With a history dating back to the Sixteenth century, Crypt is one of the oldest grammar schools in the country


The Crypt School  -  A rich history with an exciting future...

1528 John Cooke, mercer and four times Mayor of the City of Gloucester, made a will in which he directed his wife to “stablish and ordeyn a continuall frescole of gramer for the erudicion of children and scolers”  by a “scole maister to kepe scole and teche gramer freely”

1539 Dame Joan Cooke drew up a tripartite deed between the Mayor and Burgesses of Gloucester and the Bailiffs and Citizens of Worcester as to the endowments for the benefit of the school.

This was the era of the founding of many of the grammar schools which for centuries were to determine the pattern of education in this country. The New Learning of the Renaissance, the intellectual and spiritual challenges of the Reformation, the growing wealth of a new merchant class aware of the need for more schools and perhaps also thinking of building memorials to their own benevolence and generosity, were some of the influences that contributed to the new foundations.

The close connection between the Church and education were preserved in the siting of the original “scole house” in Southgate Street, which still stands today: it was built on land that was until 1529 part of the burial ground of the Church of St Mary de Crypt. This church, one of the few medieval city-centre churches still in use in Gloucester, was for many years known as the church of The Blessed Mary of Chiste, and the school, immediately adjoining the church, was called the “Crist” or “Christ” School. By the middle of the 17th Century it was known either as the Grammar School or Crypt School .

This first of four, brand new, sites to be occupied by the Crypt School would have been a splendid new edifice, with gleaming Cotswold stone fronting Southgate Street, and warm Tudor brickwork on the rear elevation.. The building, now known as The Old Crypt Schoolroom, is used by the church of St Mary de Crypt as a parish room and  meeting room, but in 1539 it would have been a brand new, ‘state of the art’ school building for those first few ’scolers’. It would have stood out among the other buildings of Southgate Street; being, with the churches of St Mary de Crypt, and St Michael at The Cross, probably the only stone built buildings in those early tudor years. The lower floor was the Schoolroom, with an upper chamber for the Master. The school crest and the pre-Elizabethan city coat of arms adorn the handsome bay window of the Master’s chamber.

When recent cohorts of the Year 7 entry have gathered in the Schoolroom, numbering some 118 typically, it is hard to imagine how they could possibly have been taught in the original room, yet by 1863 the numbers being taught had risen to 105 and a new site was needed.

1861 The Barton Street site(now part of Eastgate Street) was occupied on a temporary basis. These premises were later to be occupied by Sir Thomas Rich’s until the 1960’s.

1889 The Crypt moved into a thirds set of purpose-built buildings on the site known to generations of Old Cryptians as “Friars Orchard”. This site was the orchard of the medieval Franciscan Friary of the Grey Friars, and had survived as unbuilt land since medieval times, until the land pressures of the Victorian age of growth. This enabled the School to develop  a new home a mere ‘cricket ball’s throw’ from the Old Crypt Schoolroom and its origin in 1539. With a spacious playing field lined with a dense hedge and tall trees along Brunswick Road, this was to be home to the school for the next fifty years, until the years of the Second World War, when a further move was need , with over 400 boys now on roll, and indeed classrooms in many neighbouring buildings had to be borrowed to house classes for the growing school

1939 The highlight of the School’s Quatercentenary was the 4th July laying of the foundation stone of the fourth new site of the school. The foundation stone, of Cotswold stone from Painswick was laid by H.R.H The Duchess of Gloucester. She had been made an Honorary Freeman of the City in the morning, and in the afternoon she was welcomed to the Podsmead site by the Chairman of Governors, Dr D.E.Finlay, telling her that “in the new building, the design for which have been selected in open competition, all the classrooms would have a south-east aspect ... the school would be surrounded by ample playing fields.”

1943 It was not until the Autumn of 1943 that the Crypt moved to its fourth site, Podsmead. Wartime shortages meant that not only had it taken much longer to build, but it was still unfinished, so Staff in that first term at Podsmead had the added distraction of workmen in and out of classrooms finishing off work. It is salutary to note that when built it was actually in countryside, and on land originally bought by Joan Cooke at the time of the School’s foundation. The Scouts, and the Army Cadets however were delighted with the new school, with the facilities “better than ever Friar’s Orchard at its best” and “a splendid parade-ground, but also, which is more to our liking, with fields in which to manoeuvre, with hedges behind which to take cover, and with ditches in which to crawl”.( I suspect the hedges have never gone out of fashion for one purpose or another!)

1944 The school settled into a “regular peaceful routine” with some 250 boys eating school dinner, buses arriving late, and the advent finally of electricity! In the Autumn the school Hall was opened, though the stage had yet to get its floor. This year was to be a year of “Education Acts, V.E. Days and a General Election”. Under the 1944 Education Act the Crypt became a fully ‘Maintained Secondary School’ and lost its (fee paying) Junior School. Entry to the Crypt was by examination, ‘The Eleven Plus’.  There were minor additions to the school there-after, but it was not until the phase of growth in the Grant Maintained years that there were to be significant changes to the site.

1987 Admission of girls to the Sixth Form

1992 Grant Maintained status

1997 Phase 1 of the building project : Opening of new Science and Sixth Form Block

1999 Phase 2 of the building project adding Business Studies and IT rooms. The school becomes a Foundation School

2001 The Crypt ranked 9th in the DfES list of ‘Most improved Schools’

2002 Phase 3 of the building project completed with the opening of four-badminton court Sports Hall

2003 and 2004 Received the School Achievement Award for Academic Success

2003 Granted Specialist School Status in Science

2004 In the top 50 school nationally for value added education at Key Stage 3. Phase 4 of the building project with new Science College facilities for Science, Maths & IT, and re-structured Art rooms and school reception area.

2005 Awarded Artsmark for the quality of provision in creative and performing arts.  Re-structuring of DT area.

2008 Second Phase Science College Status. Award of High Performing Specialist School Status by DCSF. Refurbishment of School Hall

2009 Completion of Phase 5 of the building project with the £1.4 million Sixth Form Centre and Library; conversion of Old Library to classrooms. Award of Second Specialism in Languages. Funding secured for a food Technology Suite.

2010 Completion of Food Technology Suite

2011 conversion of the School's Old Gym into a new drama and activity space and a new fitness suite; the complete redevelopment of the school drive and other hard surface areas; an upgrade of the school Music rooms and the girls' changing rooms

2012-13, nearly one million pounds was also spent on renewing the school roofs and internal ceilings

2014-15 New engineering block

2016 – opening of the Engineering Block by Richard Graham MP 

2017 – refurbishment of the sports hall and completion of a new 3 classroom block adjacent to it 

2018 – admission of girls into Year 7 


With grateful thanks to John Skinner (former Head of History and Deputy Headmaster) and Charles Lepper (former English teacher and author of the authoritative history of the school) for the help of their writings on the history of the school,  in compiling this brief overview.


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History of The Crypt School