The King Edward VI Free Grammar School (as it used to be called) is an ancient institution. Although it was founded in the reign of Henry VIII’s son Edward VI (who gave it its name) it grew out of the monastic school that was part of the Norwich Cathedral Priory before the Reformation. This could trace its origins back to 1190, which makes Norwich School one of the oldest educational establishments in the country. It is older than Cambridge University, about contemporary with Oxford although younger than another East Anglian school, Kings at Ely, which goes back to Anglo-Saxon times.



During the centuries Norwich School has had many eminent pupils, the most famous of whom must be Horatio Nelson. Unfortunately he did not remain long at the school; he finished his education at the age of twelve, and by then he was a pupil at the Paston school in North Walsham. Many of the the young people from Norfolk who went on to national fame were educated at the school.

To mention a few of these former pupils; John Sell Cotman the painter was a pupil there in the closing years of the eighteenth century. A contemporary was Sir William Jackson Hooker, the famous botanist who was an early Director of Kew Gardens. George Borrow is a writer whose works have the distinction of never having been out of print since his time in the nineteenth century. James Brooke, who became the Rajah of Sarawak (also in the nineteenth century) was briefly a pupil at the school but he soon ran away! The landscape gardener Humphry Repton was at school there in the middle eighteenth century. Sir Edward Coke, the greatest jurist of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods, was a pupil during the 1560s. John Caius was the sixteenth century physician who re-founded Gonville College in Cambridge. He attended the earlier monastic school.

In more recent times Lt Colonel Derek Seagrim was in 1943 posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his distinguished courage in action during the North Africa campaign. The multi-talented athlete Emma Pooley represents the women who have recently been fully integrated into the school. The school no longer takes boarders; Lord Ashcroft, the Tory party politician, was one of the final generation to live in. Because of its urban location it has always been predominantly a day school.

William Jackson Hooker

William Jackson Hooker

I can claim some connection with the school in the person of our son Peter who had his secondary schooling there. He left in 2005 and went on to Oxford and Sheffield Universities and Natolin in Warsaw. He is currently working on the negotiations to secure university funding for research post Brexit. Although based in London this involves meetings with the authorities in Brussels. As you may be aware, the school has one of the best academic records in the country. As far as sporting achievements go, Peter’s greatest success was winning the Yare Cup for rowing in 2003.

The campus of the school is mainly located within the Cathedral Close in Norwich. Most of the events I attended as a parent were held in the refectory which, in spite of its reassuringly archaic name (for a dining hall), is in fact a disappointingly modern utilitarian building. Nevertheless it has a pleasant view from the windows towards the north face of the cathedral.




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