School history

Eric Johnson and Geoffrey Gwyther, the two boys pictured above, were in at the start of something big in 1903 when they became new boys at Gresham's School in Holt, Norfolk. They moved straight into the state-of-the-art premises, which attracted a stream of visitors to the "new" Gresham's.

The Free Grammar School founded by Sir John Gresham in the manor house in 1555 had been refounded in 1900. The trailblazing 20th-century head celebrated in the opening chapter of the school history, I Will Plant Me a Tree, from which this picture is taken, was George Howson. Howson was attracted by the glossy new facilities promised in the job advertisement, including purpose-built science laboratories (Gresham's was one of the first public schools to put sciences and modern languages on an equal footing with the classics), but when he took up the post the foundations were still being dug.

He appreciated Gresham's healthy location and introduced extra-curricular activities which made the most of it. Again, unusually, natural history and music (former pupils include Benjamin Britten) took on the games culture on a level playing field.

Gresham's former head of history, Steve Benson (later head of Bishop's Stortford College and now a regional director of the Independent Schools Information Service), is responsible for most of the text with a chapter on the earlier years by former house tutor Martin Crossley Evans.

I Will Plant Me a Tree: an illustrated history of Gresham's School, by Steve Benson with Martin Crossley Evans, is published by James amp; James (pound;28).

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