Our History

Our history

The School was set up in 1509 after Robert Beckingham, a Freeman of the City of London, left a bequest in his will to establish a free school in the historic town of Guildford.


In 1512, Beckingham’s executors formally transferred the lands to a body of trustees consisting of the Mayor of Guildford and four men who had formerly been mayors.

With the rents they were to provide a free grammar school in Guildford. The architectural heart of the School has remained unchanged for nearly 500 years: an outstanding Tudor school house at the top of the High Street continues to be one of Guildford’s most iconic landmarks.

The Granting of the Charter

The Mayor and Approved Men of Guildford petitioned Edward VI to grant them further endowments for maintenance.

In January 1552, Edward VI ordered for there to be one Grammar School in Guildford called the Free Grammar School of King Edward VI for the education, institution and instruction of boys and youths in Grammar at all future times forever to endure. The School acquired the right to style itself Royal Grammar School.

The Chained Library

The Chained Library is one of few original chained libraries remaining in a school.  The practice of chaining books to shelves traditionally allowed important or valuable books to be placed in communal areas for public use rather than being locked away; this paved the way for the public library system.

John Parkhurst, Bishop of Norwich (1560 – 75), was born in Guildford and left in his will, ‘the most parte of all my Latten bookes whereof shall be made a catalogue as shortelie as I may God sendinge me lief’. Most of the books reached the School and were housed in the newly-completed gallery where they still remain.

The gallery was enlarged in 1650 by Arthur Onslow and the present bookcases date from 1897. The oldest book in the library was printed in Venice circa 1480. The oldest English book was printed circa 1500 with the imprint of Wynkyn de Worde. It escaped the fire of 1962 with some damage and was restored in 1965.

The library contains two early editions of Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia.


In January 1930, two teachers from Dulwich College Prep acquired the twenty-one-year lease of a former private house called Lanesborough and Lanesborough Preparatory School was born.

In the Surrey Advertiser, Mr Inglis and Mr Walker announced that, boys will be prepared for Public School and the Royal Navy and they opened the school with just 14 pupils, including several boarders who they had tempted away from Dulwich. Classrooms were downstairs, and the teachers and boarders lived on the first floor. By the end of the year, the school had expanded to 55 pupils.

The Swayne Family

When Mr Inglis retired in 1953, followed by Mr Walker in 1955, Stuart Swayne became the school’s sole owner and headmaster.

Boarding had already been phased out soon after the War and in 1951 Mr Swayne, together with his wife and three children, moved to Braganza on Aldersey Road (now Pre-Prep) where they lived on the upper floors, leaving the ground floor for teaching the school’s lower forms. A large field, further down Cranley Road and long since built on, was used for Games. Lanesborough continued to flourish very much as a Swayne family business, with everyone getting involved. Stuart’s wife Molly was responsible for the catering, their two sons had both been pupils, and their daughter Margaret ran the office, worked as school bursar and helped out on many of the adventurous trips the school ran both at home and abroad.

Guildford Cathedral

When Guildford Cathedral opened in 1961, Lanesborough agreed to provide its boy choristers.

Under the direction of its Organist and Master of Choristers Barry Rose, the newly formed Choir sang in front of the Queen and a worldwide television audience at its consecration that summer. Gold discs and top-ten selling albums followed. Over half a century later, RGS Prep remains the choir school for the Cathedral.

The RGS Family

In 1978, the Governors of the RGS, under the far-sighted chairmanship of John Brown, took the decision to acquire Lanesborough as a preparatory department of the school; Mr Benson, an RGS teacher, was appointed as its new headmaster.

In September 2021, Lanesborough and the RGS announced a merger, to be brought together as the Royal Grammar School (the RGS) and the Royal Grammar Preparatory School (RGS Prep), creating an exceptional boys’ school offering for prep and senior pupils on their respective sites. Lanesborough and the RGS have been part of the same charitable trust for 42 years and share the same governance structure. The ethos and vision, the values and approach of the schools are already closely aligned and, subject to meeting admissions and progress criteria, enables us to offer boys in the local area a pathway from age 3 to 18.