St Peter's School, York

St Peter's School is a co-educational independent boarding and day school (also referred to as a public school), in the English City of York, with extensive grounds on the banks of the River Ouse. Founded by St Paulinus of York in AD 627, it is the third oldest school in the UK and the fourth oldest in the world. It is part of the York Boarding Schools Group.[1]

St Peter's School
St Peter's

, ,
YO30 6AB

Coordinates53.966418°N 1.092850°W / 53.966418; -1.092850
TypeIndependent day and boarding
MottoSuper Antiquas Vias
("Over ancient ways")
Religious affiliation(s)Church of England
EstablishedAD 627; 1392 years ago
FounderSt Paulinus of York
Local authorityCity of York Council
Department for Education URN121724 Tables
HeadmasterJeremy Walker
Age3 to 18
Enrolmentcirca 1,000
HousesDronfield (girls' boarding)
The Rise (girls' boarding)
Linton (boys' boarding)
The Manor (boys' boarding)
Clifton (day house)
The Grove (day house)
Queen's (day house)
School House (day house)
Temple (day house)
Hope (day house)
Colour(s)Brown, Blue, White
Former pupilsOld Peterites


Founded in the English city of York by St Paulinus of York in the year AD 627,[2] the school was originally based at York Minster. An early headmaster Alcuin (Flaccus Albinus Alcuinus), went on to be Chancellor to the Emperor Charlemagne, and founded several of the earliest schools in mainland Europe. It is the third oldest school in the UK and the fourth oldest in the world.[3] For most of its history, the school has been a boys' school and only admitted its first girls into the sixth form in 1976, following a trend set by many previously single-sex independent schools. In 1987 it became fully coeducational.[4]


The school has a large campus near to the centre of the city of York, stretching to the banks of the River Ouse. The main front of the school faces along Bootham; this is the oldest part of the site and comprises the Memorial Hall, Alcuin Library and Chapel, as well as dining facilities. Temple House and School House, the Department of Politics, the Department of Business, the Department of Economics, and the Department of Latin and Classics are also based in these buildings, accessed from an area known to the school community as the 'monkey cage'. Behind here is the Pascal building (Maths), Old Science Building (Chemistry), New Science Building (Physics, IT, and DT), Shepherd Rooms (Languages), The Grove and Clifton House. The Music School, the Dame Judi Dench Drama Centre, Hope House, and Queen's Building (History, Religious Studies, and English) are also located along the top of the Campus.

Boarding Houses Wentworth and Rise border the main campus, while Linton, Dronfield and The Manor are located across the road from the main school front accessible by footbridge. In the 2000s the school expanded its site under Headmaster Andrew Trotman to include the new lower campus, formally the site of Queen Anne's, a state school that had been recently closed. The move was not without its challenges, including the distance between the old and new sites and the dissection of a public footpath.

St Olave's

St Olave's School is the junior school to St Peter's, with grounds on the banks of the River Ouse. In September 2001, St Olave's moved from the White House (the Chilman Building), and its half of the Queen's Building, to the newly acquired Queen Anne site. The pre-prep, Clifton Prep moved from its original 19th-century building on The Avenue to occupy the buildings previously used by St Olave's.

St Olave's was founded by Reverend Henry Andrew Wilson in 1876 and named after its original site of St Olave’s House in Marygate. The school was acquired by St Peter's in 1901.[5] The head of St Olave's is referred to as the "school master", while the head of senior school is referred to as the "Head Master". As of 2019, the master of St Olave's is Andy Falconer.[6]

The Lower Campus in 2019 contains St Olave's prep school and the senior school of Biology and Art Departments.

in 2006 St Peter's School closed a public footpath running through the school grounds using The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. This was hotly disputed by local people.[7]


The school has a history of high academic achievement across all age ranges.[8][9]

Language-learning is also encouraged from a young age, so too the teaching of Latin, compulsory for the first four years of study[10] and also offered at GCSE and A Level.[11] Religious Studies is a compulsory GCSE subject.[12]


A wide range of activities are available at the school: these include rugby, football, hockey, netball, tennis, cricket, rowing, athletics, basketball, badminton, cross-country, climbing, squash, swimming, weight training, trampolining, water polo and aerobics. The school has sporting fields, gymnasiums, an indoor swimming pool, two multi-sport indoor centres, tennis courts, multi-use astroturf pitches, a rifle range, and a boathouse.

For 27 years, cricket was coached by Keith Mohan. In 2002 the school's U15 rugby team won the national Daily Mail Cup competition and the U18 team were narrowly beaten in 2005 in the final against Exeter College, Exeter . In 2011 the U16 team won the UCLAN Northern Schools Floodlit Competition.[13]

St Peter's School Boat Club was founded in the 1850s and is one of the oldest school rowing clubs in the world. It has had success at international level with over 28 GB 'vests' earned by Peterites since 1998. On the domestic scene it has won nine medals at The National Schools' Regatta,[14] 12 medals at The National Championships, and 25 appearances at Henley (both Men's and Women's), all since 1991.


The School Choir averages 170 members a year,[15] but there is also a more selective Chapel Choir as well as an elite Chamber Choir. Highlights of the choral calendar include the Carol Service at York Minster, as well as visits to the Minster and further afield to sing Evensong.

The school has Barbershop Quartets, a Brass Group, Chamber Groups, a Choral Society, a Close Harmony Group, String Orchestras, String Quartets, Swing Band/Traditional Jazz, a Symphony Orchestra, Senior Wind Band, Woodwind, Quintets and Quartets.


In addition to art as a subject, there is the Whitestone Gallery. Located at the school close to the Art Department on the Lower Campus, it is where many exhibitions are held, including that of the pupils' own work and the work of visiting artists.


  • 2019–Present Jeremy Walker
  • 2018-2019 Alistair Dunn (interregnum)
  • 2010–2018 Leo Winkley
  • 2004–2009 Richard Smyth
  • 1995–2004 Andrew Trotman
  • 1985-1995 Robin Pittman
  • 1984–1985 David Cummin (interregnum)
  • 1979–1984 Peter Hughes
  • 1967–1979 Peter Gardiner
  • 1937–1967 John Dronfield
  • 1913–1936 Stanley Mease "Sam" Toyne
  • 1900–1912 Edward Cunliffe Owen
  • 1864 Richard Elwyn
  • William Hey
  • John Pulleyn
  • 767–780 Archbishop Aethelbert
  • c.750 Flaccus Albinus Alcuinus (Alcuin)
  • 633–648 School closed
  • 627–633 James the Deacon


The school has ten day- and boarding houses, and each house has its own colour. Dronfield (pink) and Rise (white) are girls' boarding houses; Linton (baby blue) and The Manor (gold) are boys' boarding houses. The rest are day houses: Clifton (yellow), The Grove (red), Queens (purple), Temple (green), School (maroon), and Hope (orange). The house system is a long-standing tradition throughout the school's history. As the houses are physical, located in various buildings and parts of buildings throughout the school campus,[16] a sense of community is developed, bringing pupils of all ages together to compete in inter-house competitions, like rugby. "House Colours" are an award that is given in the form of a tie (formerly a badge for female students as they did not wear ties when they were first admitted) to pupils for an outstanding contribution to house activities.

In 1982 there were only seven houses: the boarding houses were: School, Rise, Dronfield, and The Manor; the day houses were: Queens, Grove, and Temple. Hope, Clifton, and Linton are of more recent origin. Houses were mixed and female boarders had their own quarters.


St Peter's has received an overall quality rating of 'Outstanding' in their 2007 Ofsted Boarding Inspection.[17]


The school has a Chapel with compulsory services 3 mornings a week. Eucharist is also held once a term and there are special services to mark Festivals in the Christian calendar.[18] A service is held on Remembrance Sunday during which all pupils place poppies on the book of remembrance in the Ante-chapel (which contains names of alumni killed in conflict). The school's Christmas Carol Service is held in York Minster.[18]

Religious education is compulsory at the school until Sixth Form, and is taught by both academic staff and the school's two Church of England clergy. The school remains predominantly Christian in demographics and in teaching[19]

York Minster

York Minster has a long connection with St Peter's, as the school's founder was an Archbishop of York. This relationship is also evident in the school's name, which mirrors the formal title of the Minster, The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of St Peter. At its foundation, the school was probably housed next to the earliest cathedral building.[20]

At the end of each academic year a Commemoration and Prizegiving service is held in the Minster and a Carol Service is also held there at Christmas. The school choir often sings in the Minster and in the 2006/2007 year they participated in Verdi's Requiem, which brought together the wider York community.


  • Morning Prayers – all members of the school attend a chapel service,
  • Eucharist – a whole school Eucharist service takes place each term and at other significant Christian festivals.[18]
  • Uniform – the school has a brown uniform featuring the "cross keys" of St Peter for all pupils (except members of the Sixth Form). The old woollen blazer was later replaced with a more modern cotton jacket. Other changes to the uniform have also taken place, including the removal of ties for female pupils, who now wear an open blouse. In Sixth Form, dark suits must be worn.
  • Gowns – the school has a tradition of gowns which reflect pupils' authority or commitments. These are worn during public events such as services at York Minster and during school events (including Chapel and Assembly). The Head Boy and Head Girl wear brown, followed by the Head Master's Prefects who wear navy. These are issued during the 'gowning' at First Assembly each academic year. Members of the Chapel Committee and choirs wear red gowns, which are fuller depending upon level (Chamber Choir; Chapel Choir; School Choir). School masters also wear collegiate gowns for services and public events.
  • Capping – is the practice of reward for exceptional sporting achievement and is awarded at the end of the relevant sports season.
  • 5 November – on Guy Fawkes Night, the school does not partake in the common tradition of burning a 'Guy' on the bonfire, as Guy Fawkes was an Old Peterite (alumnus).[21] There is, however, a long tradition of putting on a firework display for the Boarders.[22]
  • Fagging – the tradition of younger pupils serving older pupils was abolished in 1977.

Notable alumni

Current members of the school are known as 'Peterites' (and 'Olavites' for St Olave's Junior School) with alumni referred to as 'Old Peterites', or OPs for short. Notable OPs include:


Academics & Historians:

Artists and media figures:

Political figures:

Religious figures:

Armed Forces:

Business leaders:

Historical Figures:

See also


  1. "List of Schools". York Boarding Schools Group (YBSG). Retrieved 5 June 2012.
  2. "About the School". St Peter's School. Archived from the original on 21 May 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  3. Mortimore, M.J.A. Bridlington School: A History, p. 13. Hutton Cranswick, East Yorkshire: Alan Twiddle Publishing, 1999. ISBN 1-902508-03-3.
  4. About the school – Timeline Archived 24 April 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  5. "History of St Olave's". St Peter's School. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  7. "footpath closure". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  8. High Grades2
  9. St Peter's academic ratings High Grades1
  10. St Olave's
  11. St Peters school
  12. Religious Studies at St Peter's School
  13. "Competition Microsite - UCLAN Northern Schools U16 Floodlit Competition". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  14. "Results can be seen here". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  16. see the school's website
  17. "Ofsted review". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  18. "Chapel". St Peter's School. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  19. "R.E. at St Peter's and St Olave's". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  20. "St Peter's association with York Minster". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  21. Bonfire Night at St Peter's
  22. "BBC report on North Yorkshire". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  23. Nicholls, Mark (2004). "Fawkes, Guy (bap. 1570, d. 1606)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 17 January 2012.(subscription required)
Secondary sources
  • Hamilton, D.M., ed. (1977). A history of St Peter's school published in the year of the school's 1350th anniversary.
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