The Grammar School was founded up by Owen Oglethorpe, Bishop of Carlisle, in 1557. He was born in Newton Kyme in 1503. He was probably educated by a priest at Tadcaster before going to Oxford University where he eventually became Vice Chancellor. This is probably why he retained an interest in setting up a school here. He was to preside over the coronation of Elizabeth I in 1559.
The school was believed to have been just north of the church and had a single room. The 2015 archaeological dig on the riverbank may have found the foundations of the building, very close to the path around the church.
A new school was built around 1760 to the west of the church.
The school can be seen at the left of the early picture of the church.
The numbers of pupils seems to have been variable. An inspection in 1865 revealed an unsatisfactory picture of the school. At that time there were 60 boys but the school did not teach Latin, did not set any homework, and discipline was so poor that there was constant uproar.
It seems that the situation was in part due to there being six other private schools in the town. Unlike Oglethorpe School, these schools charged fees and sought to give “value for money”. A new Headmaster tried to reform the school, charging for subjects taught. School numbers dropped to 4, of which 2 were boarders.
The 1869 Endowed Schools Act gave new hope to the school. In 1878, a governing body was set up which appointed the headmaster and teachers, and the headmaster was paid a bonus based on the number of attendees. The age range of scholars was 7-15, and a wide range of subjects was taught. Fees were charged. Under William Callum, the school flourished.
In 1906, the Oglethorpe School and Dawson Girls’ School merged, moving to the building owned by the Dawson school at the end of London Road. A new building costing £3.000 was constructed on the site. It was intended to accommodate 140 pupils. Mr W J E Thornton was appointed as the first Headmaster. The vacated school beside the church became the Police Station.
Soon after the Second World War, the school’s catchment area increased. It became the school for all of Tadcaster, but also pupils from further afield who had passed their 11-Plus exams.
Each day, a train would bring pupils from Scholes, Barwick, Bardsey and Wetherby to the station and take them back at night.
In 1954, the West Riding County Council bought Toulston Lodge from Mr W Riley-Smith as the site of the new school. For some years some classes were held at Toulston Lodge and some at London Road. In 1959, the new school opened at Toulston, using both the new buildings and Toulston Lodge.
A detailed history of Tadcaster Grammar School appears in “450 Years of Tadcaster Grammar School” by Lawrence Myers, a former history teacher at the school.