Past, present and future

Tradition and innovation go hand-in-hand at Dame B’s.

There has been a school on the site since at least 1317, when manuscripts show the existence of one Reginald, “Scholemaster of Walden” – the first of a series of “scholemasters”.

In 1522, Dame Johane Bradbury, widow of a former lord mayor of London and sister of John Leche, vicar of the parish from 1489 to 1521, re-established the old school by obtaining the necessary letters patent from Henry VIII. Even then the school had high aspirations for its teaching, with a curriculum that was to be “after the ordre and use of teching gramer in the Scoles of Wynchester and Eton”.

A new charter of incorporation for the school was obtained in 1549 by Sir Thomas Smith, Provost of Eton and Secretary of State under King Edward VI and Queen Elizabeth I, making it one of the first of the 18 King Edward VI schools – the school colours remain the colours of Edward VI to this day.

In 1879, a plan was drawn up under the Endowed Schools Act that included provision for a new building and an early version of the present Board of Governors. The people of Saffron Walden raised £2,000 and the Governors added £2,867 from the school’s endowment to fund the main school building. It was opened on 3 August 1881 by Lord Colchester. The Ashdon Road site was given by Lord Braybrooke.

In 1940, the school was closed for six years because of World War II. The land and buildings were occupied first by the RAF and later by the 65th Fighter Wing of the American Army. At the end of the war, the governors reopened the school as a junior school for children aged 5 to 11, renaming it Dame Johane Bradbury’s School.

In 2013, Dame B’s reached another landmark in its history when we became part of the Stephen Perse Foundation – one of the most highly-regarded educational establishments in the country.

Now that the Cambridge schools of the Foundation are opening up to boys as well as girls, we can offer a natural route into senior education for many of our pupils which will develop as the Senior School moves to take boys. Our children will already be used to going there for joint activities, trips and projects, and will have friends waiting for them. Equally, the Cambridge staff will already know them and have insights into their challenges and potential.