Steyning school marks 400 years with book

Long Dormatory in Brotherhood Hall (pre 1940)
Long Dormatory in Brotherhood Hall (pre 1940)

This year marks the 400th year anniversary of the foundation of Steyning Grammar School.

To celebrate this momentous occasion Caroline Meeson, former art teacher at Steyning Grammar School, with the help from local historians George Cockman, Janet Pennington and Joyce Sleight, Steyning Museum curator Chris Tod and old boy George Barker, have produced a book to commemorate the 400 year history of the school.

The aim of this book is to give a pictorial and historical account of how the school has developed since 1614, from a single oak beamed candlelit classroom with no more than 50 boys, to the giant split site comprehensive with an international boarding house that is today’s thriving school.

Much of the material depicting the four centuries of the school has been drawn from photographs and material housed in the school’s archives.

Mrs Meeson said: “It was about three years ago that discussions began and plans started forming on how to celebrate the school’s 400th anniversary.

“It was felt that a commemorative book might be a suitable contribution, so for the last year and a half I have been working on the production of a souvenir book.

“I have had enormous editorial support from Cathie Ballard, Elizabeth Peters the school librarian and Alana Davidson, Steyning Grammar School head of facility for modern foreign languages.

“I am also very grateful to Tom Packer who has worked tirelessly on the design of the book.”

The history of the school is fascinating and began in 1614 when William Holland, a wealthy merchant from Steyning left funds in his will for the foundation and maintenance of a free grammar school.

In the early days there was only one master and no more than 50 boys, with 6 boarders, and all lessons took place in one room within Brotherhood Hall.

A north country man called George Airey transformed the fortunes of the school in 1839, by bringing a nucleus of promising students from other areas and the younger sons of titled gentry and civil servants.

The comprehensive school existing today was formed in 1968 when the Grammar School amalgamated with the Secondary Modern School to form one large school.

The school is now the largest state school in West Sussex covering two sites with over 2000 students, 500 sixth form students and with one of the most modern boarding facilities in the country accommodating 120 students from all over the world.

The book is on sale from the main school reception, available to purchase online and will be available at our reunion events at a price of £12. You can also purchase the book from the Steyning Bookshop and Steyning Museum.

The proceeds from the sale of the book will go towards upgrading our main school drama hall and the foyer reception area which is used by both the school and the community.

For further details on the school’s 400 year events visit