Sydney Grammar School

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Sydney Grammar School
Sydney Grammar School Logo.png
Latin: Laus Deo
("Praise be to God")
Darlinghurst, Edgecliff and St Ives, Sydney
Coordinates 33°52′29″S 151°12′47″E / 33.87472°S 151.21306°E / -33.87472; 151.21306Coordinates: 33°52′29″S 151°12′47″E / 33.87472°S 151.21306°E / -33.87472; 151.21306
Type Independent, day school
Religious affiliation(s) None
Established 1857[1]
Founder Laurence Hynes Halloran
Chairman Mr David Kirk MBE[2]
Headmaster Dr JT Vallance
Staff 63 (Darlinghurst),[3]
15 (Edgecliff),[3]
21 (St Ives)[3]
Teaching staff 153 (Darlinghurst),[3]
52 (Edgecliff),[3]
47 (St Ives)[3]
Gender Boys
Enrolment 1,123 (Darlinghurst),[3]
306 (Edgecliff),[3]
413 (St Ives)[3]
Colour(s) Black and gold

Sydney Grammar School (colloquially known as Grammar)[4] is an independent, non-denominational, day school for boys, located in Darlinghurst, Edgecliff and St Ives, all suburbs of Sydney, Australia.

Incorporated in 1854 by Act of Parliament[5] and opened in 1857, the school claims to offer a "classical" or "grammar" school education thought of as liberal, humane, pre-vocational pedagogy.[4]

Sydney Grammar School currently has an enrolment of approximately 1841 students from kindergarten to Year 12, over three campuses.[3] The two preparatory schools (K to 6), are located at Edgecliff in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs,[6] and St Ives, on the Upper North Shore.[7] The historic College Street campus caters for students from Forms I to VI (Years 7–12), and is in Darlinghurst, close to the Sydney central business district.[6]

The school is affiliated with the Association of Heads of independent schools of Australia (AHISA),[8] the Junior School Heads Association of Australia (JSHAA),[9] the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference,[10] and is a founding member of the Athletic Association of the Great Public Schools of New South Wales (AAGPS).[11]

In 2001, The Sun-Herald ranked Sydney Grammar School tenth in Australia's top ten boys' schools, based on the number of its alumni mentioned in the Who's Who in Australia (a listing of notable Australians).[12][a]



Collectable Cigarette card featuring the Grammar colours and crest, c. 1910s

The Sydney Public Free Grammar School opened in 1825 with Laurence Hynes Halloran, born County Meath, Ireland (1765–1831) as Head Master. Halloran had operated a private school in Exeter, England, but fled England in 1796 due to debts and after being accused of immorality. It subsequently emerged that his degrees (in divinity) were self-awarded. He eventually returned to Britain but was arrested for forgery and transported to the penal colony of New South Wales, arriving there in 1819. He was immediately granted a ticket-of-leave.

In 1830, Sydney College was founded. Sir Francis Forbes, Chief Justice of New South Wales, became President of the College and laid the foundation stone of the present building in College Street on 26 January 1830. In 1835, Sydney College opened in this building with W.T. Cape as Head Master. In 1842 he resigned and was succeeded by T.H. Braim. In 1850 Sydney College was closed.

In 1854, Sydney Grammar School (SGS) was incorporated by an Act of Parliament[5] and acquired the land and building in College Street which had been temporarily occupied by the newly founded University of Sydney in 1852. It was opened on 3 August 1857, specifically as a feeder school for the University.

The preamble of the Sydney Grammar School Act 1854 states that:

It is deemed expedient for the better advancement of religion and morality and the promotion of useful knowledge to establish in Sydney a public school for conferring on all classes and denominations of Her Majesty’s subjects resident in the Colony of New South Wales without any distinction whatsoever the advantages of a regular and liberal course of education.[13]

The Act provides that the Trustees of the School shall consist of twelve persons, of whom six shall be persons holding the following offices respectively:

The Act also provides that the Governor of New South Wales shall be the official Visitor of the School.

Site history[edit]

Hyde Park with Sydney Grammar School (at that time Sydney College) in the distance, 1842

Sydney Grammar School is the oldest school still in use in the City of Sydney, and is also historically significant as the site on which the University of Sydney began. The School also holds scientific significance as containing examples of early building materials and techniques in pre-Federation Australia.[14]

The site was founded as The Sydney College in 1830, and the following year began operations in a new building in Hyde Park designed by Edward Hallen. It consisted of a single large room (now known as "Big School") with basement rooms beneath. Sydney College continued despite financial difficulties until 1853, when it was taken over by the fledgling University of Sydney until such time as the present Grose Farm site was ready for occupation. The site was then sold in 1856 to the Trustees of the newly incorporated Sydney Grammar School, which had been established and endowed with a building fund by Act of Parliament. Edmund Blacket was commissioned to design extensions to the south and north of the Hallen building (now the North and South Blacket rooms), which were completed in 1856 and 1857 respectively. The "Big School" building became central to the Colonial Architect, James Barnet's vision for the cultural focus of Sydney Town.[15]

'Big School'
Sydney Grammar School at night

The War Memorial wing, named for its position behind Big School's monument to the Great War, was built at the northern end of Big School in 1953 by the Scott brothers, at the cost of its double staircase. In 1876, the main building was extended to the east by Mansfield Brothers, and this extension was itself extended to the north and south in 1899 by John W Manson. The Science classrooms on Stanley Street were built in 1889–90. Other early buildings on the site, now demolished, included the Sergeant's Lodge, an ablutions block (known as the "White House") on Stanley Street, and a former postal sorting office on Yurong Street (now the Palladium building).


The Middle Playground in 2005. A new assembly hall has been subsequently erected in this space.

Sydney Grammar is a private school.[16] Each year up to 26 full scholarships are offered to boys who show academic promise and who perform well in the scholarship examination. Currently, it is regarded as one of the most academically proficient private schools in NSW and performs consistently well in the Higher School Certificate.[17]

A$31,419 per annum (for Forms I – VI, non-boarding).[18]

Sydney Grammar is located near the Sydney central business district. The campus is compact and consists of multi-storey buildings (of up to eight floors) in a concrete landscape setting. Sydney Grammar is situated on the eastern side of Sydney's Hyde Park, next to the Australian Museum, and extends from College Street to Yurong Street. The designs of the School's buildings illustrate many different architectural eras: "Big School" (dating from the early 19th century colonial era), the Blacket buildings (annexed onto either side of "Big School" and completed in the 1850s), the original Science building (1891), the Science laboratory block (1960s), the Palladium building (an example of 1970s Modernist architecture), the Stanley Street building and Alastair Mackerras Theatre (1980s), and the A. B. 'Banjo' Paterson Library (1990s).

Weigall, the School's sportsground (named after former Headmaster Albert Bythesea Weigall), is located at Rushcutters Bay next to the Edgecliff Preparatory School and includes tennis courts, cricket nets and three fields for cricket, rugby and football. It is routinely used for Saturday sports matches, physical education and as a recreational area for Grammar's Edgecliff Preparatory School next door. There is also a large gymnasium at College Street and full rowing facilities at the School's boatshed at Gladesville.

In May 2005, Headmaster John Vallance announced that the School would lead a consortium to purchase 30 Alma St Paddington, known as White City, from Tennis New South Wales, thus extending the Weigall grounds substantially.[19] In 2006, development applications to subdivide the White City tennis courts (numbered DA 20/2006 and DA 302/2006) were lodged with Woollahra Council to develop the site to accommodate more tennis and basketball courts; these were subsequently passed.

On 14 June 2008 the new field now known as Weigall 4 was opened with a range of guests including Mr Frank Lowy, President of Football Federation Australia.

In 2009, the School began the construction of a new, underground multi-purpose hall featuring a seating capacity of over 1500 seats, now called the New Hall.[20] Completed in August 2011, it was primarily designed to accommodate the entirety of the current students and teaching staff under one roof while being acoustically sound for orchestral performances. Notably the hall is unique as it has been built beneath the playground and is substantially subterranean as a result. Much of the naturally occurring Sydney sandstone has been left in place which adds to the aesthetic and acoustic value of the space. The hall was officially opened by the Headmaster on 18 August 2011 with a substantive celebratory concert featuring performances from a large number of Grammar boys past and present. The new hall is now used by the two preparatory schools as well.


The current Headmaster of Sydney Grammar School is Dr John T Vallance. Dr Vallance attended St John's College, Cambridge and was later a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge at which time he wrote The Lost Theory of Asclepiades of Bithynia (ISBN 0-19-824248-4), which is cited by a number of other histories of philosophy and of medicine.[21] Dr Vallance is also the author of the entries on medicine and anthropology in the Oxford Classical Dictionary (3rd edition).

Dr Vallance succeeded Dr Ralph Townsend in his role as headmaster. After a period at Oundle School, Dr Townsend is now Headmaster of Winchester College, England.

Years Sydney College
1835–1841 William Timothy Cape
1841–1846 Thomas Henry Braim, MA
1847–1849 David Patterson
1850 Charles Woodward, LLB
Years Sydney Grammar School
1857–1866 William John Stephens, MA
1867–1912 Albert Bythesea Weigall, CMG, MA
1913–1920 H. N. P. Sloman, MC, MA
1920–1923 Arthur Henry Shakespeare Lucas, MA, BSc
1923–1939 H. S. Dettmann, MA, BCL
1940–1950 Frederick George [Sandy] Phillips, MA
1951–1964 C. O. Healey, OBE, TD, MA
1965–1968 S. P. T. Houldsworth, MA, DipEd
1969–1989 A. M. Mackerras, AO, MA
1989–1999 Dr Ralph D. Townsend, MA, D.Phil
1999–present Dr John T. Vallance, MA, PhD


Sydney Grammar has a total enrolment of approximately 1,833 boys across Years K–12.[22] In Term Three of 2006, the main high School campus had an enrolment of 1,109 boys in Forms I–VI (Years 7–12). The main high school is divided into the Lower School (First Form) and the Upper School (Second through Sixth Forms). There are also two Preparatory Schools, one at St. Ives in the Northern Suburbs (440 boys) and the other at Edgecliff in the Eastern Suburbs (300 boys). Each year, approximately two-thirds of the incoming Form I at College Street are from the two Preparatory Schools, while the rest are drawn from schools in Sydney, from interstate and overseas.


Sydney Grammar offers a liberal, pre-vocational type education, and this is reflected in its academic structure and subject choices. The academic departments are:

Subjects offered for the Higher School Certificate (HSC) include English Advanced, English Extension 1, English Extension 2, Mathematics, Mathematics Extension 1, Mathematics Extension 2, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Earth and Environmental Science, Geography, Modern History, Ancient History, History Extension, Economics, Latin, Latin Extension, Classical Greek, Classical Greek Extension, French Continuers, French Extension, Italian Continuers, Italian Extension, German Continuers, German Extension, Chinese Continuers, Chinese Extension, Japanese Beginners, Music 1, Music 2, Music Extension, Visual Art, PDHPE, Design and Technology and Studies of Religion. Sanskrit and Special Academic Courses are offered as non-HSC subjects. The Special Academic courses previously included a Form V (Year 11) course in extension chemistry and physics and a Form VI (Year 12) course in lagrangian dynamics and quantum mechanics; they are currently centred around 19th Century Russian literature, with a focus on the works of Pushkin and Dostoevsky, with a smaller study of Chekhov and Nikolai Gogol.



SGS has won the AMEB Music Shield ten times in the past eleven years. Two-thirds of pupils in the School play a musical instrument or are involved with music in some way. SGS boasts scores of musical groups in mostly classical, chamber and jazz styles. The School Orchestra has received wide acclaim and frequently engages in both national and international tours. Grammar's choir program involves hundreds of students, old boys, and parents, participating in its many annual concerts. The School's senior a cappella group is known as The Grammarphones and is composed of the best tenors, basses and baritones in the senior years.

Recently, SGS has embarked on a five-year program entitled "Bach: 2010", in which all the known choral cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach will be performed in a series of concerts between 2005 and 2010.[23] Sydney Grammar is one of the few institutions in the world seeking to engage in such an exercise and is aided by the Mander organ in the Big School.[24]

Under the current Head Master, an organic rock-&-roll movement has emerged and is currently thriving. The end of 2004 saw the consummation of years of practice in the first Grammarpalooza rock concert, which included the musical style of Old Boy band, Dappled Cities Fly.


Head of the River crew, 1934

Sydney Grammar School is a member of the Athletic Association of the Great Public Schools of NSW (GPS). GPS sporting events are contested in rugby union, football, cricket, tennis, volleyball, cross country, basketball, rowing, swimming, athletics, rifle shooting, and debating.[25][26] The School also competes in fencing and chess[27] competitions.

Grammar participates in the annual Tri-Grammar competitions, a series of cricket competitions between the Firsts teams of Sydney Grammar School, Melbourne Grammar School and Brisbane Grammar School. Sydney and Melbourne Grammar School also compete for "The Bat" in the same competition. The Sydney–Melbourne match dates back to 1876, and in 1976, to mark the centenary of this rivalry, a "Bat" was struck, with the winner of the annual match taking possession. The bat was donated by John Crawford, the father of the captain of the 1976 premiership winning side Andrew Crawford.

Grammar was the first Sydney school to take to the water in 1878 at a time when there were only a handful of senior rowing clubs in existence on Sydney Harbour and its reaches.[28] Competition in rowing culminates in the Riverview Gold Cup for Junior Crews and the Head of the River for Senior Crews. Grammar's boatshed is on the Parramatta River at Gladesville.

On 2 April 2011, the Sydney Grammar School first eight won the Major Rennie Trophy at the AAGPS Head of the River.[29] The win was significant for Grammar as it heralded the return of the trophy to the School for the first time in more than thirty years.


The school has numerous clubs and societies for students. Notable examples include:

A number of boys also assist in editing the School's yearly almanac, The Sydneian,[30] over 400 editions of which have been produced since 1875.

Overseas Tours[edit]

The school offers its students the opportunity to attend various overseas tours for educational and cultural exchanges. The school has partnerships with some of the top schools around the world in cities such as Paris, Shanghai and Florence which students can visit for a period of between 3 and 12 weeks as a supplement for their linguistic studies; in addition to the time spent at the school, the boys also get the opportunity to travel around the respective countries on a cultural trip, accompanied by teachers. There are also frequent sporting tours overseas such as in Brazil for soccer, England for rugby and Japan for volleyball where the students can participate in matches against foreign teams and sometimes even train with and watch professional sports teams play. The school also offers tours for science, geography and history to areas such as the Galapagos to study evolution or to the Kokoda Track to follow in the footsteps of the ANZACs.

Notable alumni[edit]

Old Sydneians' Union Logo
Main article: List of Old Sydneians

Alumnus of Sydney Grammar School are commonly referred to as Old Boys or Old Sydneians,[34] and may elect to join the schools alumni association, the Old Sydneians' Union (OSU).[35][36]

In 2001, The Sun-Herald ranked Sydney Grammar School tenth in Australia's top ten boys' schools, based on the number of its alumni mentioned in the Who's Who in Australia (a listing of notable Australians).[12][a] Notable alumni include Sir Edmund Barton, the first Prime Minister of Australia (1901–1903),[37] Sir William McMahon, 20th Prime Minister of Australia (1971–1972),[38] Malcolm Turnbull, 29th and current Prime Minister of Australia,[39] Bruce Gyngell, first person to appear on Australian television,[40] Andrew "Boy" Charlton, an Olympic gold medallist swimmer,[41] and also Banjo Paterson – bush poet and balladist, and author of "The Man From Snowy River" and "Waltzing Matilda," and who now has a library in the school named after him.


  1. ^ "Sydney Grammar School". New South Wales. School Choice. 2007. Retrieved 25 October 2007. 
  2. ^ "Grammar Newsletter, 16 February 2011" (PDF). Sydney Grammar School. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "My School". NSW Government. NSW Government. 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2011.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "myschool" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  4. ^ a b Vallance, J.T. (2007). "Headmaster's Introduction". College St. Sydney Grammar School. Archived from the original on 15 October 2007. Retrieved 25 October 2007. If you think you might like to come to Grammar 
  5. ^ a b "Sydney Grammar School Act 1854". New South Wales Consolidated Acts. AustLII. 10 May 1995. Retrieved 25 October 2007. 
  6. ^ a b "Sydney Grammar School". Directory. Sydney's Child. Archived from the original on 19 October 2007. Retrieved 25 October 2007. 
  7. ^ "Sydney Grammar School". Participating schools. North Shore independent schools. 10 May 1995. Retrieved 25 October 2007. 
  8. ^ "AHISA Schools". New South Wales. Association of Heads of independent schools of Australia. April 2007. Archived from the original on 29 August 2007. Retrieved 25 October 2007. 
  9. ^ "JSHAA New South Wales Directory of Members". New South Wales Branch. Junior School Heads' Association of Australia. 2007. Retrieved 25 October 2007. 
  10. ^ "HMC Schools: International Members". HMC Schools. Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference. 2007. Retrieved 25 October 2007. 
  11. ^ "AAGPS History". Info. Athletic Association of the Great Public Schools of New South Wales. 2007. Retrieved 11 October 2007. 
  12. ^ a b Walker, Frank (22 July 2001). "The ties that bind". Sunday Life (The Sun-Herald). p. 16. Retrieved 12 September 2007. 
  13. ^ "Sydney Grammar School Act 1854 (Private Act)". NSW legislation. Parliamentary Counsel's Office. Retrieved 25 October 2007. 
  14. ^ a b "Sydney Grammar School". Sydney Architecture Images- Central Business District. Sydney Architecture. 2004. Retrieved 11 March 2008. 
  15. ^ "History". SGS Archives. Sydney Grammar School. 2003. Archived from the original on 8 March 2008. Retrieved 12 March 2008. 
  16. ^ Patty, Anna (30 July 2007). "Lessons in choice". News and Features (Sydney: The Sydney Morning Herald). p. 14. Retrieved 11 March 2008. 
  17. ^ Doherty, Linda; Norrie, Justin; Burke, Kelly (17 December 2005). "State school blitz of top HSC spots". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 September 2007. 
  18. ^ "Fees". Enrolment. Sydney Grammar School. 2015. Retrieved 18 January 2015. 
  19. ^ Dick, Tim (24 May 2005). "Match point in tennis centre sale". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 September 2007. 
  20. ^ "Our largest building project?" (PDF). Foundations. November 2009. Retrieved 15 August 2011. 
  21. ^ "The Lost Theory of Asclepiades of Bithynia (Hardcover)". Books. 2008. Retrieved 28 January 2008. 
  22. ^ "2006 Annual Report" (PDF). Annual Reports. Sydney Grammar School. 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 August 2007. Retrieved 25 October 2007. 
  23. ^ "Sydney Grammar School". Conference Program – Sydney. Organ Historical Trust of Australia. 2005. Retrieved 11 March 2008. 
  24. ^ "Sydney Grammar School". Portfolio. Mander Organs. 2003. Retrieved 11 March 2008. 
  25. ^ "Sport". Sydney Grammar School. 
  26. ^ "Debating". Sydney Grammar School. 
  27. ^ "Chess". Sydney Grammar School. 
  28. ^ Early rowing clubs
  29. ^ "AAGPS Head of the River Results 2011" (PDF). 2010 – 2011 Regatta Calendar. Rowing NSW. Retrieved 7 May 2011. 
  30. ^ a b c d e "Clubs and Societies". College Street. Sydney Grammar School. Archived from the original on 21 January 2008. Retrieved 11 March 2008. 
  31. ^ "A brief history of 306 Squadron". About 306 Squadron. Australian Air Force Cadets. Archived from the original on 23 July 2008. Retrieved 11 March 2008. 
  32. ^ J. B. Windeyer (1976). "Weigall, Albert Bythesea (1840–1912)". Australian Dictionary of Biography Vol. 6. MUP. pp. 375–376. Retrieved 12 August 2007. 
  33. ^
  34. ^ "Old Sydneians' Union". College St. Sydney Grammar School. 2007. Archived from the original on 8 October 2007. Retrieved 25 October 2007. 
  35. ^ "Old Sydneians' Union". Welcome. OSU Sydney Grammar School Old Sydneians' Union. 2007. Retrieved 25 October 2007. 
  36. ^ "Membership". Membership. OSU Sydney Grammar School Old Sydneians' Union. Retrieved 25 October 2007. 
  37. ^ "Edmund Barton". Player Profile. cricinfoaustralia. Retrieved 11 March 2008. 
  38. ^ "William McMahon". Fast Facts – Australia's Prime Ministers. National Archives of Australia. Archived from the original on 31 August 2007. Retrieved 11 March 2008. 
  39. ^
  40. ^ "GYNGELL, BRUCE". Archives. The Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved 11 March 2008. 
  41. ^ "Andrew "Boy" Charlton – An Australian Legend". Dive into spring. Sydney Media. 1 September 2006. Retrieved 11 March 2008. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Sheldon, J.S 1997. The Big School Room at Sydney Grammar School with an Account of the Decline & Fall of Sydney College. Sydney Grammar School Press, Sydney, NSW. ISBN 0-646-30507-7.
  • Turney, C. 1989. Grammar: A History of Sydney Grammar School 1819 – 1988. Allen & Unwin with Sydney Grammar School, Sydney, NSW. ISBN 0-04-910115-3.

External links[edit]