Anrew reed 2

History & Heritage

The Beginning

A huge debt of gratitude is owed to one man: the Founder of Reed’s School, Reverend Dr Andrew Reed, a visionary and social reformer, ahead of his time. 

In the early 1800s, as a young Minister based in Stepney, Reed found himself holding the hand of a dying parishioner. The man’s wife had passed away and his final wish was that his two young daughters would be cared for. Reed’s own mother had been left a penniless orphan and, recalling this, he agreed to help. 

The granting of this simple wish would lead the way to a life dedicated to philanthropy, changing the futures of thousands of children over the next 200 years.  In his search to find suitable care for the girls, Reed visited many orphanages and was appalled at the circumstances he found. He believed that a better solution must exist and, with the help of a small but committed group of supporters, who all shared his vision that the poor should not surrender their dignity in the face of poverty, resolved to make it reality.

The outcome was the founding in 1813 of a charitable foundation: the London Orphan Asylum in Clapton, East London. The word ‘asylum’ was carefully chosen to signify a place of shelter, safety and education for vulnerable children. Indeed, so driven was Reed by the need for social reform, he founded several other charitable institutions including the Royal Hospital for Incurables in Putney (now the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability), the Reedham Orphanage and the Infant Orphan Asylum in Wanstead.

From 1813 to Today

With a move to Watford in 1871, the London Orphan Asylum charitable foundation was renamed the London Orphan School (LOS), which later became Reed’s School in the early 1940s. This heritage attests to the fact that we are not a school with a Foundation but, importantly, a Foundation with a school.

Funding this charitable foundation was a constant challenge, but Reed refused to be daunted. His resolve saw him appeal to wealthy members of the City, the gentry and the Royal Family. He knew that their patronage would bring prestige to the charity and also instil confidence in its other benefactors. This support remains today.

During World War Two, the boys were evacuated to Totnes in Devon and the girls to Towcester in Northamptonshire. In 1946, the girls moved to Dogmersfield Park in Hampshire and the boys took up residency at our present site in Cobham.

From 1813 to the late 1950s, every pupil who attended the School had lost the support of one or both parents and so was fully funded by the Foundation, receiving the education and care to transform their futures. Then, due to financial difficulties, it became necessary to take on fee-paying pupils as well, creating the thriving and successful School we are today. 

The Foundation remains central to our purpose: the challenge is to ensure we can continue to offer no less than 10% of our pupils, who come from vulnerable social backgrounds, the opportunity to change the course of their lives by raising aspirations, inspiring confidence and providing a well-rounded education.


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