Independent day and boarding school
|Motto||Al Worship Be to God Only|
|Religious affiliation(s)||Church of England|
|Founder||Sir John Gresham|
|Department for Education URN||121222 Tables|
|Chairman of Governors||Michael Goff|
|Age||2 to 18|
|Enrolment||818 pupils (approx.)|
|Colour(s)||Black, white and gold|
|Former pupils||Old Greshamians|
|Patron||H.R.H. The Princess Royal|
|Affiliations||Worshipful Company of Fishmongers and HMC|
The school was founded in 1555 by Sir John Gresham as a free grammar school for forty boys, following King Henry VIII's dissolution of the Augustinian priory at Beeston Regis. The founder left the school's endowments in the hands of the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers of the City of London, who are still the school's trustees.
In the 1890s, an increase in the rental income of property in the City of London led to a major expansion of the school, which built many new buildings on land it owned on the eastern edge of Holt, including several new boarding houses as well as new teaching buildings, library and chapel.
Gresham's began to admit girls in the early 1970s and is now fully co-educational. As well as its senior school, it operates a preparatory and a Nursery and Pre-Prep school, the latter now in the Old School House, the original senior school. Altogether, the three schools teach about eight hundred children.
Gresham's School at Holt was founded by Sir John Gresham by letters patent of 1555, during the reign of Queen Mary I. For its home he gave the school his house at Holt, which he had bought in 1546 from his elder brother Sir William Gresham.
The founding of Gresham's was connected to King Henry VIII's suppression of the Priory of Augustinian canons at Beeston Regis in June 1539. The priory, established in 1216, had operated a school which John Gresham and his brothers probably attended, but the school came to an end with the priory, leaving no provision for education in the vicinity of Holt.
The new school opened and was granted a Royal Charter in 1562. By the letters patent of 1555, the school was called in full 'The Free Grammar School of Sir John Gresham, knight, citizen and alderman of London'. The founder endowed Gresham's generously, placing its property in trust with the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers of London, and full estate records dating from the school's foundation are held at the Guildhall Library. Sir John Gresham's endowments included his freehold property in Holt and Letheringsett, his wood and land called Prior's Grove, his manors of Pereers and Holt Hales, "with all and singular to the same belonging, situate in Holt, Sherington, Letheringsett, Bodham, Kellinge, Wayborne, Semlingham, Stodrye, Bantrye and West Wickham, in the said county of Norfolk", and also tenements called 'The White Hind' and 'The Peacock' in the parish of St Giles's Without, Cripplegate, in the City of London. Close links with the Fishmongers' Company continue to this day.
By his Will of 1601, Leonard Smith, a fishmonger of London, left £120 and all his goods to establish a fellowship at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge and in 1604 'Mr Smith's Fellowship' was confirmed by the college, with the provision that "scholars from the Grammar School of Holt, in Norfolk" were to have preference.
The school library contains the Foundation Library, a collection of books and manuscripts provided at the school's establishment in 1555 and later.
On Christmas Day 1650, the Reverend Thomas Cooper, MA, a former usher of Gresham's, was hanged for his part in a Royalist rebellion on behalf of Charles II. His body was left hanging on a gibbet in Holt's Market Place.
For three hundred and fifty years, the school was based in what is now called the Old School House, or "OSH", the former manor house of Holt overlooking the Market Place in the town centre. In 1708, the school escaped a major fire which destroyed most of the rest of the mediaeval town of Holt. This resulted in most of the buildings now to be seen in the town centre belonging to the 18th century.
In 1729, the Fishmongers' Company presented the school with "...a valuable and useful library, not only of the best editions of the Classics and Lexicographers, but also with some books of Antiquities, Chronology, and Geography, together with a suitable pair of globes". By the 18th century, references to fish were hard to find in the court minutes of the Fishmongers' Company, and the company's main business had become managing its extensive property and administering its charities and trusts, such as the school at Holt and St Peter's Hospital, an almshouse at Newington in Surrey.
For the period 1704 to 1750, the Rev. Charles Linnell has analysed the 'Status of fathers of boys at Holt Grammar School' in his Gresham's School History and Register (1955): "Sons of gentlemen 10%, clergy 30%, professional men 5%, tradesmen 20%, plebeian 15%, unknown 20%".
In the 19th century, boys were strictly required to attend services at the Holt parish church, and in November 1815 a boy called Charles Loynes was "expelled for non-attendance at church".
In 1823, the expenditure of the Fishmongers' Company on the school was £367, of which £158-10s-0d was for the Master's salary, allowances and gratuities, £80 for the Usher's salary, board and lodging, £52-11s-6d for repairs, £22-12s-6d for taxes, £15-15s-6d for poor rates, £12-10s-0d for coals, £9-13s-4d for two-thirds of the cost of the school books, and £6-6s-0d for a School Feast which took place in June.:575
In 1836, the 'Wardens and Commonalty of the Art and Mystery of Fishmongers of the City of London' held an insurance policy for 'Other property or occupiers: Free Grammar School Holt Norfolk (Rev Benn. Pulleyn)' with the Sun Fire Office.
In his History of the Twelve Great Livery Companies of London (1836), William Herbert says of the school:
GRESHAM'S. - At Holt, in Norfolk. For fifty free scholars, chosen from the town of Holt and neighbourhood, and admitted at six and seven years old. The nomination is in the Fishmongers' Company, in whom also is left the patronage and government of the school.
Herbert also notes that the officers of the court of the Fishmongers' Company include "a steward of the Holt free school, in Norfolk". John William Burgon, in The Life and Times of Sir Thomas Gresham (1839), after listing the estates with which Sir John Gresham endowed the school, says
Had the trustees of this school been formerly distinguished for the same vigilance which characterizes their representatives at the present day, it would not have been our painful duty to state, that of the extensive demesnes with which Holt grammar-school was endowed by its founder - sufficient, had they been properly managed, to have set it on a level with the first establishments of a similar nature in England - there remains at present but 162 acres (0.66 km2) of land. Its total revenue amounts to not quite 350l., about two-thirds of which arise from its estates in London.
Burgon goes on, however, to add
Notwithstanding every disadvantage, this school, liberally conducted, and regulated by salutary statutes, is in a flourishing condition at the present day, and educates fifty free-scholars; to any one of whom removing to either of the universities, an annual exhibition of 20l. is allowed... Holt school... is an ornament and a blessing to the county, and reflects much credit on the trustees and its worthy principal--the Rev. B. Pulleyne.
The Old School was rebuilt and converted in 1859.
In 1880, a Commission was appointed to enquire into the City of London Livery Companies. When it published its first reports in 1881 the following formed part of a 'Supplementary Statement on behalf of the Fishmongers' Company' included in Volume 1:
In the case of Sir John Gresham's Grammar School at Holt, in Norfolk, the Company have from time to time supplemented the trust funds, especially for the purposes of rebuilding and repairs, the amount in which the trust was indebted to the Company, at a not very distant date, having been over 10,000£., and this notwithstanding the constant warnings of the Charity Commissioners that the Company were doing this at their own risk, and that they could in no case be permitted to apply any part of the capital of the trust funds in repayment of their advances; nor any part of the trust income, except within a period of 30 years.
In the early 1900s, under an ambitious headmaster called George Howson (who had moved to Gresham's from Uppingham), the school expanded onto a new campus of some 200 acres (0.81 km2) at the eastern edge of the town, while keeping the Old School House as one of its houses. When Howson arrived at Gresham's, he found it in numbers much as it had been when founded in 1555: in 1900 there were only forty Holt Scholars, plus seven boarders.
The New School (by the architect Sir John Simpson) was opened by Field Marshal Sir Evelyn Wood on 30 September 1903. This consisted of School House (renamed Howson's in 1919) and the Main Building, including Big School. Woodlands was acquired and opened as a new house in 1905, the school's first swimming pool was opened in 1907, and Farfield was built in 1911. The School Chapel was completed in 1916, during the Great War, during which one hundred and six Old Greshamians were killed.
Under Howson's successor as headmaster, J. R. Eccles, Gresham's appears to have been one of the first schools in England to abolish corporal punishment. In March 1921 Eccles wrote to The Times and "condemned corporal punishment of any kind". His letter is not however evidence for permanent abolition at Gresham's.
In 1923, Sir Harry Brittain asked Edward Wood, President of the Board of Education in the House of Commons "whether he will explain why Gresham's school, Holt, was admitted to the benefits of the Superannuation Act although it is an endowed school, owning all its buildings and supported by a wealthy city company?"
In the 1930s, there were three categories of scholarship in the senior school: Holt A scholarships gave complete exemption from fees, County Scholarships were worth £100 a year, and Fishmongers' Company Open Scholarships were worth £50 a year.
Martin Burgess's memories of Gresham's during the freezing months of January to March 1947, the coldest British winter on record, are quoted at length in I Will Plant Me a Tree (2002). Not only was the winter icy cold, but because of fuel shortages the school was unheated. Burgess recalls that "Periods were held in full overcoats and scarves and gloves. If it happened now the School would be closed, but such a step was not even thought of then. In any case, the roads were blocked... One day the School was called out to dig out a farm, or was it a small village? Hurrah! No periods! In the afternoon everyone prayed there would be periods, it was so cold. A man had died."
Under the long headship of Logie Bruce Lockhart (1955-1982), there was a further period of change and expansion. Kenwyn, a new Junior School House, was built and opened in 1958. The bridge over the Cromer Road was opened in 1962, and was initiated after the tragic death of Kirsty, LBL's daughter, while crossing Cromer Road in front of Howson's. Tallis, a new boys' house named after John Tallis, Master of the school for more than thirty years in the first half of the seventeenth century, was built and opened in 1963 as were the biology classrooms and music rooms. Oakeley became the first girls' house in 1971, when girls were first admitted to the Sixth Form only. The school became fully co-educational in the 1970s.
There are now four boarding houses for boys and three for girls (see "Houses" section below), as well as a wide range of buildings. These include Big School, the School Chapel, the Auden Theatre, the Cairns Centre, the School Library, the Music Centre, the Central Block, the Thatched Classrooms, the Reith Laboratories, the Biology Building, the Armoury and others.
In February 2005, Gresham's School's 450th anniversary was marked by a service at Norwich Cathedral attended by the school's Patron, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and 1,500 past and present Greshamians. In July 2005, the Eastern Daily Press called it "a school which changed the world."
When Philip John, formerly head of King William's College, arrived to take over the headmastership in September 2008, the Tatler Schools Guide commented "It will be interesting to observe the impact of mathematician Philip John." He left in December 2013 "for personal reasons and to spend more time with my family", and Nigel Flower, the deputy head, took over as acting head.
OG groups include the main OG Club, open to all former pupils, which publishes a magazine and has almost four thousand members; the OG Golf Society, the OG Cricket Team, the OG Rifle Establishment (OGRE) which has its own residence at Bisley, and the OG Masonic Lodge. The Lodge was formed in January 1939.
Notable Old Greshamians include the poet W.H Auden, the actress Olivia Colmen, and the serial killer Jeremy Bamber.
Most Gresham's students are boarders and live in one of the school's seven houses. Four of these are for boys: Howson's (1903), Woodlands (1905), Farfield (1911), and Tallis (1961). Three houses are for girls: Oakeley (1971), Edinburgh (1987), and Britten (1992)- renamed Queens' (2017).
Edinburgh was opened by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the school's Patron, after whom it is named. Britten, named after the composer Benjamin Britten who boarded at the school 1928-30, is an extension of the former school Sanatorium, designed by William Henry Ansell. Britten was often ill and did much early composition in the Sanatorium, including A Hymn to the Virgin. Britten House changed its name to Queens' House in September 2016. It is named after Queen Mary I, Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II. During the reign of each queen Gresham's School made significant strides towards the establishment it is today.
Each house has a housemaster or housemistress and a house tutor and matron. There are house teams for team sports, as well as other house activities, such as evening prayers, "prep", and dramatic productions. Most houses are around seventy strong.
Senior boys and girls may be appointed as house prefects. Some of those are then chosen as school prefects, and one in each house as House Captain.
The Old School House was previously the whole school, then from 1905 to 1936 the Junior House, then from 1936 to 1993 a boarding house of the Senior School and is now the home of the Gresham's pre-preparatory school.
The former Junior School of Gresham's was reorganised into a Preparatory School and a Pre-Preparatory School in 1984, both on their own sites at Holt, with their own heads and staff. Like the Senior School, both are fully co-educational.
The Prep school has over two hundred children between the ages of seven and thirteen and takes full and weekly boarders as well as day pupils. Many continue into the Senior School. The school's Kenwyn House was once a house of the Senior School called Bengal Lodge.
The Pre-Preparatory School is housed in the Old School House and is a day school for approximately one hundred boys and girls between the ages of two and seven.
Pupils applying for Year 9 are invited to come in during the Lent (spring) term for an assessment day. Written reports from the pupil's current school and a reference are also used in the assessment process.
Entry to the Sixth Form (Year 12) is dependent upon the candidate's school reports, interview, predicted GCSE grades and a reference from the candidate's current school.
The school teaches most subjects of the mainstream humanistic curriculum. While only limited choices between courses need to be made for GCSE, in the Sixth form at A-level pupils choose three or four subjects, and most combinations are possible.
The aim of the school is to give a good all-round education and to prepare pupils for university entry and for other careers, such as the armed forces. Most Greshamians move on to renowned British universities, such as Oxford, Cambridge, Warwick, St Andrews, Bristol, Durham, York and Edinburgh.
The school's year is divided into three terms, Michaelmas (early September to mid December), Lent (early January to the Easter holiday) and Summer (the Easter holiday to mid July). In the middle of each term there is a half-term holiday, usually a week long. For boarders, there are also other home weekends.
Apart from its sports grounds for cricket, rugby, hockey and football, the school has its own indoor swimming pool, squash, tennis and badminton courts, gymnasium, sports hall, music school (Britten Building) and extensive school woods with an outdoor activity centre. It owns a boat-house at Barton Broad and a shooting lodge at Bisley, as well as a shooting range at the school.
The principal school sports for boys are rugby (Michaelmas Term), hockey (Lent Term) and cricket, tennis and athletics (summer term) and for girls hockey (Michaelmas Term), netball (Lent Term) and cricket, tennis and athletics (summer term). There is a wide range of other school sports, including badminton, football, squash, golf, martial arts, swimming, sailing, cross-country running, shooting and canoeing.
An Old Greshamian, Richard Leman, was a member of the gold-medal winning British hockey squad at the 1988 Summer Olympics and of the bronze-medal winning team at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Another OG, Gawain Briars, was the British number one squash player and now heads the world Professional Squash Association. Brother and sister Ralph and Natasha Firman are both racing drivers, and Natasha was the winner of the inaugural Formula Woman championship in 2004. Giles Baring and Andrew Corran were first-class cricketers, while international rugby footballers include Andy Mulligan (Ireland) and the British and Irish Lions, Nick Youngs (England and his sons Ben and Tom (England) both also playing for the British and Irish Lions winning team in Australia in 2013). In rifle-shooting, Gresham's has been one of the top ten schools in England for about sixty years, and Glyn Barnett won a shooting Gold Medal in the 2006 Commonwealth Games at Melbourne. In the field of winter sports, the 11th Earl of Northesk took an Olympic medal for toboganning (then called 'skeleton') in 1928. Notable mountaineers have included Tom Bourdillon, Sir Percy Wyn-Harris, Peter Lloyd and Matthew Dickinson.
Gresham's is a Church of England foundation, but the school is open to all denominations and religions. Services are a focal point of the school's life, with a morning assembly in chapel on four mornings of the week. Pupils not in the Sixth form have an extra morning in chapel, whilst the sixth form have another tutor period (Thursday morning). All years have a tutor period on Tuesday and Thursday. The Saturday morning service is a choral practice, and Holy Communion may be taken on Sundays. There are also formal prayers in most boarding houses in the evenings.
The tune called Woodlands, the setting for the hymns Lift Up Your Hearts! and Tell Out My Soul, Timothy Dudley-Smith's versification of the Magnificat, was composed for the school in 1916 by Walter Greatorex, a Gresham's master, who succeeded another composer, Geoffrey Shaw, as the school's Director of Music.
A new school chapel, by the Scottish architect Maxwell Ayrton, was built between 1912 and 1916, and is now a listed building. The foundation stone of the chapel was laid by the chairman of governors, Sir Edward Busk, on 8 June 1912. The Chapel bell, cast in Whitechapel in 1915, is inscribed with the words Ring in the Christ that is to be, Donum Dedit J. R. E.. The last words stand for "the gift of J. R. Eccles" (at the time second master, later headmaster), while the first eight are the last line of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem Ring Out, Wild Bells (1850). The Gresham family motto, Fiat voluntas tua ('Thy will be done') appears on the chapel's main door.
There is a school orchestra, a school choir, a Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme (more than five hundred Gold Awards have been achieved since its inception in 1972), and a large number of school clubs, such as the Debating Society, the German Society, The Auden Society, Hodgkin Society, The Skiouros Society, and the Chess Club.
North Norfolk Divers, a branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club, is based at the school.
A school play is produced at the end of every Summer Term, and each house also puts on a performance through House Entertains once a year. There are also many visits to concerts, plays and other outside events.
Gresham's has a long military tradition, from Sir Christopher Heydon, who took part in the capture of Cádiz in 1596, to Tom Wintringham, commander of the British Battalion of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War, and General Sir Robert Bray, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
Before the Second World War, the school had an Officers Training Corps. During the 1940s, OTCs in British schools were renamed 'Junior Training Corps', and the school's JTC was amalgamated into the Combined Cadet Force in April, 1948, which continues to provide military training.
The CCF's Army section is now associated with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment (previously with the Royal Norfolk Regiment, to 1959, and the 1st East Anglian Regiment, 1959 to 1964) and has some 270 pupils as cadets. About another 130 are in the CCF's Air section, and training takes place on Friday afternoon of each week. Activities include shooting, expeditions, combat manoeuvres, ambush and continuity drills, signals training, orienteering, climbing, kayaking, line-laying, first aid and lifesaving, motor mechanics and hovercraft construction.
A Biennial Review of the Gresham's School CCF Contingent was carried out on 10 May 2006 by General Sir Richard Dannatt KCB CBE MC, Commander-in-Chief Land Command and Chief of the General Staff designate.
The school's annual fees for the academic year 2018-19 are:
In September 2005, Gresham's was one of fifty British schools (including Ampleforth, Eton, Charterhouse, Harrow, Bedford, Haileybury, Marlborough, Rugby, Shrewsbury, Stowe, Wellington and Winchester) which were considered by the Office of Fair Trading to be operating a fee-fixing cartel in breach of the Competition Act 1998. All of the schools were ordered to abandon the practice of exchanging information on their planned fees.
More than half of the school's Governing Body represent the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, who have been the school's trustees since 1555. The Chairman of Governors (currently Michael Goff) was until recently always a past or present Prime Warden of the Fishmongers' Company. A previous Chairman was the late Rear-Admiral Earl Cairns, after whom the school's Cairns Centre is named. The present Prime Warden, Sir Richard Carew Pole, is also a governor.
The governing body includes a representative of Cambridge University, currently Lady Perry of Southwark and one of Norfolk County Council, and it also seeks to include some distinguished Old Greshamians.
The Grasshopper is used as the badge of several Gresham's School clubs, and a long-established school periodical is called The Grasshopper. The green insect appears as the crest above the school's coat of arms, commemorating the Founder, Sir John Gresham, whose family crest it was. The Gresham Grasshopper is also used by Gresham College and can be seen as the weathervane on the Royal Exchange in the City of London, founded in 1565 by Gresham's nephew Sir Thomas Gresham, and the similar weathervane on the Faneuil Hall in Boston, Massachusetts, which is modelled on the Royal Exchange's. The first Royal Exchange was profusely decorated with grasshoppers.
According to an ancient legend of the Greshams, the founder of the family, Roger de Gresham, was a foundling abandoned as a new-born baby in long grass in North Norfolk in the 13th century and found there by a woman whose attention was drawn to the child by a grasshopper. Although this is a beautiful story, it is more likely that the grasshopper is simply an heraldic rebus on the name Gresham, with gres being a Middle English form of grass (Old English groes).
In the system of English heraldry, the grasshopper is said to represent wisdom and nobility.
During the celebrations of the school's 450th year in 2005, the establishment was announced of a Foundation to focus on encouraging legacies and donations for scholarships, bursaries and specific major projects. A Director of Development and External Relations has since been appointed, as part of a programme of reaching out to Old Greshamians, and gatherings are planned around the UK and overseas.
Norfolk Record Office also holds some Gresham's accessions, including a bundle of correspondence relating to the school from 1799 to 1810 between the Fishmongers' Company and Adey & Repton, including copies of statutes.