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Grammar School

You see here the North Brink facade of Harecroft House, built in 1844 by Algernon Peckover for his son Alexander (later to be Baron Lord Peckover of Wisbech) in anticipation of his marriage. Alexander eventually married Eliza Sharpies in 1858.

Sadly, Eliza died when their three daughters, Josephine, Alexandrina and Anna Jane were very young. Alexander's unmarried sister, Priscilla Hannah, moved in to look after them. In 1877 Alexander's Uncle William died and the family took his place at Bank House. Alexander's brother, Jonathan and his sister, Susannah then moved into Harecroft House. Jonathan died prematurely in 1882 and finally the house became vacant on the death of Susannah in 1903.

This was an important moment in the history of education in Wisbech and in the country. The Education Act of 1904 required towns to establish schools for girls offering an education equivalent to that provided for boys by the Grammar School. The Peckover sisters, two of whom were graduates of London University, were full of enthusiasm for this, and it was doubtless at their behest that the vacant Harecroft House, with its extensive grounds, was donated by the Peckover family to the Wisbech High School for Girls.

The first Headmistress was Miss Beatrice Sparks, one of the first women to take a Cambridge Tripos in mathematics. (However, as a woman, she would not have been allowed actually to receive it!) Later in her career, she became Headmistress of Cheltenham Ladies College.

The grounds were beautiful. In spring there was a mass of snowdrops, and there were some unusual trees including a tulip tree. One pupil, asked about the school trees by the French oral examiner, said that there was "un tulipier". The examiner had never heard of such a thing !

As a separate school, the High School came to an end in 1970. Co-education was the order of the day, and the boys came over to join the girls on their superior site. Before this event, new laboratories and a gymnasium had been built, in addition to all the building work of the 1930's; and all of this was supplemented by a number of mobile classrooms.

On the last day of the summer term, there was scarcely a dry eye, as a whole school said goodbye to its identity, and to Miss Leonard its respected headmistress. However, when Autumn Term began, with masters as well as mistresses, and with a large number of boys, it didn't seem so bad after all. Dr Anderson was the new Headmaster.

This was not, however, to be the last upheaval. In the 1980s the question of comprehensive schooling could no longer be avoided. The Queen's Girls' School was obliged to join the boys on their Weasenham Lane site, and pressure was put upon the Grammar School to join them, so that it would be truly comprehensive. The only way to avoid this outcome was to seek independent status. This was achieved, and since Mr Repper is now a member of the Headmasters' Conference, it has also the status of a Public School.