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The Pilgrims' School, Winchester
The Pilgrims' School, Winchester
The Pilgrims' School, Winchester
The Pilgrims' School, Winchester
top 200
The Pilgrims' School, Winchester Winchester, Hampshire Visit
The Pilgrims' School, Winchester
239 pupils, ages 4-13
Boys only
Day and Boarding

The Pilgrims' School, Winchester

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Our view

An ambience of calm envelops this magical boys’ prep school that sits in Winchester Cathedral’s Close. Known for nurturing gifted musicians, it’s also academically robust and not too shabby on the sports field either. Winchester College next door is an aspirational presence (about 40 per cent of the boys go on to the college), while the magnificent cathedral where the choristers sing offers daily inspiration.


Tucked away between the cathedral and the college, the school’s historic listed buildings are arranged around three courtyards, The Yard, The Quad and The Grid, with an idyllic chalk stream running through the grounds and a pretty bridge leading the way to the school playing fields and the Arboretum, a beautiful walled garden flanked by the ancient ruins of Wolvesey Castle. The Octagon performance space sits in The Quad, while Pilgrims’ Hall (which dates back to the 14th century) serves as an assembly hall.

The pre-prep is housed in its own building with impressively neat and tidy classrooms, a hall and a small library area, with a calming neutral decor throughout. Outdoors is a grassy play area with equipment and climbing apparatus, with a separate garden for Reception that has a glorious view of the cathedral. Weekly forest-school lessons take place in the Arboretum.

You couldn’t ask for a more serene setting and, unsurprisingly, car access is limited. But a new walking bus means parents can drop off with ease, and buses from Winchester Science Centre ferry in brothers of St Swithun’s girls. Plans are afoot to introduce more buses and extend the network to Basingstoke and Southampton, while The Pilgrims' Express escorts boarders to and from London on the train for exeats and half-terms. A Sunday-night bus back from south-west London for weekly boarders is also being considered.


The passionate and enthusiastic Tim Butcher took up the headship in September 2023, returning to his alma mater and also his early days of teaching, when he was head of history at Pilgrims’. Formerly head of prep at Hallfield in Birmingham, this is his second headship, so he comes with a wealth of experience as well as a personal connection to his old school. He has jumped straight in, refining the school’s values and reaching out to the local community to foster stronger links. Mr Butcher tells us he wants the boys to get a wider view of the world beyond the cloistered walls of the cathedral close. He’s also keen to promote the fact that Pilgrims’ isn’t just for choristers and musicians – artists, sportsmen and academics are equally celebrated, and there’s no sense of elitism when it comes to music, with four tiers of choirs and ensembles allowing everyone to take part.


The school takes a relaxed approach to selection, with Reception-age children invited in for a ‘stay and play’ morning where their social skills and eagerness to learn are observed. For entry to Years 1 and 2, prospective pupils spend time at the school, including reading and doing maths to see where they’re at academically. Pre-prep boys automatically go up to the prep, while potential new joiners to Year 3 and above come in for a day – they’re buddied up with another boy and take standardised tests in maths, English and non-verbal reasoning, as well as getting stuck into a day of lessons and co-curricular. Again, it’s as much about character and personality as academic performance. There’s a strong Christian ethos at the school but all faiths – and no faith – are equally welcomed.

Academics and senior school destinations

There’s a happy balance of traditional and forward-looking when it comes to academics. Lessons are taught in classes of no more than 18, with specialist teachers for sport, music and French from pre-prep. Younger pupils learn via topics such as Africa and Oceans, and natural resources like sticks are used for developing counting skills. For two hours every week, younger pupils head off to the Arboretum for forest school, led by a qualified Forest School leader whom the boys adore. There are plans to create an outdoor classroom and a kitchen garden where pupils will grow their own vegetables, which will be used by the catering team.

More specialist teachers, collaborative learning and AI are introduced further up the school and, although the curriculum is traditional in structure and content, there is ample space for creativity and philosophical thinking. In Years 7 and 8, there is a dedicated scholarship class, as well as a separate Winchester Entrance class. As mentioned above, about 40 per cent go on to Winchester College, with Sherborne, Radley, Charterhouse, Canford and Eton also popular destinations. Scholarships are plentiful.


The music department is housed in a stunning medieval building with separate teaching spaces and practice rooms. Many boys learn more than one instrument, and there are a huge number of individual music lessons scheduled weekly. The two professional choirs, the Choristers (who sing in the Cathedral Choir) and Quiristers (who sing in the Winchester College Chapel Choir), are run separately to the school, with four school-run choirs giving everyone multiple opportunities to sing. Music and song permeate the whole school and it’s wonderfully inclusive, with choirs and ensembles to suit all abilities, and performances aplenty. Drama is strong too, with LAMDA a popular club and the Year 1 Pilgrims’ Got Talent competition an annual highlight on the calendar.

Lots of sports fixtures are held on the playing fields, with the boys particularly excelling at football. They also play rugby and cricket, and there’s an outdoor pool for summer-term swimming lessons.

A large, bright art room is adorned with pupils’ creations, from drawings and paintings to 3D designs. D&T has its own workshop; pupils take the subject from Year 3, and in Year 8 it is rotated with art.

After-school clubs, known as Commoners, give the boys a chance to socialise across age groups. As well as the usual roll call, there are fly fishing and falconry clubs. The latter has become even more popular since a camera was set up to watch the progress of the eggs in a peregrine-falcon nest in the cathedral. Pupils can also do rowing and sailing in the summer term.


There are two boarding houses for the 80-odd Years 4 to 8 boarders: Q School for seniors only, which is located off site, and Main School in the school grounds for juniors, seniors and choristers. The large, bright dorms are decorated with characters from children’s books and have space for sofas. There are also lovely, newly renovated shower rooms, a games room and a large TV room. Weekends are packed with fun trips to Paultons Park, Portsmouth Dockyard, Laser Quest and boat trips. Full boarders also get to use all the school’s facilities during the evenings and at weekends, from the cricket nets to the outdoor pool.

School community

Pastoral care is robust, with class tutors, boarding house parents and a six-day-a-week nurse team on hand. From Year 6, boys have a vertical tutor group to encourage mentoring and cross-year friendships, and everyone is part of a Set, which gives pupils a sense of belonging to a family. A director of wellbeing oversees all things pastoral including a Wellbeing Matters Parental Involvement Programme which ensures seamless communication with parents. Choristers have their own specialist tutors who take care of all their pastoral needs.

And finally....

We were struck by how happy, secure and focused all the boys at this lovely prep seemed. There’s a strong sense of discipline and respect, alongside a zest for learning, fun and, of course, music.

Gallery See All

Choristers at The Pilgrims' School
Football at The Pilgrims' School
Boys in green and grey at The Pilgrims' School
The orchestra at The Pilgrims' School
boys in green and whit sports kit getting piggybacks
The outdoor swimming pool at The Pilgrims' School
  • Senior school destinations

    Senior school destinations

    Pilgrims’ boys’ destinations range across a variety of outstanding independent senior schools. The school supports and works alongside parents to help them choose the right destination for their son.

  • Scholarships for senior schools


    Academic41 (2018-2023)Including Winchester College, Sherborne and Eton
    Music60 (2018-2023) Including Winchester College, Eton, Sherborne and Charterhouse
    Sport7 (2018-2023) Including Winchester College, Sherborne and Radley
    Art3 (2018-2023) Canford, Charterhouse and Sherborne
    All Rounder4 (2018-2023) Sherborne, Malborough and Bradfield

  • Fees and bursaries

    Day fees per term

    Year 1£4,318
    Year 2£4,318
    Year 3£6,871
    Year 4£7,931
    Year 5£7,931
    Year 6£8,043
    Year 7£8,043
    Year 8 £8,043
    Boarding fees per term

    Year 1-
    Year 2-
    Year 3 -
    Year 4 £10,224
    Year 5 £10,224
    Year 6£10,224
    Year 7£10,224
    Year 8 £10,224

    From the academic year 2024, the school will be offering military families a 20 per cent Forces concession, in addition to Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA).

    Bursary contact:
    Registrar Emma Short
  • SEND

    This school currently supports the following kinds of learning needs, health needs and physical disabilities:
    The school supports a wide range of neurodiverse pupils, including dyslexia; DCD (dyspraxia); ADHD; mild autism; social emotional needs; working memory/processing difficulties; handwriting/fine motor skills and numeracy.

    This school currently delivers the following interventions to pupils in class and outside class to support their learning, health and/or physical needs:
    They offer individual intervention programmes to pupils with diagnosed conditions. They offer teacher and TA classroom support for pupils who need extra support accessing the curriculum because of academic difficulties or attention/concentration weaknesses.

    This school currently provides the following support for pupils' mental health needs
    The support the school provides is given holistically, and they try to address any issues with Tutors, parents, house staff and teachers as part of the process. Pastoral support is overseen by the Pastoral Care Team, who meet weekly to discuss the needs of any pupils who have flagged. Mental wellbeing is dealt with proactively at Pilgrims' and they have been using AS Tracker and Smoothwall Pulse with much success to pick up on issues before they become big problems. The boys are encouraged to speak to any member of staff if they have any concerns, and more often than not, the support they are needing can be found in the moment. There are times when a boy may need to speak to the Director of Wellbeing, who will then liaise with the appropriate people to ensure that the right support is put in place. Boys are more than welcome to self-refer to the Director of Wellbeing, or any member of the Pastoral Care Team, who will gladly provide a listening ear and offer the right support and care.

    Co-ordinator: Eley MacDonald-Smith
  • Transport links

    School Transport
    Escorted train service to/from London

    Public Transport
    Nearest mainline train station: Winchester
    Journey time to London by train: 55 minutes
    Nearest international airport: Southampton (11 miles)

School Updates

  • WATCH: Welcome to Pilgrims'

    Experience the magic of Pilgrims'
    WATCH: Welcome to Pilgrims'
  • WATCH: Welcome to The Pilgrims' School

    Tim Butcher, Headmaster of The Pilgrims' School
    WATCH: Welcome to The Pilgrims' School
  • WATCH: The Pilgrims' School Music Showreel Summer 2024

    WATCH: The Pilgrims' School Music Showreel Summer 2024
  • See The Pilgrims' School in our Country Prep Schools Guide

    See The Pilgrims' School in our Country Prep Schools Guide


The Close, Winchester, Hampshire SO23 9LT

01962 854189


ISI Report


Term Dates

Open Days

Open days and how to visit View Open Days Register for open Day

Pre-Prep Open Morning
27 September 2024
Whole School Open Morning
05 October 2024
Virtual Open Morning
19 October 2024

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