History of Sydney Grammar School

Sydney Grammar School is one of the oldest schools in Australia. Its ancestor, the Sydney Public Free Grammar School, opened in 1825 with LH Halloran as Headmaster. In 1830, Sydney College was founded. Sir Francis Forbes, Chief Justice, became President of the College and laid the foundation stone of the present building in College Street on the 26 January 1830. In 1835 Sydney College opened in this building with WT Cape as Headmaster. In 1842 he resigned and was succeeded by TH Braim. In 1850 Sydney College was closed. Sydney Grammar School was founded by Act of Parliament in 1854, after Sir Henry Parkes, the Father of Australian Federation, tabled a petition from a group of citizens concerned that the fledgling University of Sydney should have a "nursery" to provide it with well prepared undergraduates.

The re-founded School's work commenced in 1857, in the College Street buildings which had been occupied immediately before this by the University of Sydney. Grammar has remained here ever since. More recently, Preparatory Schools at St Ives and Paddington have been established, and we take one hundred and twenty boys each year from these two institutions. The modern College Street has around eleven hundred boys, St Ives over four hundred, and Edgecliff three hundred. Our boys now proceed from the School to a variety of Universities in New South Wales and beyond, but the basic purpose of Grammar as set out in the Act – to confer "on all classes and denominations of Her Majesty's subjects resident in the Colony of New South Wales, without any distinction whatsoever, the advantages of a regular and liberal course of education" – remains the same. Since its foundation, the School and its Old Boys (called "Old Sydneians") have played an important part in the history of this country.

The Act provides that the Governor of New South Wales should be the Visitor of the School, and that certain senior representatives of the Parliament and of the University of Sydney should be Trustees. In spite of this, Grammar is not under government or university control, nor is it associated with any of the churches. A socially comprehensive secular school, it takes boys of any race and of any religion, or of no religion. It is not dominated by boys from any one district, nor does any occupation predominate amongst the parents. It derives much of its strength from its central position in the city of Sydney; boys come here from all over the Sydney area.


The School Archives were established in 1981 to facilitate research into the School's history.

Sources available to assist Old Sydneians, biographers and others interested in the School include:

  • Registers 1835-
  • Prize Lists, 1859-
  • The Sydneian, 1875-
  • Oral recordings
  • Photographs
  • Correspondence
  • The historic Hallen building, the Blacket Wings as well as many additions to the School are documented in:

  • Architectural drawings
  • Building and restoration files.
  • Specifications and quotes for additions and repairs.
  • Photographs
  • Etchings
  • Literary works by staff and pupils and references to the School are featured in many publications which are collected and held in the Archives Reference Library.

    A comprehensive photographic collection records sporting and other activities pursued by generations of Grammar boys, however significant gaps exist in some areas, and we are always interested in expanding our holdings.

    Gifts of prints of First and Second XV teams showing dates and names would be appreciated for the following years:

  • 1940/1947/1948/1949
  • All of the 1960s.