St Martin's Ampleforth

St Martin's Ampleforth (SMA) is an independent school and the preparatory school for Ampleforth College.[1] Until 2018 it was at Gilling Castle, North Yorkshire, England, on the southern side of a valley opposite the College on the northern side, in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Middlesbrough.[2]

St Martin's Ampleforth
, ,
YO62 4HP

Coordinates54.183273°N 1.064923°W / 54.183273; -1.064923
TypeIndependent preparatory day and boarding school
Religious affiliation(s)Roman Catholic (Benedictine)
Local authorityNorth Yorkshire
Department for Education URN121751 Tables
HeadmasterDavid Moses
Age3 to 13
Affiliated SchoolAmpleforth College



Gilling Castle dates back to the Medieval era and was originally home to the Etton family. It was Thomas de Etton who built, in the second half of the 14th century, the fortified manor house, a large tower almost square, whose basement still forms the core of the present building. It was later owned by Thomas Fairfax and changed hands a number of times before the Benedictine brothers at Ampleforth Abbey bought the property in 1929.[3] The buildings were refurbished over the years to accommodate growing pupil numbers. A playground for the nursery and pre-prep department was added in 2004.[4] In January 2018 a proposal was made to close the site, with the remaining pupils moved to a new junior house at the main Ampleforth College.[5][6]


The brothers obtained ownership of the castle and founded a preparatory school there in 1930. Until 1992, it was known as Gilling Castle Preparatory School before merging with Ampleforth College's junior section to become Ampleforth College Junior School. In 2001 the Junior School merged with St Martin's, a prep school at Nawton, and became known by its current name.[7][8] The College has since moved its junior department to St Martin's and is solely a senior school.

Although St Martin's serves as the College's main feeder school it is independently managed; the College's governing body is chaired by the abbot of Ampleforth Abbey while St Martin's is managed as a charity trust and chaired by a lay member.

Cardinal Basil Hume was once Headmaster at the former Gilling Castle Prep.


St Martin's prepares pupils for the Common Entrance Exam, which is taken in Year 8.[9] Many gain scholarships to top independent schools.[10]


The boarding programme is open to both boys and, since 2001, girls.[11] They may choose between full or flexi-boarding. Senior boys reside in Castle House and junior boys and girls reside in separate sections of Foal Yard. Boarders are cared for by a team of house parents, resident teachers and boarding assistants.[12]

Extracurricular activities

Rugby and cricket are the main team sports for the boys with netball and rounders for the girls. Hockey is available to both boys and girls.[13] St Martin's has a good track record in inter-school sports competitions, especially in cross country and athletics.[14][15]


In November 2017 the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse heard that priests abused six-year old boys, which included beatings and sex abuse. A witness who was at the prep school and college for 11 years during the 1960s and 1970s complained about "physically and psychologically abused" from a priest who was "nasty, cruel and physically violent towards me". After the witness had finished schooling, he experienced a "total psychological collapse" lasting seven to eight years. "I wasn't able to do anything, I couldn't function," he said. The witness said in his opinion Cardinal Basil Hume, abbot of Ampleforth Abbey for 13 years had known about abuse at the schools. "I have no doubt he knew exactly what was going on at the time," he said. Three monks and two lay teachers were convicted of sex crimes against over 30 pupils between the 1960s and 2010.[16]


  1. "Ampleforth Abbey – Our Work: Education". Retrieved 25 May 2012.
  2. "Diocese of Middlesbrough Schools Service – St Martin's Ampleforth". Retrieved 25 May 2012.
  3. "A History of Gilling Castle". Retrieved 25 May 2012.
  4. "Playground blessings". The Press. 1 December 2004. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
  5. "The sorry demise of Benedictine education". The Spectator. 4 August 2018.
  6. "Ampleforth prep school faces closure". The Tablet. 9 January 2018.
  7. "All change for St Martin's". The Press. 22 January 2003. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
  8. "Job cuts as schools merge". The Press. 15 February 2001. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
  9. "The prep school". Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  10. "Schools Guide 2012 – St Martin's Ampleforth". Tatler. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  11. "£5m helps draw more girls to boarding school". Yorkshire Post. 28 January 2003. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
  12. "Boarding". Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  13. "Sport at St Martin's Ampleforth". Retrieved 25 May 2012.
  14. "Lydia leads the way in Ampleforth cross-country tilt". The Press. 31 January 2009. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
  15. "St Martin's school pupils qualify for National Prep Schools Athletics Meeting". The Press. 4 July 2009. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
  16. "Top Catholic school stripped of pupil welfare responsibilities". The Guardian. 4 April 2018. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
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