Bristol Grammar School is a co-educational independent school in Clifton, Bristol, England. It was founded in 1532 by two brothers, Robert and Nicholas Thorne, when it was housed in the St Bartholomew's Hospital, as part of the new founding of schools after Henry VIII's closure of the monasteries, where previously a large proportion of England's education had occurred. The school motto Ex Spinis Uvas, which translates as "From Thorns Grapes", is a play upon the names of the school founders Robert and Nicholas Thorne. The school became a direct grant grammar school in 1946 as a result of the Education Act 1944 and chose to become independent when direct grants were abolished by the 1974”“9 Labour Government. The modern school is in three separate sections: the Lower School takes children from the ages of 7 to 11, the Upper School is for students aged between 11 and 16 studying for GCSEs, and the Sixth Form is for students from 16 to 18 studying for their A-levels. There are around 1,130 children in the school, of which around 40 percent are girls, since its switch from boys-only to coeducational in 1980. BGS recently celebrated 25 years of girls at the school. The ratio of boys to girls remains steady at a third girls to two thirds boys. The school is fee-paying, but students from families with low incomes can be provided with completely free places.

The ‘Gramer Scole’ over the Frome Gate was in the care of its first schoolmaster, Thomas Moffat, when good fortune stepped in to secure its future. The Thorne family were wealthy Bristol merchants, friends of men like John Cabot and known to royalty. They wished to endow a school where the sons of Bristol merchants and tradesmen could receive a good education before settling down to the important business of making money. On 17 March 1532, Henry VIII issued a Charter under which the Thornes could endow the Grammar School and establish it in larger premises at St Bartholomew's Hospital near the bottom of Christmas Steps. There the boys learnt Latin and Greek, Divinity and some Hebrew. By 1767, the buildings were too cramped. Charles Lee, the Master, persuaded the Corporation that the Grammar School should be allowed to exchange premises with the other City School, Queen Elizabeth's Hospital, which had a pleasant, new site on Unity Street, further up the hill. This exchange was carried out, and Charles Lee proceeded to enjoy his new School by greatly reducing the numbers of boys. The School was set to rights in 1812, but education was moving away from the classics and this caused further problems resulting in the school being closed in 1844. It received a new Scheme in 1847 and re-opened in January 1848 with 300 pupils. By 1870 the headmaster (Rev John William Caldicott) told the Endowed Schools Commission that the school was "full to overflowing" with 240 boys and very successful with university entries. However, it was significantly less well endowed than Bristol's other secondary schools ( Queen Elizabeth's, Red Maids' and Colston's), and its now dilapidated buildings were located in the wrong area of the city for pupils who mostly lived in Clifton and Redland. At that time, Bristol had substantial hospital endowments (second only to London and Edinburgh) but these were mostly spent on charity rather than education. The assistant charity commissioner proposed a scheme that would reorganise the objectives of the endowed schools and secure funding for the Grammar School and the new Clifton High School for Girls. After several years of debate and negotiation the initiative was approved in 1875, and in 1877 a new location in Tyndalls Park was agreed. The first buildings in Tyndalls Park were occupied in 1879: the Big School, with its remarkable Great Hall, and the Headmaster’s House, a modest dwelling which is now the Lower School. Further classrooms were added, a Gymnasium and a Fives Court and a Rifle Range. These have been rebuilt as art rooms and rehearsal rooms, but the Winterstoke wing still houses the Laboratories which were added in 1914. The Preparatory School began in 1900, and in 1928 moved into its own building on Elton Road, but this was destroyed on the night of 24 November 1940 by incendiary bombs. The Prep Hall, which survived, is now the Mackay Theatre. The Elton Road ruin was rebuilt as classrooms under John Garrett, who added the University Road block and began to colonise the other side of Elton Road. Since then, the School has built yet more classroom accommodation and a new Sports Hall; Modern Languages, Classics/Geography, Art and Music have their own Elton Road Houses, and the former playing field is now the Technology Centre.

Great Hall
This Big School was designed in the late Perpendicular Gothic style, by the Bristol firm of Foster and Wood. Sometimes known as the Long Room, but now usually as the Great Hall, it was designed as a teaching room, and the Masters’ stalls are still in place. The room is 140 feet (43 m) long, 50 feet (15 m) wide and 50 feet (15 m) high. Downstairs there are now, as in 1879, the Headmaster’s Study, the Senior Common Room, offices and classrooms. Originally these would have accommodated the Sixth Form, while the rest of the School had lessons together in the Hall. The organ, which was built by Vowles & Son of St James’ Square, was presented by Mr W H Wills, later Lord Winterstoke, in January 1880. It cost over £1,000 and it is still played for assemblies and concerts. The main stairs leading out of the Great Hall have been recently modified to fulfil fire and safety regulations and in preparation for the new library and 6th form building known as The Hub. When the whole school assembled in the Great Hall for the official opening of the new staircase, the invited guests included people who donated large sums of money to help get the project on its way and some of the OBs, including John Pople, who have supported the school over the years. The work was allowed to be completed because of work done by the schools archivist who demonstrated that this was the way that the original staircase was likely to have been. This satisfied authorities to grant permission to make structural alterations to the Grade II listed building. The staircase was originally one big staircase that started at ground level, led up and split into two smaller ones which doubled back to reach the Great Hall. This has changed to the opposite; two smaller ones lead up and merge into a larger one which doubles back to reach the Great Hall. This meant that the wall between the two smaller staircases could be knocked through to insert a modern automated double glass door allowing pupils to reach the Great Hall with greater ease from within the campus. The old entrance with the great wooden doors at the front still remains. Previously a small door to the campus side of the building was for visitors, teachers and prefects only.

Entrance into the school
Primarily the school accepts pupils at the age of 4 years to the Infant School, 7 years to the Lower School and 11 for the Upper School. The school also accepts pupils at 14. The Sixth Form also accepts pupils from surrounding schools at 16. Progression through the school is more or less automatic without additional examination. Though transition between Lower and Upper School requires the same entrance examination as other candidates, Lower School entrants rarely fail. Assuming a pupil passes sufficient GCSEs, progression from the Upper School to the Sixth Form is also automatic, though some do choose to leave at this point and fewer still do not achieve the grades required to progress to A-Levels. Entrance at this level to the school is by interview and offers based upon GCSE grades.

There are six houses in the Upper School, each named after its Head of House. Each student is placed in one of the six different house groups at the beginning of their time in the Upper School and remains in the house until they leave the school. House activities include house plays, music competitions and inter-house sporting tournaments. The school will always place students in the same houses as any previous family members who have come to the school. The house names and colours are:
  • Scott's (black)
  • Keen's (yellow)
  • Edwards's (blue)
  • Catchpole's (red)
  • Gunawardana's (brown)
  • Jakobek's (green)
Colours House colours House colours are also awarded, given at then end of the particular term should that person take part and perform particularly well in a given activity or sporting event. School colours School colours are awarded to pupils typically in their final year, who perform exceptionally well in sport or any other school activity. They would be expected to compete in a school team (such as cricket, rugby, hockey or football) and show continued commitment. This was extended to include performing arts, awarding several students colours for their contribution to concerts, plays and taking house assemblies.

Years 7 to 11
Boys The school uniform is a navy blue blazer with the school crest embroidered on the top pocket. A plain white, long or short sleeved shirt is worn. This must be tucked inside the trouser waistband and be designed to be worn with a tie. The tie is maroon coloured with stripes being of house colour of blue, black, brown, green, red or yellow. A plain white undergarment may be worn. The opional pullover is plain navy, v-necked and with the school crest embroidered on the upper left side. Socks are either plain grey, navy-blue or black. Shoes are black. Girls The school uniform consists of a navy blue blazer with the school crest embroidered on the top pocket. The skirt is of Bristol Check design, worn at an appropriate length below the knee. For years 7-9, the skirt is of kilt style and wrapped over. For years 10-11, it is an optional straight style with back pleat. Alternatively, the girls may wear plain mid-grey, classic pleated front, tailored trousers (however those supplied by the official school supplier, Ikon, are permitted). A pullover is optional, and is plain navy, v-necked with school crest embroidered on the upper left side. A plain white, long or short blouse sleeved with reveres can be worn, though no undergarment must show above the revers. The blouse, like the shirt for the boys, must be worn tucked inside the skirt or trouser waistband. Tights must be navy blue and black. Alternatively, socks can be worn, of the same colours. Shoes are black, sensible and low-heeled - the heel should be no more than 3 cm measured from the inside, and the combined platform and heel should be no more than 5 cm measured from the outside. Trainers and boots are not permitted. All pupils The BGS fleece/ tracksuit may be worn, which is plain navy with the school crest embroidered in navy blue on the upper left side. It can be worn as part of the games kit. The BGS scarf, which embroids the school colours, can also be worn when it is cold. Other scarves are not allowed.

Sixth form
Boys The sixth form uniform for the boys is a suit or non-matching jacket and trousers that give a reasonable appearance. A school tie must be worn - maroon or navy blue with a single school crest in the centre. Shirts should be tucked in. Girls Similarly, a set of clothes that give a reasonable impression can be worn. However, short skirts are inappropriate and high heels are not allowed.

School prefects
Each year, around 80 prefects are chosen by selection by the headmaster, from applications by the Lower Sixth Form. From those 80, a further 20 are selected to be senior prefects. From these, one is chosen as Head of School with two deputies, one is selected as senior for each house, one for each day of the week (to organise events an duties on that day) and one is selected to be senior for each year group (7-11 plus 6th Form). Each house has 5 prefects and one senior prefect. Each form in years 7 and 8 have 2 form prefects while forms in Year 9 have one each. There are four Year 10 prefects (including 1 senior) and three Year 11 prefects (including one senior). The 6th form has 2 (including one senior). The prefects have 1 to 3 duties per week, either supervising in year blocks, in the lunch hall or road crossings at lunchtime. They are expected to help at school events in the evenings as well as playing a key role in major school events like the school's Open Evening, Charter Day and Entrance Exam day. Male prefects wear a tie (different to the usual 6th Form tie) to distinguish them while girls have a badge in the shape of the school crest. Senior prefects wear an additional badge which is circular to identify them. House prefects are given octagonal badges in the colour of their house. Heads of School and their deputies have their names added to the roll which is on display in the Main School corridor.

Tutors and teaching
The size of teaching groups ranges from 25 students per teacher in lower years to occasionally one per teacher (for less popular subjects in the 6th form). Optional subjects include Russian and Economics. Today, all students have access to computers with internet access. The school is unusual in that it offers Ancient Greek as a subject from Year 9 onwards. It remains the only school in the South West where pupils can formally take this subject. Classical Civilisation is also available now as a GCSE.

Bristol Grammar School occupies a triangle of land between the University of Bristol on the University Road side, what used to be Dingle's department store on the lower side and a series of houses on the Elton Road side known as Tyndalls Park. The school has been expanding of late, and while it has always owned all the houses to one side of the main campus until recently only four (Barton's, Norwood's, Martin's and Garrett's) were occupied. Lately, two or more have been converted into specialist subject areas. The School is waiting for the leases (which date from before the current Rent Act) to be relinquished by the tenants before they can use other buildings. The school has a theatre and extensive IT facilities, as well as large playing fields outside Bristol in Failand. New school buildings have been erected in recent times, but despite the introduction of modern technology, the external appearance and locations of many of the classrooms has remained unchanged for a long time.

Main campus
Great Hall The foundation stone was laid on 10 June 1877. The school moved here during 1879 and it is the largest first floor hall in the United Kingdom. In 1996, the old servery was removed and the hall was restored to its old layout; the roof was also renewed during this time. There is a full kitchen between the Great Hall and the Science Wing, as well as two classrooms and an office belonging to the history department. Underneath the Great Hall is the staff room, the Pople room, and the school offices. It has been designated by English Heritage as a grade II listed building. To one side of the Great Hall, sitting separate from the Hall itself and the Lower School, is another building designed to blend in. During the 1940s/1950s, this was the woodworking department, and later a staff work room. It is now a music room which is also used for house assemblies. The Great Hall foundation stone has never been found. Inside the foundation stone there is a time capsule, reported to contain "Copies of The Times and of the Bristol newspapers and a parchment document containing an account of the ceremony". However, despite extensive searches of the outer walls, it has not been found to date. One of two possibilities exist: 1) That the foundation stone was placed at the far end of the building where the science wing now is, and was destroyed or covered up when that building was erected; or 2) that the stone is buried under tarmac towards the front of the building. The foundation stone was laid on the 10th of June 1877. Lower School Hall and Rehearsal Room This building was rebuilt in 1999. The old sports areas, in which two bicycle houses and three fives courts had once stood, was cleared to make way for the school's rehearsal room. The offices used by the House Masters were refurbished. The result was a re-landscaped playground in the top corner of the site for the lower school, the old gymnasium was converted into the new Lower School Hall and two art rooms. A new rehearsal room was added for the school orchestra and the Drama Department. What was once the school's rifle range is now an adjoining corridor, linking the new art rooms to the rehearsal room. Science (Fenwick Richards / Lord Winterbourne) Wing Opened in 1909, the Fenwick Richards wing houses Year 11. The Fenwick Richards wing also houses the History Department. The Lord Winterbourne wing lies to the north, and was a later pre-war addition to the school. It still houses the Physics, Chemistry and Biology departments for which it was originally intended, with much of the equipment (including the wooden chemistry desks) dating back to Edwardian period. University Road Building This building was designed to house the science departments. At the moment it houses the Year 10s. It also houses the school's English Department. Sports Hall The sports hall contains a full sized hall, four glass fronted squash courts, galleries for viewing games and activities, a fencing area, a climbing wall, a gym, sports teaching room and the Graveney room (for aerobics and dance). There was intended to be a swimming pool underneath the main hall. However, it was not possible to place such a large body of water next to the edge of the site due to the height differential, which would have resulted in the bank giving way. Princess Anne Block The "PA Block" houses the form rooms of Years 7 and 8 and the Mathematics Department. It also houses the office of the head of Years 7 and 8 and the school nurse Porters' Lodge Used for the New Infant school Elton Road Building This building was destroyed during the Blitz and was rebuilt after the Second World War. It houses Year 9 form rooms, the religious studies and philosophy department, the mathematics Department, and an IT room. Mackay Theatre The theatre adjoins the Elton Road Building and is used for school plays and musicals, year assemblies, SPD lectures, house concerts and plays and Sixth Form lectures. It was named after John Mackay, a former headmaster. Lower School Previously the Headmaster's House until the Lower School was evacuated to it in 1940; it has been located there ever since. Technology Centre This building houses the four design and technology Department workshops and is currently underground, which were in portable buildings prior to 1994. There is also a CAD room, a workshop for the stores department, a car maintenance bay and a metal work room. The curved wall at the end of the DT Block between one entrance and the steps facing towards the Princess Anne Block is the foundations for an intended lecture hall. However, it is unlikely that this will be ever built due to the new lecture theatre within The Hub. Sixth Form Block This houses facilities for the entire sixth form, although their forms are much smaller than those lower down the school and are split up all over the campus, using spare rooms as form rooms. Downstairs, much of the block is dedicated to the Junior Common Room (known as the "JCR") with its own servery hatch. There are also offices and two computing labs. Upstairs there are teaching rooms, a prefects' room, a careers room and careers computing lab. It was originally designed as a three story building (hence the flat roof) but due to budget constraints during building it was decided to be left as two storeys. In summer 2009 the entire block was renovated after plans for a replacement building, "The Hub", were put on hold. Library One of the biggest school libraries in the country, the BGS Library also houses the school archives.

Elton Road
Barton's (Geography Department) Once only housed the Classics Department, but now houses the geography Department and the School Uniform Shop underneath. To the rear is a portable building where the Maintenance Department has its workshop. Named after Joseph Edwin Barton, headmaster from 1917-38. Martin's (Music School) The building contains sound-proofed rooms and a full studio at the top of the building. Underneath the building is the Cookery area, where there are two full teaching kitchens. Named after Charles Martin, headmaster from 1988-99. Garrett's (Art School) The old Headmaster's House is now home to the Art Department, including three large studios and many more smaller areas for the sixth formers. To the rear of this building and the Music School is a landscaped garden spanning both properties. Named after John Garrett, headmaster of the school from 1943-60. Norwood's Houses the Modern Languages Department, and from September 2010 has housed 11.4 and 11.6 forms. Named after Sir Cyril Norwood, headmaster of the school from 1906-16. Caldicott's The Classics and Economics Departments' building, and from September is has housed 11.1, 11.2 and 11.5 forms. Named after John William Caldicott, headmaster of the school from 1860-83. Leighton's Another Modern Languages Department building, also the Psychology Department, form September it holds 11.3 and the Year 11 Common Room. Also houses a computer suite. Named after Robert Leighton Leighton, headmaster of the school from 1883-1906.

  • During the autumn term, the sport curriculum is dominated by rugby football for the boys and hockey for the girls
  • During the spring term, it is dominated by hockey, football and rugby for the boys and netball for the girls
  • During the summer term, there is a division between cricket for the boys and rounders for the girls. Both sexes may participate in sports such as tennis and athletics
The school owns land in Failand which features an astroturf hockey/netball pitch, tarmaced tennis courts and multiple cricket pitches which are swapped around season to season to Rugby pitches. There is also an athletics track as well as shot and javelin areas marked out. Full time grounds staff are employed to keep the area at its best and sport is compulsory one afternoon a week for every year group up to, and including, year 11. There is a new pavilion being built as part of the 475th Anniversary expansion of the school, replacing the old Pavilion. Construction is up to the first floor level. The old pavilion is still in place but further back towards the road and will allow for a larger car park and better coach access when it is demolished. The new pavilion will provide facilities for up to 350 pupils and staff at a time with improved showering and changing facilities as well as an attractive hospitality area for spectators. The total cost of the project will be £2.4 million. This is in addition to the sports hall on the Tyndall's Park campus, which supplements the one afternoon a week pupils spend doing sport with around another hour or so a week of PE within the school day.

School song
The school song is mainly sung at the end of term assembly or on special occasions.

Until the 19th century, the Headmaster was known simply as the "Master" and his assistants as "Ushers". Little is known of those of the 16th century and nothing of any before Thomas Moffat, the "scolemaster" of the City Audit Book of 1532 who took the School to the Bartholomews. The first few dates are conjectural.

Fees and charitable status
Since the withdrawal of assisted places, BGS has become a fully independent school, privately run by the Headmaster and the senior management team under the guidance of the school governors. Many Old Bristolians become benefactors and contribute to the Booker fund to the school, to support students who are academically able, but financially unable, to otherwise attend the school. The school is a registered charity.

BGS Enterprises
BGS Enterprises runs the Sports Centre out of hours as a gym/health centre utilising the school's facilities out of hours.

Old Bristolians
The alumni and ex-members of staff of Bristol Grammar School are known as 'Old Bristolians'. The following are more complete lists of well-known Old Bristolians:
  • List of Old Bristolians born before the 19th century
  • List of Old Bristolians born in the 19th century
  • List of Old Bristolians born in the 20th century
See also Category:Old Bristolians

Old Bristolians Society
The Society has existed for over 100 years. Its objectives are:
  • To allow former pupils and staff to maintain contact and keep in touch with the school
  • To support the School, both financially and non-financially
There are around 1,700 members, both staff and pupils, and there are events such as dinners and reunions as well as sporting occasions and a newsletter. The Society also supports the Michael Booker Bursary Scheme and awards, prizes and scholarships. There is also a fund to help provide OBs in further education with assistance to undertake a community project. The Society owns and runs a sports club adjacent to the School's playing fields in Failand with a pavilion and bar and enough space for a cricket or rugby pitch depending on the season.

Building Activity

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