The origins of the school date back to the sixteenth century. In 1510 the will of Thomas Thoresby, a former Mayor of Lynn, made provision for the payment of a priest who would teach six children ‘in grammar and song’. In 1543 Thomas Thoresby’s son, another Thomas, agreed to grant the four pieces of pasture in Gaywood, referred to in his father’s will, to the Corporation on condition that it appointed a suitably qualified priest as school master to teach six children who would pray daily for his father’s soul.
In the early days the schoolroom was in the Charnel Chapel attached to St. Margaret’s Church. This was pulled down in 1779 and a room above the butcher’s shambles on Saturday Market Place was used by the school until about 1820 when the teaching was transferred to a school room on the site of the Schoolmaster’s house in St. James Street, opposite the Greyfriars Tower. Two stones, giving dates of the rebuilding of the house in 1658/59 and 1825, which were above the doorway, were built into the wall on either side of the main door of the present building in 1939.
The school’s name was changed to King Edward Vll Grammar School in 1903 when it was amalgamated with the King’s Lynn Technical School. In 1902 William Lancaster, a former pupil of the Lynn Grammar School, offered to pay for a new building as long as the Corporation found a suitable site. The new school, the cost of which was estimated at the time to be between £50,000 and £60,000 – £2.5 to £3 millions in today’s money - was designed by Basil Champneys and opened by The King on the fifth of November 1906. King Edward, Queen Alexandra and other members of the Royal Family travelled by carriage and motor car from Sandringham. Cheering crowds lined the route. After making a speech in the main hall The King knighted William Lancaster in recognition of his generosity. The statue of the King, by Robert Colton, was officially unveiled by Queen Alexandra.
The school’s link with Edward Vll goes back to the 1860s when he was Prince of Wales. Since 1864 a gold medal has been awarded to the best scholar, today the student with the best ‘A’ level results. On one side of the medal is the monarch’s head and on the other side the Lynn crest, with the words: SCHOL: LENN: REG: LITT: AC SCIENT: PRAEM: MDCCCLXIV (The King’s Lynn School Prize for Arts and Science, 1864). A board in the hall lists all the Gold Medal winners. In most cases the student has received the medal at a private ceremony at Sandringham House, but occasionally it has been presented in school, for example in 1956 when The Queen opened the Biology Block.
There have been a number of royal visitors: The Duke of Gloucester came in 1931 and marked the 25th anniversary of the opening of the school by unveiling a memorial bronze tablet in the hall, in honour of Sir William Lancaster; Queen Elizabeth came in 1956 to mark the fiftieth anniversary; and The Duke of York officially opened the rebuilt Sports Hall in 1991, following its destruction by fire in April 1990. The highlight of the centenary celebrations was a visit by Her Majesty The Queen on 24 January 2007. She met students, staff, governors and invited guests in the hall and unveiled a plaque to commemorate this second occasion on which she had honoured the school.
Further information on the school’s history is to be found in the following books by former Head, Michael Walker: King Edward Vll School – A Centenary Celebration (Book Guild Publishing, 2005), K.E.S. Tales (King Edward Vll School, 2006), and Diary of a Grammar School, (K.E.S. Publications, 2010). All are available from the school.