Freemen's has been a co-educational boarding school at the heart of Surrey for 90 years. Here is our story:
- 1854 - The City of London Freemen's Orphan School opened in Ferndale Road, Brixton for "the maintenance and the religious and virtuous education of orphans of Freemen of the City of London". The new School was paid for by the Corporation of London. From the outset orphaned girls as well as boys were enrolled, making it one of the oldest co-educational independent schools.
- 1892 - The annual visit by the Lord Mayor of London to the School's Prize Day was by now an established part of the School calendar. Fifth and Sixth Form boys and girls were even allowed to walk and talk together in the grounds for an hour or so after the celebrities had left - a rare treat! School numbers had grown to in excess of 150.
- 1926 - Following recommendations by the Board of Education, the School's Committee resolved to move the School to suitable premises outside London. The Corporation of London bought Ashtead Park and began work to convert it from its former role as a lavish private house. Fee-paying day pupils started to be admitted and very soon the word 'Orphan' was removed from the School's name.
- 1951 - Headmaster Eric Fielden organised the first 'City Visit' with all 250 pupils transported to the Square Mile. Now an annual feature of the School Calendar the 'City Visit' involves visits to places of interest in and around the City and a church service.
- 1960-1987 - A period of rapid expansion for the School. Michael Kemp, Headmaster from 1964 to 1987, was responsible for the building of the Swimming Pool, the Assembly Hall and a number of classrooms and increasing pupil numbers to over 500. In particular, he persuaded the Corporation of London to finance the building of the Junior School which was named Kemp House in his honour.
- 1987-2004 - The expansion and redevelopment initiated by Michael Kemp was carried on by David Haywood, Headmaster from 1987 to 2007. The second half of the 1990s saw the building of a new Sports Hall, Art and Design Centre, Science and Technology Centre, and a new base for the Senior School, the Haywood Centre.
- 2004 - The School celebrated its 150th Anniversary with a year-long series of events. The Anniversary started with a Service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul's Cathedral attended by the whole School (numbering over 800) and culminated in the School being represented with a float in the annual Lord Mayor's Show.
- 2007-2015 - Philip MacDonald became the ninth Headmaster of the School. Plans for the future development of the School were drawn up and the first phase of the Masterplan was completed with the addition of a new Boarding House and the Music School. Philip MacDonald retired at the end of the 2015 academic year, when new Headmaster, Roland Martin took up his position.
- 2017-2022 - There is a large period of development at the School, with the opening of a new swimming pool by the Lord Mayor of London in 2017 and the renovated Main House becomes an impressive Sixth Form Centre in September 2021.
- 2023 - Our Independent Living Suite was launched offering Year 13 students the opportunity to experience living independently before moving away from home.
- 2023-2025 - Freemen's is restructured to create a Lower Senior School (Years 7-9) and an Upper Senior School (Years 10-11), so that we can better support pupils and focus on the issues relevant to their age groups. Review of the School's long-term masterplan
City of London Links
Freemen’s began life as a City school, founded originally in Brixton in 1854. It is one of three independent schools owned by the City of London Corporation, with whom we maintain strong connections. The guidance of the Corporation – not least in terms of governance – has helped Freemen’s to prosper and will continue so to do.
Freemen’s is fortunate enough to be associated with Livery Companies, Guilds and The City; our students benefit from those relationships in quite tangible ways. It is not unusual for Liverymen to take an interest in life at the School, perhaps providing prizes or travel awards, hosting students at events or sometimes giving sixth-formers opportunities to discuss career options.
Pupils from the School are often invited to some high-profile events, this could include breakfast before the annual Lord Mayor’s Show, a dinner at the Guildhall, a learning event in The Barbican, or a charitable event at The Mansion House. The Heads of School are privileged to receive an invitation to one of the hottest tickets in town: The Lord Mayor’s Banquet.
Alumni may apply for Freedom of the City when they leave Freemen’s, in itself a great honour.