Although the earliest documentary evidence shows the existence of Bury Grammar School in the 16th Century, the earliest known benefactor was Reverend Henry Bury in 1634.
Ninety years later the Reverend Roger Kay, (born in 1663) became the most influential figure in the School’s history, re-founding the Boys’ School on May 6th, 1726. The School now celebrates Founders’ Day on the nearest Friday to May 6th. Roger Kay also gave the free school in Bury its crest and motto “Sanctus clavis fores aperit”, the key opens holy doors.
From Roger Kay’s death in 1730 the school provided education for boys only but the ‘Bury High School for Girls’ was opened in January 1884 in Bolton Street, Bury near the East Lancs Railway Station. Miss Jane Penelope Kitchener was appointed as Headmistress.
By the late 1890s moves had been made by the Governors of Bury Grammar School to amalgamate with the thriving Bury High School for Girls with financial support from the Hulme Trust. Begun in 1903, provision was made for the two schools to be housed in one building – for 250 boys and 150 girls. This building, now much extended, is the one which we still occupy. The two schools, as today, shared a joint Board of Governors.
The Schools were completed in 1906 and the Roger Kay Hall, symbolically joining the two schools, was opened on 7th March, 1907. Under Miss Kitchener’s leadership some pupils went to university and achieved degrees with Sarah Alcock being one of the first in 1892. Miss Kitchener also began the School’s tradition of helping others with the girls contributing to various causes during the First World War. In 1912 the first Girls’ School magazine appeared and the Old Girls’ Association was founded, with the Old Girls’ Record first being published in 1923-1924.
Miss Nellie Neild was Headmistress from September 1919 to 1940. Our archive material shows that Miss Neild saw the number of girls in school rise from 23 in 1884 to 401 in 1940. She introduced a house system, which consisted of 5 houses. During the tenure of her successor, Miss Perigo, finding sufficient space for the growing number of pupils (401 in 1940 to 521 in 1954) was a constant problem. Inevitably, demand for places grew from 1944 when the School became a Direct Grant School under the Butler Education Act.
Miss Dorothy Lester was Headmistress from 1954 until 1979 and during that time she oversaw a huge phase of building extensions which included the boys leaving our present building to be re-housed across the road. She was instrumental in setting up the Guild of Parents and Friends in 1959 to act as a means of enabling parents to form a closer association with the School and organise fund-raising ventures. 1976 saw the 250th anniversary of Roger Kay’s re-founding of the Boys’ School and this was marked by a visit from Prince Philip. The Girls’ School joined in the celebration, serving tea to His Royal Highness.
Miss Joyce Batty was Headmistress from 1979 to December 1986. The School continued to grow and by 1984 there were 1000 pupils. In 1982 a fourth form was added to the intake. In 1980 the computer rooms were built and in 1984-6, as a result of an Appeal the old gymnasium was converted into the Dorothy Lester Library and a new Sports Hall was constructed.
During Miss Janet Lawley’s time as Headmistress (January 1987-August 1998) GCSE replaced O Levels. Just as her predecessor had done, Miss Lawley responded to the changing educational needs of her time with the development of specialist teaching rooms and the introduction of new subjects and projects. She endeavoured to make IT integral to the curriculum. Miss Lawley oversaw the building of the new Girls’ Junior School, 1997.
Miss Caroline Thompson took up her appointment as Headmistress in September 1998. She served 4 years, a relatively short time in the history of the School, before taking up another Headship. During this period there were major changes to the curriculum, particularly in the Sixth Form.
In the Autumn term 2002 Mrs Lynda Billinge was Acting Headmistress.
Mrs Roberta (Bobby) Georghiou took up the post of Headmistress in January 2003. Three science laboratories and the sixth form work room were refurbished in the same year and a Governors’ working party undertook a full modernisation of the School’s ICT. The School now has a strategic plan in place which has seen the admission of children aged 3+ into Cygnets, the preschool from September 2006, and a building programme is underway. Its first phase has been the completion of a new building for Cygnets and the Kindergarten opened in September 2008 and the second is the adaptation and extension of the ground floor of the 1906 building to house a new joint sixth form centre in keeping with the original architectural vision for the school. In addition the classrooms formerly occupied by the Kindergarten have been refurbished creating a suite for Modern Foreign Languages. In August 2010 a structural fault in an extension to the north of the Roger Kay Hall was found to be irreparable and the Governors have agreed its replacement, The Arts Centre which is to house a library, English, Art and Design Technology rooms. The Girls’ School has instituted its own fundraising campaign to help with its equipping. The Bury Grammar Schools are currently making an appeal for funding to support The Way Forward, a corner stone of which is the maintenance of the bursary fund to support through the senior schools girls and boys whose parents cannot afford fees.