Henrietta Dawson was born in 1727, the daughter of Edward and Elizabeth Marshall of Tadcaster. She spent most of her married life in Ireland and London but retained a lasting affection for Tadcaster. She died in 1797. In her will she left in excess of £11,000 to charitable causes in the town.
Ten poor women of respectable families were each to receive £15 per year, ten other women each to receive £10, also 10 shillings for each woman for clothing, 12 shillings for fuel. Two women were to receive £15 per year for instructing 20 girls aged between 6 and 12 years, two to receive £10 for instructing “girls under 8 and boys while in petticoats”.
A number of rooms were used for the school including the Girls’ Sunday School in Westgate.
In 1879, the school rented Strafford House, but Strafford House was then rented by Benjamin Braime in 1880, so the school must have moved elsewhere.
In 1887, a committee considered how the town could commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Various ideas were considered and most came to fruition. One suggestion was to use the money currently under the control of the Charity Commissioners in London to build in Tadcaster a “Middle-Class Girls School”.
Plans were quickly drawn up by Edward Birchall, the architect who oversaw the rebuilding of St Mary’s Church and the Board School in Station Road. John Fielden of Grimston Park provided land at the end of London Road and the school was built and opened by 1890.
The first headmistress was Miss L A Earl. By 1902 there were 50 pupils and two teachers.
In 1906, there was a proposal to combine the Dawson Girls School with the boys’ Oglethorpe Grammar School, which was proposed to be called the Tadcaster Secondary School. The boys’ school was beside the church and was to be vacated to become Tadcaster’s Police Station. Dawson’s school was enlarged so that it would accommodate 140 boys and girls. The first headmaster of the combined school was Mr W J E Thornton.