The following School History has been copied verbatim from "The Old Hardyeans" magazine published in 1955.
Another account of the School's history can be found in the Quater Centenary booklet - click here
In the days of Queen Elizabeth I... of Sir Francis Drake... Of treasure-laden Spanish galleons... a man whose family sailed to England from the Channel Islands wrote the first chapter in the history of a Dorchester school which has now provided education in the town for within 14 years of four centuries.
His name was Thomas Hardye, he lived at Frampton, and on a midsummer day in 1569 he founded what is now known as Hardye's School.
Through the years the School has had its successes, its disappointments. In 1886 a historian wrote: "This institution has experienced even more ups and downs than most similar establishments which owe their foundation to the large-hearted munificence of benefactors long since passed away".
That may be so. But soon after these words were written the school entered upon a career of hitherto unprecedented prosperity which gathered momentum with the turn of the century until to-day, in this second Elizabethan age. it stands stronger than ever before in its long and sometimes adventurous history.
This is a record the present Hardyeans can look back on with pride, and the school to-day challenges them to be worthy heirs to a great tradition.
What do we know of the Hardye who gave his name to the school? Not a great deal has been written about him. There seems no doubt, however, he was wealthy, and owned land at Frome Vauchurch, Weymouth, and various other places in this part of the County—plus several houses at Dorchester. All of this he left for the perpetual endowment of the school by deed dated August 3, 1579, "for the maintenance of one learned man to be a schoolmaster and one other to be usher".
One person who was very interested in this Hardye—the "e" gives the name its Elizabethan spelling—was Thomas Hardy the novelist and poet who was at one time a governor of the school.
When he laid the Foundation Stone of the new school buildings in 1927 he lost no opportunity of telling all he knew about his namesake who had lived so long before.
"He was without doubt," said the novelist, "one of the Hardys who landed in this county from Jersey in the 15th century, acquired small estates along the river upwards towards its source, and have remained hereabouts ever since—the Christian name of Thomas having been specially selected by them.
"It is curious to think that, though he must have had a modern love of learning not common in a remote county in those days, Shakespeare's name could hardly have been known to him, or at the most but vaguely as that of a certain ingenious Mr. Shakespeare who amused London playgoers; and that he died before Milton was born.
"In Carlyle's phraseology, what manner of man he was when he walked this earth we can but guess, or what he looked like, what he said and did in his lighter moments, and at what age he died; but we may shrewdly conceive that he was a far-sighted man and would not be much surprised, if he were to revisit daylight, to find that his original building had been outgrown and no longer supplied the needs of the present inhabitants for the due education of their sons."
The novelist always said he must have been a descendant of the Hardye who founded the school but he was never able to prove it. One writer says the founder was an ancestor of Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, whose monument stands on Blackdown Hill.
Although 1569 is regarded as the year the school was founded a free school almost certainly must have existed in the town before that date. It may well have been one of the many schools founded by King Edward VI for teaching grammar as decreed by Henry VIII. The teachers probably came from the nearby Friary.
But by 1569 the school house and buildings had fallen into decay, and Hardye rebuilt them. Then he endowed the school with a sufficient income out of his land to maintain as headmaster a graduate of one of the Universities.
The old school still stands on the site in South Street it has occupied for centuries, though to-day it is used for commercial purposes.
Mr. Edward Doughty, M.A., was the first clerical headmaster to be appointed. This was in 1580. He was probably in charge of no more than 12 boys and can never have dreamed that one day there would be more than 500 pupils.
From the time of his appointment we can imagine the school cautiously feeling its way in the town for a while. Not long after its foundation, of course, there was all the excitement of the Spanish Armada.
When speaking at an Old Boys' Dinner in 1909, Sir Frederick Treves declared : "Think of the half holidays in 1588 when the Armada was coming up the Channel. How the boys would have torn off to Ridgeway to look out for it... "
Mr. Doughty did, perhaps, have some difficulty in keeping the boys' minds on their work about this time, and the Armada must have been as big a distraction then as Test Matches at Lords and The Oval were to be many years later.
But after this rather disturbing period, the school settled down once more to a fairly quiet and stable life. Then, early in the next century, disaster struck—and the school passed through its first major crisis.
It was in 1613 that the smooth routine was shattered. Fire swept through the town destroying all the buildings in its path. Like most fires it started in a small way, then grew into a huge bonfire that used the houses of Dorchester as its fuel. And the next day when the people came to look at the smoky ruins of a town which was now almost unrecognisable they found nothing but debris and blackened, crumbling walls where the school that Hardye founded had once stood.
Work of reconstruction soon began, however, and within a few years the school had been rebuilt on the same site. For this the town had to thank the Rev. Robert Cheeke.
Hutchins tells us: "In this task he had the help of well-disposed gentlemen of the country and of many that had been scholars, but the greatest burden of the work was borne by the inhabitants of the town".
Mr. Cheeke had a fine oak screen put in the main school-room. Above was a library, which was later used as a dormitory and later still as a classroom.
It would be interesting to know what happened to the boys while the school was being rebuilt. Probably they had one long holiday and watched in wonder as the building gradually took shape. Or perhaps classes were held in some other premises in the town where the flames had not reached. But this is a matter for conjecture, as there seems to be no record of what actually took place.
Eventually the new school was completed and in the year that William Shakespeare died began to function again. In those days the headmaster was being paid £20 a year, which even so long ago does not seem a particularly high reimbursement for his services although he was provided with a house rent-free.
The school, however, was apparently progressing quite satisfactorily and the pupils came not only from Dorchester itself but from homes dotted all over the surrounding countryside. No-one knew of the trouble that was round the next corner...
It started just before the Civil War broke out in 1642. The headmaster complained of his insufficient salary and "all men of ability" were asked to contribute 20s. a year for every child they sent to the school. In this way the stipend was increased to £40. And at the same time a scrivener was appointed "to teach such scholars as are willing". His fee was 2s. 6d. a quarter.
Then war broke out, and this constituted a new threat to the school's existence. The headmaster at the time was Mr. Gabriel Reeve, and, believes one historian, he had Royalist sympathies in a Parliamentarian town.
But whatever the reason Mr. Reeve one day failed to turn up at school without telling anyone when he would be back. This was an almost insuperable blow—but somehow the school was kept open although the number of pupils fell alarmingly.
When the war was over Mr. Reeve re-appeared on the scene but the Governors had not forgotten all the cares and difficulties which had been thrust upon them and asked him to leave.
For some reason the vacancy was not easy to fill, although there were plenty of applicants. Several men accepted the position, then withdrew without an explanation. Finally, Mr. Samuel Cromleholme. sub-master of St. Paul's, was appointed. But he never settled down properly and before long went back to London again as a headmaster of a school there.
At last the Governors found someone who would stay, and an ordered calm came to the school once more, a calm which was to remain for more than a century.
Although the school had some hard times in the 1600's there was one happening that gave proof of the esteem in which it was held and the respect it commanded. In 1623 another school was built in the town for the specific purpose of preparing boys for Hardye's School. It was named Trinity School.
During the next century the life of the school was, as far as can be made out, comparatively uneventful. But the dawn of the 19th century heralded more years of anxiety.
In addition to Hardye's endowment there were from time to time other bequests to the school. But in spite of this the funds became inadequate towards the middle of the century and the school buildings fell into a ruinous condition.
The situation was critical, and more serious than at first realised. The Governors were faced with a dilemma to which they could see no solution. And finally they were forced to close the school down.
It remained closed for some considerable time. No longer did the Dorchester boys walk briskly down South Street to the arched-entrance, or the boys from the country districts ride up on horseback. Shutters were put up at the windows. Doors were bolted and barred.
Then, in August, 1879, a scheme was put forward that received Royal approval. As one writer puts it: "By the amalgamation of several charities, old Thomas Hardye's ancient foundation was again set on its legs".
The scheme combined the foundations of Hardye's School, Hill's Exhibition, Trinity School, the hospital, and the charities of Mary Strangways, Lora Pitts, and Hussey Floyer.
Reconstruction work began immediately, and on January 18, 1883, the new building was opened. The school which had over- come all the hardships that beset it through the years had won another victory.
The cost of rebuilding it was £4,500, and accommodation was provided for 100 day scholars and 30 boarders. To gain admission applicants had to pass exams, in reading, writing from dictation, and arithmetic. The Governors were to maintain 12 scholarships.
Although Hardye's School had slipped into a position where it needed outside help to survive, there was another school in the town in this century which flourished.
This was one run by William Barnes, the poet, at first in Durngate Street, and later in South Street. Barnes was once described as "an educationalist in advance of his times". His new methods of teaching certainly increased his popularity year by year, and many influential people thought he should be made headmaster of Hardye's School. But there was then a condition in force which barred anyone who was not in Holy Orders from holding this position, and so Barnes was excluded.
Having negotiated the setbacks of the 19th century Hardye's School stood on the threshhold of the most successful and prosperous period in its history. In this century the school has grown in size and importance. To-day it provides education for more than 500 boys and is on the list of Public Schools.
As the number of boys increased, the old school in South Street was found to be too small and in July, 1927, Thomas Hardy, himself a Governor for many years, laid the foundation stone in the new school buildings which were erected on 15 acres of playing fields.
After laying the stone with the aid of an ivory-handled silver trowel and wooden mallet he said in the course of his address: "Certainly everything promises well. The site can hardly be surpassed in England for health, with its open surroundings, elevated and bracing situation, and dry sub-soil, while it is near enough to the sea to get very distinct whiffs of marine air. Moreover it is not so far from the centre of the Borough as to be beyond the walking powers of the smallest boy".
Early the following year 160 boys moved here from the old school and had the chance of sampling these qualities for themselves.
Soon after their arrival they had a Royal visitor in the Duke of Windsor, then Prince of Wales. He inspected the school on May 24, 1928, after he had been to the Bath and West Show at Stinsford.
After being shown round the buildings by the headmaster, Mr. R. W. Hill, and several of the Governors, he told the boys : "I am very glad to have been able to look in and see you for a few minutes on my way to the station and also to see your new school building.
"It most certainly is very well equipped, and I am sure you will all work very hard—not to say that you did not work hard in the old school! "
Hardy did not live to see this Royal visit. In a letter to the school after his death Mrs. Hardy wrote : "My husband was always interested in the Grammar School, as you know, and as I look across to the new school building from our gate I shall always picture him as he was at the laying of the foundation stone—an event which, as he said to me afterwards, all too truly, was to be his last public appearance".
He bequeathed a University Scholarship to the school, tenable at The Queen's College, Oxford, of which he was an Honorary Fellow, while the Thomas Hardy Prize for English Literature is still the goal aimed at by all English students.
Just before the second World War accommodation in the new school was found insufficient, and Wollaston House was secured for use as a Lower School for the younger boys. It has its own canteen and gymnasium, and stands in three-and-a-half acres of grounds.
Since 1926 the Governors have done much to develop the boarding side of the school, and the numbers have steadily risen until to-day there are more than 100 boarders accommodated in the three houses—South Walks, which was opened in 1929, Southfield, 1942, and Heathcote, 1951.
One of the strongest organisations in the school is the combined Cadet Force with both Army and Air sections. During the war the school contributed more than 120 Commissioned Officers to H.M. Forces.
By the Education Acts of 1944 and 1946 the school is a Voluntary Aided establishment, and receives grants from the County Education Committee and the Ministry of Education. There are 15 Governors.
Now the school looks forward to the future with a confidence born of its pride in the past. Many times it has proved itself capable of overcoming any difficulties standing in the way of its progress, and now it is enjoying the success that this ability has brought it. Its record stands as a monument to its past greatness and a pointer to its future all-important role in equipping its pupils with the qualifications and strength of character necessary for their advancement and happiness in their after-school life.
My thanks to Jack Crewe for lending me his copy of "The Old Hardyeans" from which this article was copied.
The 1959/60 edition of The Dorset Year Book included an article written by then Sixth-Former Frank Southerington.
The seven-page article is reproduced below.
My thanks to Nigel Newbery for submitting this.
And below now a copy of a two-page reprint from the Dorset Evening Echo, Saturday 25 February 1961.
Reprint courtesy of Peter Cunningham.
One final snippet: The Board of Governors changed the name of Dorchester Grammar School to "Hardye's School" in 1952.