Sutton Valence School

We take a look at the long and illustrious history of Sutton Valence School founded in 1576 by local benefactor William Lambe.

Sutton Valence School has been part of Sutton Valence village since it was founded by William Lambe, a local benefactor, in 1576. Lambe was a member of the court of King Henry VIII, a chorister in the Chapel Royal and a Master of the Worshipful Company of Clothworkers. He funded many social projects, including Lambe’s Conduit in London, which helped to remove sewage from the streets.

In Sutton Valence School, he wanted to provide a free education for the boys of the village. Now a thriving co-educational independent school, the past 445 years have provided a rich history and tradition and a wealth of expertise which still inhabit so much of what we do today, especially the Christian values of love, tolerance and community.

The Clothworkers’ Company, which had managed the School since its inception, handed governance of the School to the United Westminster Schools Foundation in 1910. Two years later, the burgeoning student roll required an expansion of the existing facilities and, accordingly, the School purchased land above the village. The subsequent construction of ‘Main School’ with its two boarding houses, Westminster and St Margaret’s, and stunning views overlooking the Weald of Kent has remained the heart of SVS ever since.

In the century that has followed, the School has continued to develop and evolve, becoming co-educational in 1982 and opening the girls’ boarding house, Sutton, a year later. In the 1994, SVS incorporated Underhill School, now Sutton Valence Preparatory School, and opened a sister school in Tianjin, China in 2017. Looking forward, the School’s ambitious Masterplan 450, designed to celebrate the upcoming anniversary of its foundation, promises an impressive array of new School facilities to complement its rich history.

Whilst the School has gone from strength-to-strength, its former students have followed suit. The breadth of their professional successes reflecting the importance the School places on the diversity of its student interests. The recent Olympic games in Tokyo saw Susannah Townsend MBE play a leading role in the GB Women’s Hockey Bronze winning team, following up her Gold medal from Rio 2016. She joins other eminent sportsmen including GB Hockey player Ashley Jackson, former England cricketer Mark Benson and longdistance runner Sydney Wooderson MBE. Away from sport, Old Suttonians include the esteemed coronation artist of the Queen – Sir Terence Cuneo CVO OBE, the award-winning journalist – Robert Fisk as well as BBC broadcasters Ben Brown and Katie Gornall.

This September, the School welcomed its 38th Headmaster, Mr James Thomas, who arrived with a wealth of leadership experience, most recently at the British School in Tokyo. Mr Thomas inherits a flourishing School where academic strengths are complemented by a total curricula approach structured around enrichment and sporting excellence. Above all else though, the School thrives on its community foundations which underpin everything it does as an institution.

This community ethos transcends our near 450-year history, and has ultimately moulded the School into what it is today. We pride ourselves on being forward-looking, but firmly rooted in our traditions, retaining many of the customs that have been established over the centuries. As such, our place at the Heart of Kent education is built not just on the quality of our educational provision, but on the continuation of the legacy of our founder, William Lambe.

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