We have based this summary of the history of the Grammar School on two earlier pieces of work. Click on the links below to read the full accounts:
The Free School
The original Free School was in existence in 1606 and probably long before that date. It was situated at the bottom of Castle Street in a building now called The Hatch. Click here to read more
The Free School was probably set up with the help of money bequeathed by John Jones the elder. Further bequests from William White and William Edwards ensured that the school continued.
This early school generally had fewer than 12 pupils and never more than two dozen. For the most part the masters of the school until 1877 were single men appointed by the vicar. In 1869, the Charity Commissioners suggested amalgamation of the Attwell’s Free School (located in St Mary Street) with the Free School (or ‘Grammar School’ as records of the period already referred to it) in Castle Street.
On 17th May 1879 the new Thornbury Grammar School was formally set up. The first meeting of governors was held on 27th September, 1879. Mr. George Nixon was appointed headmaster and remained for the next twenty-eight years. Click here to read about George Nixon
Thornbury Grammar School
In 1880 the old premises in Castle Street were sold and a piece of land known as ‘Putleys’ in Gloucester Road bought from Mr. J.C. Gwynne. On it was erected the first schoolroom (the middle building of the three buildings there today – see photo below). The cost of building and running the school was met by various donors, especially Mr. John Cullimore. This was supplemented by the incomes from the various properties owned by the feoffees or commissioners of the charities connected to the two schools. Pupils were also required to pay a fee of £8.00 a year, except for those students who had scholarships from those charities for all or part of the fees.
The accounts for 1879/80 show that the schoolroom was built to accommodate 60 boys. However the school’s records indicate that in 1880 the school had no more than 26 boys of which nine were on Scholarships. We have details of what the scholarships were providing in the photograph shown here. Please click on the image to read the details. The Headmaster was paid a salary of £70 per annum.
The new school’s first prospectus shows us that it was offering instruction in Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, Geography and History, English Grammar, Composition and Literature, Mathematics, Latin, French, Natural Science and Drawing and Vocal Music. Greek and German instruction were voluntary subjects for which an extra £1/year was payable. Religious instruction was given in Holy Scriptures, Prayer Book and Church Catechism was given to all pupils unless a parent applied for exemption in writing to the Headmaster. Boys attending the school were to be not less than 8 years old and had to be examined and approved by the Headmaster.
The Lord of the Manor, Stafford Howard, presented a strip of land bordering on Putleys to make a proper frontage for the building in 1880. Putleys was quite a large field (of five acres), with a gravel quarry in the north-east corner. The portion not required for the actual building was let out in allotments.
We have a report on the progress of pupils in the new school which was inspected in December 1880. Click here to read the details of the report
In 1894 the headmaster’s house was built to accommodate not only the master’s family but also some pupils as boarders. Evening classes in drawing were established and Sir Stafford Howard generously put in gas at his own expense to enable them to be held.
Although pupil numbers had considerably increased in 1895, the finances of the school still gave anxiety and in 1897 a grave crisis arose. The growing deficit led to a proposition to close the school and ‘to give the headmaster notice to quit’. This calamitous step was avoided by drastic economies – a reduction in the number of scholarships and a temporary cut in the headmaster’s stipend. The headmaster’s ‘cut’ was restored in a few months’ time and the arrears paid. However, conditions remained difficult and in 1901 there was an inquiry by the Charity Commissioners. The decline of the school was attributed to agricultural depression and the competition of the local elementary schools.
The yearly reports were invariably satisfactory. In 1897 the governors discovered that the gentleman did not attend personally, so they demanded and obtained his physical presence at the examination which was to be both oral and written. The necessity of a playground for the boys became apparent and a piece of the land at the back of the school was enclosed for the purpose in 1886 though it must have been a rough dusty patch and was the Inspector in 1906 recommended it to be asphalted.
The headmaster was at this point still the only teacher in the school and he had to provide instruction in the wide range of subjects listed above. Click here to read a School Inspection Report of 1904
After years of stagnation the Grammar School began to develop in 1906. A new classroom was built and alterations were to be made to allow girls to enter the school. This building was the one on the left of the three builldings there today – see photo below). Five girls were admitted in 1906 including Emily Lippiatt
In 1907 Charles Hackwell Ross became headmaster. Click here to read more about him A prefect system was established in 1907. The numbers in the school increased rising from thirty to fifty-one in the first year.
In 1907 free places in secondary schools were brought into existence by the Liberal Government. At Thornbury five were admitted in the first year.
A school uniform, consisting of a dark green tunic with a white braid at the bottom (the braid disappeared in 1933) and a green hat for the girls and a green cap for the boys, was to be worn.
In 1909 another hall was built which could be divided into two classrooms by a partition. The thumbnail image on the left shows all the old school buildings around 1925. Click on the thumbnail to see the larger image. The 1909 block is the one on the right in the photo. A small shed, subsequently enlarged, was built for instruction in woodwork. A partition was erected in the old school. Trees were planted on the west side of the school field.
During the First World War several old Thornburians lost their lives and a tablet was erected naming them. Click here to read more
In 1925 the school cap became half green and half red. Permission to use the Attwells arms as a badge was obtained and the school motto ‘Disce aut Discede’ (learn or leave) was adopted. A speaker at one speech day said he thought Mr. Ross must be a very kind man since he had omitted the rest of the motto. This is ‘Tertia sors manet – vapula’ which means ‘there remains a third choice – the stick’.
In 1932 the new headmaster was Mr. Rupert W. Jackson, M.A., B.SC. (ECON.), London, from Cotham Secondary School, Bristol. Click here to read about Rupert Jackson
In the autumn of that year the school transferred to the new building. The gleaming two-storey school contrasted sharply with the old building beside it.
There was now a two form entry with a small sixth form at the top, preparing pupils for university and college entrance, or for commercial studies. The Cambridge exam gave way to the Bristol School Certificate Examination.
In 1933 the Old Thornburians presented a shield for competition between the newly formed houses in games. The school was divided into three houses – Clare, Stafford and Howard – named after the families which had held the manor of Thornbury. An extension of the school field to include ‘Blakes’, another three acres, made it possible for games to be played in school hours.
The old building was altered and adapted. Two dining rooms and a kitchen enabled school dinners to be provided.
In 1934 Mr. S.J.V. Rouch, B.SC., Bristol, from Cheltenham Grammar School, was appointed to take over from Mr Jackson. Click here to read about Mr Rouch
In December 1934 the first edition of the Thornburian Magazine was published. Click here to read some of the magazines
In 1935 colours were awarded for cricket, football, hockey and tennis. Physical training began to take a more important place in the curriculum and physical training displays by both boys and girls were given. Uniform grey flannel suits became the uniform for the boys. In 1938 hard tennis courts were laid in the quarry.
We have heard from Doreen Cooksley who entered the school in 1939 that the scholarship system continued into her time. Those passing the entrance exam were allowed to attend the school but would have to pay tuition fees. Those who attained a good pass at the exam were given a half scholarship. Those who were even more successful were awarded a full grant. Doreen explained that not only was she successful in obtaining a full scholarship but as she lived out at Tortworth she was given help with transport. She could either have a free bus pass or a bicycle. She wisely chose the cycle option.
When World War II broke out air-raid shelters were constructed. Fortunately, although at various times the alarm sent the pupils to them, the school never had to face an air-raid. Boys and girls helped on the land in potato sowing and lifting and in other ways. A lot of old Thornburians served in the Forces. Click here to read more Several of them were lost during the fighting. The school raised sufficient money to provide an electric clock placed on the south face of the new buildings as a war memorial. The funds for this were raised by members of the school. The Quadrangle was converted into a second Memorial by the Old Thornburians’ Society and the School. Click here to read more
In 1945 the roll was around three hundred and twenty children.
In 1950 the playing fields were increased by the valuable addition of the Chantry Field, between the School and the Castle. We have been told that in the 1950s and 1960s Miss Smith, who taught the girls commercial subjects, used to take a group of them to Porch House in Castle Street. The girls learned to type to the strains of the William Tell Overture.
By 1956, the school had over six hundred pupils and five new pre-fabricated classrooms, a biology laboratory and a library were built on land acquired to the south west of the school. These constituted the Orchard Spur Block. Despite the name, this was not previously an orchard, but a private garden.
In 1957 a large dining hall and kitchens were built in the old quarry near to the tennis courts. The Woodwork department was to have been sited in the Orchard Spur block but as it was considered too noisy the idea was abandoned. In the absence of a better idea the department was closed for two years. About 1958 it moved up the road to the Old Mill and flourished for a while in an attic there.
Gayner Paddock (a triangular shaped piece of land behind the pre-fabricated buildings) was acquired to prevent building right up to the school; and grass tennis courts were laid on Chantry. Sidney H. Gayner was an Old Thornburian and a Foundation Governor. His name is given to the paddock which he helped to purchase for the School.
In 1961 the Practical Block was completed in the old quarry and the Woodwork department which had ended up in the builders yard of the Pitcher family now had a permanent home there.
Mr Rouch retired in 1964. Dennis P Rendall was headmaster from 1964 to 1970. His job was to help the school transition from Grammar School to Comprehensive School. It was left to his successor Mr Fazey who began at the school in 1970 to move it to Marlwood in 1972.
The school buildings in Gloucester Road were taken over by The Castle School and used as their Sixth Form Centre.