Bishop Vesey's Grammar School

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Bishop Vesey's Grammar School
Motto Inspiration and Excellence
Established 1527
Type Grammar school;
Religion Traditionally CofE, events such as Founder's Day are held at the Holy Trinity Church.
Headteacher Dominic Robson
Deputy Heads Ruth Hearn and Russell Bowen
Chairman of the Governors John Craggs[1]
Founder John Vesey, Bishop of Exeter
Location Lichfield Road/ Boswell Road
Sutton Coldfield
West Midlands
B74 2NH
Coordinates: 52°34′08″N 1°49′16″W / 52.569°N 1.821°W / 52.569; -1.821
Local authority Birmingham
DfE URN 137988 Tables
Ofsted Reports
Staff Approx. 100
Students 1025
Gender Boys
Co-educational (16+)
Ages 11–18
Houses Blue, Gold, Red,White and Purple
Publication Mitre

Bishop Vesey's Grammar School (BVGS) is a selective state grammar school with academy status in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands. Founded in 1527, it is one of the oldest schools in Britain. The school was a day and boarding school until the 1880s, and retained a small number of boarders in the mid-20th century.

The school was founded in 1527 by the Bishop of Exeter John Vesey (formerly John Harman) who was a friend of Henry VIII and tutor of his elder daughter Queen Mary I, and it currently has approximately 900 pupils. The current headteacher is Dominic Robson as of September 2012. The school is noted[who?] for having well-respected school rugby union and hockey teams. In 2004 BVGS became a Language College and, in 2007, the school gained Training School status. Assistant Headteacher Steve Baugh is Head of the Training School and Continuing Professional Development. The school is also a sixth form college. It is situated on the A5127, next to Birmingham Metropolitan College (former Sutton Coldfield College) and the Cross-City Line.


16th century[edit]

The first foundation deed set up by Bishop John Vesey in 1527 provided an endowment from property income of £7 a year and twenty-one people were appointed Trustees to manage the school and pay a fit and proper person to teach Grammar and Rhetoric. Many of the trustees were related to Vesey including his brother Hugh Harman and his brother-in-law William Gibbons, among others. William Gibbons was appointed as the first warden under the Charter of Incorporation, yet no schoolmaster was ever appointed by the trustees of the deed at this time. Because Vesey was not living in Sutton at the time, he did not oversee the trustees duties and obligations. There is no evidence the original trustees carried out their duties of the school.[2]

By 22 August 1540 a second deed was established by Vesey providing for the endowed properties to be held by the Warden and Society of Sutton. The deed states that the schoolmaster must be a layman. Between 1527 and 1540 many developments had occurred in relation to the English Reformation and this stipulation highlighted Vesey's intent to retain Catholic tradition at the time. John Savage was appointed as the first headmaster in 1540. Tuition was free, with traditional, academic subjects such as logic, rhetoric and grammar being taught to the local boys. Until 1544, St Mary's Hall was used as a schoolroom and then a school was built close to the church on Blind Lane, behind where the Masonic Buildings (the former Town Hall) are located.[2]

On 5 October 1546 John Savage died and Lawrence Nowell of Brasenose College, Oxford was appointed as his successor. The Corporation started court proceedings to remove him from office due to neglect of the school, presumably because Nowell prioritised his research work. The course decided that he could not be dismissed "except if any notable crime could be proved against him". Nowell won the case, but still agreed to resign the post in early 1548. The Corporation paid him a gratuity of £10 of which Vesey contributed a third to encourage him to leave. Nowell was a supporter of the Reformation which increased the will to remove him from the position.[2]

When Vesey died in 1554, for eighty years after his death the trustees disregarded their obligations for personal gain. School land was leased to friends and family members at low rents which prevented schoolmasters from receiving enough income to maintain the school.[2]

17th century[edit]

In 1617 Robert Blakesley exhibited a bill against the Warden and Society of Sutton. A commission was established and found that lands with an annual value of £67 had been taken by former wardens and as little as £10 annually was given to the headmaster. The commission advised the Corporation that proceedings should be made to recover the school land but because Blakesley did not live in Sutton the Court settled against Blakesley. The Corporation did not take action to improve the school's finances.[2]

Complaints relating to the diligence of the Trustees and the Corporation came before the Chancery Court which ordered in 1636 that control be transferred to a new board of fourteen Trustees.

18th century[edit]

In 1728, the Corporation provided land for a new school building in the present location, one of the conditions being that the headmaster Paul Lowe should agree to teach English, writing and arithmetic to twelve parish boys. At that time there was no stipulated age of entry to the school. Entry required the ability to read, and usually to pay.

William Webb was appointed headmaster in 1764 and under him a sound basic education was provided and the school prospered. He was headmaster for 53 years until his death in 1817. His successor Charles Barker had an entirely different view of the role of the school. His interest was in the teaching of Classics. He often had only a handful of students and in 1840, only one pupil was enrolled at the school. He was a strong supporter of the proposal for the setting up of National Schools for the provision of general education.

19th century[edit]

Upon Barker's death in 1842, James Eccleston was appointed headmaster, but was so embroiled in debt that in order to avoid prison he departed in 1849 for Tasmania.

In 1840, the Grammar Schools Act tightened up controls on schools. With better controls, and a return to a basic curriculum, the school again began to prosper. Under Joseph Wright, appointed in 1859, a full general education was offered. The buildings were extended in 1861 and in 1863 there were 26 boys enrolled. This increased to 51 boys in 1866, 69 boys in 1869, and 105 boys in 1875.

The 1881 census shows the headmaster Rev. Albert Smith resident with his family, a second master Major Dunn, six staff including domestic servants and ten boarding boys. At this time there were also about eighty day boys who were expected to pay either 10s a quarter if from the parish or £2.10s a quarter if from elsewhere.

20th century[edit]

On 29 July 1972, a 32-year-old art teacher, David Stephenson, was arrested by Russian officials for currency violations in Odessa, when a school party was visiting the Black Sea area. He was accused of making a speculative currency transaction with a Polish citizen, under Article 80 of Section 1 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code. He was released in late October 1972.

In September 1972, the school admitted no new pupils as its entry age was increased from 11 to 12. However, the entry age reverted to 11 from September 1992, when two year groups (11- and 12-year-olds) were admitted to the school, with a reduced intake however of 120 a year rather than 150.

There were plans to turn the whole area comprehensive in the late 1970s, but the Conservatives gained control of Birmingham City Council in 1976, preventing this from happening. That notwithstanding, the girls' grammar school in Sutton did convert to a girls' comprehensive school briefly, though it reverted to being a grammar school following a local referendum in the early 1980s. As an independent foundation Bishop Vesey's managed to escape this period of turbulence.

In November 1981, 13-year-old John Haddon was abducted on his way to school from nearby Sutton Park and subsequently murdered. His body was found near Fenny Drayton. Two males, Paul Corrigan aged 30 and 15-year-old Derek McInnes, were charged with his murder in December 1981.[3]

In the 1990s, the rugby pitch at the Tamworth Road end of the playing fields was sold for residential development, to fund various projects such as the "Randon Design Centre". The Randon Design Centre was constructed in 1990 at a cost of £1.5 million. The block houses the art and design and technology departments and was designed by Birmingham-based Associated Architects. The library, which was located on the site of the Randon Design Centre, was moved into an extension constructed on the main school building.[4] Funds from the sale are still available to the school, but the school are not allowed to sell any more of these fields.

21st century[edit]

The school formally converted to academy status in April 2012, appointing an Executive Head in charge of fundraising and photography, and promoting Deputy Head Dominic Robson to the position of Headteacher. As a result of its academy status it is no longer directly under local authority control. However it continues to cooperate with Birmingham local authorities in respects to admissions.


The school's Latin motto, Dextra Dei Exaltavit Me means "The right hand of God hath lifted me up" or alternatively "The right hand of God has guided me". The former school motto was "Dominus Mihi Adjutor" meaning "Lord, give me counsel".

Two former students, Charles Bonner and Alan Jerrard received Victoria Crosses in the First World War. Alumni are known as 'Old Veseyans'.


The school teaches a wide variety of languages: comprising French, German and Spanish. Students in years 10 and 11 study ten GCSEs, with tutoring for science subjects beginning in year 9. Students are required to study a modern language, either French, Spanish or German. Students are given three other choices to study either additional languages, History, Geography, Art, Design Technology (of which there are several variants), Physical Education (non-compulsory), Business Studies, Computer Science or Religious Education.

Sixth Form students gain the options of Geology, Psychology and Economics to be taken for A-level subjects.


In the 2005/2006 season, the school had one of the best rugby teams in the Birmingham area after defeating all of its local rivals, reaching the fifth round of the National Daily Mail Cup and competing in the 'super 16s' tournament at the University of Warwick amongst the top rugby schools and colleges in the country. In April 2008, Isaac Fe'aunati of Bath Rugby and the Samoa national rugby union team announced he was to retire and take up the head of rugby position at Bishop Vesey's Grammar School on 2 June 2008.[5][6]

The school also focuses upon other sports and has an annual sports day, which comprises mainly track and field events. Netball is available for the girls who join the school in the sixth form.

In 2008, Bishop Vesey's became the youngest tennis team to reach the Glanvill Cup Finals, the highest standard of school tennis in Great Britain.[citation needed] The team consisted of three Year 10 pupils and a Year 9 pupil. The team finished tenth at the finals in Queenswood, London in June.[when?] The team are attempting to qualify for the U15 Nestle School's National Championships.[citation needed] Also in late 2008 the school hockey teams in the under 13 and under 15 hockey teams won the Birmingham finals.[citation needed] The 2008/09 under-16s made it to the final of the county cup and the 2009/10 1st XI won the County Cup Final.[citation needed] BVGS set up a rowing club in 2010 which was founded by Brian Davies, and coached by Ian Bousfield. Ian Bousfield was appointed Head of Rowing in 2012. The school row on Powells Pool in Sutton Park, they are one of 4 state funded grammar schools that offer rowing to their pupils.


The main school hall, known as 'Big School'.

The Clive Richards Centre was completed in October 2006 on the site of the former gymnasium and features several specially designed rooms with sound proofing, for music-making.

The North Tower is used as an extension to the sixth form facilities, which include a common room with cafe, an office and a study room.

An all-weather Astroturf hockey and football pitch on the "Middle Field", running adjacent to the Birmingham Cross City railway line, was funded through grants and an 18-month fundraising campaign.

The facilities at BVGS were used in conjunction with the filming of a new venture by Forward Films and Slingshot Studios, Tormented. The film was shot on site at the school[7] from 11 August 2008 onwards and was released on 22 May 2009. Many pupils at the school starred as movie extras for the filming on the school site. It is the first major motion picture to be filmed in the town of Sutton Coldfield.[citation needed] The cast includes Calvin Dean, April Pearson, Alex Pettyfer and Tom Hopper.[8]

Notable former pupils[edit]


  1. ^ "Governors". Bishop Vesey's Grammar School. Retrieved 28 December 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Osborne, Kerry. A History of Bishop Vesey's Grammar School - The First 375 Years (1527-1902). 
  3. ^ Chadwick, Edward. "From the Archives: Paedophile acted out evil fantasy by killing schoolboy". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  4. ^ "The Randon Design Centre" (PDF). Associated Architects. Retrieved 2 May 2008. 
  5. ^ "Feaunati hangs up his boots". Sky Sports. 30 April 2008. Retrieved 2 May 2008. 
  6. ^ "Balshaw extends, Feaunati retires". Planet Rugby. 30 April 2008. Retrieved 2 May 2008. 
  7. ^ "Are You A Teen Horror Star?". BRMB. Retrieved 27 August 2008. 
  8. ^
  • The History of Bishop Vesey's Grammar School, Kerry Osbourne

External links[edit]