Reading School was founded as part of Reading Abbey. The date of the Abbey's charter, 29 March 1125, is taken as the foundation date, making it the 10th oldest school in England, although there are hints that there may have been a school running in Reading before this.
In 1486, the school was refounded as a "Free Grammar School" ("free" here meaning teaching the free, or liberal, arts, not that no fees were paid) by Henry VII on the urging of the then Abbot, John Thorne. From at least this time, the School was housed in the former Hospitium of St John. The main building of the hospitium still exists, but the refectory, which once housed the schoolroom, was demolished in 1785 and Reading Town Hall now stands on the site.
After the dissolution of Reading Abbey in 1539, the school fell under the control of the corporation of Reading, its status being confirmed by Letters Patent issued by Henry VIII in 1541. This was reconfirmed in the Royal Charter granted to the corporation of Reading by Elizabeth I in 1560, which made the corporation liable for the salary of the headmaster and gave them the power of appointing him.
There were interruptions to schooling in 1665, when Parliament, forced out of London by the Great Plague, took over the schoolhouse. The civil war also interrupted, with the school being used as a garrison by royalist forces. The school prospered at the start of the nineteenth century but by 1866 disagreements between the town and school, which had become increasingly exclusive, and problems with the lease on the school buildings had led to falling numbers and the school closed briefly when (according to legend), the inspectors, on asking to see the school, were told "He's runned [sic] away".
The school soon restarted, however, with the Reading School Act (1867) setting out its administration and funding. The foundation stone for new buildings, designed by Alfred Waterhouse, was laid by the Prince of Wales in 1870, and in 1871 the school moved in. In 1915 Kendrick Boys' School (founded in 1875 from the legacy of John Kendrick), which had a large endowment but poor facilities, was taken over by Reading, which was poorly funded but had excellent facilities – this caused considerable controversy at the time but was ultimately seen as successful.
The redevelopment of our Biology and Chemistry Laboratories are a key goal for 2016. These are key subject areas for our pupils, as all take biology and chemistry up to GCSE, and the majority continue to take at least one at AS and A Level.
We are building a new two-storey block on the site of the old Chemistry Block, which was built in the 1950s. This will house four biology laboratories and three chemistry laboratories, with adjacent prep rooms and staff work areas. The existing Biology Building, originally built in the 1950s and extended in the early 1990s, will be refurbished to provide three or four general purpose classrooms. Once finished, the new laboratories and refurbished classrooms will give us much needed extra teaching space and will provide an improved learning environment for boys and staff.
Building work started in early 2015, and the building was finished in summer 2017. We have already raised enough to cover the bricks and mortar, which forms the bulk of the costs. However, we still need to raise money to pay for the costs of fixtures, furniture and specialist equipment.