ELTHAM College

Eltham College is an independent day school situated in Mottingham, southeast London. Eltham and Mottingham once formed part of the same parish, hence its name. It is a member of The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC).

Early History

The school dates back to the early Victorian era, when it was founded as the London Missionary Society‘s School for the Sons and Orphans of Missionaries. Within a short time the Baptist Missionary Society joined as co-founders. A girls’ school had been established in Walthamstow in 1838 and a boys’ school was opened in the same place at the beginning of 1842. The boys’ school later relocated to Mornington Crescent in 1852 and then to a purpose-built location in the centre of Blackheath in 1857 (the building, directly adjacent to Blackheath Station, later became the headquarters of the Church Army and is now a private hospital). Missionary David Livingstone sent his son Robert to the school during the 1850s.

Current Site

The school moved to its present site – centred on an 18th-century mansion (Fairy Hall) in Mottingham – in 1912. The building had previously been used by the Royal Naval School from 1889 to the end of the summer term in 1910.

Eltham College began life as a small boarding school catering for children of missionaries serving overseas, mainly in India, China and Africa. From 1945 to 1976 Eltham was a Direct Grant school; thus, for example, the 1952 intake was roughly 20 pupils from London County Council schools and 20 from Kent schools (all 40 of these on scholarships), and 20 fee-payers. When the Direct Grant system was abolished in 1976, the school chose to go fully independent. After the 1950s the number of missionary sons fell sharply and the school became primarily a day school for boys until it went fully co-educational in the 2020s. The sixth form has admitted girls since 1978. Reflecting the origins of the school, each of the four houses is named after a prominent LMS or BMS missionary, namely CareyLivingstoneChalmers and Moffat; coloured blue, green, red and yellow respectively.

21st century developments

Headmaster (2000-2014) Paul Henderson continued a programme of building and development started by Christopher Waller, including major refurbishments to the junior school and music school, and a car park in front of the college. The Gerald Moore Art Gallery (partly funded by and named after artist Gerald Moore, an Old Elthamian) opened in 2012, displaying works by Moore, students and other artists.

Also in 2012, to mark the centenary of the move to Mottingham, the college launched a campaign to raise the funds to replace the Sixth Form Centre and Jubilee Block. Construction began in July 2017 and ended in February 2019. The new Turberville building (named after Geoffrey Turberville, the college’s longest serving headmaster, 1930–1959) is located on the west side of the Old Quad with a new colonnade linking it to existing buildings. A triple-height, glazed atrium forms a link between the quad and the playing fields to the east and gives access to the David Robins Sixth Form Centre.

Girls were admitted to Year 3 and Year 7 for the first time in autumn 2020 (since the late 1970s girls have been members of the sixth form). Thus Eltham College will be fully co-educational in every year from autumn 2024.