The Newcastle upon Tyne Royal Grammar School received its Royal Charter from Queen Elizabeth I and has a long and rich history as the city's oldest institution of learning. Although the exact date is a matter of argument, tradition has it that the school was founded in 1545 by Thomas Horsley, Mayor of Newcastle. Its first site was next to St Nicholas' Cathedral; since then it has moved five times, but it has occupied its present buildings in Jesmond since 1906. Originally an all boys' school, RGS has grown over the centuries, welcoming its first girls into the Sixth Form in 2001 and becoming fully co-educational in 2008. There are now some 1300 students in the school. Though the school is very proud of its long history and sense of tradition, it seeks always to look forward rather than back and continues to flourish as the premier school in the North East of England.
One aspect of the school which remains deeply-seated in tradition is the thriving house system which not only provides support for students but also acts as a mechanism for intra-school competition. Houses (originally named after colours) were first established on the school's move to Jesmond in 1906. In 1930, the houses were renamed to honour four local influential historical figures (listed below) and since then it is to Collingwood, Eldon, Horsley and Stowell that RGS students have pledged their loyalty and galvanized their best efforts in sport, music, debating and other areas.
Thomas Horsley (1462 - c1545)
Horsley, a corn merchant who served as Mayor of Newcastle five times during the reign of Henry VIII was a hugely powerful man, influential in establishing Newcastle as the wealthy town which it subsequently became. In 1525 he made his will, endowing money for the establishment of a free school in Newcastle on his death and that of his wife, thus founding the Newcastle upon Tyne Royal Grammar School in 1545.
William Scott, 1st Baron Stowell (1745 - 1836)
Scott was born in Heworth in 1745, the son of a coal tradesman. He was educated at the RGS and then later at Oxford University but it wasn't until 1776 when Scott was in his thirties that he devoted himself to the study of law. His rise to success was rapid and within 12 years he had received a knighthood and had become Advocate-General. Among his other achievements were his parliamentary seats at Downton and Oxford University, as well as his Fellowship of the Royal Society, membership of the Privy Council and Judge of the High Court of Admiralty. In 1821 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Stowell of Stowell Park in Gloucestershire.
John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon (1751 - 1838)
Younger brother to William, John Scott was also educated at the RGS, after which his father thought of apprenticing him to the family business. However, William intervened, having himself already obtained a fellowship at University College, Oxford and subsequently it was decided that John should further his studies there. He entered University College in 1766 with the intention to take holy orders but progressed rapidly with his legal studies, obtaining a fellowship and graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1770. Two years later, John eloped with Bessie, the daughter of a Newcastle banker: a colourful and romantic story in itself. After entering parliament in 1782, Scott was appointed Solicitor-General, knighted, and promoted to Attorney-General. Entering the House of Lords in 1801 (the same year as his brother William) as Lord Eldon and Viscount Encombe, he ascended the Woolsack as Lord Chancellor of England.
Cuthbert Collingwood (1748 – 1810)
Collingwood's early education was at the RGS, but by the tender age of 12 he went to sea as a volunteer on board the HMS Shannon. From that moment on, he was rarely on dry land and his life is a glorious litany of naval and military valour. Most famously, he served as Lord Nelson's second in command during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. There are some who say that his political, diplomatic and military judgement far outshone that of Nelson and there is certainly notable bias amongst locals as to who really won the Battle of Trafalgar. The following month, Collingwood was raised to the peerage as Baron Collingwood of Caldburne and Hethpool. In 1809, as his health began to decline drastically, Collingwood was eventually granted his request to be relieved of his command and return home. However, he died characteristically on board ship as he sailed to England in March 1810. He was laid to rest beside his close friend Nelson in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral.