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St Albans School
Motto Non nobis nati (Latin: "Born not for ourselves")
Established 948
Type Independent
Headmaster Andrew Grant MA
Founder Abbot Wulsin
Location Abbey Gateway
St Albans
England England
Students 770
Gender Boys, with girls in sixth form
Ages 11 to 18
Coordinates: 51°45′04″N 0°20′40″W / 51.7510°N 0.3445°W / 51.7510; -0.3445
The Abbey Gateway, now home to the school's History, Economics and Classics departments.

St Albans School is a Private School in St Albans, England. Founded in 948 by Abbot Wulsin, St Albans School is not only the oldest school in Hertfordshire but also one of the oldest in the world. The Good Schools Guide describes St Albans as a "traditional public school, with a rich history."[1]. The school is also a member of the amalgamated St Albans and Haileybury Group.



By c.1100 the School had built for itself such a reputation that the Norman scholar Geoffrey de Gorham applied for the post of Master. He was later to become Abbot of St Albans, and the School then remained under the control of the Abbot until the dissolution of the Abbey in 1539.

In 1549, the last Abbot was granted the right to establish a Grammar School by a private Act of Parliament. In 1553 the Abbey Church was sold to the town for £400 and became a Protestant parish church for the new Borough of St Albans; the Lady Chapel at the east end was used as the schoolroom and maintained by the Mayor and burgesses. In 1570 Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal and then living at nearby Gorhambury, put the financing of the School on a firmer footing through a Wine Charter.

In 1871, the school moved into the Abbey Gateway (which had been built in 1365 and, following the dissolution, had been used as a prison for 300 years). Since the 19th century there have been many additions to the school site, which now comprises a very interesting architectural mixture of buildings dating from the 14th century to the 1990s. The Woollam Playing Fields, a couple of miles away to the north of the city, provides an extensive, modern, outdoor sports facility for the School and the Old Albanian Sports Club. The site was officially opened in October 2002 by Prince Richard, The Duke of Gloucester .

The school still maintains strong links with the Abbey. Services are held there every Monday and Friday morning, and special events held there include the annual Founders' Day and carol services. In addition the school's music staff are usually linked with the Abbey's musical staff. Andrew Parnell, organist and harpsichordist, was assistant master of music at the Abbey as well as being master of music and choirmaster at the school from 1976 to 2001. Simon Lindley had also held these posts; John Rutter's 1974 carol Jesus Child bears a dedication "for Simon Lindley and the choir of St Albans School".

On 7th January 2010, the Herts Advertiser ran an article reporting a loan of £1000 at the rate of 6% p.a. given by the school to the city of St Albans in 1772. Accordingly, the amount of money owed by the city to the school stands (as of 2010) somewhere in the region of £15 billion. However, St Albans City and District Council, though it acknowledges the loan, has not made any repayments on it.

School arms

The school coat of arms comprises the cross of Saint Alban together with the School motto.

The cross of Saint Alban is a gold saltire (a cross, signifying that Alban was martyred, but diagonal, as he was beheaded, not crucified) on a blue field (or, in heraldic terms, Azure, a saltire Or).

The current school motto is Non nobis nati ("Born not for ourselves"). This dates back to the family of the twelfth century Geoffrey de Gorham (Master and subsequently Abbot of St Albans), and was introduced in 1994, thereby establishing a link between the School before and after the dissolution of the monastery in 1539.

Non nobis nati replaced the previous motto Mediocria firma ("Moderate things are surest"), the motto of the Bacon family at Gorhambury (including Sir Nicholas and Sir Francis Bacon). This formed part of the Bacon coat of arms, which for instance can still be seen outside the Verulam Arms public house in nearby Welclose Street and inside St Mary's Church, Redbourn.

General information

St Albans School is predominantly a single-sex school for boys, but has accepted girls into the Sixth Form since 1991. In its earlier days it was known as the Free School of St Albans, City of St Alban Grammar School or St Albans Grammar School. It is often (erroneously) referred to as "The Boys' School", "St Albans Boys" and "The Abbey School" (thereby causing confusion with The Abbey C of E Primary School nearby which is almost always referred to as "The Abbey School", and the adjacent but now defunct Abbey National Boys' School, a name which is still borne by a building in nearby Spicer Street). The school has around 780 pupils, of which around 50 are female.

The school operates a house system. The current system, which came into use in September 1996, assigns all members of the school to one of four houses. These are named after notable former pupils and staff: Hawking, Renfrew, Hampson and Marsh. Previously the house names were Abbey, Breakespeare, Debenham, Pemberton, Shirley, Woollams and School House. School House, the last remaining boarding house, closed at the end of the Summer Term 1956 and those boys in School House were integrated into other houses.

In 1967 the School acquired what was then a derelict hill farm in the Brecon Beacons. The property, Pen Arthur, was fully restored and is now a well-equipped Field Studies Centre. Academic departments use Pen Arthur for field trips and study weekends throughout the year, and it plays a key part as a base for outdoor activities organised by the CCF and Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. During their first year at the school, pupils go to Pen Arthur for a week, during which time they participate in many "outward-bound" activities such as caving, hiking and even visiting a Roman gold mine.

Each year the school publishes a magazine, typically of around ninety pages, called The Albanian. It is a collection of articles, reviews, sports round-ups, art, creative writing and other features that acts as the official annual record of the school. The magazine is produced by a small editorial team comprising two teachers and a team of sixth formers. The Publications Department is also responsible for the School's advertisements, newsletters and website.

Headmasters since 1902

  • Edgar Montague-Jones 1902–1931
  • William Thomas Marsh 1931–1964
  • Frank Ian Kilvington 1964–1984
  • Simon Court Wilkinson 1984–1993
  • Andrew Robert Grant 1993—

Notable teachers

Notable alumni


12th Century

13th Century

15th Century

16th Century

17th Century

18th Century

  • Sir William Domville, Bt (1742-1833), Lord Mayor of London 1813
  • Thomas Walsh (1776-1849), Roman Catholic Bishop and Vicar Apostolic, Midlands and London Districts

19th Century

  • Colonel Sir Hildred Carlile, 1st Bt, M.P. (1852-1942), army officer, politician and philanthropist
  • Sir Alfred Faulkner (1882-1963), civil servant - Permanent Under-Secretary for Mines
  • Henry Montague Grover (1791-1866), writer and theologian
  • Brigadier-General Reginald Kentish (1876-1956), founder National Playing Fields Association, Member IOC
  • Coulson Kernahan (1858-1943), essayist, novelist and editor
  • Henry Leach (1836-79), mercantile marine physician and author
  • Sir Max Pemberton (1863-1950), novelist and editor
  • Major-General Sir Herbert Aveling Raitt (1858-1935)
  • Aubrey George Spencer (1795-1872), first Anglican Bishop of Newfoundland
  • Colonel F. A. M. Webster (1886-1949), English javelin champion (1911, 1923), Olympic coach and author
  • Sir Thomas Spencer Wells (1818-1897), surgeon
  • William Whitaker, F.R.S. (1836-1925), geologist
  • Charles Williams (1886-1945), poet, novelist, publisher and theological writer

20th Century

Ex-students of St Albans School are automatically members of the Old Albanian Club [1]

In popular culture

  • Some scenes, including the opening croquet game, of the BBC comedy All Gas and Gaiters were filmed at the school.
  • The School was used as a site of part of the film Incendiary (2008).
  • The school was mentioned in the 2004 Film Alfie featuring Jude Law.


See also


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