Founded on 7 April 1858 as the Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, the school has a non-selective enrolment policy and currently caters for approximately 1,800 students from Prep to Year 12, including 120 boarders from Years 7 to 12.
The bluestone buildings at the senior campus are all on the Victorian Heritage Register. The school's War Memorial Hall recently underwent a major renovation and in 2006 it won the RAIA National Architecture Awards - Lachlan Macquarie Award for Heritage, the top award in its category, at an awards show in Brisbane.
Melbourne Grammar is affiliated with the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA), the Junior School Heads Association of Australia (JSHAA), the Australian Boarding Schools' Association (ABSA), the Association of Independent Schools of Victoria (AISV), and is a founding member of the historic Associated Public Schools of Victoria (APS).
In 2001, The Sun-Herald ranked Melbourne Grammar School second in Australia's top ten boys' schools, based on the number of its alumni mentioned in the Who's Who in Australia (a listing of notable Australians). The School is also a member of the G20 Schools Group.
The origins of Melbourne Grammar School can be traced back to 1849, with the establishment of an experimental grammar school at St Peter's Eastern Hill, East Melbourne. This school had been established by Melbourne's first Church of England Bishop, Charles Perry, who founded the Diocese of Melbourne, and had been opened to meet the growing educational needs of the young colony. In 1853, Bishop Perry commenced planning for the diocesan experimental school to become permanent, although on a larger site and not under his direct management, and so he set up a committee of eminent men to consider the task. The school however did not thrive and was suspended at the end of 1854.
The first School Council was elected in 1854 to take over from the committee, and it set about drawing up a Constitution, finding a Headmaster and a new site. Locations considered included Carlton, Prahran and St Kilda.
Perry's dream of building a permanent, centrally located grammar school, based on the principles of the great English Public Schools, was realised in 1855, with a grant from the Governor Charles Hotham of 15 acres on St Kilda Road. This is the inner South Yarra land now occupied by Senior School and Wadhurst, next to the Royal Botanic Gardens and a short walk from the central city. At the time it was considered relatively isolated and remote. The Council chose architects Charles Webb and Thomas Taylor, and Bishop Perry laid the School's foundation stone on 30 July 1856.
The Melbourne Church of England Grammar School was finally opened on 7 April 1858 with 77 pupils, and with Dr John E Bromby as the first Headmaster. Enrolments grew to 136 during the first year, with four students being the sons of Dr Bromby, and about one quarter of the them boarders.
The school's first forty years proved to be a struggle, exacerbated in the 1890s by economic depression, financial concerns and changes of Headmaster. Senior School enrolments fell from 272 in 1889 to 117 in 1894 prompting a group of former students to do something "to save the old School". They formed The Old Melburnians Society in 1895, "to be the means of bringing together many former schoolmates, reviving pleasant recollections, and at the same time benefiting the life of the School as it is today".
Two significant developments of the late nineteenth century were, firstly, the recognition that with a limited site, one storey buildings were not a wise use of space. A move began, continued now, of adding second stories or replacing buildings with two- or three-level structures. The second was the dedication of the Chapel of St Peter in 1893, the first school chapel in the colony of Victoria.
The beginning of the new century saw the School's future assured, with enrolments increasing and the Jubilee celebrated in 1908. Hundreds of former students enlisted in the Great War of 1914–1918, as they had in the South African War, and sadly more than 200 did not return.
The 1920s were a relatively stable time for the School, experiencing high academic and sporting results. The 1930s however were an unsettling time. The Great Depression put pressure on members of the Grammar community, while administrative instability affected the whole school. Between 1935 and 1938 the School had three Headmasters and two Acting Headmasters, and the outbreak of war the following year meant building plans were put on hold. Some 3,500 Old Boys enlisted in the services, and school buildings were commandeered by Australian and American forces with some students dispatched to the country and others doubled up in crowded quarters.
By the 1950s it became clear that the School was seriously lacking adequate space, with expansions, extensions and renovations mostly crammed into Dr Bromby's original 15 acres. The School subsequently embarked upon a building program which it was thought could take 30 years to complete, with the Senior School, Wadhurst and Grimwade campuses all receiving attention. The Centenary Building Campaign of 1958 began this expansion. Another solution to this problem since this time has been the steady acquisition of neighbouring properties.
In 1986 the Council decided on a staged restructure of the School. Until then, Wadhurst, established as a preparatory school in 1886 and Grimwade House, opened in 1918, had operated as two parallel feeder schools taking students through to Year 8. Grimwade's boarding house had closed in the mid 1970s, leading to debate on the best use of the newly available space. It was decided to introduce girls at primary levels at Grimwade House, and today Grimwade House caters for girls and boys up to Year 6 and Wadhurst for boys in Years 7 and 8.
The 1980s and 1990s were times of further growth, with the outdoor program expanded with three permanent campsites at Breakfast Creek near Licola, Woodend and Banksia Peninsula on the Gippsland Lakes. On April 7 2008, as part of the celebrations of Melbourne Grammar's sesquicentenary, the School officially opened the multi-million dollar Nigel Peck Centre for Learning and Leadership on the Domain Road boundary, an event which was attended by the Premier of Victoria, John Brumby, who is also an Old Melburnian.
|1858 – 1875||John Edward Bromby|
|1875 – 1883||Edward Ellis Morris|
|1883 – 1885||Alexander Pyne|
|1885 – 1893||Ambrose John Wilson|
|1894 – 1898||Frederic Sergeant|
|1899 – 1914||George Ernest Blanch|
|1915 – 1936||Richard Penrose Franklin|
|1937 – 1938||David Stacey Colman|
|1938 – 1949||Joseph Richard Sutcliffe|
|1950 – 1970||Sir Brian William Hone|
|1970 – 1987||Nigel Arthur Holloway Creese|
|1988 – 1994||Anthony James De Villiers Hill|
|1995 – 2009||Paul Sheahan|
|2009 –||Roy Kelley|
Melbourne Grammar offers its Years 11 and 12 students the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE), the main assessment program which ranks the students in the state.
In 2005, five Melbourne Grammar students achieved the maximum possible Equivalent National Tertiary Entrance Rank (ENTER) of 99.95; only 32 students in Victoria achieved this ENTER. In 2006, two Melbourne Grammar students achieved the maximum ENTER of 99.95, and three Melbourne Grammar students achieved an ENTER of 99.90. In 2007, three Melbourne Grammar students achieved the maximum ENTER of 99.95; again, only 32 students in Victoria achieved this ENTER.
The MGSSO has accompanied international soloists such as Ronald Farren-Price, Leslie Howard and Neville Taweel, and has premièred works by Australian and British composers.
The Cordner-Eggleston Cup is competed for each year by the first football teams of Melbourne Grammar School and the Scotch College. It commemorates the first recorded game of Australian Rules Football, which was played between the two schools on 7 August 1858, and is today commemorated by a statue depicting the game outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The first game ran for three days, over three consecutive saturday's, and each team selected an umpire: Melbourne Grammar chose Tom Wills, one of the inventors of the code of Australian Football; Scotch chose Dr John Macadam. By the completion of the third day, the match had resulted in a one-all draw.
In recent years historians have found evidence of earlier matches, and subsequently the origin of the game remains one of the most contested areas of Australian history. Both Melbourne Grammar and Scotch have acknowledged the ongoing research of historians, with Tim Shearer of the Old Scotch Collegians Association, and a former AFL umpire, explaining to The Age that the College is "careful to say we don't dogmatically claim this was the first game of Australian football and that there are differing views which we respect. But we do like to say that this is the first recorded game by two teams who still exist today."
To celebrate the schools' 150-year-old rivalry, the Cordner-Eggleston Cup 2008 was played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the match being won by Melbourne Grammar.
They are held at each school in rotation, with competing students being billeted out to the students of the host school against whom they will compete. It is customary when the rowing events are hosted by Melbourne Grammar that Sydney and Brisbane Grammars shall compete in the Head of the Yarra, an 8 kilometre river-race.
The cricketing rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney Grammars dates back to 1876 and is considered the oldest (in terms of cricket) in Australia. In 1976, to mark the centenary of this rivalry, a "Bat" was struck, with the winner of the annual match taking possession of this bat.
In the mid 90's, Brisbane Grammar was invited to play against both Melbourne and Sydney Grammars, giving rise to the 'Tri-Grammar Shield', won by the most successful school during the festival.
Melbourne Grammar currently holds both the "Bat" and the Shield, which they won for the fourth and third consecutive times respectively earlier this year.
Melbourne Grammar also has a theatre department, especially within the Senior Campus, which produces four plays each school year. In Early March, The Quad Play, most commonly a Shakespeare Play, but on occasion from other notable playwrights, is performed within the school's Quadrangle, and is open to students in years 9 to 12. The 2007 Quad Play was Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. In 2008, the Quad Play was once again a Shakespeare Play; Othello. In 2009 Melbourne Grammar will be presenting Shakespeare's A Midsummers Night Dream.
This is followed in May by the relatively newly performed Autumn Play, for Year 9 students only, commonly a Greek Play, such as Oedipus.
The School Play, performed usually in August, is often the centrepiece of the year's theatrical calendar. Recent performances include Tim Winton's Cloudstreet in 2006, and On the Twentieth Century in 2005. These two performances were the first to take advantage of the newly renovated and restored Memorial Hall, which features improved staging facilities and backstage areas. The School Play for 2007 was the musical Guys and Dolls. The School Play for 2008 was Arthur Miller's celebrated work on the Salem witch trials, The Crucible.
The final performance for the year is the Spring Production which is open to Years 9 and 10 students, and often alternates year on year between a light-hearted professional play, and an individual piece of work by a Year 9–10 student, or group of students. It is usually held in late October, near the end of the school year. The 2004 Spring production The Elisabeth Crown Affair, written by two Year 10 boys was seen by the owner of a local theatre who subsequently bought the script. In 2007, the Spring Production was Our Country's Good, written by Timberlake Wertenbaker, and edited by a Year 10 student. This year the 9/10 play will William Goldings Lord of the Flies.
All of these plays are performed by the students of Melbourne Grammar, in conjunction with students from Melbourne Girls Grammar School, whose campus is located nearby.
Staging is often designed by a contracted individual, with sets constructed jointly by staff and students, often both current and former. A train was constructed for On the Twentieth Century and an eight-metre diameter revolving circular stage constructed for Cloudstreet.
An old boy of England's Rugby School, Morris exemplified the way the principles of the English Public School system were adopted in Australia, including that education and religion should go hand-in-hand, as envisaged by Bishop Perry. The motto clearly reflects this.
The school crest is composed of a number of elements. The Archbishop's mitre placed on top of the crest indicates the school's connection with the Church of England; the mitre in the shield is in memory of Charles Perry, the schools founder; the open book represents either the bible or 'Knowledge like an Open Book', while its large clasps show that the book is not to be opened with ease; the Fleur de Lys (lily) is a symbol of purity; and the Southern Cross is the emblem of Australia, and is also on the Victorian and Australian flag.