Our Heritage

Richmond School certainly has a rich heritage.

The earliest records of the school can be traced back to 1392. According to Leslie P. Wenham in his marvellous book “The History of Richmond School” (1958) the earliest mention of it occurs in a period 1361-1474, although there is little else on record about the school. Since this time there have been forty headmasters who have all witnessed success in one form or another as well as recognising the achievements of scholars who have contributed significantly on a national scale.

The first Richmond School (1392) was in the church grounds of St. Mary’s Church, Richmond. This school experienced renovation, rebuild and re-invention throughout the centuries until it was finally closed in 1850. The school’s occupation of the churchyard was not without controversy. A resident of Frenchgate wrote to the headmaster of the day, Canon James Tate, on 27th January 1834,  to complain about boys making too much noise as they moved about the area. Canon Tate responded stating that this had continued for the last 250 years and there was evidence that the “boys had become remarkably less troublesome in recent times”. Interestingly, on 15th March 2011, a resident of Frenchgate contacted the headmaster again to complain about noise from the students. One must assume that this was neither the same resident, nor the same students or headmaster, however the same response was given. It was during Canon Tate’s headship that the school motto was introduced. The motto was that of the Wallis Family (Tate married Margaret Wallis in 1796) “NON NOBIS NASCIMUR”. Literally meaning,”We are not born for us”.

In former times the school accommodated approximately twenty five boys, some fee paying, who aspired to go on to university education, and some local youths who would leave to work in trades within the town. Today of course the school accommodates both boys and girls with approximately 1500 students in attendance.

Headmaster James Tate

Headmaster, James Tate, was not noted for his promotion of sport but was more inclined to enjoy drama and the theatre. Boys were encouraged to perform on the stage at The Georgian Theatre (now Georgian Theatre Royal) in Richmond. This tradition has continued and today the school’s performing arts is widely recognised with outstanding productions being performed on a regular basis. Most recently the school has excelled in music with the Chamber Choir gaining the coveted Certificate of Achievement Award in 2014 and subsequently international recognition on a tour to France.

In 1850 James Tate II requested that a new building be erected in memory of his late father, Canon James Tate, who was headmaster for thirty six years. Canon Tate was known as the “Scholar of the North” and had a reputation for sending boys to Cambridge University, well versed in Latin and Classics. Such was the intellect of Tate’s scholars that they gained the nickname “Tate’s Invincibles”. Latin and Classics are still taught in the school, an element of the curriculum that is uncommon in the state comprehensive education sector.

The new building opened on the 27th September 1850 and was known as the “Tate Testimonial”. In the modern era the town folk named the building Richmond Lower School although the former building within the churchyard was also known locally as “Low School”. The building was opened with a cricket match between former scholars and a team composed of staff and pupils. The staff and pupils were victorious. This building was closed as an educational establishment in July 2011 as the new building on Darlington Road was designed to accommodate all students aged 11-18 years old. To commemorate the end of an era Lower School was closed with a cricket match between old boys and a team of staff and students. As the match was affected by rain, the school remained undefeated. Competitive sport became far more prominent during the headship of Thomas Stokoe (1863-1971), with cricket, football, rugby and athletics all being enjoyed by the students.

Today the school is proud to display the list of headmasters who have led the school from the days of Stephen Moys in 1392 to the present time, as well as those individual students who have gained national recognition for their outstanding achievements. One of the most well known former scholars is Charles Lutwidge Dodgson whose school career began on 1st August 1844 and ended in 1846. Dodgson is of course more widely known by the name Lewis Carol.

Silverware and Trophies

The school is equally proud of its collection of silverware and trophies, now on display in the Foyer of the James Tate Building. The coveted trophies reflect the success of many students over a long period of time and one most notable trophy is the Cup purchased by Thomas Stokoe awarded to the best sportsman. The cup bears the name of Ernest Bromet who later captained Oxford University, Yorkshire and England at rugby union and was a member of the British Lions touring team to South Africa. The 1950 Observer Book of Sport claims that Bromet was the finest lock-forward rugby player that the country has ever produced. In recent times the most successful rugby player who has played at international level is Calum Clark (2000-2005) representing Leeds Carnegie, Northampton Saints and a member of the England Elite Squad (2014-2015).

Headmasters Douglas Smith (1895-1903), Hago Sharpley (1913-1919) and Frank Woodhead (1928-1950) led the school during the Boer War, Great War and World War Two respectively. The school is proud to celebrate the lives of the former scholars who lost their lives in active service at an annual Act of Remembrance. One notable former pupil was Rear Admiral Christopher Cradock of Hartforth Hall who went down with his ship at the Battle of Coronel (World War One) trying to stop the German fleet returning to Europe. The battle is well known in British naval history due to controversy of blame directed at Admiral Cradock by Lord of the Admiralty Sir Winston Churchill. The history books however tell a different story, as Cradock and his fleet were woefully under-resourced and ill-prepared for such an encounter. Recognising the bravery of those who serve in our armed forces is just as important today as it is for those service men and women of yester-year. The school serves the garrison town at Catterick, and the RAF base at Leeming, which is the largest army - training centre in Western Europe with over 29,000 residents serving the British army.

In 1920 Richmond High School for Girls was opened in Frenchgate. Its motto was ‘Quest Conquest”, according to the author, Audrey Carr, in her wonderful book, ‘Well Played – The Story of Richmond High School” (1988). Although girls were educated before this date, the options available to them were to travel to Darlington High School or attend the Convent in Mill Lane, Richmond. The school supported fifty-seven girls aged 7-15. In rural areas the education of girls had taken second place to that of boys until the time women gained the right to vote. Rambling and hockey became the sports enjoyed by the girls, the hockey pitch being the field near the recent housing development known as Swalegate, off Gallowgate.

By 1940 the school in Frenchgate was bursting at the seams, girls were educated in various rooms all over the town and so Denis Clarke Hall, a prize winning architect, was asked to design a new building for 160 girls, opened formally in May 1940, with the first pupils attending from 17th June 1940. When the school closed as a single sex establishment, 230 pupils were on roll. A wide range of extra-curricular activities took place, with girls excelling in sports, public speaking and outstanding deeds of charity work, for example the collection of Green Shield Stamps to purchase ambulances in India and raising funds for The National Institute for the Blind.

In Recent Times

In more recent times, girls have continued this tradition of outstanding achievement, notably on the sports field, with Olympians in the swimming pool, Nicola Jackson (2000 Sydney & 2001 4 x 200m Relay World Champion) and Joanne Jackson (2004 Athens) and in rowing where Alison Mowbray was a silver medallist at the 2004 Athens Olympics, whilst Emma Pledge gained national honours on the hockey field. Currently, skier Honor Clissold is ranked first in Great Britain and Europe whilst the girls’ team are the GB Champions (2015), the girls’ Cricket Team are England Under 15 Champions, our Under 16 Indoor Hockey team were National finalists and we have been recognised as having one of the best Equestrian teams in the country. Girls attending the High School were also given opportunities to travel, with the introduction of field trips and visits overseas to the continent. Opportunities of this nature continue today with Geography field trips and study visits to places such as London, Iceland, Italy, France, Germany, India, Spain and Ecuador.

In 1950 Richmond Secondary Modern School was built to accommodate those who had not passed their 11-Plus Examination and so did not qualify for admission to either Richmond Grammar School or the Girls' High School. Large buildings were constructed about 200 yards from the Girls’ High School. The architect was the same Denis Clarke Hall who had previously designed the Girls’ High School.

In 1970, it became known that Richmond School Yorkshire, (the Boys’ Grammar School), Richmond High School for Girls and the Secondary Modern School were to merge as one school under the new comprehensive education system. The girls’ school was to become Upper School, the Secondary Modern School would be known as Middle School and the old Boys’ Grammar School would be known as Lower School. Today, what remains of these three great schools is of course the buildings that we know as the Sixth Form Centre, (the Girls’ High School), the Clarke Hall Building (formerly the Secondary Modern School), whilst the newer buildings at Lower School belong to Richmondshire District Council and the older section is awaiting further development). Bi-annually, the Old Boys’ Association meets, although with time passing, fewer numbers attend the Dinner and Church Service in St. Mary’s Church. The Old Girls’ Association has recently gained popularity but again is meeting with fewer members.

Under the leadership of Headmaster, Derek Dutton (1962-1991), comprehensive education was formally introduced in 1971. Derek Dutton had the challenge of merging the three schools, Richmond Grammar School, Richmond High School for Girls and Richmond Secondary School.

The history of Richmond School over the last 600 years has witnessed controversy and intrigue, ranging from the brief appointment of Caleb Readshaw in 1796, resulting in resignations of members of the Corporation and a year of turmoil for the school, to the more recent resignation of the governing body in 2013. Above all else however are the success and accomplishments of the many students who have gained an education at our great school(s) in Richmond; for example, Earl Charles Grey, Prime Minister of England 1830-1834, Baroness Brenda Hale DBE, Deputy President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Baroness Angela Harris DL, Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords and Amanda Berry, Chief Executive of the British Academy of Film and Television.

Present Day

Today (2015) the school is proud of the outstanding progress students make from their entry at eleven years of age to their readiness for further education and training at the age of sixteen. The agenda for the school is one of continuous improvement. The values of the school today are depicted by the huge banners that adorn the wall of the James Tate Building Restaurant: Respect, Teamwork, Creativity, Excellence, Resilience and Independence.

To be successful, a school that meets the needs of all its students and serves its wider community cannot act in isolation. Richmond School has extensive links with its primary partner schools within the Swaledale Alliance and enjoys the support of other secondary schools to share ideas, promote excellence in teaching, and seek ways for further improvement. Equally, the school must fulfil its duty as a community asset. There has never been a time in the school’s history that has seen so many community groups access the wonderful facilities that are available to students between the hours of 9.00am and 5.00pm. In truth, Richmond School is open from 8.00am-9.00 pm every day of the year except public holidays and usually you will see at least one of the town’s clubs or societies taking over the buildings or sports fields at such times, for example, the well-known 'Richmond Meet' Cycle Weekend on May Bank Holiday Weekend. Turn up at the school in the football and hockey season and do not be surprised to witness over 400 young people and adults enjoying their leisure time.

The academic data and welfare provided for all students demonstrates that achievement has never been higher, yet the focus of the staff year on year is to better the success of the past. 2014-2015 has given the leadership team of the school an opportunity to reflect on the recent past and to promote a new vision and mission statement. The school wishes to be an organisation committed to listening to others and to build its success on the collective expertise of all those who have a stake in its development.

Jenna Potter



Richmond School & Sixth Form College WWI Memorial