Royal Grammar School, Newcastle upon Tyne

The Royal Grammar School, Newcastle upon Tyne, usually abbreviated as RGS, is a selective British independent school for pupils aged between 7 and 18 years. Founded in 1525 by Thomas Horsley, the Mayor of Newcastle upon Tyne, it received royal foundation by Queen Elizabeth I and is the city's oldest institution of learning.[1] It is one of 7 schools in the United Kingdom to bear the name "Royal Grammar School", of which two others are part of the independent sector.[2]

Royal Grammar School
Eskdale Terrace


Coordinates54.982896°N 1.608864°W / 54.982896; -1.608864
TypeIndependent day school
MottoLatin: Discendo Duces
(By Learning, You Will Lead)
Established1525; 496 years ago (1525)
FounderThomas Horsley
Department for Education URN108549 Tables
HeadmasterGeoffrey Stanford
HousesCollingwood, Eldon, Horsley, Stowell
Former pupilsOld Novocastrians

The School is located in Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne in North East England, and is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference. In 2008, RGS became fully co-educational after 450 years as an all boys' school. It has a current enrolment of more than 1,300 pupils. Former students are known as Old Novocastrians or Old Novos ("Novocastrian" is macaronic Latin for "citizen of Newcastle").

In 2012 and again in 2015, the Sunday Times Schools Guide named RGS the top performing school in the North of England based on academic results from A-levels and GCSEs.[3][4]


The RGS was founded in 1525[5] by Thomas Horsley, within the grounds of St Nicholas' Church, Newcastle.[6] Planning is believed to have begun as early as 1477. The site has moved five times since then, most recently to Jesmond in 1906.[7] The new school building, designed by Sir Edward Cooper,[8] was officially opened on 17 January 1907 by the 7th Duke of Northumberland.[9]

An 1868 description reads:

There are many public schools, the principal one being the Royal Free Grammar school founded in 1525 by Thomas Horsley, Mayor of Newcastle, and made a royal foundation by Queen Elizabeth. It is held in the old hall of St. Mary's Hospital, built in the reign of James I., and has an income from endowment of about £500, besides a share in Bishop Crew's 12 exhibitions at Lincoln College, Oxford, lately abolished, and several exhibitions to Cambridge. The number of scholars is about 140. Hugh Moises, and Dawes, author of "Miscellanea Critica," were once head-masters, and many celebrated men have ranked among its pupils, including W. Elstob, Bishop Ridley, Mark Akenside, the poet, Chief Justice Chambers, Brand, the antiquary and town historian, Horsley, the antiquary, and Lords Eldon, Stowell, and Collingwood.[5]

George III, on reading one of Admiral Collingwood's despatches after Trafalgar, asked how the seaman had learned to write such splendid English, but he answered himself, recalling that, along with Eldon and Stowell, he had been a pupil of Hugh Moises: "I forgot. He was one of Moises' boys."[10]

For the duration of the Second World War the school was evacuated en masse to Penrith, Cumbria, where a special train carrying staff and around 800 pupils arrived on 1 September 1939.[11][12] Meanwhile, the main school building was transformed into the Regional War Room, which undertook the vital strategic role of collating details of air raids across the region and passing these on to RAF Fighter Command. Several rudimentary air raid shelters were built above ground for military personnel, which although substantial enough to survive as store rooms until the end of the century would have offered little protection, even from an indirect hit. The school was one of several places in Newcastle upon Tyne where a small supply of ammunition to be used in the event of a German invasion was stored.[13]


RGS campus

School Grounds

The RGS is located opposite the Newcastle Prep School, and close to Newcastle High School for Girls, a single-sex girls' school formed through the merger of the Central High and Church High girls' schools.

The school has its own swimming pool, climbing wall and gym.


Throughout the school (years 3–13) are four houses, named Collingwood (yellow), Eldon (green), Horsley (blue) and Stowell (red), although the Junior School previously had separate houses, named after colours (red, white, and blue). The Senior School is located on Eskdale Terrace. The Junior School was housed on the adjoining Lambton Road, but a new Junior School on the main school site has been in use since September 2006.

Geoffrey Stanford is Headmaster as of February 2020,[14] replacing John Fern. There are 91 members of teaching staff in the Senior School. In the Junior School there are 16 members of teaching staff[15] including the Headmaster James Miller.[16] There are also approximately 68 members of maintenance staff and 14 private music tutors.

The RGS school uniform was updated for all new pupils as of September 2006, and was then updated further in 2012–2013.

Clubs and Societies

The RGS has Combined Cadet Force (CCF) Army and Navy contingents, open to both boys and girls. Cadets have weekly training sessions after school, and opportunities to go on extended training and adventure trips during the holidays. The Army section of NRGS CCF is affiliated to the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, and the Navy Section are affiliated to HMS Calliope, a stone frigate which is situated on the Tyne next to the Baltic Art Gallery.[17]

In 2004 the school hosted the first Northern Junior Debating Championship, which has now become an annual competition. The society also regularly enters teams for other competitions, and has reached the finals' day of both the Oxford Union and Cambridge Union schools' competitions in recent years, winning the Cambridge Union competition in 2010. At a junior level, RGS won the Northern Junior Debating Competition in 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2014.[18]

The primary sports that are played at RGS are rugby, hockey, fencing, football, netball, cricket, swimming, and athletics.


The school magazine, Novo, comes out annually. A student-run newspaper, the Issue, came into being in the late 1990s; after a period of inactivity, it was relaunched as the re-Issue in September 2003. It ran roughly twice per term until its demise in summer 2005, but was replaced in early 2006 by The Grammar. At the end of the 2009–2010 academic year, The Grammar folded. In 2011 a new magazine called Vox was set up but is currently out of print. In 2017, an online group RGmemeS came into being. It is currently inactive.


From 1965, the school held a "Prizegiving" ceremony each November, to recognise academic achievement and bring the school together. Due to declining interest by parents, students, and teachers, the school replaced this in 2007 with a series of smaller gatherings and a public festival.

However, in 2009, Headmaster Bernard Trafford announced that a new Prizegiving ceremony "RGS Day" would be hosted on the Saturday of the penultimate week of the school year.

In December 2006, the school were deeply shocked by the death of former Head of Drama, Jeremy Thomas, who had taught at the school for 28 years prior to leaving due to ill health. Jeremy had campaigned for years for a new Performing Arts Centre, but died before being able to see the finished product.

Buildings and grounds

The RGS's main buildings are in a complex located on Eskdale Terrace, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne. The school hall boasts a fine organ donated by Sir Arthur Sutherland to commemorate the 138 former pupils who were killed during the First World War.[19]

There have since been a number of large-scale building operations to provide the school with better facilities and to accommodate for the expansion of the school as it prepared to admit girls at all major entrance points from September 2006.

In 1997, Professor Richard Dawkins opened the new Science and Technology Centre (STC), with Physics and Design & Technology laboratories downstairs, and Chemistry and Biology laboratories upstairs. In 2003 the STC was renamed The Neil Goldie Centre in memory of Neil Goldie, who died earlier that year. At the time he was the school's Head of Science and Technology.

In 1996, a new Sports' Hall containing basketball courts and updated gymnastics facilities was opened. The building also provides facilities for table tennis, fencing, and weight-training, plus a gymnasium and climbing wall.

In 2005, the music and economics block was demolished. A new Performing Arts Centre and Modern Languages department was completed in September 2006. It includes a 300-seat auditorium, named the "Miller Theater" in memory of former headmaster James Miller, for school concerts and productions, a musical recital hall, a drama/dance studio, recording facilities, a band room, a percussion room, and a number of classrooms.

A floodlit all-weather surface has been in use since January 2006, on land that once was part of the school field. Aside from the school field, which is primarily used for rugby union, the school also owns land in nearby Jesmond for sports use. This was given to the school in recompense for the land it lost when the flyover was created at the top of the school - eating into some of the land owned by the school. The school is also the landlords of Sutherland Park in Benton. Sutherland Park is named after Arthur Sutherland (1878–1883) who bought the grounds of Benton Lodge in 1925 for Novocastrians Rugby Football Club. The ground and clubhouse was sold to the school at a later date. The club was set up by former pupils of the school in 1899; many Old Novos still represent and play for the club to this day. The school has also recently agreed a 50-year lease of the County Cricket Ground on Osborne Avenue, Jesmond.[20]

In October 2015, the school was the team base for the Scottish national rugby union team during the 2015 Rugby World Cup.[21]

In October 2019 a new library, art facilities and pastoral care centre, was opened. In addition, the school also redeveloped the sixth form area, which opened in January 2020.[22]

The West Gate Road site in 1810
The Rye Hill site in 1885

School motto

The school has the motto, Discendo duces (By learning you will lead).[23]

Notable alumni

Former pupils[lower-alpha 1] are known as Old Novocastrians, which is also a demonym for a person from Newcastle upon Tyne.

16th century

17th century

18th century

19th century

20th century

Notable staff

See also


  1. For a complete list of students up to 1954 see Stevens, Bryan Dodd (1955). Register of the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1545-1954. Gateshead: Northumberland Press. OCLC 562307197.


  1. Bourne, Henry (1736). The Ancient and Present State of Newcastle upon Tyne. London: William White. pp. 33–5. OCLC 722366647. OL 21851966M. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  2. Trafford, Bernard (1 June 2015). "An Ancient Grammar School in Northumberland and Newcastle: Place and Tradition – But What of the Future?" (PDF). Newcastle upon Tyne: Northumberland and Newcastle Society. Archived (PDF) from the original on 20 March 2020. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  3. Evening Chronicle (24 November 2012). "Jesmond RGS is top school". Chronicle Live. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  4. Wood, Kerry (21 February 2011). "Royal Grammar School praised for achievements - The Journal". Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  5. Hamilton, Nicholas, ed. (1868). National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland. Volume 3 (div. VIII). London: Virtue. p. 30. OCLC 887681707. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 19 March 2020. |volume= has extra text (help)
  6. MacKenzie, Eneas (1827). A Descriptive and Historical Account of the Town and County of Newcastle Upon Tyne including the Borough of Gateshead. Volume 1. Gateshead: MacKenzie and Dent. p. 415. Retrieved 18 March 2020. |volume= has extra text (help)
  7. Royal Grammar School, Newcastle (2007). "The School – History". Archived from the original on 15 May 2007. Retrieved 28 May 2007.
  8. Tyne and Wear Archaeology Service. "Tyne and Wear HER(9773): Jesmond, Eskdale Terrace, Royal Grammar School – Details". SiteLines. Newcastle upon Tyne: Newcastle City Council. Archived from the original on 1 April 2020. Retrieved 1 April 2020.
  9. Matthews, Alastair (26 February 2007). "100 Years in Jesmond". The Grammar. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 5 June 2007.
  10. "Collingwood, forgotten hero of Trafalgar". Manchester Guardian. Manchester, England. 1 March 1910.
  11. "The Home Front in Penrith and Eden: A Resource Pack" (PDF). Penrith: Eden District Council. Archived (PDF) from the original on 12 February 2019. Retrieved 19 March 2020.
  12. Pallister, George (1979). Evacuation: A Personal Account of the Newcastle Royal Grammar School in Penrith, Cumberland, During the Years from 1939 to 1945. Newcastle upon Tyne: Royal Grammar School.
  13. Whaley, R.; Morrison, J.; Heslop, D. (2008). A Guide to the Archaeolgy of the Twentieth Century: Defence Sites of Tyne and Wear (PDF). Newcastle upon Tyne: Newcastle City Council, Tyne & Wear Specialist Conservation Team. pp. 24, 52, 60. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  14. "Staff List | Royal Grammar School, Newcastle". Archived from the original on 14 February 2020. Retrieved 14 February 2020.
  15. "Staff List | Royal Grammar School, Newcastle". Archived from the original on 1 August 2020. Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  16. "Junior School | Royal Grammar School, Newcastle". Archived from the original on 1 August 2020. Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  17. "Royal Grammar School – Extracurricular – Cultural". Royal Grammar School website. 2004. Archived from the original on 15 August 2004. Retrieved 29 April 2007. CCF information is in a section part-way down the page.
  18. "NJDC 2010 results".[permanent dead link]
  19. Goldwater, David (Summer 2017). "History of the RGS in its People: Sir Arthur Sutherland (1867–1953)" (PDF). Old Novocastrians Association Magazine. No. 100. Newcastle upon Tyne: Old Novocastrians Association. pp. 14–16. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  21. "RGS Welcomes Scottish Rugby Team". RGS Website. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  22. "Building & Development Programme | Royal Grammar School, Newcastle". Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  23. Mains, Brian; Tuck, Anthony (1986). Royal Grammar School Newcastle upon Tyne: A History of the School and its Community. London: Oriel Press. ISBN 0853622248.
  24. Wabuda, Susan. "Ridley, Nicholas". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/23631. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.) Source doesn't specifically mention Newcastle RGS. It says, "After attending school at Newcastle upon Tyne, about 1518, in his middle to late teens..."
  25. Ross, Margaret Clunies. "Elstob, William". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/8762. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  26. Adamson, E. H. (1886). "Henry Bourne, the historian of Newcastle" (PDF). Archaeologia Aeliana. 2nd Series. 11: 147–153. ISSN 0261-3417.
  27. Newbottle – Newcastle-upon-Tyne| British History Online. (22 June 2003). Retrieved on 2012-05-26.
  28. "Addison's Life". Archived from the original on 11 September 2007. Retrieved 30 September 2007.
  29. Rees, E. A. "Hancock, Albany". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/12184. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  30. "The Times Law supplement interviews Sir Geoffrey Bindman : Bindman & Partners".
  31. Members of the Balance of Funding Review Steering Group.
  32. "About Timothy Kirkhope". Archived from the original on 28 November 1999.
  33. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 1 January 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  34. (RGS) Royal Grammar School, Newcastle – Education of the highest quality for boys and girls Archived 27 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 26 May 2012.
  35. Lee, Sidney, ed. (1894). "Moises, Hugh" . Dictionary of National Biography. 38. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  36. Hodgson, John (1832). "An Account of the Life and Writings of Richard Dawes, A. M., late Master of the Royal Grammar School, and of the Hospital of St. Mary, in the Westgate, in Newcastle upon Tyne" (PDF). Archaeologia Aeliana. Series 1. 2: 137–166. ISSN 0261-3417. Retrieved 29 April 2020 via Archaeology Data Service.
  37. "REVEREND DR GEORGE FERRIS WHIDBORNE MORTIMER DD". Archived from the original on 30 March 2015. Retrieved 30 March 2015.