St George’s was founded in 1877 by The Reverend Herbert William Sneyd-Kynnersley as a boys’ Prep School, with 41 pupils housed in what is now Markham. Sneyd-Kynnersley is listed on the Plantagenet Roll as being of Royal Blood and was the son of a Birmingham magistrate. He taught Greek and Latin, publishing books on those subjects – ‘Greek and Latin for Beginners’ and ‘Latin Prose Composition‘ – both still available to buy now on the internet.
From 1882 to 1884 Winston Churchill was a pupil at St George’s, starting at the tender age of seven. He refers to the school in his book ‘My Early Life’, as “one of the most fashionable and expensive in the country. It modelled itself upon Eton and aimed at being preparatory for that Public School. It was supposed to be the very latest thing in schools; only ten boys in a class; electric light; a swimming pond; spacious football and cricket grounds; a chapel of its own.”
The school then consisted of only three rooms and, in one of them, Churchill was set the task of learning the declension of ‘mensa’ on his first day at St George’s. The Headmaster believed in cruel floggings, some of which were inflicted on young Winston and after a very unhappy two years his parents removed him from the school.
In 1893 the school was sold to Mr Blair, who went bankrupt in 1904, ending the first stage of the school’s history.
St George’s became a girls’ school in 1904 when Miss Pakenham-Walsh opened a girls’ finishing school. The School House was divided into five classrooms, a music room and four bedrooms. At that time there were 45 girls. In 1908, New Wing was built (now Rooms 5 and 6 with bedrooms above). The school then had 50 girls and the fees were £30 per term. It became a tradition for the St George’s girls to wear their red cloaks and boaters to greet Edward VII and Queen Alexandra on Gold Cup Day.
Miss Anne Loveday bought St George’s in 1923, and this marked the beginning of its development as a more academic school. There were 60 girls and some were prepared for entrance to college.
1927 was a memorable year as the school became recognized by the Department of Education; pupil numbers were increased to 150; the Georgian Association for Old Girls was founded and Queen’s Hill (a house for boarders until 1987) was purchased for £8000.
‘The Dragon’ magazine of 1927 refers to the Houses – ‘A’ (Alexander), ‘B’ (Becket), and ‘C’ (Churchill). They remained unchanged until the creation of ‘D’ House (Darwin) in 1987. House parties were already a feature of school life at that time.
In 1932 the swimming pool was built and later the sports facilities were further extended by tennis courts and a games field.
St George’s functioned throughout World War II and air-raid shelters (still existing) were made to give protection. Pupils from Wycombe Abbey, who were evacuated to Ascot, were based at St George’s.
In 1947 Miss Anne Loveday retired as Headmistress, but she and her family retained their interest in the school. Her brother, Bishop Loveday, became Chairman of the Governors in 1957.
During this period a ‘structural metamorphosis’, to quote the Chairman of the Governors (Mr Knatchbull-Hugessen), took place and the number of girls rose to 280. In 1974 Dr Riding succeeded Miss Horne as Headmistress, and in 1980 a new building, including Languages, History and Geography Rooms as well as four laboratories, was added to the school.
Mrs Goodland became Headmistress in 1983 and, in 1985, the new Music block and Sixth Form house, named Loveday House, were opened by Lady Soames (Winston Churchill’s daughter). She referred to her father’s attendance at St George’s in her speech at the opening ceremony.
In 1987 the new Chapel, Library, Art Room and bedrooms were completed and Knatchbull House came into use. The sale of Queen’s Hill and its land made this possible.
Mrs Griggs became Headmistress in 1989 when the building of a large classroom block was in progress, after the demolition of the original cottage. Beharrell was opened by Countess Mountbatten of Burma in 1990. This building enhanced the Art and Technology Departments in the School and also houses the English, Geography and History Departments.
In 1991 the School paid tribute to the Markham / Loveday connection for their generosity to St George’s by unveiling a plaque in the entrance porch.
1992 saw the culmination of the ten years of ‘metamorphosis’ in the building of a Sports Complex – the Gordon Eggleston Hall was opened by Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.
During Mrs Griggs’ tenure the Sixth Form Common Room in Studio Wing was transformed into a state-of-the-art IT room and the school gained its very first internet connection. The old house traditionally inhabited by the headmistress – The Lodge – was demolished and a further Sixth Form block (New Loveday) was put up in its place. While Garden House, the new house for the headmistress, was being built at the bottom of the hill by the Orchard car park, Mrs Griggs moved out into temporary rented accommodation in Ascot.
Mrs Grant Peterkin took over as headmistress in 1999 and soon after her arrival the school was fully networked, including wireless network access in the school library – which at that stage was almost unheard of. A large donation by the Cormack family helped to build the impressive, multi-purpose Sue Cormack Hall, officially opened by the Duke of York in 2002. Apart from the large hall which is used for music and drama performances as well as public examinations, the building also houses a suite of drama studios and a History of Art room.
In 2005 Mrs Caroline Jordan was appointed Headmistress and was succeeded in 2011 by Mrs Rachel Owens.
The school motto still stands today – Vincent Qui Se Vincunt: “They will conquer who overcome themselves.”
1904 we became a girls' school