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History of the School

A short history of Pate's

This short history of the school, from its founding until the millennium, is based on part of the school's Millennium CD, Onward from Elizabeth's Day, which can be ordered from the Memorabilia page. The information here was assembled and edited by Neil Anderson (Head of History 1976-1997).

The founding of the school

  • The grammar school was founded by Richard Pate, from Minsterworth, Glos. He was probably educated at the Chantry School in Cheltenham Parish Church. He went on to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and eventually into Royal service
  • He served as Commissioner for Henry VIII, Edward VI and Elizabeth, and oversaw the dissolution of the Chantries in Gloucestershire
  • With properties from the Chantries granted to him by Elizabeth, in 1574 Pate founded his Schola Gramatica and almshouses in the High Street, Cheltenham
  • The first schoolmaster was Christopher Ocland, who wrote two textbooks, Anglorum Proelia and Elizabetha, both of which Elizabeth made compulsory study in all grammar schools in England
  • Pate died in 1588, shortly after the Spanish Armada had been repulsed. By then he had established the Pate Foundation, whereby Corpus Christi College acted as trustees to run the School and almshouses

Rise and fall

  • Little is known of the first hundred years of the School
  • Christopher Bayley, 1622-54, and Robert Jones, 1574-89 established the reputation of the School. In 1680 a new gallery had to be built in the Parish Church as '...the school in Cheltenham is very there is not sufficient room in the said church for the parishioners and scholars to sit'.
  • The 18th Century was one of serious decline for the School. Fewer and fewer pupils attended, there had been no change in the curriculum since 1574, nor in the pay of the Schoolmaster, which was still £16 per annum. By 1800 there were only three pupils!
  • In 1800 a visitor reported that 'the people of Cheltenham are very much dissatisfied with [the school]'. Those pupils who attended were taught 'in the place where they used to clean shoes'. The then Schoolmaster had already turned the schoolroom into a restaurant
  • The Schoolmasters were also clergymen, and their parish work was clearly more important and remunerative to them than teaching. The Grammar School taught reading and writing rather than Latin Grammar and Greek, contrary to the terms of the original Indenture.

Fame and notoriety

  • 1819-51 - Cheltenham Parish Vestry sued Corpus Christi College for neglect of the Pate Foundation, especially the Grammar School. They won, so...
  • 1852 - Rev Dr E.R.Humphreys was appointed Headmaster. He set about restoring the School - with great energy
  • He was a Classical scholar of doubtful repute, but he introduced Science to the curriculum, being one of the first in the country to do so. In recognition of that, Prince Albert presented him with a signed volume. He also established a Commercial stream
  • He increased the School Roll to over 100 pupils, including boarders who were housed in the adjacent Yearsley's Hotel
  • However, his energy and promotional talents ran up huge debts. He was clearly persuasive and plausible. He was particularly anxious to improve the social standing of the school, especially as Cheltenham College had recently been founded
  • 1859 - Humphreys fled to America. He left behind debts of £26,000, a sick wife and six children. He took with him the wife of one of his Governors. She left eight children and a husband owed several thousand pounds by Humphreys
  • Humphreys was gaoled on reaching America. The School became nationally known
  • His successors, Henry Hayman and H.M.Jeffery, revived the academic reputation of the school, especially in Mathematics and Science. Famous Old Patesians of this period include F.Jayne, future Bishop of Chester; W.H.Corfield, medical scientist, and W.Esson, future Oxford Professor of Mathematics
  • The Taunton Commission of 1864-5 reported that Cheltenham Grammar School was 'a good school' - an accolade given to very few in the Report. Yet by 1882 numbers had fallen to under 30

New buildings

  • 1881 - a new Board of Governors was established, and Corpus Christi College lost full control of the School. This was eventually to lead to friction as Borough and County members of the Board sought more say in how the school was run
  • The curriculum now included Reading, Writing and Arithmetic; Latin; English Grammar, Composition and Literature; History and Geography; Mathematics; French or German; Natural Science; Drawing; Singing; Drill (PE)
  • 1887-89 - new School Buildings were built on the original High Street site. Designed for 300 pupils, they eventually held over 700. The cost was £11,000, including provision for Science teaching
  • The school was later extended by the addition of a new Science Block, with additional Chemistry, Biology and Physics laboratories and Lecture Theatres. Art Rooms were also added

Into the twentieth century

  • 1905 - Foundation of the Girls' Grammar School, originally sited in Livorno Lodge. The School opened with 82 girls and 5 Staff. The first Headmistress was Miss Helen Heatley. Her emphasis was on character and open-mindedness rather than on academic excellence. She chose the motto Honestas non Honores. She was succeeded in 1911 by Miss Anita Miles
  • 1907 - Introduction of Local Authority free places for clever children of impoverished families. In Cheltenham, as elsewhere, the need for more wage-earners limited the success of the scheme, but henceforth up to 50% of pupils at both Schools were 'free'
  • 1907 - Boys' School introduced Prefects and the first Houses - four, known by the initials of the House motto
  • 1909 - closure of the Boys' Boarding House - the School henceforth relied on local day-pupils, including some from Winchcombe, Tewkesbury and Cotswold areas. It was still the Railway Age!
  • 1909 - Boys' school reverted to Rugby as its main competitive game, after 18 years as a 'soccer' school. Cricket and Water-Polo were also played. The Dramatic, Music and Debating Societies were the main extra-curricular attractions, debates being held every second Saturday evening and attracting full houses. It was not yet the cinema nor television age!

World War One

  • 73 Old Patesians fell in the Great War. Their graves and Memorials are to be found on three continents, and their names are commemorated on the Roll of Honour of 1923 which hangs in the School Hall
  • Belgian refugees appeared on both School Rolls from late 1914. Lady teachers replaced Masters who had enlisted. Most School activities continued as before
  • War work was enthusiastically undertaken by the Girls' School - the Livorno Lodge garden was dug up to grow vegetables for the Royal Navy. As part of the wartime economy measures girls were issued with one pencil per term instead of two
  • 1916 - a Cadet Corps was established at the Boys' School - attached to 1/5 Glosters

Between the wars

  • 1918 - R.R.Dobson became Headmaster. He was determined to improve academic standards. By 1930 there were 38 Old Patesians attending Universities, almost all on Scholarships and exhibitions, otherwise few could have afforded to go. In 1929-30 the School won 11 Open, 2 State, 3 Gloucestershire and 2 Loughborough Scholarships. It won at least one State Scholarship each year when only 6 were awarded nationally by the Oxford School Exam Board. The School had set up a Load Fund to help OP students
  • 1919 - the Girls' School flourished under Miss Miles - it now had more pupils than the Boys' School. A few girls went up to University each year in the 1930s, but higher education was not the norm for girls at that time; many parents clearly disapproved of it, despite the later efforts of Miss Muriel Jennings to change attitudes
  • 1922 - Dobson introduced the 6 House system - the hallowed names of Baker, Biffen, Corfield, Hawker, Jayne and Jessop
  • 1922 - Girls' School introduced Prefects and Houses - Britons, Danes, Normans and Saxons
  • 1920s - School trips outside the locality began - including a French Exchange for the Girls, and a German Exchange for the Boys
  • 1922 - Boys' School reverted to soccer as its main winter game. The 1st XI was unbeaten, 1927-28. In 1935, rugby again replaced soccer
  • 1930 - the Boys' School Roll exceeded 500, the Girls' 350. In both Schools overcrowding was a serious perennial problem. Plans for new Schools had to be shelved because of the Great Depression
  • 1934 - Miss Muriel Jennings appointed Headmistress, at 31 reputedly the youngest Secondary Headmistress in England. She was determined to raise the academic standards, and expectations, of her girls
  • 1937 - R.R.Dobson retired, having raised Cheltenham Grammar School to the status of Public School - the ultimate accolade by the criteria of that age. He was replaced by Geoffrey Heawood
  • 1939 - the Girls' School moved to Albert Road. The move was in September, before the building was finished, in order to forestall any attempt to requisition the premises for the War Department

World War Two

  • Evacuees from King Edward VI, Birmingham, shared the Girls' School, while the Boys' School hosted Moseley School
  • Girls again turned the School grounds into allotments - one per House. School parties went potato picking in August
  • Some staff left the Boys' School to enlist, and were replaced by lady teachers. The remainder enlisted in the Home Guard, ARP or ATC. Evacuation drill included sending the Junior (only) boys to the neighbouring Brewery vaults
  • The Boys' School was a bomb evacuation centre, yet lessons continued despite the evacuees. There were no school holidays - war work, mostly on local farms, and an increased programme of field-trips, occupied the pupils
  • 81 Old Patesians gave their lives in the War. Most were in the RAF. The War Memorial Book and Furniture were completed in 1952

Post Second World War

  • 1944 - Education Act. Both Schools applied for Direct Grant status in order to preserve their autonomy. This was refused - the local MP leading the opposition to the bid. Post 1945 saw the beginning of a long political conflict between the Pate's Foundation and the Local Authority. Miss Jennings resigned when Direct Grant status was refused
  • 1946 - Miss Margaret Miles became Headmistress of the Girls' School
  • 1946 - As a result of the 1944 Act, the Junior School was separated from the Girls' School. It became independent as Pate's Junior School, and was housed in Livorno Lodge until its move to Leckhampton in 1987
  • 1952 - Miss M.E.Lambrick was appointed Headmistress of the Girls' School
  • 1952 - Geoffrey Heawood resigned as Headmaster of the Boys School over the loss of the playing fields, needed for the construction of Princess Elizabeth Way and housing for staff at the recently established GCHQ. He was succeeded by Dr A.E.Bell, the future historian of the Foundation
  • 1955 - Both Schools secured Voluntary Aided status
  • 1955 - Visit of HRH The Duchess of Gloucester to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Girls' School

New buildings - New Problems

  • 1965 - The new Boys' School buildings were opened on Princess Elizabeth Way - just 35 years after R.R.Dobson had assured parents and pupils that they would be moving out of their cramped quarters within two years! The Victorian building in the High Street had been designed for 300, but then accommodated 750. The new school was reportedly designed and built as a specialist grammar school. It was finally demolished in 1996. The fine Victorian building was replaced by a row of shops.
  • 1971 - Bernard Wilkinson succeeded Arthur Bell as Headmaster. The time-honoured, but now out-dated, six Houses were replaced by four - Bell, Heawood, Dobson, Frankland - named after the previous Headmasters. Forms were now based on Houses, rather than on academic streaming
  • 1971 - Miss M.M.Moon succeeded Miss Lambrick as Headmistress of the Girls' School
  • 1972 - the first girl was admitted to the Boys' School Sixth Form
  • 1973 - Girls' School House System changed - Avon, Bredon, Cotswold and Severn replaced the time-honoured quartet of Britons, Saxons, Danes and Normans. Like the Boys' School, the Forms were now based on the Houses
  • 1974 - Quatercentenary - but the future of the two schools remained in doubt as the controversy over secondary education reorganisation continued. The LEA wanted both Schools to be absorbed into an all-through, 11-19 Comprehensive System, whereas the Pate's Governors favoured the Sixth Form College option. The latter remained the most likely outcome throughout the early 1980s.
  • 1982 - Miss Moon left, Mrs J.Whiting became Acting-Headmistress
  • 1983 - P.J.Bamford succeeded Mr. Wilkinson as Headmaster
  • 1985 - the new option of a Co-educational Grammar School, under a new name and a new Head, was adopted
  • 1986 - David J.Barnes was appointed as the new Headmaster
  • 1986 - Pate's Grammar School, Cheltenham opened as a Mixed Grammar School based on the site of the former Cheltenham Grammar School for Boys. That site, unlike the attractive Girls' School in Albert Road, was owned by the Pate's Foundation. The former Monkscroft School site was used for the Lower School forms until 1995.
  • 1986 - Introduction of GCSE courses in place of 'O' Level and CSE. The 1st XV celebrated the new School with an unbeaten season

The Modern Building

  • 1995 - the School, Grant Maintained since 1990, reverted to a single site on Oldbury Road, housed in new buildings, to which have been added the Design Block, Performing Arts Suite, Outdoor Pursuits Centre, Sports Hall, and All-Weather Playing Area. A Conservation Area has been established in the south-west corner of the grounds.
  • 1995 - record number of entries to Oxbridge - 14. The Sunday Times rated Pate's GS as the best co-educational state school in England and Wales. Accolade repeated in each of the next four years.
  • 1999 - retirement of D.J.Barnes
  • 2000 - Mr Richard Kemp begins as the new Headmaster
  • 2006 - Mr Shaun Fenton begins as the new Headmaster
  • 2010 - Pate's becomes an Academy
  • 2011 - Building of the Refectory commences
  • 2012 - Mr Russel Ellicott begins as the new Headmaster
  • 2012 - New Refectory building opened by HRH Duke of Gloucester
  • 2012 - Pate's awarded the Sunday Times' State Secondary School of the Year award


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