When Kingswood opened in 1748, it provided education for a small number of the sons and daughters of John Wesley's colleagues and friends. The School was soon restricted to boys only, all of whom were the sons of local Methodist preachers and leaders. Kingswood eventually outgrew its original site in Bristol and moved to its stunning present location in Lansdown, Bath, in 1852. Kingswood started accepting boys from families outside the Methodist minister sphere, and by the mid-1920s, the School was educating approximately 300 boarders.
In December 1938, Alfred Barrett Sackett, the Headmaster, was secretly informed that the government would need to take over the school buildings, and in 1939, the Admiralty commandeered the School. During this time, the boys and staff were evacuated to Uppingham School in the East Midlands. Kingswood became an important base for the Ministry of Defence. In fact, the final designs for the Mulberry Harbours, so critical to the success of the D-Day landings in 1944, were produced within the walls of the School.
Similarly, Westwood, which was acquired as a preparatory school in 1933, was evacuated in 1939 to Prior's Court near Newbury. It was designed to make the boys as happy as possible and to let them undertake research and work on their own projects, a concept which at the time placed the School at the forefront of progressive education. Westwood became a junior house in 1946, and in 1991, Hermitage House in Bath became the day Preparatory School for Kingswood. The Preparatory School moved into new buildings on the Summerhill Estate in 1995, and then in 1998, when Prior's Court closed, the School's Preparatory provision was once again consolidated into one day and boarding school on the Bath site.
In 1951, Sackett began admitting more students from overseas, recognising the importance of bringing different cultures together. Pupils from India, the Gold Coast and Thailand were some of the first international students to board at Kingswood, a trend that has continued to this day.
An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.
Under Laurie Campbell's leadership in 1972, seven girls joined Kingswood's Lower Sixth, and in September 1978, 23 junior girls of varying ages in forms one to four arrived - a return to Wesley’s original vision, which had initially involved offering places to both boys and girls.
After its move to Bath, Kingswood became recognised as one of Britain's great schools, and many educational institutions around the world have been founded on its principles. Today, through the International Association of Methodist Schools, Colleges, and Universities, Kingswood has links to international institutions that are at the forefront of education. Creativity, kindness, and respect for scholarship remain some of the School’s distinguishing values.
Over the past 30 years, the School has grown significantly and embraced more day students alongside its boarders, enabling stronger links with the local community. Today there are nearly 800 pupils in the Senior School and over 300 in the Prep School. In addition, a new state-of-the-art development at the Prep School, which includes a new Nursery known as The Garden At Kingswood, opened in September 2018.