Royal Grammar School, Newcastle

Royal Grammar School, Newcastle
Royal Grammar School
Motto Discendo Duces
(By Learning, You Will Lead)
Established 1525
Type Independent
Headmaster Dr. Bernard Trafford
Founder Thomas Horsley
Location Eskdale Terrace
Newcastle upon Tyne
Staff 91
Students 1216
Houses Collingwood, Eldon, Horsley, Stowell
Website Royal Grammar School

Coordinates: 54°58′58″N 1°36′32″W / 54.98289624°N 1.60886407°W / 54.98289624; -1.60886407

Royal Grammar School Newcastle upon Tyne, known locally and often abbreviated as RGS, is a long-established co-educational, independent school in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. It gained its Royal Charter under Queen Elizabeth I. It is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference.



The RGS was founded in 1525[1] by Thomas Horsley, within the grounds of St Nicholas' Church, Newcastle. Planning is believed to have begun as early as 1477. The site has moved five times since then, most recently to Jesmond in 1906.[2] The new school building was officially opened on January 17, 1907.[3]

An 1868 description reads:

There are many public schools, the principal one being the Royal Free Grammar school founded in 1525 by Thomas Horsley, Mayor of Newcastle, and made a royal foundation by Queen Elizabeth. It is held in the old hall of St. Mary's Hospital, built in the reign of James I., and has an income from endowment of about £500, besides a share in Bishop Crew's 12 exhibitions at Lincoln College, Oxford, lately abolished, and several exhibitions to Cambridge. The number of scholars is about 140. Hugh Moises, and Dawes, author of "Miscellanea Critica," were once head-masters, and many celebrated men have ranked among its pupils, including W. Elstob, Bishop Ridley, Mark Akenside, the poet, Chief Justice Chambers, Brand, the antiquary and town historian, Horsley, the antiquary, and Lords Eldon, Stowell, and Collingwood.[1]

George III, on reading one of Admiral Collingwood's despatches after Trafalgar, asked how the seaman had learned to write such splendid English, but he answered himself, recalling that, along with Eldon and Stowell, he had been a pupil of Hugh Moises: "I forgot. He was one of Moises' boys."[4]


The RGS currently has 1216 pupils, of which 360 are in the sixth form and 186 in the Junior School, making it one of the largest in the independent sector. After 450 years as a boys' school, girls were first admitted to the sixth form in 2001. The school became totally co-educational in 2006. Former pupils of the RGS are known as Old Novocastrians ("Novocastrian" is Dog Latin for "citizen of Newcastle"), or Old Novos for short.

The RGS is located opposite Central Newcastle High School, a single-sex girls' school. The RGS often shares activities such as drama and school trips with them.

Throughout the school (years 3-13) are four houses, named Collingwood (gold), Eldon (green), Horsley (blue) and Stowell (red), although the Junior School previously had separate houses, named after colours. The Senior School is located on Eskdale Terrace. The Junior School was housed on the adjoining Lambton Road, but a new Junior School on the main school site has been in use since September 2006.

The RGS has Combined Cadet Force (CCF) Army and Navy contingents, open to both boys and girls from the RGS, Central Newcastle High School and very recently, to pupils from Dame Allens and Church High, however some members of CCF who have moved schools, for a variety of reasons, are often still welcome to attend. The CCF provides leadership training by means of military exercises. Cadets have weekly training sessions after school, and opportunities to go on extended training and adventure trips during the holidays. The Army section of NRGS CCF are affiliated to the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, and the Navy Section are affiliated to HMS Calliope which is situated on the Tyne next to the Baltic.[5]

In recent years the school's debating society has become increasingly prominent within the debating community. In October 2004 the school hosted the first Northern Junior Debating Championship, which has now become an annual competition. It is notable for being the first competition of the school calendar. The society also regularly enters teams for other competitions, and has reached the finals' day of both the Oxford Union and Cambridge Union schools' competitions in recent years, winning the Cambridge Union competition in 2010. At a junior level, RGS reached the final of the International Competition for Young Debaters in 2006 and 2007, and won the Northern Junior Debating Competition in 1990, 2005 and 2006.[citation needed]

The school has its own swimming pool and gym. The primary sports that are played at RGS are rugby, hockey, fencing, football, netball, cricket, swimming and athletics.

Dr. Bernard St. John Trafford has been headmaster of the school since 2008. He was previously headmaster of Wolverhampton Grammar School.[6] His predecessor, James F X Miller, retired in 2008.[7][8] The Second Master is Tony Bird. There are 91 members of teaching staff in the Senior School, 6 of whom are part-time. In the Junior School there are a further 6 members of teaching staff including the Headmaster Roland Craig (since 1999), and Deputy Head Ken Wilkinson. There are also approximately 68 members of maintenance staff under the management of Richard Metcalfe, the school Bursar (who previously worked at Durham University[citation needed]), as well as 14 private music tutors.

The RGS school uniform was updated for all new pupils as of September 2006.

In December 2006, the school were deeply shocked by the premature death of much-loved Head of Drama (formerly Head of English) Jeremy Thomas, who died one month short of his 52nd birthday. Mr Thomas had taught at the school since 1977 but had left the school in the summer of 2005 due to ill health. A memorial concert in his honour was held in the new Performing Arts Centre - which Mr Thomas had campaigned in favour of for many years, yet tragically never saw - in April 2007, and was attended by both current and former staff and pupils.[9]

The school magazine, Novo, comes out annually and features trip reports, society and sporting news, outstanding poetry and artwork, and a section on recently-joined or departing staff. A student-run newspaper, the Issue, came into being in the late 1990s; after a period of inactivity, it was relaunched in September 2003 and contained reviews, opinion columns, road-tests and humour pieces. It was famous for breaking the big story that football was to be introduced as a core sport alongside rugby. It ran roughly twice per term until its demise in summer 2005, but was replaced in early 2006 by The Grammar, a more serious and formal piece than the photocopied re-Issue, which has both printed and internet sections. At the end of the 2009-2010 academic year, The Grammar folded.

Since 1965, the school has held a "Prizegiving" ceremony each November, to recognise academic achievement and bring the school together. It was held at the Newcastle City Hall, since no space on campus could hold all teachers, students, and parents. Due to declining interest by parents, students, and teachers, the school announced in 2007 that it will be stopping it, in favour of a series of smaller gatherings and a public festival. This typified the general malaise of the school and its eagerness to leave tradition for a more fashionable approach to education, much to the despair of old pupils, teachers, and parents alike.[10] However in 2009, Headmaster Bernard Trafford announced that a new Prizegiving ceremony "RGS Day" would be hosted on the Saturday of the penultimate week of the school year. This event would invite parents of all year groups to come and would involve the Prizegivings of the entire school as well as musical and dramatic performances, sporting events, a chance for Old Novos to return to the school and the opportunity for various departments to exhibit themselves. The Junior School's Prizegiving will be held the following Wednesday but they will also have activities on RGS Day.

Buildings and grounds

The RGS's main buildings are in a complex located on Eskdale Terrace, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne.

There have since been a number of large-scale building operations to provide the school with better facilities and to accommodate for the expansion of the school as it prepared to admit girls at all major entrance points from September 2006.

In 1997, Professor Richard Dawkins opened the new Science and Technology Centre (STC), with Physics and Design & Technology laboratories downstairs, and Chemistry and Biology laboratories upstairs. In 2003 the STC was renamed The Neil Goldie Centre in memory of Neil Goldie, who died earlier that year. At the time he was the school's Head of Science and Technology.

In 1998, a new Sports' Hall containing basketball courts and updated gymnastics facilities was opened. The building also provides facilities for table tennis, fencing, and weight-training, plus a gymnasium available to pupils of the school in their free time. During the height of summer examination seasons the hall is used for pupils sitting public examinations and is closed to all other activities.

In 2005, the music and economics block was demolished. A new Performing Arts Centre and Modern Languages department was completed in September 2006. It includes a 300-seat auditorium for school concerts and productions, a musical recital hall, a drama/dance studio, recording facilities, a band room, a percussion room, and a number of classrooms where modern languages and music will be taught. The gala opening concert was in October 2006. Also in 2005, an extension to the school's dining hall which has been created as the new Junior School site. Coordinated with this development was the renovation of the 6th form common room to amalgamate the previously separated lower 6th and upper 6th quarters. The re-development allowed the site of the lower 6th form room to be converted to a library extension. The new common room included a tuck-shop, computer pods, and two miscellaneous annexes.

A floodlit all-weather surface has been in use since January 2006, on land that once was part of the school field. Aside from the school field, which is primarily used for rugby union, the school also owns land in nearby Jesmond for sports use. This was given to the school in recompense for the land it lost when the flyover was created at the top of the school- eating into some of the land owned by the school. A full size football pitch was created there in early 2005. The school has also recently agreed a 50-year lease of the County Cricket Ground on Osborne Avenue, Jesmond.[11]

The school was also a supporter of the Freemasons, allowing the building to be used as a masonic lodge. There are still apparent references to this: the door of the Plender Library has glass-work which could be the masonic symbol.[citation needed]

The School Song

The RGS had a school song, with the following lyrics.[12]

The individuals named in the school song are of historical interest.

Horsley, a merchant venturer bold, Of good Northumbrian strain,
Founded our rule and built our school, In bluff King Harry's reign,
Long shall his name old time defy, Like the castle grim that stands,
Four-square to ev'ry wind that blows, In our stormy northern lands.
Fortiter defendit, fortiter defendit, fortiter defendit triumphans
Fortiter defendit, fortiter defendit, fortiter defendit triumphans
Many a name on the scroll of fame, Is the heritage of our land,
Collingwood and Armstrong, Eldon and Bourne, Akenside, Stowell and Brand,
Strong in their wisdom, wise in their strength, Wielders of sword and of pen,
Far went they forth from the school of the north, That mother and maker of men.
God speed the school on the shores of the Tyne, That has stood for centuries four,
Bright may the star of her glory shine, Bright as in days of yore,
Pray too that we may worthy be, To tread where our fathers trod,
Bravely to fight for truth and right, For Motherland, King and God.

Fortiter defendit triumphans is the Latin motto of the City of Newcastle upon Tyne and means triumphing by a brave defence.[13]

The RGS school song was abolished by James Miller's predecessor as headmaster, Mr. A. Cox, and it is no longer sung.[citation needed]

The West Gate Road site in 1810
The Rye Hill site in 1885

School motto

The school has the motto, Discendo duces (By learning you will lead).[12]

Notable former pupils

16th century

17th century

18th century

19th century

20th century

Notable staff

  • James Jurin, Head Master 1709-1715
  • Richard Dawes, Head Master 1738-1749[1]
  • Hugh Moises, Head Master 1749-1806[24]
  • Max Black, Head of Mathematics 1931-1936
  • Michael Roberts Mathematics 1931-1941
  • William Feaver (art journalist and author of The Pitmen Painters) Art 1970s
  • Simon Jehosophat Barker Head of English and Reading Group Marshal 1986-
  • Angela Chrisp, Senior Customer Service Mistress 1999 -

See also

  • List of Old Novocastrians with articles on Wikipedia


  1. ^ a b c d e "National Gazetteer (1868) - Newcastle upon Tyne". Newcastle Gazette. GENUKI Charitable trust. 1868. Retrieved 2007-04-29. 
  2. ^ Royal Grammar School, Newcastle (2007). "The School - History". Retrieved 2007-05-28 
  3. ^ Matthews, Alastair (2007-02-26). "100 Years in Jesmond". The Grammar. 
  4. ^ "Collingwood, forgotten hero of Trafalgar". Manchester Guardian (Manchester, England). 1 March 1910. 
  5. ^ "Royal Grammar School - Extracurricular - Cultural". Royal Grammar School website. 2004. Archived from the original on 2004-08-15. Retrieved 2007-04-29.  CCF information is in a section part-way down the page.
  6. ^ Bellis, Andrew (2007-02-26). "Wolverhampton Head to take over at RGS". The Grammar. 
  7. ^ Miller, James (2007). "The Headmaster Retires". ONA Magazine (71): 05.  Articles are not posted on the magazine's web site: "Magazine and Newsletter". Old Novocastrian Association website. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-04-29. 
  8. ^ "James Miller: the interview". The Grammar. 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-09. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Miller, James (2007). "The End of Prizegiving". ONA (71): 05.  Articles are not posted on the magazine's web site: "Magazine and Newsletter". Old Novocastrian Association website. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-04-29. 
  11. ^ Fresh start saves historic cricket ground
  12. ^ a b Mains, Brian; Tuck, Anthony (1986). Royal Grammar School Newcastle upon Tyne: A History of the School and its Community. ISBN 9780853622246 
  13. ^ Young, Robert. "Newcastle Upon Tyne City Council". Retrieved 2007-09-14 
  14. ^ Wabuda, Susan (September 2004). "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Index Number 101023631". Retrieved 2008-02-11  Source doesn't specifically mention Newcastle RGS. It says, "After attending school at Newcastle upon Tyne, about 1518, in his middle to late teens,..."
  15. ^ Ross, Margaret Clunies (September 2004). "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Index Number 101008762". Retrieved 2008-02-11 
  16. ^ Newbottle - Newcastle-upon-Tyne| British History Online
  17. ^ "Addison's Life". 
  18. ^ "Albany Hancock : Oxford Biography Index entry". 
  19. ^ "The Times Law supplement interviews Sir Geoffrey Bindman : Bindman & Partners". 
  20. ^
  21. ^ "About Timothy Kirkhope". 
  22. ^ (last page)
  23. ^
  24. ^  "Moises, Hugh". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 

External links

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