 November 2011.
  7. ^ "History of New Hall and the School". Archived from the original on 11 March 2010. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  8. ^ "Magdalen Wing, Hawley House". Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  9. ^ "Earle Wing, Petre House". Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  10. ^ "Hawley". Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  11. ^ "Petre House". Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  12. ^ "Dennett House". Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  13. ^ "Campion House". Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  14. ^ "Schools flying high in league tables". Essex County Standard. 1 February 2012.
  15. ^ "School Guide 2012 – New Hall School". Tatler.
  16. ^ "A-level results see more success in Chelmsford". Essex County Standard. 21 August 2007.
  17. ^ "New Hall School – Mid-Essex Deanery". Diocese of Brentwood.
  18. ^ "Swimming: New Hall School champions". Essex County Standard. 11 March 2001.
  19. ^ "School trip to Twickenham". Essex County Standard. 13 May 2009.
  20. ^ Old Fishes
  21. ^ Sport

External linksEdit