The enterprising Edward Alleyn
Our school’s origins can be traced back to Edward Alleyn in 1619.
Edward Alleyn was a famous Elizabethan actor and contemporary of Shakespeare and Marlowe, who led ‘My Lord Admiral's Men', a celebrated company of players, and owned the Rose Theatre and the Bear Pit on Bankside, and the Fortune Theatre in Cripplegate.
He was also ‘Master of the King's Bulls, Bears and Mastiff Dogs'. This lucrative appointment, together with other business ventures in Southwark, brought him the wealth which enabled him to purchase, for £5,000, the Manor of Dulwich for his retirement.
In 1605, determined to atone for a life of worldly preoccupations, he set about creating his great charitable foundation: ‘Alleyn's College of God's Gift', which was to consist of twelve poor scholars - six poor brethren and six poor sisters. The Master was originally to be chosen from a list of two, by lot (hence ‘God's Gift'). The original Foundation building, still existing in the centre of Dulwich Village, consisted of a Chapel, with residences for the Master and staff in the centre, almshouses to the left and a school to the right.
‘Alleyn's College of God's Gift' was opened with a great feast on 1 September 1616: Edward Alleyn's fiftieth birthday.
Letters Patent (i.e. a grant from the monarch or government) to recognise the Foundation were given by King James I on 21 June 1619.
Alleyn's School became a separate part of the College of God's Gift in 1882, before moving to its present site on Townley Road, Dulwich, in 1887.
Following the abolition of Direct Grant status and the withdrawal of the Inner London Education Authority's annual grant to the School, the Worshipful Company of Saddlers agreed in 1970 to provide funds to support the School, and this association continues with the investiture of Saddlers' Scholars each year.
In 1976, Alleyn's became co-educational, and was in fact one of the first independent schools in the country to do so.
Alleyn's Junior School was opened in 1992 as a fully co-educational linked school, sharing the site and its wealth of facilities.
Following its substantial redevelopment and associated expansion in numbers in 2022, the Junior School’s two buildings were named The Rose Building and The Fortune Building to reflect our links with Edward Alleyn and desire to give children the best possible spaces to learn.