Colchester Royal Grammar School

According to the statistics, Colchester R.G.S. was our toughest rugby opponent over the years. even though only our 3rd XV lost more matches than won. But Colchester was a very long-established and prestigious school with many more boys than WHS. The following gives some idea of the degree to which WHS was outnumbered!

May 2019: "Rugby remains a strong sport at Colchester R.G.S. with fixtures at all age levels and, now, a regular tour abroad, generally to Italy. There is also some girls' rugby as there are now girls in the sixth form). Two recent former students, one male and one female, have gone on to represent Cambridge University in their respective Varsity Matches. 

Until the mid-late 1990s there were around 650+ boys on roll annually, with numbers varying according to how many stayed on in the sixth form.  In the years after the school became Grant Maintained in 1994, sixth form numbers were increased by attracting students from other schools. Boarding became exclusively sixth-form, with a regular (higher) number of around 35-40 students, mostly from Hong Kong but also some from EU countries, including the UK. In 1999 the school began to recruit girls into the sixth form, too. This whole process has continued apace so that the sixth form is now well over 350 students - over double the number up to the late 1990s. In more recent years (since becoming an Academy in 2010) the intake of boys at 11+ has increased from 96 (which had been the number for decades), first to 120, and most recently to 128. The school also recruits a handful of boys into Year 9. All this means that the number of students on roll is now over 900 and will probably soon hit 1000."

... which is brilliant for Colchester, but a rather sad reminder of what WHS might have become in another life.

WIKIPEDIA: Colchester Royal Grammar School (CRGS) is a state-funded grammar school in Colchester, Essex, founded in 1206 and granted two Royal Charters by Henry VIII (in 1539) and by Elizabeth I (in 1584).

As of January 2014, the school's sixth form has been ranked 1st in terms of A-Level results in the country every year since 2006 and was 27th in the country in terms of Oxbridge admissions as of 2007. On 1 January 2012 the school converted to an academy.


Past headmaster Shaw Jeffrey attributed the founding of the school to two key people prior to the granting of its charters:

  • Master John, burgess of Colchester and later rector of Tendring, who founded the chantry of St Helen's Chapel in Colchester, in 1322, and
  • Joseph Elianore, MP for Colchester in 1312 and later Bailiff of Colchester, who founded the chantry of St Mary's, Colchester, in 1348.

With the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII, the Royal Charter of 1539 ensured revenues were granted to the bailiffs and commonality of Colchester on the condition that they founded a school; this was then enacted by the Charter of Queen Elizabeth in 1585, on condition that at least £13 6s 8d be set aside annually for the schoolmaster. Revenue from other property was also granted, but this was later challenged in court during the reign of King William III, and the arrangements were legally reconfirmed. By 1750, under the stewardship of Philip Morant, these revenues were worth £45 per annum, as well as providing scholarships for two boys to go up to Cambridge University.

The school was small and run mainly out of the headmaster's house for most of its early life, with only minor changes until 1852 when the "Big School" was built. At this time there was very little secondary education in this part of Essex, and difficulties were exacerbated through friction between the then headmaster of the school and the town's Corporation. Pupils numbers dropped although the school took in a few "parlour boarders" to prepare for Army or University entry. This changed with the appointment of Shaw Jeffrey to become headmaster in 1900.[5] He took over a school with 29 boarders, and barely any staff. Shaw Jeffrey's reforms rapidly turned the school about; he introduced day boys and a prep school, a cadet corps, orchestra, bugle band, school entertainments and theatrical performances. He was a national pioneer of the teaching of modern European languages through phonetics, employed language teachers from Germany and France, and set up arrangements for foreign study during holidays. He also founded the Old Colcestrian Society to reconnect the school with its old boys, with Councillor William Gurney Benham chairing its inaugural meeting on 23 June 1901.

The resulting academic success, scholarships and local goodwill that followed thus enabled Shaw Jeffrey to expand the school buildings, inspired by the designs of rival Ipswich and Earls Colne Grammar Schools. Firstly Mansfield House was bought in 1903 and renamed Gilberd House. In 1908 he convinced the Governors and local Education Board to expand the Big School and build a New School building for £4000 on land that was previously the kitchen gardens. This was designed by architects Newman, Jaques and Round, and was opened by Lord Rosebery with Colchester Corporation dignitaries in May 1910. In 1911 the school was gifted 12 acres (49,000 m2) of playing field, and opened tennis courts and a small rifle range.

By 1912 numbers had grown to 144 pupils in the main school, split into four houses (School House, Parr's House — formerly North Town — Harsnett's House — formerly South Town — and Dugard's House), and 169 younger boys in an attached preparatory school that the headmaster also started as a private venture. Pupils wore different coloured caps depending on their house, until Shaw Jeffrey noted that other local elementary schools were copying the colours. To confound this, he asked the local hatter "what was the most expensive colour and most hard to get", and hence chose purple and gold, which established the colour of the school uniform.

New buildings and expansion in the 1960s

This growth continued through the world wars until, in 1947, under headmaster A S Mason, there were 700 boys, and five scholarships for pupils to pursue university education. An outdoor swimming pool was constructed in the 1920s and remains in use. In 1966 Labour-controlled Colchester Borough Council put forward proposals to close the school and Colchester County High School and move to a comprehensive system but this was rejected by Essex County Council. The educational expansion of the 1960s allowed the construction of new classrooms and gym; but the scholarships were no longer required with the introduction of free university education. The 1960s buildings have mainly been replaced; a new art building was opened in 2003 and the technology block was upgraded. In 2006 a new extension to the science building was completed and two new chemistry laboratories were opened.

In the late 1970s, under legal pressure from the Secretary of State for Education Shirley Williams, all counties with selective schools were made to submit plans to turn them into comprehensives or remove them from the state system. School pupils marched through the town centre in protest. The Labour Party lost the 1979 election, Shirley Williams lost her seat and the relevant part of the Education Act was repealed. Essex County Council's plans were said to have been designed to delay the requirement until a change of government could remove the threat.

The school became grant maintained in the 1980s.