The present Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School was opened in September 1967 but a grammar school education in Faversham has its origins in the medieval period.
From the late 12th century there was almost certainly a school for the boys in Faversham in the parish church where the National Curriculum of the Middle Ages was taught. The first documentary evidence for such a grammar school dates from 1420 when in a document now in the Public Record office Master Lawrence Barry describes himself as "Headmaster of the Grammar School in the town of Faversham".
One of the last boys who probably received his early education in the parish grammar school was John Cole. He went up to Oxford in 1486 and subsequently became a chaplain to both Henry VII and Henry VIII and eventually Warden of all Souls College Oxford. On the death of his step father in 1510 he inherited the estate of Ewell Farm, Faversham and in 1521 obtained a licence from the king to dedicate some of his lands to provide for the endowment of a grammar school in Faversham. The constitution of this school was in the form of an indenture between John Cole, John Caslock, the abbot of Faversham Abbey and the Warden and Fellows of All Souls and was sealed in 1526. Detailed arrangements were made for the provision of endowment lands, the relationship between the schoolmaster and the Abbey and the rules to be followed by the boys.
The property was confiscated by King Henry VIII when he dissolved the Abbey in 1538 and the School had to close. In 1562 there was no Faversham Grammar School listed in Archbishop Parker's 'Declaration of schools within the diocese of Canterbury'. This situation was obviously considered unsatisfactory by leading townsmen for in 1573 the Mayor and Corporation petitioned Queen Elizabeth I to re-establish the grammar school and to return its endowments. They were successful in their request for in 1576 was opened "the free grammar school of Elizabeth, Queen of England, in Faversham in the county of Kent for the education, bringing up, and instruction of boys and youths in grammar, to remain in all future ages."
However, the school had no permanent premises of its own until 1587 when, as a result of community effort, the purpose built premises (pictured on the right) were erected. Archery was practised in the grounds where our current building and playing fields are.
The new premises of 1587 were timber-framed and 60 tons of oak were needed for the frame, which (as usual with this type of building) was first test-assembled off-site.
From then until Victorian times, apart from in a few private schools, secondary education in Faversham remained the same. By the mid 19th century many individuals had started to question the need for an education beyond the traditional classical one. When Henry Wreight, three times Mayor of Faversham, died in 1840 he left a very substantial legacy in trust to the town. In 1856 some of this legacy was used to establish a commercial school - the first in the county. Inspection reports show how successful this school was but by the early years of the 20th century there were plans to amalgamate the two schools and this was effected in 1920 when the school became known as Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School.
The final amalgamation to take place was the joining of Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School for boys to the William Gibbs School for girls. The Gibbs School had been founded in 1883 by a successful tea trader, Richard Gibbs, and was named after his father, William Gibbs, who had played an important role in education in Faversham serving on the town corporation and being an active member of the management committee of the National Schools. As early as 1913 came a suggestion that there should be closer co-operation between the secondary schools in Faversham, but it was not until September 1967 that boys and girls entered the doors of the newly created co-educational Queen Elizabeth's School, then the only fully co-educational grammar school in Kent and a school with a remarkable and unusual history.
Visiting the 'Old' Grammar School
The Old Grammar School is open to the public during the Faversham Society's annual Open House scheme on the first three Saturdays in July. Visitors then have the rare opportunity of seeing the kind of environment in which pupils of an Elizabethan Grammar School were taught.
There were no fountain or ball-point pens in those days and pupils used 'pen-knives' to sharpen the nibs of the quills they used for writing. With these pen knives, in idle moments, they carved graffiti in the wainscotting and these can still be seen.