Thame Local History
Thame Grammar School Decline and Move to Oxford Road
The decline of Thame Grammar School is generally considered to have begun
during the first half of the eighteenth century, with a succession of masters
whose primary interest seemed to be in the collection of their salary and
other emoluments, rather than the education of the boys.The school reached its lowest ebb, under the masterships of the Rev. T.T Lee (1814-1841) and the Rev. T.B. Fookes (1841-1872).
By this time the school had also largely ceased to be a "free" school. The establishment of "Howard House Academy" in 1840, under the mastership of J.W. Marsh was attracting more day-boys and boarders due to (according to the Schools Inquiry Commission in 1866) its low fees, and the 'practical business' and 'sound commercial' character of the education provided.
Education was also becoming readily available to all children, the British School being established in Park Street, Thame in 1836.
By 1866, Thame Grammar School only had 2 day-boys on its books, and no boarders. From 1870 there were no pupils at the school, the last boy commonly reported as Jack Stevens, the son of a grocer in the town, and Dr. Fookes finally resigned as headmaster in 1872.
A new Board of Governors was formed in 1873 with a view to the establishment of a new school for up to 120 scholars, 60 of them being boarders. Consideration was given to extending the existing school building, even at the expense of pulling down the almshouses.
Finally it was agreed to build new premises on a site in Oxford Road, opposite the old Priestend tollhouse, and on land purchased from Mr. Samuel Field.
Expenditure was approved by the Charity Commissioners, and with money raised from the sale of the old school building in Church Row, and other property in Thame, the new school building was opened on May 1st 1879, with about 40 boys. The first headmaster was George Plummer.
The old school building was sold in 1877 and became a Girls School until 1908, when the Girls School moved to the High Street and became the Girls Grammar School. (Now the site of the Co-op store).
The original Thame Grammar School building remained empty for a number of years before being sold to become a private residence, and later commercial offices.
The new school on Oxford Road was not immediately successful, its number of pupils over the first twenty years, never attaining its original planned capacity.
However, from 1900 the school began to grow and never looked back, with regular expansion and eventually becoming in 1974, Lord Williams Comprehensive School, amalgamating with the Wenman School in Towersey Road to become a 2-site school. The original school boarding building is now the Sixth Form Foundation Centre, the last boarders having left in 1989.