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Brief History


Brief History

History of Malvern St James

Malvern St James is a leading British independent boarding and day school for girls aged 4-18. It has a tradition of pioneering excellent girls’ education, dating back to the 1850s. Its founding schools are The Abbey School, Lawnside, Malvern Girls’ College, St James’s School and St James’s & The Abbey.

Its values today are the same as those of its founding schools. MSJ still represents academic rigour, outstanding enrichment and leadership opportunities, and preparing girls for rewarding careers and lives beyond school.

Malvern St James celebrates its first decade in the academic year 2016/7, following the 2006 merger of Malvern Girls’ College and St James’s School.

The Abbey School

The Abbey School was founded in Blockley, Worcestershire by Mrs Margaret Judson and moved to Malvern in 1897 and to the Malvern Wells site in 1908. Both Margaret Judsons's daughters, Florence and Alice, became headmistress of the school. In the mid 1960's, Miss Joan Jones, formerly a housemistress at Malvern Girls' College became the Headmistress. When The Abbey merged with St. James's in 1979, much from The Abbey went to the West Malvern site - the Chapel windows, furniture and the extensive library. The name of The Abbey is celebrated in one of the two main meeting rooms at Malvern St James. 


Lawnside could claim to be the oldest school in Malvern and may even date to the beginning of the nineteenth century. The purchase of the Lawnside building in Avenue Road dates from the 1870s. Miss Winifred Barrows was Principal for almost half a century, from 1925 to 1960, having also been a pupil at the school; she was a keen thespian and in the 1930s, during the Malvern Festivals, George Bernard Shaw and Edward Elgar attended tea parties at Lawnside. Lawnside merged with St James's and The Abbey School in 1994. The name of Lawnside is also celebrated in one of the two main meeting rooms at Malvern St James. Phyllida Lloyd, the Director of the runaway hit musical "Mamma Mia" is an Old Girl of Lawnside.

Malvern Girls' College

Miss Greenslade and Miss Poulton started a small school in College Road in 1893, soon moving to a house nearer the centre of town which they renamed Ivydene Hall. They then proceeded to lease or buy the houses in the neighbouring area including The Mount where Edward Elgar had taught. In 1919 they embarked on their most ambitious project, to acquire the Imperial Hotel, built in 1862 to serve the famous Water Cure which by then was less fashionable. The purchase price was £32,500. 

Miss Greenslade and Miss Poulton continued to develop the school, and in 1934 an impressive extension incorporating the school’s Hall and Library was opened by HRH The Duchess of York, later Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. York Hall is named in her honour and the copper beech tree she planted now towers over the Quad. Miss Iris Brooks was the celebrated Headmistress from the late 1920s to the 1950s. High academic standards were set and maintained. 

During the 2nd World War, radar was developed in Malvern and the Royal Radar Establishment (now QinetiQ) remained after the war. The number of staff married to scientists was of great benefit to the school in maintaining those standards, especially in the Sciences. A commitment to new ventures and contemporary architecture saw the building of Hatfield in the 1960s, the Edinburgh Dome in the 1970s and The Science Education Centre in 1998.

The first female judge, Dame Elizabeth Lane was an Old Girl, as is Dr Caroline Lucas MP, the UK’s first Green MP and twice leader of the party, and Sara Murray, tech entrepreneur founder of

St James's School, West Malvern 

St James's School was founded in 1896 by twin sisters Miss Alice and Miss Katrine Baird, two girls from a large family full of character: five of the seven sisters became headmistresses. The school moved from the south of England to West Malvern in 1902, where they leased the grand home of Lady Howard de Walden. 

Another sister, Miss Georgina, became Principal of Evendine Court School of Household Training, Colwall. In 1920, Alice Baird paid £20,000 for the whole of the St James's estate. For almost half a century Alice Baird remained as Headmistress and after she retired, a question frequently asked was, "What would Miss Baird have done?" She was a friend of Lord and Lady Baden-Powell, the founders of the Scout and Guide movements and they sent their daughters to St James's. HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, was at the school and when her son HRH The Duke of Gloucester officially opened Malvern St James in 2006, he spoke of his mother's love of the school. 

St James's warmly welcomed The Abbey School when the schools merged in 1979 on the West Malvern site, and the school became known as St James's & The Abbey.  In 1994 Lawnside also joined and the school reverted to its original name of St James's, remaining as this until 2006.  During the Centenary year (celebrated from July 1996 until 1997), a new School crest of a scallop shell, the symbol of St James, was adopted.

The first female Chief Executive of the London Stock Exchange (2001-2009), Dame Clara Furse is an Old Girl, as is Penelope Lyttleton, Viscountess Cobham, currently Chairwoman of VisitEngland, the child care expert Penelope Leach and novelist Dame Barbara Cartland.