The school was founded in 1869 in Clapton, East London, as a school for ministers' daughters. Soon after its closure by Conference in 1893, it reopened as a limited company, moved to Clapham and acquired its present name. It moved to its present site near Hatfield in 1925, with an official opening on 15 June 1926. From its early years it offered a sound liberal education and had its first success in Cambridge Entrance in 1913. It established a national reputation for music under the directorship of Professor Ernest Read (1920-1965). Under Ethel Mary Trew, headmistress from 1897 to 1944 (and even in retirement until her death in 1948) an ultra-strict regime was maintained. But her successor, Enid M. Essame, headmistress from 1944 to 1971, oversaw a liberalisation of school life. In the 1980s under the headship of Mrs. Audrey Butler (1981-1996), the school launched an extensive building programme, including the Palaestra Sports Hall (1971) and an LTA tennis centre, opened in 1985 by Virginia Wade. It achieved a strong sporting and academic reputation, with emphasis on science and technology, including computer science from 1970. Numbers grew and the girls gained in confidence and happiness. In 1997 it had 378 boarding and day girls aged 11-18.