Queen Elizabeth’s grammar school in Ashbourne was founded in 1585 making it one of the oldest grammar schools in the country. The very first headmaster was Mr Ward who received the seemingly modest salary of £20 per year.
The remote geographical position of the school led to a slow increase of pupils, the records show that during one of the early years only a single pupil was registered.
The early attendance records for the school are sketchy at best and so details about those pupils who attended between 1585 and 1883 are almost non-existent. Education was a short lived experience in those days with the more able scholars quickly moved onto larger grammar schools or established public schools. The average length of stay at the school was between 1 and 3 years with most pupils aged between 12 and 14 years.
Such an unsettled scholastic experience created little need for an “old boys association” as pupils would hold very little sentiment or feeling of belonging towards the school.
It was not until 1883, over two hundred years after the schools foundation, that things began to change.
This change came about with the appointment of Mr R M H Jones as headmaster. His tenure saw the number of pupils almost double from 21 to 40 with 7 of those boarding on campus.
Even greater strides were then made under the stewardship of Mr W J Butcher, who was elected as headmaster in 1892. Under his tenure the school developed far beyond anything that had gone before it, culminating in the building of a new co-educational school.
In 1905, the school governors selected a site across some nine acres of ground off the Green Road. This site was duly purchased for £1,605 but approval for the development plans was not received until two years later.
The new school was opened on 12th November 1909 by the Duke of Devonshire with building costs in excess of £13,000. 71 pupils were registered at the new school in the first year of its opening, with 29 new scholars joining the ranks, 16 of whom were girls.
Although the Old Ashburnian Society was not formed during Mr Butcher’s headship, his influence had a lasting effect on the attitudes of the pupils and parents towards the benefits of secondary education.
Mr Butcher retired in 1916 and was succeeded by Mr R C Legge who saw pupil numbers increase to 220 within 2 years. The faculty of staff brought together by Mr Legge are still remembered by older members of the society, Dickie Mears and Bertie Coward to name two of the people who remember those happy days.
On December 13th 1922, a group of seventy two alumni of Queen Elizabeth’s got together and decided to form an old pupils association.
Mr R Holland was elected as the inaugural president of the society with Mr W Foster as secretary.
On January 1st 1923, a letter was drafted to outline the aims and objectives of the society.
Over 600 former pupils were contacted and the Old Ashburnian Society was born.
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