The effect of a partial horizontal partition plate of finite thickness, attached to the heated vertical wall of a differentially heated square cavity, has been studied numerically using the finite element method. The partition thickness is varied from 0.5% of the height of the cavity to 10%. The partition is considered to be located at the middle of the hot wall of a width equivalent to 20% of the cavity width. It is observed that as the partition thickness is reduced, heat transfer across the cavity decreases at first, until a critical thickness of the partition plate is reached. Beyond this value, heat transfer increases as the thickness of the partition is further reduced. Streamline maps are found to be notably sensitive to the partition thickness. The effect of conductivity of the partition material on heat transfer is also studied. Except for material with poor thermal properties, conductivity of the partition is observed to have a negligible effect on heat transfer. © 1994 Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.