The Abbot of St Albans acquired a royal charter to hold a weekly market in High Barnet. It is from the medieval “chepynge”, or long market square, that High Barnet derives its alternative name, Chipping Barnet.


The English Reformation

During the first half of the 16th century the Protestant Reformation movement began in Europe and gained popular support in England. In 1534 Henry VIII, Elizabeth I’s father, enacted the Reformation in England when he rejected the Pope’s authority and made himself head of the Church of England.


Elizabeth I is crowned

Elizabeth I crowned Queen. Religious conflict raged in Europe and threatened within England. Elizabeth’s “Settlement of Religion” introduced tolerance and compromise that enabled Catholics and Protestants in England to live in peace. Elizabethan officials established 136 new grammar schools as part of a strategy to use education to help facilitate England’s relatively peaceful transition from Catholicism to Protestantism.


Leicester and Underne

Edward Underne became Rector of Chipping Barnet. He, and other men of local influence such as Henry Knolles, actively promoted the establishment of a school in High Barnet. Henry Knolles, a courtier, privateer and MP, was the Queen’s cousin and personal attendant. He was also the brother-in-law of Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester (pictured), the Queen’s favourite and one of the most powerful men in England until his death in 1588.

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The School is Founded

At the request of Robert, Earl of Leicester, Queen Elizabeth I granted a Charter “for one Common Grammar School in or near the town of Barnet which shall be called the Free Grammar School of Queen Elizabeth, for the education, bringing up, and instruction of boys and youth, to be brought up in grammar and literary matter or grammar art, and the same to continue for ever”. The Charter established a corporate Governing body, of 24 “discreet and honest men”, who held ownership of the School’s assets, the power to appoint/dismiss staff and the authority to regulate its affairs.

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Tudor Hall

The Corporation of London granted Underne permission to acquire funds for building the School from church collections within the City of London. Donations of churchgoers financed the construction of the schoolhouse for 60-90 boys incorporating a dwelling for the Master, dormitories in the roof space and turrets with staircases at either end. Day pupils resided in the town and walked to School, boarders or “foreigners” lived outside the parish of High Barnet.


The Governors acquired unencumbered title to the School’s site. Anthony Maynard of South Mimms, who owned the land upon which the schoolhouse was erected, released the Governors of his lawful claim to the premises. Simultaneously, the Governors, in conjunction with contributions from a haberdasher William Lynakers, and grocer James Huish, repaid a bond to John Lyon, the founder of Harrow School, in final settlement of the purchase of the adjoining land.


Richard Boyle, a man of considerable ability, had an immediate and profound impact as Master of Queen Elizabeth’s. The Governors recorded in 1601 that “the said School, by the diligence and good discretion of the now Schoolmaster, doth begin to flourish and increase in scholars, and is likely more and more so to do”.

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The plague epidemic made public gatherings of any sort risky. The Governors noted in September 1605 that, “for these three yeares last past, what with the greate and universall sicknes then happening …. the school is thereby likely to grow in decay”.


Arabella Stuart, fourth-in-line to the throne, secretly married William Seymore a descendent of Henry VII and sixth-in-line to the throne. To forestall any chance of the marriage being a prelude to a Tudor attempt to seize the crown, King James I sent Seymore to the Tower and committed Arabella to the care of the Bishop of Durham. En route she fell ill and stayed for some months in Barnet at the home of Thomas Conyers, a Governor of the School. Rev. Matthais Milward, a Governor and subsequently Master of the School, attended to her spiritual needs. Arabella attempted to escape to France dressed as a man, but was captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London.


A London goldsmith, John Lonison, endowed £100, “for the good of the school.” Interest on the endowments paid for the Master’s salary for many years, but was insufficient for maintenance costs which continued to be borne by the personal voluntary donations of Governors up to the 19th century.


King Charles I imposed the notorious “Ship Money”, an annual tax on the whole of England and Wales to boost his ailing finances. In a much publicised case, John Hampden MP refused to pay the tax imposed without recourse to Parliament. Sir Robert Berkeley (pictured) and Sir Thomas Trevor, both Governors of Queen Elizabeth’s School, were judges at Hampden’s trial. They found in favour of the legality of the tax, ruling in Charles’ favour on the question of his power to levy taxes in what he considered to be a national emergency.


To ensure that “youth there placed may receive good education as well in religion and good manners as in nurture for learning”, the Governors provided a comprehensive code of regulations that endured for over 200 years. Admission fees, levied since the 1570s, rose steadily to reach 2s. for boys who lived in High Barnet and 4s. for foreigners. Governors also introduced tuition fees of 20s. p.a. for local boys and for foreigners.


Governors interpreted the provision in the Charter for free tuition for local boys, as applicable only to poor local boys. These arrangements improved precarious school finances by cutting costs and increasing income: the number of local boys subsidised by the School was limited and the number paying tuition fees of 20s per year increased. The introduction of tuition fees for local boys and foreigners endured until the mid-nineteenth century.


Parliament abolished Ship Money as unconstitutional in 1641, Berkeley was later arrested and incarcerated in the Tower on a charge of high treason and fined £20,000. Trevor was also heavily fined but escaped imprisonment.


The School remains loyal to the crown during the Civil War

England plunged into the Civil War in which a greater percentage of the population died than World War I. School Governors implicated included: Thomas Coningsby, Sheriff of Hertfordshire, imprisoned in the tower for calling royalists to arms; Sir Henry Blount, who had taken charge of the King’s children during the battle of Edgehill; Hugh Hare, created Lord Colerane by Charles I, had all his estates sequestrated; John Goodwin who was removed as Rector of Barnet on account of his royalist sympathies; John Langham, Alderman of the City of London, who was arrested and sent to the Tower for refusing to publish the Act for the Abolition of Royalty; and Sir John Franklin who sided with Parliament.


Parental preference resulted in the introduction of more practical, useful subjects and these to be taught in English. Latin had previously dominated the curriculum. About half the pupils left at about the age 14, before entering the forms 6 and 7. Boys in these two top forms, aged 14 to 19, learnt proficiency in speaking, writing and translating Latin and had to be familiar with classical authors. By these means the school catered for pupils who left school at various ages and stages of their education to take up employment, enter apprenticeships or go to university.


William Sclater, aged 32, was appointed Master. He had been a Royalist officer, a Cornet of Horse who carried the colours for a troop of cavalry, and later achieved the rank of Lieutenant. Sclater was arrested after King Charles’ execution in 1649 and brought to trial for his life for his loyalty to the royal family. He escaped narrowly on grounds of insufficiency of evidence.


There were 704 free grammar schools. Christopher Wase published his unprecedented educational survey that found that grammar schools in England were as active and efficient as ever, sending a succession of boys to university and supplying local communities with clerks, scriveners, apothecaries, printers, attorneys, booksellers and others equipped to make a useful contribution to society. Taken as whole, endowed grammar schools flourished as much after the monarchy’s Restoration as before the Civil War.


England had become a world power able to defeat her Dutch and French competitors and dominate international trade. England’s trade increased five-fold in value since 1600 and her trade extended well beyond northern Europe. As commerce expanded and became more complex, demand increased for more sophisticated reading and comprehension skills, written correspondence and oral articulacy - all in English, as well as numeracy for business. Parents opted for tuition in subjects which they perceived as more useful to their sons for exploiting broadening career prospects. The demand for a utilitarian rather than a purely Latin-based Classical education saw many schools adapt their curricula.


Financial challenges

The Governors had discharged their responsibilities honestly, competently and generously for over a century. The School’s endowment income was always insufficient to meet running costs. From the late-16th until the 19th century the School’s maintenance costs were financed by Governors’ at their own personal expense through numerous voluntary donations. They introduced tuition fees to meet staff costs and resolve problems with recruitment and retention. They continued to exempt poor local boys from fees. While retaining the Classics, the Governors encouraged modernising the curriculum.


Elizabeth Allen's Trust funds places for the poor

Elizabeth Allen’s Trust established, but found to be inadequate to secure her intention of establishing a free elementary school for poor children in High Barnet. Instead, the ten Trustees decided to make an annual donation to Queen Elizabeth’s where facilities already existed for the free education of some of High Barnet’s poor children. This arrangement endured until 1823.


Industrial Revolution

Profound socio–economic and political change occurred. Britain’s industrialized world-leading economy generated higher living standards for a growing proportion of its expanding population. England’s middling sorts tripled in size and developed into a bourgeoning, influential middle class.


The Enlightenment

Enlightenment thinking ushered in England’s laissez-faire economy based on the concept of free trade. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776) and Tom Paine’s Rights of Man (1791) celebrated the freedom of individuals to improve their lot and promoted the exercise of rationality and humanitarianism. Reformers, including Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Malthus, Adam Smith and Robert Owen all agreed that education was one of a few areas that required the state’s financial support. In Britain the Enlightenment brought about such profound, systematic and far-reaching changes, that there was no need for recourse to the violence that occurred in France (1789-99) and America (1775-83).


Utilitarianism became a principle motivating factor for acquiring an education. Broadening employment opportunities in commerce, industry, public service and various professions did not require a university education or the standard of grammar-school classics to access it. Generally, individuals, supported by their middle-class families who could afford it, managed and paid for their education. Most left school at 16 and integrated relevant post-school learning with their developing careers through apprenticeships, lectures and self-teaching materials. University student numbers declined as graduate career prospects were limited largely to the clergy and school mastering.


The Governors reduced the number of free scholars and increased the number of fee-paying boys. They did so as Elizabeth Allen’s Trustees diverted funds from Queen Elizabeth’s to a establish their own elementary school. Around the mid-19th century the Master, Usher and two assistants oversaw between 45 and 60 pupils in four classes usually with slightly more day boys than boarders. Subjects included reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, history, English, book-keeping, mathematics, with ten opting for additional tuition in Latin, three in French and twelve in drawing.


Bishop Broughton

Old Elizabethan William Grant Broughton is appointed as Archdeacon of New South Wales, purportedly having been recommended by the Duke of Wellington. He went on to become the first (and only) Anglican Bishop of Australia. A prize for Divinity is still awarded each year in his honour and his name was given to the third of QE's houses.

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Urban sprawl

High Barnet had transformed from a small, rural market town in Hertfordshire with a population of 2,500 into a London residential suburb of over 6,000 inhabitants.


State support for secondary education

Intensified demands of discontented better-off parents, educational reformists and radical politicians resulted in the Schools’ Inquiry Commission of 1867 that investigated 791 grammars, including Queen Elizabeth’s. It found that England’s grammar schools were no longer providing the quantity or quality of secondary education demanded by the greatly expanded and increasingly affluent middle classes. In High Barnet Queen Elizabeth’s lacked the resources to expand provision for the burgeoning residential population. This changed after the Endowed Schools Act of 1869 introduced a state-aided system of secondary education.


Boarding ended

Queen Victoria sanctioned the School’s new scheme that transformed the “private country boarding and day school”. Queen Elizabeth’s was reconstituted legally and revitalised financially with secure funding from the Exchequer’s public purse and a temporary boost from the Jesus Hospital Charity. The new school opened on an enlarged site and much extended with new classrooms and Headmaster’s house. Boarding and differentiated fees for local boys and ‘foreigners’ ended.


A new meritocracy

In accordance with Enlightened thinking, meritocratic reforms of institutions applied to new schemes for grammar schools. At Queen Elizabeth’s, state-funded free places were available for growing numbers on the basis of merit as measured by boys’ performance in competitive entrance examinations. Similarly, state-funded exhibitions facilitated deserving pupils’ post-school educational progression. In short, Queen Elizabeth’s was reinvented as a state-sponsored suburban meritocracy that was intended to facilitate social mobility. Pupil numbers increased from around 50 in 1875 to 133 in 1878 and 166 in 1889.


The Education Act brought existing grammar schools into the state-sponsored system under county councils. Local authorities granted bursaries and scholarships to a growing proportion of children who won places in competitive 11 plus exams. By 1913 34.8 % of grammar school pupils were free-place scholars though most parents continued to pay fees.


Elizabethans killed in World War I

Forty-eight Elizabethans lost their lives in World War I. A memorial to their sacrifice, and another to those who were killed in World War II, stands in the entrance hall of the School. In 2015, the School purchased ceramic poppies for each of those who lost their lives a century before.

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The inadequacy of its buildings and site prompted a decision to relocate the School. The County Council purchased about 13 acres of land, some of which adjoined the playing field that Chairman of Governors, HE Chetwynd Stapylton (pictured), purchased in 1886 for the use of the School. Hertfordshire County Council took control of School funding, staff appointments and ownership of its land and buildings.


The headship of Ernest Jenkins

Ernest Jenkins was appointed Headmaster and served for 31 years. Queen Elizabeth’s moved to new premises on Queen’s Road, with HRH The Prince George, Duke of Kent opening the new building in 1932. Jenkins oversaw a significant rise in the profile of the School. More pupils achieved places at universities and the School widened its scope with many sporting achievements, including winning the prestigious Public Schools’ Athletics Cup on four occasions. Parental funds provided the School with a swimming pool.


The School is bombed in the Blitz

Twenty-two Elizabethans lost their lives in World War II. The School remained open without intermission throughout the war despite suffering great damage from several bombs that struck it and fell nearby in January, 1941. Mr Jenkins wrote to the boys in the Upper 5th form asking that they attend School in their work clothes in order to help clear the rubble. The School's indomitable caretaker, Harry ('Curly') Mayes, who worked at QE from 1902-1962, was knocked flat by one of the bombs, but was uninjured.

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The School becomes comprehensive

London Borough of Barnet (LBB) took control of the School. Timothy Edwards, Headmaster from 1961 to 1984, guided the School into comprehensive status and through the difficult period of reorganisation. Boys were no longer admitted on the basis of academic merit, rather on residential proximity to the School. The Fern and Mayes Buildings were constructed. The number of pupils doubled in the 1960s to around 550 with 150 in the sixth form. However, this was not sustained and numbers declined in the late 1970s and early 1980s.


The School saved from closure

The School was under LBB’s consideration for closure on account of its falling rolls and vacant places. Eamonn Harris was appointed Headmaster. Under his direction the School became substantially oversubscribed within three years and was rated “Outstandingly Successful” by OFSTED in 1996.


The School restored

Following the Education Reform Act of 1988, the School achieved Grant Maintained Status. In 1994, the Secretary of State granted the Governors' petition for the admission of pupils by virtue of their ability and aptitude. These measures restored ownership of the School’s assets and the autonomy of its management to the Governors. By 1998 new buildings, including the Heard Sixth Form Building and the Friends' Music Rooms were constructed.


The School flourishes

During Dr John Marincowitz’s tenure as Headmaster (1999-2011), Queen Elizabeth’s further strengthened its reputation, achieving three successive ‘outstanding’ ratings from OFSTED which recorded the School’s transition from an excellent comprehensive to eminent grammar school. The boys’ academic achievements often topped national league tables and secured places for unprecedented numbers at Oxbridge and Russell Group universities.

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Academy Status achieved

The Education Acts of 1999 and 2010 facilitated the School’s Foundation and Academy Status. These increased representation of the Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s, the parents, Foundation Trustees and Old Elizabethans on the Governing body further consolidating the School’s autonomy. Their unity of purpose and financial support facilitated many new developments including the Martin Swimming Pool and Shearly Hall.


Neil Enright, was appointed 40th Headmaster and has overseen the School’s further development. Academically the School has consolidated its position ranking consistently among, and frequently outperforming, the very highest-achieving independent and state schools. Enrichment of learning, refinement of teaching and improvements to the environment continue apace. Completed building projects include a new Dining Hall, Library, English block and Café 1573 for the 6th Form. With very few exceptions boys in the enlarged sixth form progress to the most prestigious universities. The number of applications for places make it one of the most sought-after schools nationally.


Royal recognition

In 2014, Barrie Martin, Chairman of the Governing Body and the Friends of Queen Elizabeth's and Mrs Fauziah Scarisbrick, longstanding teacher and Head of Mathematics, were honoured with MBEs for their 'Services to Education'.


Robotics World Champions

In only the School's second season participating in VEX Robotics it won the overall Excellence Award at the VEX IQ World Robotics Championships in Louisville, Kentucky. The boys beat some 8,500 teams from around the world and QE became the first UK school ever to win a VEX world championship title.

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The triple crown

The School maintained its unparalleled period of success within the state sector, being triply recognised as the top performing school for exam results (again leading the Sunday Times Parent Power rankings), the selective school with the best value-added measure for pupil progress, and the school which had sent the highest proportion of its students to the Russell Group of universities over the previous three years.

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The eQE experience

The Covid-19 pandemic forced schools across the country, and around much of the world, to move online during periods of national lockdown. When in-school, significant public health measures remained in place. Lessons, enrichment activities and events were adapted and held online. The Good Schools Guide found QE had "flexed well" and was "one of the most inspiring learning environments [they'd] ever come across".


The Friends' Recital Hall and Music Rooms were opened in the transformed Mayes building, bringing music into the heart of the campus. Built during the pandemic, it added to other major projects like the Martin Pool, Shearly Hall, Queen's Library and Dining Hall, which had been funded via FQE and the generosity of parents and supporters.


Our annus mirabilis

QE is named The Sunday Times State Secondary School of the Year for the third time. Ofsted conducts an inspection - their first in 14 years -and finds the School to be 'outstanding' in all of its judgement areas. HRH The Duke of Gloucester visits to herald the start of the 450th anniversary celebrations.


450th anniversary

On Friday 24 March, 450 years to the day from when Queen Elizabeth I granted a Royal Charter to establish the School, the Elizabethan community gathered for a Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey. The original Charter was processed through the Abbey in the last special service held there before the Coronation of King Charles III.