History of the School
The beauty of the School’s historic buildings and its proximity to and association with the Abbey give an immediate indication of its long history. Indeed the year 948 has been taken as the likeliest date of its first foundation by Abbot Wulsin. By 1100 the School had built for itself such a high reputation, that the renowned Norman scholar, Geoffrey de Gorham, applied for the post of Master. In fact he was later to become Abbot of St Albans and the School then remained under the control of the Abbot until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539.
In 1549 by a private Act of Parliament, the last Abbot was granted the right to establish a Grammar School, subsequently maintained by the Mayor and burgesses of the city. In 1570 Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal and then living at Gorhambury, put the financing of the School on a firmer footing through a Wine Charter. At this time the School was located in the Lady Chapel of the Abbey and was to remain there for the next 300 years, until 1871 when it was relocated to the Abbey Gateway. Over the next century a steady period of expansion was to follow, initially under the Headmastership of E. Montague-Jones, then W.T. Marsh and Frank Kilvington.
Expansion of pupil numbers was matched by an extension of the curriculum offered, together with increased accommodation. Varied but aesthetically pleasing additions to the traditional buildings of the school included four new classrooms in the Upper Yard and the ‘Bridge of Sighs’ in 1928, the ‘new’ Science Block in 1936, the new teaching block and gymnasium in the Lower Orchard in 1955-56, the Open Air Theatre built by staff and pupils, further extensions to the Science and Technology areas in 1974, 1987 and 1998 and new art studios in 1994. From 1947 the principal area for team sports has been the King Harry playing fields, originally leased from Lord Verulam, a descendant of Sir Nicholas Bacon. The 400 acre Cheapside Farm, situated just to the north of the city, was purchased by the School in 1991. Part of this site was developed to create the Woollam Playing Fields, to provide a 73-acre outdoor sports facility for the School and the Old Albanian Club. HRH the Duke of Gloucester officially opened the playing fields in October 2002. In 2004, the School was granted planning permission to build a sports hall and swimming pool on the city centre site. It will be positioned in the Lower Orchard, thus avoiding any clash with the sightlines of the historic city. Work began in March 2011 and is due for completion in July 2012.
The School became fully independent in 1975, when the Direct Grant system was abolished. Another exciting development was the admission of girls to the Sixth Form in 1991 and the networking of the entire school in 1998. The School looks with confidence to the future, whilst valuing its very tangible links with the past. This approach is reflected in the School’s motto and crest: the blue shield of the Benedictine Abbey of St Albans, allied with our motto Non Nobis Nati – ‘Born not for ourselves’, embodying the School’s ideal of social responsibility and service to the community and a recognition that privilege must be balanced by obligation.