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Holy Ghost/Queen Mary's Grammar School 1524-1972

The Holy Ghost School was the earliest school set up in Basingstoke originating from a Guild founded in 1524 under licence from Henry VIII employed ‘to fynd a scole Master to teache children grammer.’ The Guild and school for boys were housed in the Holy Ghost Chapel surviving now as ruins.  During the Reformation, the Guild and school were closed but following a petition they were re-established by Philip and Mary in 1556. The adjacent burial ground, The Litten, was leased probably for use as a playground.  During the Civil War the buildings were damaged but teaching resumed in 1670 for fee paying boys.

Significant endowments to support the school came from Sir James Deane (d. 1607), a merchant adventurer to India, China, and the Spice Islands and his cousin, another navigator, Sir James Lancaster (d.1618), one time director of the East India Company and after whom the Lancaster Sound, north-west of Baffin Bay was named.  This regular income enabled the school to become a Free School.

Following years of disputes the school again closed in 1849 being described as in decay, under defective management and of little use to the parishioners with only 8 scholars.  A new Scheme of Management was implicated in 1852 following public demand and the name of Queen’s Free School was created in respect of the former sovereign.

A new school later renamed the Queen’s Free Grammar School, was built in 1855 on land in a healthy situation half a mile from town in Worting Road.  Few scholars lived in the town; boarding pupils were from upper class families from Sussex, Warwickshire, London and Kent.  Another public meeting in 1869 complained that the curriculum concentrated too much on the Classics but it wasn’t until 1885 that a curriculum was introduced to provide for boys wanting to progress in commerce and agriculture. The last boarders left in 1906.

Debts mounted during the early 20th century and the buildings became dilapidated.  In 1941 a new school, Queen Mary’s School was built in Vyne Road, not far from the original Holy Ghost site, to accommodate 330 day boys.  The Worting Road premises were leased and then sold to the Corporation for use as a Technical Institute and eventually demolished to make way for the College of Technology.

To make the school economical and efficient throughout the 1950s and 1960s it veered away from providing a wholly grammar education allowing less able boys to enrol for technical courses. With the post-war growth of Basingstoke accommodation became overcrowded as numbers rose to 580.  As part of Secondary School Reorganisation a new Charles Chute School for non-grammar boys was built on adjacent land; Queen Mary’s received the last entry of boys in 1971.  The following year the two schools amalgamated to become a mixed sex comprehensive, for 1,200 11-16 year olds.  Sixth form boys were transferred to The Shrubbery School in Cliddesden Road which ultimately became Queen Mary’s College.  The 1941 grammar school building is still used but the connection with the sovereign has been lost.  It was given the new name of The Vyne Community School after the nearby former home of the Sandys and Chute families.

Jennie Butler
Image Caption: 
Ruins of the Holy Ghost School founded in 1524
Asset Author: 
Jennie Butler