History of the School

The origins of St. Olave’s and St. Saviour’s Grammar School go back 463 years to Shakespeare’s London and to a time when the voluntary efforts of the people of Southwark established several educational institutions for the benefit of poor ‘children and younglings’ of the parish.

In particular, the legacy of a brewer named Henry Leeke enabled St. Olave’s to begin on Michaelmas Day 1561 and to receive, from Queen Elizabeth I, its Royal Charter as a Grammar School in 1571.

1968The school moved to Orpington in 1968, having previously occupied various sites in Southwark, most recently by Tower Bridge. The present fine buildings, surrounded by over twenty acres of tree-lined playing fields, are attractively set on the edge of the Kent countryside. Ongoing investment in buildings and refurbishment has seen a new Science Block, Sports Pavilion, Music and Sixth Form Centre, Specialist IT suite and Food Technology room, as well as a new Sport/Drama Hall and All Weather Pitch. Yet Charing Cross and the West End are little more than twenty minutes away by the fast and frequent service from Orpington Station, and the Kent and Sussex coasts are easily reached by rail or road, with the M25 junction 4 lying within two miles.

CommemThe School’s reputation stands high and every year over 1400 pupils compete for the 128 available places in Year 7. From September 1998 girls were admitted to the Sixth Form as part of over 120 external students who join St. Olave’s post GCSE. St. Olave’s Grammar School and its ‘sister’ school – St Saviours’ and St Olave’s Girls’ school in Southwark – are both part of an Anglican Foundation; more recently St. Olave’s also became an affiliated School in the Woodard Corporation, comprising a variety of independent and maintained schools. These support a strong set of values within the context of a highly multicultural school community.

As part of ongoing links with the school’s heritage, an annual Commemoration Service, including governors, benefactors, staff, students and parents takes place in Southwark Cathedral. The treble choristers of the King’s Chapel of the Savoy are drawn exclusively from St. Olave’s, and appear on occasion before His Majesty the King and other members of the Royal family.

The Foundation, a beneficiary of The Dulwich Estate, formerly "Alleyn's College of God's Gift", supports the school financially, enhancing the quality of life and the student experience at St. Olave’s.

A fascinating insight into our heritage is illustrated on this hand-carved printing block dating from around 1876. This would have been used to print certificates stating a student had passed an examination.

Printing block

The level of detail is extraordinary; the top left corner contains the seal, taken from the Property Mark of the Governors of St. Olave's, which was set into the wall in the Quad when the school moved to Orpington in 1968. This seal inspired the blazer crest until 2019.

History of school 1 1571

Elements of both this and the crown and axe seen in the top right corner of the printing block, were combined to inspire a new school crest in 2019, that honours our unique heritage, cherished history and indicates our Christian values.

Together these provide a clear visual branding throughout the school, on our school blazers, sports kit and online presence.

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Our rich


Founded 1571