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History of Habs Boys

Haberdashers' Boys' School is a large independent day school for boys aged 4 to 18. We trace our roots back to the 17th century. The school started life in Hoxton, then in the late 19th century moved to West Hampstead, where it remained until 1961. Dr Tom Taylor, the then Headmaster, masterminded both its move to Elstree and its elevation into the front rank of independent day schools.

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Hoxton, 1690 - 1898

The story of Haberdashers’ begins in Hoxton, where it opened in 1690.

The school began humbly, with the Schoolmaster instructed to teach ‘the Rudiments of Grammar, and give such moderate correction as shall be agreeable to prudence’. A Writing Master was also employed to teach the students ‘to write fair and all manner of needful Arithmetick’. Students were not taught Latin or Greek.

Entry requirements were strict. The school would only admit a student of proven poverty. Students already had to be able to read, and were dismissed if they inherited £100 or more. Lying, swearing or being absent without leave were grounds for expulsion. Pupils left the school at the age of 15.

Hampstead, 1898 - 1961

By the late 19th century it was clear that the Hoxton site was no longer suitable for the needs of the school. The neighbourhood had deteriorated, and only 17% of pupils lived locally. Classes were overcrowded, and many of the buildings were in dire need of repair.

The decision was therefore made to move out of the old buildings and construct newer, better facilities at Westbere Road, Hampstead. The new school was much enhanced, with new courses teaching Greek and students permitted to stay until their 18th birthday. Academic standards improved greatly, with many boys going on to become architects, barristers, doctors and engineers.

Many students were called up to fight in the First and Second World Wars. Of them, 107 died in the First and 87 in the Second. Their names are immortalised in plaques around the school.

Elstree, 1961 - Present

In 1949 the Ministry of Education issued a report on the Hampstead School. It concluded that, while standards were adequate, the school hall, gym, art room and library were too small and desperately needed improving.

The Governors took the advice to heart, and in 1959 purchased Aldenham House and 61 acres of land from the BBC. The move took place in the summer term of 1961 under the leadership of Headmaster Dr Tom Taylor, who employed staff, students and a fleet of removal vans to transfer everything to Elstree.

The new school was opened in October 1961 by the Lord Mayor of London. The school’s hard work paid off, with the next inspection report praising every aspect of the facilities and teaching staff.