Students are following in a long tradition of scholarship and care when they join QES.
In 1591 a committee of 24 Kirkby Lonsdale residents petitioned for a royal charter to establish a free grammar school in the town and Queen Elizabeth I granted her legal recognition and protection for such on 23rd July of that year. The earliest records of a dedicated school building are from 1609 when Dame Elizabeth Curwen of Biggins Hall donated the site on Mill Brow in the town, together with three acres of land that now form the existing QES grounds and the sports pitches on the other side of the A65.
Over time the original building and its position deteriorated. Mill Brow became overcrowded and unsanitary due to the close proximity of a skin-yard, a bone-processing factory, and an open sewer! As a result, in the late 1840s the governors and local community raised the necessary funds to build Springfield House on the Biggins Lane land. This was to be for the Headmaster and the stone building opposite for the schooling of both day boys and boarders. Despite the fact that throughout the nineteenth century the school roll rarely rose above 20, QES regularly sent students to Queen’s College, Oxford and to Christ’s College, Cambridge.
In 1919 Queen Elizabeth Grammar School gave up its independent status after the local education authority agreed with their counterparts in Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire that Queen Elizabeth should provide the grammar school needs of the whole local area. The school was now increasingly obliged to provide welfare for its students including school meals and medical examinations. Another positive development was the admission of girls from 1905 and by 1930 there were a total of 142 pupils with about equal numbers of males and females, 54 boarders and 88 day pupils. This diversity was also reflected amongst the staff with six women and two men employed in 1921.
The two World Wars also had a significant impact on the school. On our First World War webpage you will find details of the ten former students that fought and died in the First World War together with the dedication of newly-commissioned benches to their memory in November 2014. The Second World War brought 137 evacuee girls and eight teachers from South Shields with only a day’s notice. An analysis from 1944 shows that the pupils included 60 from the Kirkby Lonsdale locality, 50 from Sedbergh, 50 from the Bentham and Ingleton areas of Yorkshire, 56 boarders from a wide variety of counties, and the last eleven South Shields evacuees.
After two major post-war building programmes QES became a non-selective comprehensive school in 1978, although it continued to take boarders until the late 1980s. Springfield House, where they had been accommodated, was fully redeveloped in 1997 as a dedicated Sixth Form area. Additional 21st century expansions have allowed the school to increase total student numbers from 600 in the 1990s to around 1,400 today and include the Sports Hall (2000), West Building (2002), and Meadow Room (2013).
In December 2010, QES became the first secondary school in the county to convert to Academy status and is now part of the collaborative South Lakes Federation of Schools.