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NEWS > Archives > The History of the Pate's Houses

The History of the Pate's Houses

Our Archivists have been looking through old school magazines to piece together the history of the House system at Pate's.
21 Mar 2023
House Rugby Shield
House Rugby Shield

The first mention of Houses is in the Cheltenham Grammar School magazine of July 1908. The headmaster’s report mentions ‘that, following the example of Manchester, the “House” system had been introduced into the school – a system which not only ensured watchful care on the part of the Form Masters, but which promoted healthy rivalry for the honour of the “Houses”’. The house names were known by the initials B.N.G., F.D., H.E. and C.K. and their mottoes were ‘Not by Guile’, ‘Fidei Defensores’, ‘Hopeful and Earnest’ and ‘Catch and Keep’ respectively. 

In 1922, the four Houses were replaced by six, taking as their designations the surnames of famous old boys - Baker, Biffen, Corfield, Hawker, Jayne, and Jessop. The magazine of October 1922 noted that ‘the Houses had become somewhat unwieldy, and although tradition forbade any change, yet the need for better control demanded some reform’. The six famous alumni were:

Sir Benjamin Baker (1840-1907, Civil Engineer, projects include the Forth Bridge and the first Aswan Dam)
Sir Rowland Henry Biffen (1874-1949, Botanist, mycologist and geneticist.His primary research plant was wheat)
William Henry Corfield (1843-1903, Public Health Physician)
Robert Stephen Hawker (1803-1875, Anglican Priest, poet and antiquarian - see Hawker's Hut on National Trust land, Morwenstow, Cornwall)
Bishop Francis John Jayne (1845-1921, Bishop of Chester)
Gilbert Laird Jessop (1874-1955 cricketer, known as 'the Croucher' who was reckoned to be the fastest run scorer cricket has ever knowm, holding the England century record of 76 balls that has stood for 120 years - set against Australia at The Oval in August 1902)


These Houses lasted until Bernard Wilkinson became the new Headmaster in 1971 and reduced the six Houses back to four. He wrote ‘I can see many advantages and few disadvantages in reducing the number of Houses from six to four; but the Houses are an established tradition. Yet they were established and named well within living memory; in a history of nearly 400 years, this is a short time’. The new House names were named after previous Headmasters – Bell, Dobson, Frankland and Heawood.

Pate’s Grammar School for Girls was founded in 1904 and started in January 1905. We have found just two mentions of the 'first' house system, in the May 1922 magazine. It seems that the girls were divided into three houses - North, South and West. Reference is made to house matches being played in both hockey and netball. The July 1923 magazine states ’Another “House” system has been started, with the hope that there will be a fair chance for all in the fight for the Cup. The School has been divided into four Houses according to the letters of the alphabet, as follows: A-C Britons, D-H Danes, I-P Normans, R-Z Saxons’. 

Mary Moon became Headmistress in 1971 and in the 1973/74 magazine it says ‘Britons, Danes, Normans and Saxons, so long the fervent cheers of team supporters, have been replaced by the less emotive, though equally and enthused-over Avon, Bredon, Cotswold and Severn Houses. By linking the houses to forms so that what would have been 1P, 1Q, 1R, 1S are now Bredon 1, Severn 1, Avon 1 and Cotswold 1 (and so on throughout the school) there is greater contact within the houses. The aim in doing this was to promote greater house interest and enthusiasm, so engendering a strong school spirit.’ Each of the houses had a colour associated with it: Avon - blue, Severn - yellow, Cotswold - green and Bredon - red, with fabric House Colours and later, metal badges, presented. All year groups took part in House Drama in the Autumn Term and House Games (hockey and netball) in the Spring Term.

In 1986, the two schools merged and became Pate’s Grammar School. A competition was held to suggest new house names and the houses were called after the Dukes of Beaufort, Gloucester, Richmond and York. The final piece in our House history came along in September 2016 when the Year 7 school intake was increased from 120 to 150 pupils and the house of Pembroke was born.

We are fortunate to have five businesses who each sponsor a Pate's House, helping support the House activities which make the school so special. We thank James-Barry Accounting (Beaufort), Harrison Clark Rickerbys (Gloucester), Matriks (Pembroke), Homeground Pharmacy (Richmond) and Hazlewoods (York) for their support and attendance at House events - roll on House Drama!

If you have any house memorabilia that you would like to donate to the Archives we'd be grateful to receive it to grow our collection. Please email 

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