Our History

The Leathersellers’ Company is one of the historic livery companies of the City of London and has governed Colfe’s School since 1652. Every year, the Company carries out an official visitation to check on progress at the school; and every year Colfe’s pupils visit the Leathersellers’ Hall to learn about the long history of the school and the Company.

Below is a time line of the school’s history from the 14th century to today.

1327

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. 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.

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, 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.

1963

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 Junior School is opened.

2015

The Stewart building is opened by Prince Michael of Kent.

2017-18

The Junior School is refurbished to include a connecting atrium between the EYFS/Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 buildings.