Our Founder – Julia Huxley
Prior’s Field School was the fulfillment of a dream for Julia Huxley, granddaughter of Dr Thomas Arnold, the reforming headmaster of Rugby School and niece of poet Matthew Arnold. Married to Charterhouse schoolmaster Leonard Huxley, she had long cherished an ambition to open a school of her own. She bought a five-acre plot and a moderate sized house on the outskirts of Godalming and, in January 1902, opened her progressive school for girls with just six pupils and her seven-and-a-half-year-old son, Aldous.
A brilliant scholar and gifted teacher, Mrs Huxley had advanced and original ideas about education. She brought subjects alive by taking her pupils out of the classroom and into galleries, concerts, theatres and museums. She allowed the girls an unusual freedom of thought and expression and encouraged a love of books, culture and solitude. Prior’s Field pupils could choose whether or not to go to church and could explore the countryside in pairs without supervision.
Prior’s Field attracted the attention of many of the intellectual and cultural elite of the country; Arthur Conan-Doyle, Professor Gilbert Murray and Alexander Siemens were among those who sent their daughters to be educated in the new experimental style by Mrs Huxley. When Julia Huxley died in 1908 aged only 46, she had established a thriving and successful school. She was succeeded by Ethel Burton-Brown and in turn by Ethel’s daughter Beatrice Burton-Brown who was Head Mistress at the time of Prior’s Field’s Golden Jubilee in 1952. Together, these formidable women created a unique and distinctive school whose ethos of joy in learning and ambition for girls continues to this day.
Prior’s Field is very proud of its links to the Arnolds, the Huxleys and CFA Voysey who designed the house in which the school began.
For more information about the Huxleys and CFA Voysey please select the page from the side menu.
We have something left to do for her sake – to work at Prior’s Field & in the world outside, so that the traditions which she planted and loved so much may grow and flourish, and that her ideas for us may be realised.Prior’s Field Magazine, Autumn, 1908