St Bees School and the surrounding village boast a rich and varied history. The school itself is over 430 years old and was founded in 1583, by Edmund Grindal who was born in the village in about 1517 and went on to become Archbishop of Canterbury. Following the dissolution of the monasteries in 1535, there would have been little opportunity for formal education in this area, so the Archbishop petitioned Elizabeth I for permission to establish a school on the basis that ‘Cowpland (now known at Copeland, the area around and including St Bees) is the ignorantest part in religion and most oppressed of covetous landlords of any part of this realm to my knowledge’.
Building started in 1587, much of the stone probably being taken from the ruins of the adjacent monastery, and comprised a two-storey block, the lower floor being the school room and the upper containing the masters’ quarters and a room for the governors. This building, now standing three storeys high, was incorporated in Foundation House in 1840 and forms the north side of the Quadrangle where the original doorway can still be seen. The old school room is now the dining room.
In the four hundred years since its establishment, St Bees has withstood changing fortunes, but it has continued to stand the test of time. After a brief closure we look forward to opening the doors of our magnificent school once more in September 2018, starting with a Year 7 intake which provides the best educational model for families. The school will grow organically from Year 7 upwards to establish the new culture from the ground up. Strong social dynamics and interactions are crucial to high quality education and group sizes remain small to ensure unrivalled care for the individual.
Over the next five years, the School is embarking on an ambitious redevelopment programme with millions of pounds earmarked for investment in the historic site in order to provide pupils with the very best amenities.