Over more than 150 years, Melbourne Grammar School has welcomed students, families and staff into its fold, and become an integral part of the local community. As we move forward we continue to pay respect to our history and those who have come before us.
We are very proud that our School has produced many distinguished graduates, including Prime Ministers, Antarctic explorers, Anglican clergy, artists, servicemen, academics, industrialists and farmers, and many other Australians who have made invaluable contributions to this country’s growth.
Our ever-expanding digital archive includes photographs from the early days of the school, records relating to former students who served in the First World War, and biographies of Old Melburnians. A history of the School, Challenging Traditions by Weston Bate and Helen Penrose, was published in 2002 and is an invaluable reference.
History of Melbourne Grammar School
A striking collection of historic and contemporary buildings stand as testament to one of Melbourne’s oldest and most respected schools.
In 1849 Melbourne’s first Church of England Bishop, Charles Perry, opened a temporary experimental grammar school at St Peter's Eastern Hill (now East Melbourne) to meet the growing educational needs of the young colony on the cusp of a Gold Rush. Almost ten years later as the town entered the era known as “marvellous Melbourne”, Bishop Perry’s dream of building a permanent grammar school was realised when the government granted him fifteen acres on St Kilda Road for the purpose.
The architects Charles Webb and Thomas Taylor designed the first buildings to be erected on the relatively isolated site, and Melbourne Grammar School was opened in 1858. Economic depression and financial concerns saw the School struggle for the next forty years, prompting a group of former students to found the Old Melburnians Society in 1895. Over 120 years later, this society remains a pillar of the School community.
In its 150 years, Melbourne Grammar School has produced many distinguished graduates, including Prime Ministers, Antarctic explorers, Anglican clergy, artists, servicemen, academics, industrialists and farmers, and many other Australians who have made invaluable contributions to this country’s growth. Over the years thousands of former students enlisted in the South African War, the First World War and the Second World War, and many did not return, giving their lives for their country.
Postwar prosperity saw the School rapidly grow, and a far-sighted building programme was initiated that allows us to continue to make much of our relatively small campuses. In the 1970s a restructure of the junior schools saw Grimwade House become a coeducational primary school while Wadhurst was established as a middle school to cater for boys in Years 7 and 8. Towards the close of the century three permanent campsites at Breakfast Creek near Licola, Woodend, and Banksia Peninsula on the Gippsland Lakes, were acquired to service the expanding outdoor programme.
In 2008, the year of its sesquicentenary, the School opened the multi-million dollar Nigel Peck Centre for Learning and Leadership on the Domain Road boundary, demonstrating our commitment to the future and keeping Melbourne Grammar School at the forefront of education in the 21st Century.
Melbourne Grammar’s Middle School, Wadhurst, has been the most developed of the three campuses. Over a century, buildings have been built, renovated, demolished and rebuilt on our restricted triangle of land at the corner of Domain and St Kilda Roads.
The original Wadhurst was built in 1878 by Mr Morris, the School’s second Headmaster, at his own expense to serve as a master’s house and boarding house. With further additions, it later became a preparatory school and the Domain Road buildings, including the assembly hall, were dedicated in 1940.
Each decade brought further development: the Harry Stokes Memorial Playground in 1955; a new wing in memory of Sir Robert Knox’s grandson, Robert Lindsay, in 1967; a circular library in 1974; restoration of the quadrangle in 1981; and a music school in 1989.
In 1986 Wadhurst underwent an extensive re-development and new facilities were created for a Middle School tailored specifically to the academic, pastoral, social, physical, spiritual and emotional needs of boys in Years 7 and 8. A contemporary addition designed by Swaney Draper Architects maintains the facade of one of the older buildings, and was opened by the Prime Minister John Howard in 2000.
Now housing 340 day and boarding students, Wadhurst has developed into a comprehensive learning community for boys as they move from primary to senior schooling.
In 1917 the Grimwade family made a gift of Harleston, a seven-acre property in Caulfield, enabling Melbourne Grammar School to open a second preparatory school to supplement Wadhurst.
Grimwade’s relative geographical isolation and spacious grounds gave it an independent identity, and for much of the 1920s it was often one and a half times the size of Wadhurst.
During the Second World War part of the School was evacuated to Healesville, but improvements to the buildings continued and facilities developed. In the 1970s it was decided to close the boarding house, and to admit female students at a primary level.
The Netley Music School and the Cordner Physical Education Centre were added in the late twentieth century, and in 2004 Emeritus Professor Sir Gustav Nossal unveiled the foundation stone for a new heart of Grimwade, the Alfred Felton Hall, which opened in 2006 as a centre for concerts, plays, presentations, meetings, functions and other activities.
Today Grimwade House is a thriving coeducational junior school with more than 600 girls and boys.
If you are interested in the history of Melbourne Grammar School, please come to visit our purpose-built archival gallery, which houses photographs, documents, uniforms and other records and memorabilia. The archival gallery can be visited by appointment during term time at The Lodge, 355 St Kilda Road.
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