James Dyson donates £35 million to create a state-of-the-art Prep School for Gresham’s

  • Donation funds purchase and restoration of Grade II listed Holt Hall, set in 85 acres, and building of new state-of-the-art facilities for pupils aged seven to 13
  • James Dyson has now donated more than £50 million to Gresham’s School, which provided him with a full bursary after the death of his father, a teacher there, in 1956
  • The Dyson STEAM Building at Gresham’s opened in 2022, following a previous £18.75 million donation; the new Prep School will open in September 2026

The James Dyson Foundation today announces a new £35 million donation to Gresham’s School. It will create a state-of-the-art Prep School with a brand new building incorporating STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) facilities for pupils aged seven to 13.

James Dyson boarded at Gresham’s from the age of nine, attending the school from 1956 to 1965. He has always acknowledged his deep gratitude to the school and its then Headmaster, the late Logie Bruce-Lockhart. The school gave James’s family support so that he and his brother could continue their education for free at Gresham’s after the untimely death of their father, Alec Dyson, aged 43, who taught Classics there.

James Dyson, Founder of Dyson and Gresham’s alumnus, said:

“Holt Hall is a magnificent setting and when it came up for sale we had the extraordinary opportunity to rescue this Victorian hall, to provide a new setting for a cutting-edge Prep School for Gresham’s pupils. As the son of a Gresham’s teacher, I had the free run of Gresham’s grounds and playing fields in the school holidays – but the arcadian park of Holt Hall was out of bounds.

The architecture and design of the new wing – with a mirrored external surface – will reflect the ancient woodland, allowing it to blend into its stunning setting. We will also restore the Victorian building and protect the surrounding ancient woodland for Gresham’s pupils to discover and learn in, adding state-of-the-art facilities.

It is so important to inspire young people through problem-solving and discovery. I’m forever grateful for the generosity Gresham’s showed me when my father – who was Head of Classics at the school – died when I was nine. Logie Bruce-Lockhart, the Headmaster, allowed my brother and me to continue our studies with a bursary, when it would otherwise have been impossible. I’m so pleased to be able to support the school and to see it shaping incredible young people who go on and flourish.”

The £35 million donation will enable a much-needed restoration of the adjoining Holt Hall and the surrounding 85 acres of grounds which are in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, increasing the area of the school grounds by a third.

The plans for the new Prep School include:

  • A sustainable, naturally ventilated, mirrored new building adjacent to Holt Hall – inspired by Dyson’s research building (D9) in Malmesbury, Wiltshire – that reflects nearby ancient woodland. The new building will have:
    • High tech equipment and STEAM facilities.
    • Solar panels on the roof.
    • Heating and cooling via a ground source heat pump.
    • An irrigation system using recycled rainwater.
  • Careful restoration of Grade II Listed Holt Hall which will become the heart of Gresham’s new Prep School.
  • Investment into an ancient woodland management plan.
  • Removal of invasive plant species protecting the site long-term.
  • Preservation of the walled garden.
  • Installation of a Field Studies Centre and outreach programmes for local schools, including outdoor activities at Holt Hall and residential stays.

Douglas Robb, Gresham’s Headmaster, said:

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rescue Holt Hall and breathe new life into its grounds. We are enormously grateful for the generous donation of Sir James Dyson and the James Dyson Foundation. The natural setting of Holt Hall and its ancient woodland will be the new home for Gresham’s Prep School – currently a superb school limited by its cramped location at a crossroads. No land will be sold off during this development and we will repurpose the Prep School’s existing site to expand the Senior School facilities. I am particularly grateful that Sir James has chosen to further enhance the school’s facilities and build on the tremendous success of the Dyson STEAM Building.”

From left: Michael Goff (Chairman), James Dyson, Douglas Robb (Headmaster). Credit: Dyson.

On average Gresham’s provides £2.5m worth of bursaries and financial support a year, benefitting 200 pupils. 1,000 children from local schools have made use of the school’s existing Dyson STEAM Building, which opened last year, in workshops provided by the school and there are plans for local children to use the new Prep School campus.

The new Prep School and restoration of Holt Hall will be designed by architects WilkinsonEyre. WilkinsonEyre have a long relationship with Dyson, with Sir James Dyson and the late Chris Wilkinson developing Dyson’s Malmesbury & Hullavington campus, the Dyson Institute’s undergraduate village, and the Dyson STEAM Building at Gresham’s together.

Dyson STEAM Building at Gresham’s. Credit: Dyson.

All photography copyright Dyson.