Leeds Grammar School

Leeds Grammar School was an independent school in Leeds established in 1552. In August 2005 it merged with Leeds Girls' High School to form The Grammar School at Leeds. The two schools will be physically united by September 2008.

The school was founded in 1552 by William Sheafield to provide free, subsidised or fee-paying education to the children of the City of Leeds. Despite 1552 being the traditional date for the foundation of the school, there is some evidence to suggest that the school existed as early as 1341. In 1805, the school was the subject of a ruling by Lord Eldon that set a precedent affecting grammar schools throughout England.

In contemporary times, LGS is a selective, independent fee-paying school, (in the UK known as a Public School), and was a member of the Governing Bodies Association and of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference. The School currently occupies £18.5 million modern premises in Alwoodley, which were formally opened in June 1998 by Lord Harewood.


Leeds Grammar School was founded in 1552, following the death of the Reverend William Sheafield in July of that year. Sheafield left £14 13s. 4d. in his will to maintain a schoolmaster "to teach and instruct freely for ever all such Younge Schollars Youthes and Children as shall come and resort to him from time to time to be taught instructed and informed", provided that a school house was built by the town of Leeds. The date for the foundation of the school still remains in doubt to this day, with records indicating that there was a Grammar School in Leeds as early as 1341. The school's first site is thought to have been in The Calls, by the River Aire, near the centre of the city. However, by about 1579 the school was in the New Chapel building at the head of Headingley Lane, where it remained until 1624.

In 1624 John Harrison, a great Leeds benefactor, removed the school "to a pleasant Field of his own which he surrounded with a substantial Wall and in the midst of the Quadrangle built the present Fabrick of the school". Harrison's school was located on North Lane, on the site of the current Grand Theatre, and opposite St John's Church. Through the years, the school grew steadily in numbers and in reputation. Harrison's building was added onto in the 1640s by a new library, thanks to the endowment of Godfrey Lawson (Mayor of Leeds, 1669-70). The Lawson Library remains with the school to this day, making it the oldest library in Leeds. It was refurbished in 2007.

Towards the end of the eighteenth century, demand for Latin and Greek was falling, while Leeds was growing as a centre of commerce and industry. In 1791 the trustees proposed to appoint a third master, to teach writing and accounts, and a fourth to teach French and other modern languages. The plan was opposed by the Master and Usher. With the two sides unable to agree, a suit in the Court of Chancery began in 1795. In 1805, Lord Eldon, then Lord Chancellor, in a ruling that set a precedent for grammar schools across the country, proclaimed, "There is no authority for thus changing the nature of the Charity, and filling a School intended for the purpose of teaching Greek and Latin with Scholars learning the German and French languages, mathematics, and anything except Greek and Latin." He did however offer as a compromise that other subjects might be taught, as long as all boys also learnt the classical languages. On the death of the master in 1815, the trustees appointed one of their number as acting master, and were able to effect the desired changes.

By 1857, the city of Leeds was growing prodigiously due to the Industrial Revolution. The city conditions were dirty and Harrison's buildings inadequate for a Victorian education. Therefore in 1857 the decision was made by Rev. Alfred Barry (Headmaster) to move the school to new premises on Woodhouse Moor. The building, ecclesiastical in design, was opened in June 1859. The building was designed by Edward Middleton Barry, brother of the then headmaster, Rev. Alfred Barry, after whom one of the eight houses was named. At that time the school roll numbered fewer than 100 boys and the buildings were planned for just 200. Serious consideration was given in the 1920s to moving the school to Lawnswood - the current site of Leeds University's playing fields.

The school was in the Direct Grant scheme in the 1950s to 1970s, and in the Assisted Places scheme in the 1970s to 1990s. Throughout the 20th century the school continued to expand, with the building of a new Swimming Pool, Sports Hall, Theatre, a Design and Technology department, Assembly Hall and Classroom block. By the 1990s, the roll had risen to over 1,100 boys, with the school operating on three separate sites. Despite continuous improvements to accommodate both increased numbers and the requirements of a contemporary curriculum, no further development of the facilities was economically viable without great detriment to the education of the pupils. On top of this, by 1997 the premises had been surrounded by the University of Leeds and the area of Leeds surrounding the school - Headingley - was in apparent decline; therefore the decision was taken by the Governors and the University to swap the Woodhouse Moor, Junior School and Lawnswood premises for a site in Alwoodley to the north of Leeds. In September 1997, following £18.5 million and three years of construction, Leeds Grammar School opened at its new home in Alwoodley Gates. In 1999 the school passed into the 21st century with the appointment of a new Headmaster - Dr. Mark Bailey. Following the continued shrinking of Leeds' child population, staff shortages and the need of Leeds Girls' High School for more adequate modern buildings the decision was taken to merge with Leeds Girls' High School in 2003. The school physically passed out of existence on the 4th July 2008, although it had been legally dissolved since August 2005.


Leeds Grammar School has eight houses named after individuals connected with the school or its formation. This system dates back to 1924, with the original school houses being Clarell, Sheafield, Neville and Thoresby. Currently there are eight houses:

  • Barry - after Rev. Alfred Barry, PhD, who planned the move of Leeds Grammar School to its site in Woodhouse Moor, which it occupied between 1859 and 1997.
  • Clarell - after Thomas Clarell, Vicar of Leeds from 1430 to 1469, and founder of the Clarell Chantry, in which was employed William Sheafield as chantry priest.
  • Ermystead - after William Ermystead, who paid for the construction of the Lady Lane site in the 1590s.
  • Harrison - after John Harrison, benefactor of Leeds, who built the school its third site on North Street.
  • Lawson - after Godfrey Lawson, Mayor of Leeds, who endowed to the school the Lawson Library - the oldest library in Leeds.
  • Nevile - for Sir John Nevile, one of the first trustees of the school.
  • Sheafield - after William Sheafield, who is traditionally thought of as the founder of the school in 1552, by virtue of the date of signature of his will, which endowed the school.
  • Thoresby - after Ralph Thoresby, topographer of Leeds and alumnus of the school.

There are many competitions throughout the school year, the most notable of these being Sports day and House music. Any house activity, be it a win or a draw, results in the acquiring of House Points. All eight houses compete throughout the year for the coveted Bailey Cup - awarded at the end of the year for the house with the most House Points.

Following the merger with Leeds Girls High School four of these houses (Thoresby, Neville, Clarell and Barry) were removed. Four houses have been created from alumnae important to Leeds Girls High School (Eddison, Ford, Lupton and Powell) thereby maintaining the current eight-house system at GSAL.

Merger with Leeds Girls' High School

The school administration merged with Leeds Girls' High School in August 2005, with the schools physically merging in September 2008. At that time the Senior School (ages 11-18) and Junior School (ages 7-11) will remain at their present Alwoodley Site. The Infant School will move to the former LGHS site at Headingley alongside a new Nursery School. The merged school will be called The Grammar School at Leeds. The main Senior School site of Leeds Girls' High School will be sold to a private developer. Classes for girls and boys between the ages of 11 and 16 will remain segregated, but all extracurricular activities will be mixed.

The merger of the two schools has caused some controversy due to the expected increase in traffic levels at the Alwoodley site.


Leodiensian is the name given to the school magazine of Leeds Grammar School; the first edition was published in October 1827, and it became a regular annual publication from 1882, making it one of the longest-running school publications. The name Leodiensian is derived from the Latin name for Leeds, Ledesia (and later Leodis), and in an adjectival form can be seen in the School Song, in the phrase "Leodenses cuncti".

Notable alumni

Alumni from Leeds Grammar School are called Old Leodiensians or "Old Leo's". Notable Old Leo's include:

Notable teachers

External links


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