A Brief History of Sutton Grammar School

In 1899, the school opened for the first time as part of the Sutton Technical Institute, funded by a Customs and Excise Kitty set up to compensate publicans who lost their licences.  Entitled 'whiskey money', it was used by Surrey County Council to support four schools which already included science, art and technical subjects in with their education.  Sutton had no such school initially until it was agreed to incorporate a secondary school within the new technical institute which was being built, along with a swimming baths, fire station and public offices in an old chalk pit. The School was founded on a site between Throwley Way and the High Street in the area now occupied by a tower block behind the Wilkinson store.

Initially the school was small in size. Nineteen boys arrived on the first day on 13 September 1899 to be met by the first head, Mr Hensley, Mr Horn was his only full time teacher and three-part-timers who taught art, manual work and science.

Unlike today's free education at Sutton Grammar,  the very first pupils paid fees of £2 10s per term, 12 of which was for tuition fees and 10s (now 50p) for stationary, school cap and the use of textbooks. The fees for about one quarter of the boys were paid for by Surrey County Scholarships. Fees were paid until the 1940's when the full fees had risen to £4 4s per term and 2s for clubs.

In 1908 the school had grown to 102 boys. The report also notes that there were 1000 empty houses within a 4 mile radius of the school. Games were not compulsory and only about 50% took part. Detention was held every day from 4:15 until 5:00pm. Staff were paid less than the Surrey scale and the inspectors advised that their salaries be raised as some were teaching in the evening and they needed ‘relieving from the financial strain that middle life on small incomes so often has to undergo.'  In 1909 the headmaster issued the advice to the youngest two years that they should go to bed for a few hours in the afternoon of prize giving in order to stay awake until the end. Perhaps the heads speech was longer and even more boring then?

By 1920, the roll had risen to 280, 35% of whom lived in Sutton and 65% in the rest of Surrey. The head had only 12 full time staff and the inspectors noted that the school was somewhat numerically understaffed - a fact which would be more noticeable if the headmaster did not himself undertake a substantial amount of class teaching. The school playing field had been taken over by allotment holders so there was little opportunity for sport due to lack of facilities.

The OSA had lent its grounds to the school for sport except on Saturday. There were only two societies formed by this time. A boy wrote in 1919 that, “school was just school, very, very dull."

The current building opened in 1928 here in Manor Lane directly opposite Manor Park.  The school building was designed for 500 students.

In 1937 we were still growing - there were now just over 500 boys on the roll. Lunch cost the equivalent of 4p a day and was taken by 70-100 boys each day. When the school opened in 1928 there was no telephone link as it was too expensive. There was a field where the playground is now and you could just fit a 100 yard race along a diagonal athletics straight, but pressure of other buildings, including from the LEA who built a primary school in which our sixth form now work, meant that the field was abandoned to tarmac. The head at the time resigned himself to "cramped city-school back-yard playground conditions" which sadly persist to this day.

The following extracts are taken from Mr. A.P.W. Collin’s (Headmaster 1976 – 84) address on the Centenary Speech Day, held in the Hall on Friday, 10th September, 1999 where he was the Guest of Honour.

Some excerpts from his Speech;

Mr. A.S. Bibby (1912 - 50), who taught Chemistry at the school, recalled early memories of the time when the school was in its original buildings in Throwley Road - it moved to its present site in 1928.

Mr-A-S-Bibby - Recollections.pdfThe next extract is by Percy F Gardner, one of the nineteen boys who joined the School on the opening day of 12th September 1899.  He recorded in a letter to the editor of 'The Suttonian' his impressions.

Percy-J-Gardner-Recollections.pdfThe HOUSE SYSTEM was introduced in 1916 with the four Houses named North, South, East and West. Membership of a particular House was based on the compass direction of a boy's house from the School with one of the colours blue, brown, green and red associated with each House.  In 1920 the Houses were renamed Blue, Brown, Green and Red because of the imbalance of the numbers of boys who lived North, South, East and West.

In 1935 the Sutton School Song was composed. The Chairman of the Governors, Canon Courtenay Gale, composed the music and Mr Horn, the first Deputy headmaster and teacher of classics wrote the words.  Floreat Suttona!"

In 1954, 'Keep Faith' was adopted as the school motto and appended to the owl on the badge.

Land was purchased in Northey Avenue, Cheam for a sports ground for the school also using funding from the sale of land used by the Old Suttonians and now part of the playing fields of Nonsuch High School for Girls.  The new ground, the Walch Memorial Playing Fields,  and pavilion was officially opened on June 6th 1964.  At this time fund-raising also started for the construction of a 25m swimming pool on the main site which was formally opened in June 1970.

The school was subject to re-organisation and closure plans in the mid-eighties and a pressure group of parents and old boys was very active at this time, helping to resist these plans and becoming prominent governors over the following decades. The school became grant-maintained in 1991, gaining a bit of financial independence from the local authority.

The period from the mid-nineties to the present day has seen a steady stream of improvements to the premises. The sports hall was opened in 2007 by Sir Bobby Robson, an attractive new maths block in 2012 and the old sixth form centre was demolished and replaced by a three storey building housing several academic departments and a new sixth form centre on the top floor.

The school became a convertor academy in 2011, taking advantage of further freedoms in decision making, but retaining close links with other Sutton secondary schools in a loose partnership. Sutton has an expanding secondary school population and Sutton Grammar School has agreed to increase its intake from 120 to 135 boys each year. As these numbers feed through the school will grow to close to 1000 pupils.

The school’s name has undergone several changes throughout its history:

  • Sutton County Secondary School; 1899 to 1944;
  • Sutton County Grammar School; 1944 to 1965;
  • Sutton Grammar School; 1965 to 1969;
  • Sutton Manor High School; 1969 to 1992;
  • Sutton Grammar School for Boys; 1992-2011
  • Sutton Grammar School; 2011

The school's Centenary Committee commissioned the book 'Keeping Faith: A History of Sutton Grammar School'  which tells the full history of the school. It was written by Derek Heater, an Old Suttonian of the school.