Choosing the right house can be important, nay, vital to one’s scholastic career. It has the power to alter character, confidence and even physical prowess-sports days are suddenly transformed into interhouse miniature Olympiads, with so much more than impressing parents at stake.

In his autobiography, Moab is my Washpot, Stephen Fry recalls that, at his own school, Uppingham, the houses all had their own distinct charm. ‘Each had its own character, nature, flavour and atmosphere. Some were known for having more than the average number of the academically able, others provided a disproportionate number of athletes. One house might have a reputation for being messy and ill disciplined.’

He goes on to talk more candidly of those noted for their lack of wholesome qualities, but schoolboy chortling aside, the name of a house-generally drawn from from saints to scientists-is often intended to have an impact on its charges, providing a source of both inspiration and aspiration.

The house system has been on the rise across all types of school since the day that J. K. Rowling introduced us to Hufflepuff, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Gryffindor. But, in the absence of snitches and sorcerers, here we take a look at the thinking behind the naming process in British schools.

Current names of school houses


Wellington, Somerset

Generals
Anglesey, Apsley, Benson, Beresford, Blucher, Combermere, Hardinge, Hill, Hopetoun, Lynedoch, Murray, Orange, Picton, Raglan, Stanley, Talbot, Wellesley

City of London Freemen’s School

Benefactors and influential Londoners
Gresham, Hale and Whittington

Heathfield School, Berkshire

Inspirational women
Austen, de Valois, Seacole and Somerville

Stowe, Buckinghamshire

Members of the family of the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos
Bruce, Temple, Grenville, Chandos, Cobham, Chatham, Grafton, Walpole, Nugent, Lyttleton, Queen’s, Stanhope

Sedbergh, Cumbria

Old headmasters and notable alumni
Evans, Hart, Powell, School, Sedgwick, Winder, Lupton, Robertson
Charterhouse, Surrey
Founders
Lockites, Weekites, Hodgsonites, Daviesites, Bodeites, Pageites, Robinites

The King’s School, Canterbury, Kent

Past headmasters or people of interest in the school’s history
Broughton, Harvey, Tradescant, The Grange, Walpole, Galpins, Linacre, Luxmoore, Meister Omers, Mitchinsons, Marlowe, School House, Jervis, Bailey

Queen Victoria School, Dunblane, Scotland

Military commanders, Cunningham, Haig, Trenchard and Wavell

Windlesham House School, West Sussex
Explorers
Bader, Raleigh, Scott, Hunt

The Marist School, Berkshire
Saints
St Teresa’s, St Catherine’s, St Elizabeth Ann’s, St Bernadette’s

The Holt School, Berkshire
Historical guilds
Clothworkers, Goldsmiths, Haberdashers, Lacemakers, Spinners, Tanners, Weaver

Cardinal Langley, Lancashire
Catholic martyrs
Almond, Barlow, Hurst, Rigby, Southworth

Junior King’s School, Canterbury, Kent
Parrots
Cockatoos, Kakas, Keas and Macaws

Four Dwellings High School, Birmingham
Local farms
Windmill, Beech, Ridgacre, Highfield

Warrington High School, Cheshire
Sportsmen and women
Simmonds (Eleanor), Ainslie (Ben), Holmes (Dame Kelly), Hoy (Chris), Redgrave (Sir Steve)

Monk’s Walk School, Hertfordshire
Scientists
Bell, Carson, Durrell, Kroto

Norton Canes School, Staffordshire
Local collieries
Coppice, Grove, Leacroft and Littleton

Chelmsford County High School for Girls
Governers
Chancellor, Hulton, Pennefather, Tancock

Aintree Davenhill, Liverpool
Planets
Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn

Thetford Girl’s School, Norfolk
Trees
Ash, Oak, Beech, Thorn

Harrow, Middlesex

Founders, alumni and notable pupils Bradbys, Druries, Elmfield, The Grove, The Head Masters, The Knoll, Lyon’s, Moretons, Newlands, The Park, Rendalls, West Acre and Gayton

Bishop Wordsworth’s Church of England Grammar School for Boys, Wiltshire
Bishops of Salisbury
Jewell, Martival, Poore and Osmund
Eton, Berkshire
Current housemasters’ initials
There are currently 25 of these houses. The beauty of this system is that it is constantly in a state of renewal-the physical buildings retain their names, but when referred to around school, it’s the initials that are always used

Buxton College, Derbyshire
Derbyshire dales
Ashwood, Beresford, Dove, Lathkill, Monsall, Wolfscote
St Audries (now closed)
Social reformers
Wilberforce, Selwyn, Keble, Shaftesbury, Churchill

Braunton School, north Devon
Devon Beaches
Croyde, Putsborough, Saunton, Woolacombe
Sedbergh School, Cumbria
Founders and early headmasters
Evans, School, Sedgewick, Hart-Hart, Winder, Lupton, Robertson, Powell

Davenant School, Essex
Surrounding towns
Debden, Abbey, Valley, Epping, Nazeing, Theydon
Linslade Middle School, Bedfordshire
Local country houses Ascot, Claydon, Blenheim and Mentmore

St Mary’s Shaftesbury, Dorset
Places associated with the life of Mary Ward
Givendale, Harewell, Hewarth, Mary Ward, Mulwith, Newby

Radley College, Oxfordshire
Socials
Radley has Socials rather than houses, from socius, meaning companion. ‘Social’ meant a boy who was entrusted to the care and protection of a Don (master). Initially, most boys were living together in college, but they were under the care of six ‘social tutors’ and the term Social then referred to all the boys under the care of one tutor. When D Social was built in 1886, all the boys and their tutor were united in their own living quarters and so the word Social (A to ?) came to mean the building, the collection of ‘companions’ and the Tutor is their housemaster.

Fictional school houses

Hogwarts Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin
Malory Towers North, South, East and West