Aylesbury Grammar School was founded in 1598 following a bequest from Sir Henry Lee of Ditchley, the Champion of Queen Elizabeth I, and its first home was in St Mary’s Church in Aylesbury. It later moved to the buildings which now house the County Museum until 1907, when it moved to its present site. For many years the school was independent and its intake was co-educational. In 1952 it became voluntary controlled and in 1959 the girls moved to a separate site to become Aylesbury High School. Links with the girls’ school are retained through joint activities such as school concerts, plays, dances and theatre visits. We now have some 1310 boys in the school, of whom 395 are in the Sixth Form.
In 1714 Henry Phillips left a further sum of £5,000. By the terms of the will the sum upon trust was to be applied “for the purchase of lands of inheritance in fee simple in the county of Bucks…….for the enlargement and further provision for the Free School in Aylesbury”. “There were to be 120 boys admitted, to be taught gratis and to be furnished with books, pens, ink and paper, gratis”. Some £4,000 of the bequest was invested in farm property in the Manor of Broughton. Ten trustees were appointed by the High Court in 1717. They were the first trustees of what is now the Aylesbury Grammar School Foundation.
By the mid-1880s the inadequacies of the school site were becoming apparent; particularly the lack of games facilities. The old buildings were deteriorating and there were suggestions that fees of £4 to £6 might be charged with provision of scholarships for poorer boys on grounds of merit from public elementary schools of the district. The search for a new site began. A committee was established in the name of Aylesbury Grammar School and support from local charities was sought for the provision of a new site for the school. The charities were also approached with a view to making some provision for girls. In 1902 the Balfour Education Act was passed which laid the foundations for the country’s secondary education. The County Council was permitted to raise money for secondary education from local rates and on 2nd July 1903 a new scheme under the name of Aylesbury Grammar School came into existence.
In 1904 Lord Rothschild of Tring agreed to sell about eight acres of land adjoining Turnfurlong Lane at £170 an acre to the Foundation Trustees. The purchase price was £1,406/10/00. During Easter 1907 the school transferred from the old buildings in St Mary’s Square where it had been since 1611, to its present site. The old buildings were sold in two lots. Lot One was bought by the Architectural and Archaeological Society for the purpose of housing a museum and Lot Two was acquired by St Mary’s Church. The school’s modest investments were sold by the Trustees and Bucks County Council offered a grant of £2,000. The cost of the school was to be £6,000 and the Headmaster’s House £1,500 with an additional £250 pounds for laying out the frontage and fencing. Lord Rothschild donated shrubs for the front of the school. Some 400 people attended the opening ceremony at which Lord Rothschild was presented with a silver key mounted with the Aylesbury Arms. The new school would accommodate 75 boys and 75 girls.
The Aylesbury Grammar School Foundation Trustees owned all the property which was held in trust for the benefit of the School and there was a separate governing body which managed the School – a position which continues to this day. In October 1914 the school premises were requisitioned by the War Office for a military hospital and the school moved to temporary accommodation in and around Kingsbury and St Mary’s Squares. A flock of sheep grazed the cricket pitch. Staffing problems became acute and boys were withdrawn to compensate for the loss of farm labour because of conscription. In September 1919, 220 pupils were re-admitted to the School. Twenty-one former pupils had died in the war and their names are inscribed on the memorial stone which was unveiled two years later. In 1922 there was a Sixth Form of 20 pupils. The next twenty years could be described as a period of consolidation of the co-educational grammar school and by 1939 numbers had grown to 346.
During the Second World War, Ealing County Boys’ School was evacuated and Aylesbury pupils attended classes here in the morning and Ealing pupils in the afternoon. A bomb fell on Walton Grange in September 1942 and though the effect of the blast was considerable the school was soon repaired. In 1956 the County Council decided to create two single sex schools with the Foundation being attached to the boys’ school which would benefit from the Foundation’s income. The new girls’ school was built and major capital work including the Tower block in 1963, six laboratories in 1964 and an extension to the hall in 1965 were built at AGS. In 1965 the Foundation Trustees sold two fields in Stocklake and provided the school with its swimming pool and since then the Foundation has also contributed substantially to the cost of the Sports Hall, the new Science block and the Foundation Hall along with other smaller donations. The agricultural land in Broughton, which was acquired in 1715 with Henry Phillips’ bequest, will be sold and the income from the capital sum will be invested to provide further funds with which the Foundation will be able to support the School in years to come.
The School has therefore come full circle. It is no longer under the aegis of the County Council, having become an Academy with a strong governing body which manages the School on which parents, staff, Foundation Trustees and others are represented and a Foundation Trust whose Trustees’ main purpose is to support the School.
Mrs Gillian Miscampbell OBE
Aylesbury Grammar School Foundation Governor
With thanks to:
Aylesbury Grammar School 1598-1998 : A Commemorative Volume by Professor W. R. Mead