History of New Hall and its School

New Hall School was founded in Liège in 1642, making us one of the oldest Catholic Schools in the UK.  The faith which lies at the heart of our foundation remains essential to the character of the school today.

The founding Religious Order, the Canonesses 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.

During Penal Times, an English woman, Susan Hawley, went to the Low Countries and was trained in the Religious Life of the Holy Sepulchre. On making her profession, she left that Religious Community to found an English Religious Community in Liège; from these earliest days, girls were sent to the nuns to be educated. The Community’s spirituality, rooted in the Augustinian tradition, has a special emphasis on the Resurrection, prayer, community life, hospitality and service to others.

A New Hall School lesson from circa 1940Initially, the school offered a Catholic education to girls who were denied this in England in the Post-Reformation period. In 1794, the French Revolutionary Wars forced the nuns to leave the Low Countries. The school reopened on its present site in 1799.

With the exception of the years during the Second World War, when evacuation to Newnham Paddox near Rugby was forced on the Religious Community and school, New Hall has been the environment in which the school has thrived and grown. School developments have included, for example, the Eaton Theatre, which was completed in 1925, with a stage and green room at one end and a studio above. The old theatre at New Hall was last used for the performance of ‘O what a lovely war’, in December 1986. The refurbished Eaton Theatre was reopened in September 2008, with new tiered seating.

History of the New Hall Estate

A view from the front of the Palace of Beaulieu, commonly called New Hall in Essex, built by King Henry VIII. The northern side of the quad (opposite the towers) survives as New Hall’s main building.Since 1799, New Hall has occupied the magnificent Tudor Palace of Beaulieu. In 1517, the estate was acquired by King Henry VIII, who greatly enlarged and enhanced the building. The Royal Arms of Henry VIII can now be seen in the school Chapel. After Henry, New Hall was home to Mary Tudor, before it was subsequently granted to the Earl of Sussex by Queen Elizabeth I. Oliver Cromwell later procured the estate for five shillings.

Channel 4’s Time Team programme digging at the front of New Hall SchoolIn February 2009, Channel 4’s Time Team came to New Hall to film for a special feature length documentary called Henry VIII’s Lost Palaces. The documentary was shown on Channel 4 on Easter Monday, April 2009.

History of New Hall Preparatory School

The Preparatory School was founded in 1947 at Goodings, near Newbury, with just 14 pupils. The school thrived under the leadership of Sr Magdalen John CRSS as Headmistress and, with 100 pupils, it had to be relocated in 1953 to a bigger campus, at Denford Park, Hungerford. The school remained at Denford until 1967, at which time there were 150 pupils, including many boarders and some boys as well as girls. In 1967, the Preparatory School at Denford Park was closed and all resources were put into the development of New Hall Senior School. As a result, from being a boarding school of around 140 in the 1960s, New Hall became, by the 1980s, a large boarding and day Senior School for over 500 girls. In 1994, the Preparatory School was re-established on the campus at New Hall. Opening with 40 pupils, the school grew rapidly over the following years. In 2003, the Preparatory School welcomed its first boarders and now offers boarding for boys in Years 3-6 in Earle House and for girls in Years 3-6 in Magdalen House. A new Pre-Reception for pupils aged 3-4 opened in 2004.

New Hall School Today

Today, we continue to draw on our rich heritage and maintain a sense of traditional values, but we have evolved to meet the needs of the modern age.

The first lay Principal of New Hall School, Katherine Jeffrey, was appointed in 2001. In 2005, the New Hall School Trust (NHST) was established as a new registered charity (1110286) and limited company (05472420) registered in England at New Hall School. The principle objective of NHST, as set out in the Memorandum and Articles, is “to advance the Roman Catholic religion by the conduct of a Roman Catholic school”. The Religious Community now has a new main house in Colchester: 74 Howe Close, Colchester, Essex CO4 3XD Tel: 01206 867 296.

In April 2005, the announcement was made that the Senior School 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. The Senior School now has equal numbers of boys and girls throughout the 11-18 age range.  There are three boys’ boarding houses fully established, in addition to the three girls’ boarding houses. The whole school roll now stands at its greatest ever, with over 1,150 students.  New Hall won the National Independent Schools Award 2011 for Outstanding Strategic Initiative, in recognition of the pioneering and innovative move to establish a diamond model school, together with the exceptional success in doubling the school roll and raising standards of academic and co-curricular achievements. 

We were delighted to be named in the Top 50 Independent Co-ed Boarding Schools for 2014. 

The school belongs to the following professional associations:

  • Catholic Independent Schools’ Conference (CISC)
  • Headmasters' and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC)
  • Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA)
  • Incorporated Association of Preparatory Schools (IAPS)
  • Brentwood Diocesan Secondary Heads’ Association (BDSHA)
  • Association of Governing Bodies of Independent Schools (AGBIS)