You can blame it on Henry VIII. Before his dissolution of the monasteries, the youth of Spalding received their education from the local priory, but with no royal funds forthcoming to provide a replacement, it fell to “charitably disposed persons” in the community to establish a school.
Following the example of John Harrox in Moulton in 1562, John Blanche and John Gamlyn left land in Spalding, and Gamlyn also procured “letters patent” from Queen Elizabeth I to establish the Queen Elizabeth Royal Free Grammar School of Spalding in 1588. There was, however, no building, so the school began in the upper floor (now demolished) of the St Thomas’s Chapel in the Parish Church, and remained there for nearly 300 years.
Those years were not free from adversity. There were several lawsuits and legal actions, one of which led to a resourceful governor securing further “letters patent” to support the school, this time from Charles II.
One distinguished Master, Richard Bentley, allegedly made off with valuable books and manuscripts, and towards the end of the eighteenth century, the number of pupils dwindled to one – outnumbered by the two teaching staff, Master and Usher.
But in the nineteenth century, the school revived under Dr Walter Johnson, father of the two Misses Johnson who founded the hospital, and in 1881 transferred to its present site. This was largely thanks to Canon Edward Moore who certainly had vision for the school but was also fed up with the pupils’ exuberant behaviour in the churchyard.
From then on the school grew apace. Girls were admitted in 1908 but left in 1921 with the opening of Spalding High School. The number of boys had now increased to 140 and new buildings were needed. These came in sizeable chunks in 1927, 1939, 1968, 1974, 1981 and, with a new Sports Hall and classroom block, in 1993. The school gained pupils from Moulton Grammar School which closed in 1939, and was given Voluntary Aided status after the 1944 Education Act, a degree of independence it has retained to this day despite all the political machinations of the last thirty years. By 1987 the number of pupils had risen to 642 and at the end of the millennium stood at 869. In 2006 it stands at 937..
Despite all the pressures it has remained a grammar school. In 1988 to celebrate the quatercentenary a commemorative window was dedicated in the Parish Church, where the school had its home for nearly 300 years.