About Us

Colfe’s School was founded by Abraham Colfe, Vicar of Lewisham, in 1652, possibly re-founding a school which had been instigated through the will of an earlier Lewisham parish priest, John Glyn, in 1574.

Colfe’s Will gave strict instructions about the running of the school, which in the 19th century meant a revision of the curriculum had to be approved by Queen Victoria, in order to provide a more modern education. He also asked that the school be looked after by the Worshipful Company of Leathersellers, a connection which remains firmly in place today.

Children of south-east London have been educated at Colfe’s School, firstly in Lewisham and then from 1964 in Lee, and, since 1999 the school has been co-educational although girls were admitted to the sixth form from 1976.

The school archive has been collected mainly from the 1970s and onwards. Many early records would have been destroyed when the school was hit by a flying bomb in 1944. Peter Heinecke, Librarian until 2001, was instrumental in gathering what records he could and purchasing items related to the school which could be tracked down. The internet now makes this much easier but we are always grateful to receive donations of memorabilia which former pupils may have.

Colfe's School Timeline

1372 First mention of the 'good men' of the mistery or craft of leathersellers of London.
1444 Royal Charter of Incorporation granted to the mistery of leathersellers by Henry VI.
1543 The Leathersellers purchase the former priory of St Helen Bishopsgate.
1580 Abraham Colfe is born in Canterbury on 7th August.
1604 The Leathersellers' Company is granted a new Charter by James I, confirming its status.
1610 Colfe becomes vicar of Lewisham.
1626 Colfe first proposes the foundation of a grammar school in Lewisham.
1635 The Leathersellers' Company agrees to become trustees of Colfe's School.
1652 The Free Grammar School is officially opened on Lewisham Hill on 10th June.

Colfe's School and the Leathersellers' Company, 1652-date

1657 Abraham Colfe dies on 5th December, aged 77.
1658 The first visitation by the Leathersellers' Company as school governors takes place on 6th July.
1685 Charles II forces the surrender of the Leathersellers' privileges and issues a new charter (which is subsequently rejected by the Company).
1703 The Leathersellers pay for repairs to the school following a violent storm.
1794 The school is referred to as Colfe's Grammar School for the first time.
1857 The terms of Colfe's Will are reinforced under a new scheme, preventing reforms desired by Rev Prendergast, the Headmaster.
1867 The Reverend Thomas Bramley becomes Headmaster. During his tenure, Bramley argues for the reform of the Colfe's foundation and the modernisation of the school, leading to the overturning of Abraham Colfe's will.
1885 The Abraham Colfe Club is founded.
1887 Queen Victoria gives Royal Assent to the new scheme leading to the modernisation of Colfe's School and confirming its status as a grammar school.
1890 Colfe's School buildings are demolished, to be replaced by modern buildings, which are funded by the Leathersellers' Company.
1894 The Old Colfeians Football Club is founded.
1897 The School song, Carmen Colfanum, is written by Leland Duncan, music by Frederick Leeds.
1900 The first edition of The Colfeian is published, edited by L L Duncan, one of the first Old Boys magazine in the country.
1901 The Abraham Colfe grounds are established in Horn Park.
1902 250th anniversary
1914-1918 Many old boys join up and 124 lives are lost in the First World War.

1920 Colfes's accepts a grant from the Board of Education
1930 The current school site at Lee is purchased, originally for use as playing fields.
1931 The Abraham Colfe Club becomes the Old Colfeians.
1939-1945 At least 96 Old Colfeians are killed during World War II.
1939 The school is evacuated to Skinners School, Tunbridge Wells.
1941 Enemy action destroys the Leathersellers Hall.
1944 Flying bombs destroy the "School on the Hill"; the evacuees move to Frome.
1948 The school returns to the re-built site at Lewisham Hill.
1952 Colfe's Grammar School celebrates its tercentenary.
1964 The new buildings in Lee are officially opened on 26th November. The Parents' Association is formed.
1976 The Government abolishes London Grammar Schools; Colfe's School becomes independent. 1977 Girls are admitted to the sixth form for the first time.
1984-1999 Many new facilities are provided, often with funding from the Leathersellers' Company, including the Beardwood Centre, the Prep School, the Newton Sports' Centre, the Hamp Library, the Pre-Prep & Nursery Schools, the Languages block and the Sixth Form Centre.
1999 The first year of co-education in the senior school.
2002 Colfe's School celebrates its 350th Anniversary.
2003 Beardwood Arts Centre is opened by Prince Michael of Kent.
2005 Richard Russell becomes the 25th Headmaster of Colfe's School.
2010 The school completes the purchase of the freehold of Horn Park, home to the Old Colfeians.
2012 Vivian Anthony's School History from 1972 to 2002 is published.
2014 Expanded and refurbished Pre-Prep and Nursery School is opened.
2015 The Stewart building is opened by Prince Michael of Kent.