Friday, 22 September, 2017

School History

History of the school

900 years of Thetford Grammar School

 

Thetford Grammar School, one of the oldest schools in the country, traces its origins to AD 631 when it is likely that Sigbert, King of the East Angles, provided a school for his court in Thetford.

Less conjecturally, a document of 1114 under the seal of Herbert Losinga, by then Bishop of Norwich, records that “I have restored to Bund, the Dean, his schools at Thetford as completely and advantageously as he ever held them”.

It is likely that those schools were run, possibly under the aegis of Losinga himself when he was still Bishop of Thetford, within the precincts of what was, at the end of the eleventh century, the East Anglian Cathedral. This cathedral occupied what is now the site of the Old School.

The school’s Roll of Headmasters, unbroken since Bund’s time, testifies to the school’s medieval history, with the Duke of Norfolk, victor at Flodden Field, among its pupils.

Sir Richard Fulmerston was responsible for ensuring the school survived the Reformation. The refoundation was confirmed in 1610 with the ratification of Fulmerston’s will by Act of Parliament.

The school continued in its one-room Elizabethan building, the accommodation more or less unaltered for three hundred years. Its pupils included Pepys’ contemporary Roger North – lawyer, historian and musician – and the radical polemicist Tom Paine.

The 1880s saw major developments in the fabric and philosophy of the school under Benjamin Reed and Reed’s school was known as the best in Norfolk. In 1888, it was joined by the Victorian Girls’ Grammar School, built across the road, in part with money left by Sir Joseph Williamson, Secretary of State to Charles II and a former Thetford MP. The two schools continued to grow and thrive through the twentieth century, adopting Voluntary Controlled Status in 1944 and forming a single coeducational establishment in 1975.

The school returned to independence in 1981, rebuilding itself as a small but academically ambitious school which at the same time pays attention to the “wider curriculum” – a contemporary orthodoxy which has clearly, however, always been part of its long tradition. This ethos is reflected in the continued development of the school into the C21st.

Thomas Paine mural

The Losinga building was redeveloped in 1998 to accommodate the growing technological needs of the modern age. In the early C21st the school was reminded of its medieval roots during the construction of its new Cloisters Sixth Form Centre.

This building, opened in 2007, was subject to extensive archaeological research during the pre-construction phase which resulted in the discovery of the remains of 19 individuals, indicating this was the burial-ground for the Dominican Friars.

In 2009 Thetford Grammar School took an active role in the festival of events which celebrated the life of Thomas Paine on the 200th anniversary of his death.

Local artist Ned Pamphilon and students at the school created a mural celebrating the school’s most famous former student.

In 2014 another significant milestone for Thetford Grammar School is the celebration of the 900th anniversary of Losinga’s document marking the existence of our school.

“Loyaute me oblige”

The Cloisters

The history of the buildings that now form the Cloisters Sixth Form Centre are a bit of a mystery. What is known is that they sit on top of what was part of the cloisters of the medieval friary. During the recent construction work a significant number of complete skeletons were found. Archaeologists have confirmed they are of the right period and analysis has provided fascinating details of the lifestyle of the friary's occupants. The skeletons have since been reburied in the nearby Thetford Town Cemetery.

The derelict remains of what is thought to be a Victorian period coachman's house and adjacent stable block have been transformed into a modern venue offering study and social facilities for the growing sixth form. The building, which was formally opened in September 2007, won an International Green Apple Award for the Built Environment and Architectural Heritage for the use of traditional skills.

Old School

This late-sixteenth-century building rests on the foundations of a fourteenth-century Dominican Friary which itself was built on the site of the eleventh-century Thetford Cathedral. It is thus at the very centre of the historic core of the school. Roger North, attorney-general during the reigns of William III and Mary II, was educated in this building from 1663. In 1744 Thomas Paine, the radical thinker, author of Rights of Man, and contributor to the development of both the American and French Revolutions, began his schooling in this building. The original building was extended during the Victorian period and now includes two classrooms and the main School Library as well as the original Old School Hall.

The school’s Roll of Headmasters, unbroken since Bund’s time, testifies to the school’s medieval history, with the Duke of Norfolk, victor at Flodden Field, among its pupils.

Sir Richard Fulmerston was responsible for ensuring the school survived the Reformation. The refoundation was confirmed in 1610 with the ratification of Fulmerston’s will by Act of Parliament.

Losinga

Originally a Victorian house, this Grade II listed building was bought by the Governors during the early part of the 20th Century to provide extra accommodation for a rapidly expanding school roll.

Its use has varied over the years, none more so than after the completion of a major renovation project in 1998. The Losinga Building now provides IT, Design and Technology and Photography facilities, as well as being the base for the Business Studies Department and the Careers Centre.


School HouseBrought into use in 1883 following a major re-structuring of the school this building originally provided residential accommodation for the headmaster and for those boys who boarded at the school. The headmaster's residence was on the ground and first floors on the left of the house, as indicated by the more ornate and open door frame and the bay window. The boarders' dormitories occupied most of the second floor. They had a common room and washing facilities on the first floor and a dining room on the ground floor on the right side of the house. The building is now the administrative centre of the School.

TGS Girls SchoolThe education of girls began on this site in January 1888. By the end of that year there were 36 girls on the roll with two teachers to look after them. The building provided residential accommodation for the headmistress as well as classrooms. So popular was the idea of such a school that extensions were soon needed to accommodate boarders and to provide additional teaching space. The school merged into a co-educational establishment with Thetford Grammar School for Boys in 1975. The buildings now provide a Hall and classroom space for the Junior School.

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