School History

Miss Williams and her staff

Kesteven & Grantham Girls' (High) School opened on September 20th 1910 to 102 students, under the care of five full-time staff led by Miss H Gladys Williams, M.A. It was officially opened on January 10th 1911 by The Right Hon. The Earl Brownlow, Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire and Mayor of Grantham.

The building was considered to be thoroughly up-to-date and situated in "a fine healthy spot" on land purchased from the Earl of Harrowby for the purpose. The school was centred around Old Hall (as it is now known), with classrooms around the edge where the library, staff room and offices are now situated. The first floor had an Art studio, a Chemistry laboratory and a multi-purpose laboratory meeting the needs of Botany and Cookery whilst doubling as the dining room.

An early Chemistry lessonThe original curriculum included Latin, Botany, Drawing, Singing, Sewing and Dressmaking, alongside the more expected fare of English, Maths, Chemistry and the humanities. From the very beginning, Miss Williams encouraged girls to partake in extra-curricular activities to broaden their minds, focusing on the development of the girls as adults and not solely on their academic progress. In a 1924 speech, Miss Williams said "it is nothing less than the complete human being herself that is the concern of the schools. It is not our business to turn out teachers or typists or even housewives, but to try to send out girls capable and desirous of doing some art of the world's work well, and capable also of living and enjoying a personal life that is well worthwhile."

During the Great War, girls raised money for wool and undertook to knit socks, mittens and balaclavas for the front. The Barracks across the road was used as a Red Cross Hospital for convalescent troops and girls were encouraged to visit. Vegetables were grown on school grounds to help cope with food shortages and after school activities were slowly curtailed as gas restrictions took effect.

In 1919, the adjacent Victorian mansion was put on the market by the Cafferata family and the Governors purchased it as a boarding residence for girls who lived a distance away. Harrowby House is now the home of the Sixth Form in school and retains its original character throughout.

Miss Williams retired at Easter in 1939 after three decades of service to the school. Miss Dorothy J C Gillies MA (Edinburgh) succeeded her as Headmistress in an uneasy atmosphere of war preparation.

When war broke out in September 1939, the school was immediately put under pressure as students of The Camden School for Girls (North London Collegiate) were evacuated to the area. In order to cope with numbers, a double shift system was implemented: KG girls attended in the morning and the Camden girls, known as the ‘Green Girls’ because of their uniform, attended in the afternoon. Air raid shelters and brick anti-blast walls were erected and trenches were dug, and from 1940 onwards bombs began to fall in the local area, targeting local manufacturing and airfields. Fortunately, the school buildings remained undamaged with bombs never falling closer than half a mile, but the increase in enemy action resulted in the Camden girls relocating in Easter 1941.

Margaret Thatcher visiting the schoolDuring this time, Margaret Roberts attended on a scholarship, becoming the Head Girl for the academic year 1942/3 before departing to Oxford University to read Chemistry at Somerville College. She was later to be known by her married name: Margaret Thatcher, first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

By 1954, attendance was up to 432 and the space available was (as it had been for some years) insufficient to needs. A new North Wing was built comprising the hall now known as the Gym and the Humanities block.

In 1965, Miss Gillies retired after 26 years of headship and was succeeded by Miss Nancie Pannell BSc (London), who instigated the system of co-operation with Kings' School that persists to this day, with lessons at Sixth Form shared across the two sites.

A major expansion to the site took place in 1986 with the opening of Roberts Hall, named after Alf Roberts, the father of our former head girl Mrs Thatcher. Mr Roberts had been Chair of Governors for 26 years, serving 39 years on the board in total, and was as staunch a supporter as the school could ever have hoped for.

Behind Roberts Hall an additional building was constructed that now houses Science. Additional extensions to this Science building now form the Science & Technology block; while at the North side of school, the English and Modern Foreign Languages faculties were also able to relocate into new, modern buildings. A purpose-built Sports Hall was added in 2003, and most recently we have opened our new Creative and Expressive Arts Block in 2014.

From our original intake of 102 in 1910 we now educate nearly 1200 girls, with a six form intake and a Sixth Form of over 300. The majority of our girls proceed to higher education, often into highly competitive fields such as medicine and law or to such esteemed establishments as Oxford and Cambridge.

If anything remains consistent throughout our history, however, it is not only our academic excellence; it is our belief, handed down from Miss Williams in 1910, that our chief concern is the care and cultivation of confident, rounded and happy young women, prepared for life and eager for the challenge.

Much of the above is based on the work of Mrs Old, English Mistress at KGGS from 1952-1978, in her book The History of Kesteven and Grantham Girls' School 1910-1987. A copy is available to read in our school library, or for download here (12.6MB PDF).