Bury Grammar School

Bury Grammar School Boys is an independent' day school in Bury, Greater Manchester, England, that has existed since c.1570. It is now part of a group of schools for preschool, junior, senior and sixth form studies.

Bury Grammar School
The school crest,
(known as The Irwell Duck)[1]
Tenterden Street

, ,

Coordinates53.591026°N 2.303593°W / 53.591026; -2.303593
TypeIndependent day school
MottoLatin: Sanctas Clavis Fores Aperit
(The key that opens sacred doors)
Religious affiliation(s)Church of England
Department for Education URN105373 Tables
Chair of GovernorsGillian Winter
HeadmasterMr Devin Cassidy[2]
Age3 to 18
Capacity778 pupils[2]
HousesDerby, Howlett, Hulme, Kay
PublicationThe Clavian
Old BoysOld Clavians

The headmaster of the boys' school since 2017 has been Devin Cassidy. The headmaster is a member of the HMC. The current school fees are £10,440 p.a. for senior pupils and £7.758 p.a. in the junior school.[3]


There is evidence that a grammar school attached to Bury Parish Church existed as early as 1570[4] but the school was certainly well-established by 1634 with Henry Dunster as its fourth recorded headmaster. Former headmaster, Rev'd Henry Bury, who was by then "aged eighty nine yeares or thereabout", wrote his will in that year. In it, he not only left the sum of twenty shillings to Dunster ("that studious and painfull minister") but also an endowment of £300 to the "ffree school" at Bury "for and towards the yearlie mentayninge of a school maister there, for to teach their children."[5]

Rev'd Roger Kay had gained his BA in 1688, his MA in 1691 and had become a Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge. He also later became Rector of Fittleton in Wiltshire and was a prebendary of Salisbury until his death.[6] In 1726, he left money in his will to support the library at St John's College, but also a substantial part of his estate to re-founding his alma mater in his home town of Bury.[6] The building in which Kay's newly re-founded school educated the boys of Bury still stands today, known as the Blackburn Hall, in the Wylde behind the Parish Church. (The hall is named after a former Rector of Bury, Ven. Foster Blackburne MA(Oxon), who was also Archdeacon of Manchester and Chairman of Governors of Bury G S.[7] Archdeacon Blackburn was credited with producing the lyrics for a school song. It is not used as the official school song today.)[8]

The school outgrew its premises and, in 1903, the boys moved into the completed half of a new building on Tenterden Street, with playing fields across Bridge Road. The new buildings, of Accrington brick, were designed in a simple Neo-Renaissance style by William Venn Gough.[9](The playing fields were a bone of contention from the first. One writer noted in an early edition of "The Clavian" that the young folks of Bury refused to recognize our right to the ground.[10]

The boys were soon joined by the girls of the Bury Girls' High School, newly re-founded as Bury Grammar School for Girls. The two schools, whilst remaining separate entities, shared the same building until the erection of a more modern facility for the boys across Bridge Road in the 1960s. This new boys' school was built on the playing fields, so the Governors purchased c.13.8 hectares (34 acres) of land at Buckley Wells for new playing fields. When a new courthouse was completed on Tenters Street, the Magistrates' Court and County Court vacated their former building on Tenterden Street. The Prep Department of the boys' school moved across the road from the 1960s building into the refurbished old courthouse.

The school was a direct grant grammar school from 1944 until the abolition of the direct grant system in 1976, when it became fully independent once again. The school celebrated the 250th anniversary of its re-founding by Roger Kay with a visit from Prince Philip on 19 November 1976.

Bury Grammar Schools celebrate their Founders' Day on the Friday closest to 6 May (the Feast of St John before the Latin Gate), the date on which Roger Kay specified the Trustees should meet annually to inspect the schools. The Eucharist is celebrated in the Parish Church and, later in the morning, a procession leads from the school through the main streets of Bury to the Parish Church, led by the Combined Cadet Force (CCF). Since the CCF (founded 1892)[11] is attached to the Lancashire Fusiliers, a regiment with the Freedom of the Borough, the cadets are permitted to march with "swords drawn, drums beating and colours flying". After a commemoration service, the pupils are awarded a half-holiday. Services for younger pupils are held simultaneously in the boys' school hall, the boys' preparatory school and the Roger Kay Hall (in the girls' school).

Recorded Headmasters of Bury Grammar School[12]
Rev'd Henry Bury MA c.1600
Rev'd Mr Johnson MA 1617 1622
Rev'd Mr Hoyle MA 1622 1630
Rev'd Henry Dunster MA(Cantab) 1630 1640 [13]
Rev'd William Ingham MA 1640 1649 [14]
Rev'd James Livesy MA 1649 1650
Rev'd Peter Bradshaw MA 1650 1653 [14]
Rev'd William Aspinwall MA 1653 1656 [14]
Rev'd Thomas Lawton MA 1662 1668 [14]
Rev'd William Richardson MA 1669 1677 [15]
Rev'd James Kay MA 1677 1678 [15]
Rev'd John Duckworth MA 1678 1680
Rev'd Timothy Dobson MA 1680 1684 [15]
Rev'd Thomas Boardman MA 1694 1716
Rev'd Thomas Rider MA 1716 1724 [15]
Rev'd William Smith MA 1725 1727
Rev'd James Andrew MA 1728 1730 [16]
After Kay's Re-Founding
Rev'd John Lister MA 1730 1749 [16]
Rev'd Richard Barton MA 1749 1768 [16]
Rev'd Francis Hodgson MA 1768 1818 [17]
Rev'd Edward Bushby MA 1818 1819
Rev'd Richard Hood MA 1820 1823
Rev'd Henry Crewe Boutflower MA 1823 1858 [18]
Rev'd Charles Frederick Hildyard MA 1858 1876 [19]
Rev'd Edward Hale Gulliver MA 1877 1879 [20]
Rev'd William Henry Howlett MA 1879 1919 [20]
Leonard Ralph Strangeways MA(Oxon)
Scholar of New College
1919 1936
Lionel Cornwallis Lord MA(Cantab)
Scholar of Emmanuel College
1937 1946
Richard Lionel Chambers MA(Cantab)
Scholar of Pembroke College
1946 1951
John Robertson Murray Senior MA(Oxon)
Scholar of Christ Church
1951 1956
Charles Lionel Hall BSc Econ(Lond) FRGS 1956 1960
John Talbot Hansford MA(Cantab)
Scholar of St John's College
1960 1969 [21]
(William) John Hurlston Robson MA(Oxon)
Scholar of St John's College
1969 1990 [22]
Keith Richards MA(Cantab) PGCE
Scholar of Sidney Sussex College
1990 2006 [23]
Rev'd Steven C Harvey MA(Oxon) 2006 2013 [24]
Richard N Marshall MSc NPQH 2013 2017 [25]
Devin Cassidy 2017 Present [2]


The school's crest dates from c.1840. It depicts a swan holding a key in its beak, under which is the motto in Latin: sanctas clavis fores aperit (English: The key opens sacred doors). Both are considered to have been created by Rev'd Henry Crewe Boutflower, headmaster 1823–58. The swan was used by John, Duke of Berry in the manuscripts known as the Très Riches Heures. Berry may have been an ancestor of Henry Bury, but was more likely chosen due to the similarity in their names, whilst the key is believed to be a play on the name of the re-founder, Roger Kay.

In a letter to the editor in the first edition of the Bury Grammar School Magazine of September 1881, a correspondent asked:

Will you kindly inform me what creature owns the head that figures as the school crest? Is it an ostrich, swan, snake, or do you think it is a mythical bird? Also, can you tell me why it was adopted as the school crest? Truly yours, PUZZLED[26]

The following edition carried a reply:

In answer to the query of Puzzled in your last issue, I may state, that I have it on the authority of a celebrated local ornithologist that the creature with the key between its teeth is a faithful representation of the head and part of the neck of the once famous Irwell Duck. This rara avis, which in days gone by was found on the banks of that clear and crystal stream from which it takes its name, was celebrated for its pilfering habits. The engraving represents the identical duck, which, it is supposed, abstracted the key from the lock of the Sacred Door; it subsequently alighted on the Island where, quite overcome by the weight of its burden, it was captured in a fainting condition and borne off to the Grammar School, where it immediately expired, still however gripping the key with a death-like tenacity. So struck were the assembled trustees by the determination of the noble bird, that they forthwith resolved that the present arms should be adopted. Yours respectfully, O. K.[1]

Thus began references to the swan of Bury as The Irwell Duck.


The school uniform comprises a navy blue blazer with a badge in the pupils' house colour, and a navy blue tie (striped in the house colour), with black/charcoal trousers, and black socks and shoes. With the arrival of warmer weather, the headmaster invariably "declares summer", enabling blazers and ties to be removed "within the precincts of the school". Boys in the sixth form are not required to wear school uniform, but must wear a smart suit.


The school has four houses, whose colours are reflected in the colour of the badge and the stripes of the tie in the school uniforms. Three houses were created in 1905 by Rev'd W H Howlett to re-introduce some of the camaraderie of a boarding school into the academic and sporting life of what was, by this time, a day school. The three houses were:
     Derby; named after Frederick Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby, donor of the land upon which the school stands and of considerable sums of money for the erection of the present girls' school building.
     Hulme; named after Manchester lawyer, William Hulme, whose Trust helped to fund the new building.
     Kay; named after Rev'd Roger Kay, re-founder of the school.
In 1919, an additional house was introduced:
     Howlett; named after Fr Howlett himself.


Boys in the prep school, housed in its own building across Tenterden Street, study the subjects of the National Curriculum - the core subjects of English, mathematics and general science, together with art, DT, geography, history, ICT, French, music, PSHEE and RS. In addition, all boys have PPE, Swimming and Games on their timetable.[27]

All boys study English language, English literature, maths and chemistry, biology and physics as individual subjects. Boys must also take either French or German. Latin is compulsory in the second and third forms. In addition to these compulsory subjects, boys opt for a combination of other subjects from a range including art, business studies, DT, electronics, geography, Greek, history, ICT, music, PE and RS.[28]

GCSE examinations are taken in the 5th Year, including French and German. The exception is the sciences, in which GCSE courses begin in the 3rd year and pupils sit the Module 1 exam in January of the 4th year. Pupils sit the IGCSE mathematics, English language and English literature examinations, administered by Edexcel. Subsequently, the media report the school as having a 0% pass rate at GCSE in maths and English, since IGCSEs are not counted as GCSE passes by the Office for National Statistics.[29]

Having successfully completed their GCSEs in the 5th year, boys may opt to stay on into the 6th form for a further two years. Sixth form teaching offers study towards 'A' level in all of the subjects offered at GCSE, along with geology, economics, further maths, philosophy, politics and psychology (which is taught in the girls' school).[30]

Through the Cadet Vocational Qualifications Organisation (CVQO) the school CCF offers cadets (aged 16–19) the opportunity to gain internationally recognized BTEC First Diploma qualifications in Public Services, equivalent to 4 GCSEs, grade C – A*.

Extra curricular


PE and games lessons are part of every boy's timetable, but there is a range of opportunities for extra curricular sport in the school. Sports offered include Association football, athletics, badminton, basketball, cricket, fencing, hockey, gymnastics, Rugby football and tennis. The school has a swimming pool and a large sports hall with weights room.[31] Summer 2016 saw the addition of a series of all-weather playing surfaces between the sports hall and the river.[32][33] Boys play competitively both in inter-house competitions and in extramural matches,[34] as well as sending representatives to regional and national teams, such as the ISFA.[35]

Performing arts

The school has a long tradition of musical and dramatic performance, with performances of Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer noted in The Clavian of 1912[36] whilst a "little musical programme was put together" for a "Kay House Social" in July of the same year.[37] The 1974 production of Dry Rot, starring John Darling and Piggy Hyde, was the favourite of that decade. Today, the school has a full spectrum of musical groups including a brass ensemble, senior and junior choirs, a concert band, an orchestra and a percussion group.[38] The CCF has a corps of drums. Dramatic productions include both junior and senior plays, and musical productions; such performances are often produced in conjunction with the girls' school, and in recent years have included Guys and Dolls, Les Miserables, Little Shop of Horrors and Jesus Christ, Superstar.[39]

Clubs and societies

The first debating society was established at the school in 1907.[40] There is a range of societies available to the Clavian of today including the ever-present chess club, photography club and debating society, as well as such transitory pastimes as the Minecraft, Wargaming and Pilates Societies.

Publications and alumni activities

There are extant copies of a school magazine dating back as far as 1881. The current magazine (The Clavian) began as a termly in-house pamphlet in 1906 and is now an annual publication.[41] "The Key" is a magazine produced for Alumni and friends of the school by the Development Office.[42]

There is an active alumni group run by the Development Office and membership of the Bury Grammar Schools' Alumni Group on LinkedIn is open to Old Clavians (and Old Claviennes) who are LinkedIn members.[43]

The Old Boys' Society has long held an Annual Dinner; the first recorded such dinner took place on 12 September 1881, after the Old Clavians -v- 1st XI cricket match. (Toasts included "The Bishop and Clergy", "The Army, Navy and Auxiliary Forces" and "The Masters".)[44] The OBS today still organises an annual dinner, held at the school on Founders' Day each year. The Old Boys' Society (London Branch) organises an annual dinner in London for Home Counties-based Old Boys. Previously held on 6 May annually, in recent years it has moved to a Friday later in May.

The society also runs several sports teams for Old Clavians, including an association football club that fields four teams; 1st XI, Reserves, 3rd XI and Veterans.[45]

Inter school co-operation

There is a single board of governors for the boys' and girls' schools. They are also served by a single Bursar/Clerk to the Governors and development office. There is a tradition of boys and girls uniting for dramatic productions and musical concerts and, since 1992, membership of the boys' school CCF has been open to members of the girls' school. Pupils in the sixth forms of the two school have long mixed socially; the imminent completion of a joint sixth form centre will mean that some 'A' level subjects can be taught jointly across the two schools.

The Henry Dunster Society, an organisation inaugurated at Harvard University in September 2008, is intended to bring together from time to time the alumni/ae of the Bury Grammar Schools and to help them support new initiatives for the schools. The connection with Harvard College started with Henry Dunster. Dunster was born near Bury and attended Bury Grammar School. He went up to Magdalene College, Cambridge, and after graduation became the curate of Bury Parish Church, a living in the patronage of the Earl of Derby. Returning to Bury, Dunster became the fourth headmaster of the school. Dunster left his posts in Bury in 1640 when, like many Puritans dissatisfied with developments in both church and state, and probably in anticipation of a civil war, he emigrated to Massachusetts. Soon after his arrival, Dunster was asked and agreed to become the first president of Harvard College, now Harvard University. Although few documents survive to explain how Dunster thought of himself, he did use a phrase in one letter, ego enim Lancastrensis sum, suggesting that he was a modest, hard-working, Lancashire lad, proud of his northern English origins and of his noted Lancastrian accent. Dunster, a professor of oriental languages, founded the first printing press in America at Harvard in 1648.[13]

Derek Calrow, an Old Clavian, a Governor and Chair of the Schools' Development Committee, serves as the Patron of the Henry Dunster Society.[13]

Notable masters

  • Henry Dunster (1609–1659), first president of Harvard College. A native of Bury and Old Clavian, he was the fourth headmaster of the school prior to his emigration to Massachusetts in 1640.[13]
  • John Just (1797–1852), Second Master 1832–52. A noted botanist, he lectured at the Royal Manchester School of Medicine and Surgery, and was honorary professor of botany at the Royal Manchester Institution.[46]

Notable Old Clavians

Name Born Died Notes
Richard Wroe 1641 1718 Warden of the Collegiate Church of St Mary, St Denys and St George in Manchester 1684–1718 [47]
Francis Fawkes 1720 1777 Poet and translator [48]
Sir William Fawcett 1727 1804 Adjutant-General to the Forces; Governor of the Royal Hospital Chelsea [49]
James Wood 1760 1839 Mathematician; Master of St John's College, Cambridge 1815–1839; Dean of Ely 1820–1839 [17]
Sir Robert Peel Bt 1788 1850 Prime Minister 1834–1835, 1841–1846 [50]
Sir John Holker 1828 1882 Conservative MP for Preston 1872–1882; Attorney-General, (1875–1880) [51]
Walter Olivey 1860 1880 Hero of the 2nd Afghan War; the last British Officer to be killed in action while carrying the Queen's Colours. [52]
Brigadier General Rev'd
Arthur Venables Calveley Hordern CMG CBE
1866 1946 Chaplain of Ladysmith during the siege; served in the Boer War and WWI; mentioned in despatches six times, including at Gallipoli; Chaplain General [53][54][55]
Gordon Hewart, 1st Viscount Hewart 1870 1943 Solicitor General 1916–1919; Attorney General 1919–1922; Lord Chief Justice of England 1922–1940
Cecil Cronshaw 1889 1961 Pioneer of modern dyes, chairman and director of ICI [56]
Sir Malcolm Knox 1900 1980 Philosopher and Vice-Chancellor of the University of St Andrews 1953–1966 [57]
Sir John Charnley 1911 1982 Orthopaedic surgeon [58]
Walter Clegg 1920 1994 British Conservative politician [59]
Donald Jack 1924 2003 Canadian novelist and playwright [60][61]
Trevor Park 1927 1995 Labour MP for South East Derbyshire 1964–1970 [62]
Brian Cubbon 1928 2015 Former Permanent Secretary, Home Office and Northern Ireland Office [63]
W. Geoffrey Arnott 1930 2010 Classics scholar [64]
Geoffrey Moorhouse 1931 2009 Author and journalist; writer of Hell's Foundations [65]
Paul Rose 1935 2015 Labour MP for Manchester Blackley 1964–1979; barrister and writer [66]
Allan Levy QC 1943 2004 Children's rights lawyer; chairman of the Pindown Enquiry [67]
Michael Edelson 1944 Businessman; director of Manchester United Football Club. [68]
Sir David Trippier 1946 Conservative MP for Rossendale 1979–1983; MP for Rossendale and Darwen 1983–1992 [69]
Ian Wallace 1946 2007 Musician; drummer with King Crimson, Don Henley, Bob Dylan and others. His first group, the Jaguars, was formed in Bury with school friends [70]
Geoffrey Shindler 1947 Co-founder of the law firm, Lane-Smith & Shindler; president of the Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners Worldside in 2007 [71]
David Green 1948) Film director [72]
David Chaytor 1949 Labour MP for Bury North 1997–2010; convicted fraudster [73]
Simon Hopkinson 1954 Chef; writer of "Roast Chicken and Other Stories" [74]
Alistair Burt 1955 Conservative MP for Bury North 1983–1997; MP for North East Bedfordshire 2001– [75]
Simon Kelner 1957 Editor-in-chief of The Independent 1998–2008 [76]
Andrew Higginson 1957 Chairman of Morrisons Supermarkets 2015– [77]
Phil Kelly 1963 Rock climber; author [78]
Michael Purtill 1966 Hotelier [79]
Edward Lord 1972 Politician; Member of the Court of Common Council of the City of London; Chairman of Local Partnerships LLP [80]
Pat Sanderson 1977 Former professional rugby union player for Sale Sharks, Harlequins and Worcester Warriors; former England RUFC captain with 16 England caps [81]
Henry Holland 1983 Fashion designer [82]
Jeff Wootton 1987 Guitarist for Gorillaz, Damon Albarn and Liam Gallagher [83]

See also


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  3. http://www.bgsboys.co.uk/bgsb//fees. Retrieved on 20 September 2016
  4. Fallows, Ian B. (2001). Bury Grammar School: A History c.1570–1976. Bury, Lancs: The Estate Governors of Bury GS.
  5. Hodgkiss, Derek S. (October 1976). Bury Grammar School (PDF). Bury: BGS Boys. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  6. "Roger Kay (d. 1731)". joh.cam.ac. St John's College Cambridge. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  7. "The Parish of Bury". Victoria County History Online. BHO. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
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  9. Pevsner, Nikolaus (2004). Buildings of England: Lancashire; Manchester and the South East (2nd ed.). New Haven and London: Yale University Press. p. 181. ISBN 0 300 10583 5.
  10. Carrigan, M. (1988). ""The Clavian"" (PDF). The Clavian. 1987-8: 51. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  11. "History". BGSboys. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  12. Asquith, Herbert (1976). Hodgkiss, Derek (ed.). Headmasters of Bury Grammar School (PDF) (2nd ed.). Bury, Lancs: Bury GS. p. 11. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  13. "About Henry Dunster". henrydunstersociety.com. HDS. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  14. Hewitson, William (December 1909). "Headmasters Of Bury Grammar School" (PDF). The Clavian (12): 10–13. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  15. Hewitson, William (July 1910). "Headmasters of Bury Grammar School" (PDF). The Clavian (13): 9–13. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  16. Hewitson, William (December 1910). "Headmasters of Bury Grammar School" (PDF). The Clavian (14): 10–14. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  17. Hewitson, William (May 1911). "Headmasters of Bury Grammar School" (PDF). The Clavian (15): 7–11. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  18. Sydney, W. C. "Boutflower, Henry Crewe". DNB. OUP. Retrieved 23 November 2016. In 1823 Boutflower was appointed headmaster of Bury School, Lancashire, and held that position until 1859. On 21 June 1825 he married his cousin, Harriet, daughter of Henry Johnson Boutflower. In 1832 he was presented to the perpetual curacy of St John's Church in Bury. Though during his time Bury School lost prestige—Boutflower being seen as scholarly but ineffective—he was highly respected as an able and conscientious clergyman and a good preacher.
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  29. https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/schools-by-type?step=phase&region=351&geographic=la&phase=secondary Retrieved on 20 September 2016
  30. "Sixth Form - Academic". BGSboys. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  31. "Prospectus" (PDF). bgsboys.co.uk. Bury GS. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  32. "Pro Club Surfaces for Bury Grammar School Boys". greenfieldsturf.co.uk. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
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  • Fallows, Ian B. (2001). Bury Grammar School: A History c. 1570–1976. The Estate Governors of Bury Grammar School.
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