History and Archive

About us > History and Archive

Gresham’s was founded in 1555 by Sir John Gresham, who converted Holt’s Manor House into a Free Grammar School as a result of Henry VIII’s suppression of the Monasteries.

This regime had abolished the only local school at St Mary’s Priory in Beeston Regis, leaving local children without access to education. Sir John went on to become Lord Mayor of London and forged close ties with the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, leaving the School in their care upon his death; strong links with the City of London remain to this day.

The School remained in the heart of Holt for 350 years, surviving the Great Fire of 1708 which destroyed most of medieval Holt. The building was extensively enlarged and refurbished in Victorian times, and still exists today renamed ‘Old School House’ and currently serving as home to our Pre-Prep School.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Gresham’s was refounded under the direction of new and innovative headmaster George Howson. Under Howson, the School moved to the existing site on the edge of Holt and adopted a progressive curriculum which embraced the Sciences, encouraging independent thought and creativity amongst its pupils.

Gresham’s expanded considerably over the twentieth century, yet it retains the warm community atmosphere which has become central to our ethos. We continue to embrace new technologies and follow a modern approach to education, with the construction of facilities such as the Britten Building in recent years. Our latest development is The Dyson Building, a brand new centre for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) education, which opened in September 2021. We remain committed to offering a high standard of education and promoting personal growth, shaping generations of confident and enquiring young people.

Situated in rural Norfolk, we are located in an area of outstanding natural beauty, just four miles from the breathtaking North Norfolk coastline and near to scenic beaches at Holkham, Blakeney and Wells. Pupils enjoy the advantages of living and studying close to this beautiful landscape with opportunities to visit local beaches and sites of historical and scientific interest such as Binham Priory, Castle Rising and Blakeney Point.

Gresham’s is set in the thriving market town of Holt. The Senior School and Prep School currently occupy an attractive and spacious site on the edge of Holt, a short walk from the shops and amenities in the town centre, while the Pre-Prep School inhabits a historic building located in the heart of Holt.

School Archive

Our School Archive was established in 2005 as a part of the school’s 450th anniversary celebrations. Since then, our former Archivist Liz Larby has built up a collection of documents, photographs and other objects which tie into the School’s long history. 

Our assorted works now include a photo collection dating back to the 19th century, over a century’s worth of The Gresham magazine, a school register from 1858 and numerous articles and press cuttings about OGs. Old registers, prizes and medals, pupil diaries and books by or about alumni and staff also form a principal part of our Archive.

The collection provides an extremely valuable resource for answering enquiries, collating informative displays and for researchers seeking historical source materials. Gresham’s History pupils studying the First World War now use the archives as part of their lessons, and it is fast becoming a core part of the history learning at the School.

Visitors, OGs, students and staff are welcome to view the public collection, consult the Archivist or potentially donate materials. You are very welcome to visit The Archives by appointment. Please contact our Archivist, Izzy Farrow, on 01263 714613 or via email at [email protected].

Gresham’s Archive

If you are interested in finding out more, please visit our Archive section where you will find articles, photographs and a link to our digitised Gresham magazines.