St. John's was founded in Pinner by Mr Claude Norman in 1920. It started life in a room at the vicarage of St. John's church - hence our name - in Pinner with just five boys, two of whom were sons of the vicar. Very shortly a growing school roll led to a move to 'The Briary' in Moss Lane in Pinner and then in 1927 on to Barrow Point House in Paines Lane in Pinner. In 1930 this burnt down - a hair pin used as a fuse was the cause according to one source - but the school was re-built.
It seems that from quite early on St. John's had three houses for the purpose of internal competition. Mr Norman's was called School House and the other two may have been named after the Masters in charge: Mr Richmond and Mr Cheshire. In 1935, shortly after First World War desert hero T.E. Lawrence was killed on his motorbike, Mr Norman who had also served out in Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) during the war decided to rename his house Lawrence in his honour. Messrs Richmond and Cheshire were obliged to fall into line and so Mr Richmond chose Lincoln; we presume after President Abraham Lincoln rather than the cathedral city and Mr Cheshire chose Oates; after the self-sacrificing Captain Oates of the Scott Antarctic expedition.
One peculiarity of the House system was that which house you went into was determined by where you came from. Lawrence was for boys who came from Pinner itself, if you came from Hatch End and beyond you went into Lincoln whilst boys from the other side of Pinner, over towards Harrow, went into Oates. We still have these three houses - now shorn of their geographical links - and to them was added a fourth house, Churchill; presumably some time after the Second World War.
At the start of the Second World War Mr Norman was offered the opportunity to evacuate his school to the country but decided to stay put. Old Boys of the time have memories of watching dogfights in the sky above the school and collecting shrapnel on the way to school in the morning. During the war Mr Norman doubled his role of headmaster with that of Lieutenant Colonel of the 13th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment of the Home Guard. One Old Boy recalls the older boys helping with the unpacking and de-greasing of weapons from the United States - "Browning water cooled heavy machine guns, Thompson .45 sub-machine guns, hand grenades, bayonets, and cases and cases of .300 Springfield and .303 Ross rifles - preserved for over twenty years from WW1 but in first class working order none-the-less."
In 1951 Mr Norman, having been headmaster for 31 years, died after a very sudden terminal illness and his son, Peter Norman, took over as both proprietor and headmaster of St. John's. One of the problems with the Barrow Point site was that it was really a bit too small. Games had to be played three-quarters of a mile away and it really wasn't possible to expand the school despite a high demand for places. Years of searching by Mr Norman for alternative premises was eventually rewarded when he discovered that Potter Street Hill, a large mansion with approximately 30 acres of grounds, was up for auction.
What happened next is best told in Mr Norman's own words. "Immediate inspection told me that this was a dream that had to come true. To secure the property before the auction it was necessary to sign up unconditionally within ten days which I did, without survey, against legal advice and without the finance! A successful outcome hinged on obtaining planning consent to develop the Paines Lane premises; the planning officer was not cooperative. I sought an interview with the Chief Education Officer to discuss my predicament and 'suggested' that he might be wise to plan to absorb my 150 boys into his already overcrowded primary schools, if I was forced to close S. John's. His cooperation was much appreciated as the necessary consent arrived the following day."
In the 1970s and 1980s a Gym and Science block were added and rugby fields were levelled and seeded and the formal gardens replaced with a 1st XI cricket ground. Finally a new hall with classrooms at each end was built.
In 1984 an era came to an end with the retirement of Mr Norman after 33 years as headmaster. But this also marked the beginning of our current era. The Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors which already owned Merchant Taylors' School - a school to which we sent, and still do, a large proportion of our leavers - bought St. John's from Mr Norman. With the change of ownership came a change of governance. We became a charitable trust and a board of governors was appointed who, in turn, appointed Paul Ramage as headmaster. Mr Ramage recalls being told at his interview that the Governors would be willing to consider a certain amount of development; and they were certainly true to their word. In 1986 the PrePrep and new Gym were completed, in 1989 a new Science block and changing rooms was built on the site of the old one and a new Junior teaching block was added in 1992.
In 1993 with Mr Ramage's move to the headship of The Hall in Hampstead, Chris Kelly was appointed headmaster. Under his stewardship the school has grown to its current 350 boys and further developments have been completed. The PrePrep has been expanded in stages and a Nursery wing added and in 1999 the major addition of the Norman Hall block with dedicated Music, ICT, Art and DT areas as well as an assembly hall was completed. In 1990 we were able to acquire land adjoining our site to the north of us and over the years we have been able to use this land to develop a PrePrep play area, an U10 cricket ground and our very own Nature Trail.
In recent years the development spotlight has swung back to focus on the grounds. In 2006 an all-weather playing surface was opened on what had been the 'top terrace' and then in the following years our playing fields were levelled, terraced, excavated and backfilled with sand, loam and a good drainage system.
Today, St John's is a flourishing Preparatory School managed by our Headmaster, Sean Robinson. His dedicated and highly skilled team of staff support him in continuing to provide excellent teaching and learning in what has become a superb environment.