The School's History

The School's History

Built upon our history

Auckland Grammar School in 1920

Auckland Grammar School was originally endowed by the Governor of New Zealand, Sir George Grey, in 1850. Grey made a series of land grants to set up and maintain a grammar school in Auckland that was to be "for the education of all New Zealanders". In 1869, the School was officially opened in Howe Street with 68 boys on the roll by the Duke of Edinburgh.

During the Depression of the 1880s, girls from the Girls' High School joined the Auckland College and Grammar School as it was then known, mainly out of economic necessity. In 1899, the School once again became known as Auckland Grammar School, but girls remained on the roll through until 1909.

Having made several moves throughout its first four decades, the School's current Mountain Road site was acquired between 1911 and 1913.

During the intervening years of World War I, Grammar embarked upon an ambitious and far-sighted building programme, which included the Spanish Mission style main building that is today listed with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

The School's War Memorial was built to pay tribute to those who served and lost their lives while serving in World War I.

As the School's roll grew, a number of specialist facilities were built later that century and into this century.


Poignant events


Governor Sir George Grey made a series of land grants with the objective of setting up and maintaining a 'College and Grammar School'. The Trust Board then waited more than 14 years to be in a position where income from the land could support a school.


By act of the Auckland Provincial Government, a Grammar School was founded and given the old Immigration Barracks in Howe Street and three acres of land.


Auckland Grammar School was officially opened by the Duke of Edinburgh. 68 boys whose parents were willing and able to pay their tuition were enrolled and a Cadet Corps was mustered and trained as part of Auckland's defences.


The growing school moved across to the Albert Barracks in Princes Street. Mr F. Macrae succeeded Dr R. B. Kidd as Headmaster and the following year, the school was named Auckland College and Grammar School.


Having left the Albert Barracks and been moved into three makeshift locations nearby, a new permanent building for the School was opened by Sir George Grey in Symonds Street. For over 40 years, Auckland College and Grammar School remained in Symonds Street, on a few acres now occupied by the University of Auckland's School of Architecture.


Mr C. F. Bourne was appointed Headmaster. Despite the Depression years and lack of funds, academic standards were raised and the number of free places for boys increased.


With the Depression and withdrawal of Parliament's annual grant to the Girls' High School, girls were accepted into Auckland College and Grammar School. The sexes were kept strictly separate: "co-education without co-existence".


Mr J. W. Tibbs replaced Mr Bourne as Headmaster. The 30 years during which Tibbs was Headmaster proved a great period in the School's history, which included the completion of the monumental Californian Mission style main building in Mountain Road.


Although still co-educational, the School's name was changed back to Auckland Grammar School. By this time it was the largest and most important school in New Zealand.


The long-awaited Auckland Girls' Grammar School was opened on the old Howe Street site and Auckland Grammar School reverted to being an all-boys' school.


Grammar acquired its present site on Mountain Road from the Crown. 15 acres of surplus prison land made up of a vast rocky, brush-covered wasteland overlooking Mt Eden Prison and including a rifle range. Following a keenly-contested architectural competition and later completion of plans, the foundation stone was laid on 1 December 1913.


Despite the changes in fortune and shortages brought about by the Great War, construction on the new site proceeded and the new building was officially opened on 26 April 1916, by the Governor-General, the Earl of Liverpool. The total cost was £31,450 with little furniture.

Messurs Arnold and Abbott, the winning architects, had toured Southern California and been most impressed by the Spanish-Californian Mission style architecture. This had been popularised and modified in the early 1900s but was in fact based on the mission churches built along the Californian coast in the 1770s. The plans for the new school represented an 'H', with two storeys of classrooms opening onto a large arched assembly hall.

From the inside of the rectangle, at the four corners, rose four square towers each capped with a Moorish dome. Arches and pillared colonnades, together with heavy overhanging eaves and a Marseilles tile roof, also mirrored the Californian origin of the design while the roughcast stone exterior imitated the thick adobe walls of the missions seen at Santa Barbara and San Fernando.

Highly visible from many parts of the city, Auckland Grammar School's new Californian Mission style architecture is one of the few examples of this style to be found in Australasia.


Work on the War Memorial in front of the main building began and the central column, topped by a bronze figure of a youth, was unveiled.

Mr J. W. Tibbs retired and Mr J. Drummond became Headmaster. Mr Drummond was the first New Zealand born and Old Boy Headmaster, as well as a University Entrance Scholar from 1890. The upper sports ground area was levelled, earthed and grassed and bordered by a fine wall of boulders from the site.


The first gymnasium was completed.

There was continuing success in both academic and sporting records, expansion to the School Sports scheme, and the first playing of the annual rugby match against King's College on Grammar's own grounds.

The first Inter Secondary Athletics Meeting was held, and soccer was introduced.


The year of the School's 60th Jubilee celebrations and Mr J. D. Mahon was appointed Headmaster.


The Library, primarily a Jubilee gift from the Old Boys, was opened.


Mr Mahon retired and Grammar Old Boy Mr C. M. Littlejohn was appointed Headmaster. He was previously Headmaster of Takapuna Grammar School for eight years.

In the midst of the Depression, the School struggled to maintain standards and equipment. There were shortages of most books, lab materials and sports equipment, and building maintenance and travel were curtailed.


World War II erupted in Europe and thousands of New Zealand youths, including senior schoolboys, went off for training and eventually to battle, for King George VI and Empire, in Libya, Egypt, Italy and later, the South Pacific. A Cadet Corps was formed, with virtually every boy in it. Slit trenches were dug around the building.


The School's 75th Jubilee celebrations take place.

The Old Boys' Association pledged a Sports Pavilion to the School.


Extensions to the War Memorial were completed and unveiled by the Governor-General, Sir Willoughby Norrie. The names of those Grammar Old Boys who had lost their lives were listed at the base of the Memorial.


Mr W. H. Cooper became the new Headmaster and the Science Block was opened by the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon G. S. Holland.

The original Sports Pavilion was built as a gift from the Old Boys' Association and members of the Grammar community. The rest of the upper ground was cleared of boulders and levelled and grassed for soccer.


A boarding hostel was opened and named in honour of former Headmaster Mr Tibbs. Tibbs House was located opposite the upper ground and accommodated 90 boys.


The construction of the Southern Motorway alongside the School removed the lower sports ground and at the same time exposed the deep lava flow on which Grammar stands. This cliff with the School and War Memorial in front is still one of the most impressive landmarks to be seen along the motorway. New sports grounds were developed below the ridge in the old prison quarry.


The Specialist Block opened, including Physics and Language labs, Music and Geography rooms and an audiovisual theatre.


Centennial celebrations began on 29 May and the Centennial Theatre, with seating for 360 and a swimming pool beside it, opened the following day by the Governor-General, Sir Arthur Porritt. Both were strongly supported and funded by the Old Boys' Association.


Mr Cooper retired and Mr D. J. Graham was appointed new Headmaster.


The new gymnasium was opened by the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon Robert Muldoon. The facility was jointly funded by the Old Boys' Association, Parent-Teachers' Association, students and the Government.


A new Sports Pavilion, also a combined gift, came into use for the lower grounds, which now include six new tennis courts as well as expanded sports fields.


The first annual travelling scholarship for a Grammar master was awarded.

Mr C. M. Littlejohn, who was Headmaster from 1935 to 1954 (through the Depression and World War II years) dies.


The new Music Suite, beside the Centennial Theatre, was opened.


The new Art and Technical Block was completed at a cost of $750,000.


Relocatable classrooms are moved to their new location on the raised section of the upper field.


The Science Block extension was opened by the Mayor of Auckland, Dame Cath Tizard.

The School's Outdoor Education Lodge in Ohakune, Venturelodge, was purchased by the School for the use of Form 4 camps and senior leadership camps, as well as for senior subjects study such as Geography and Biology.

The artificial sand-based hockey turf was opened on the Normanby Road playing field. The Careers Department is relocated to what was the 'Senior Common Room' adjacent to the swimming pool.


A new specialised English Block was opened adjacent to the Library and Art and Technology Block.


Auckland Grammar School won the Secondary Schools' Rowing cup, the Maadi Cup, for the first time.


Sir D. J. Graham, CBE retired after 21 years as Headmaster. Mr J. Morris became Headmaster after being Principal of Takapuna Grammar School for almost four years.


The historic Main Block was re-strengthened as part of a Ministry of Education project at a cost of $6.5 million. The Main Block remained out of commission for over a year, with assemblies being held on the upper field on fine days.

The School purchased 17 houses along Clive Road and Barnett Crescent from the Ministry of Justice, most of which are now rented to teachers at the School.


The School enters the digital age with the appointment of a Director of Information Services and the creation of a computer network and suite of computers.


The extension and refurbishment of the School Library began, the swimming pool heated and approval was gained to build the Hostel masters' accommodation on the Tibbs House site.

A Business Manager is appointed to oversee the non-teaching aspects of the School, which reflects the impact of the self-managing Schools policy on the secondary sector.


The English Block is refurbished and the Headmaster's residence was created at 8 Clive Road, adjacent to Tibbs House.

New practice rooms are built in the Music Suite and an extension to the Specialist Block is built, including classrooms, resource areas and office space.


The wider Grammar community was saddened by the sudden death of Mr I. D. Mackinlay, Associate Headmaster.

The Health Centre was opened and the Tuck Shop was extended and upgraded. New changing rooms are built beside the heated swimming pool and a new weight training room is created under the Specialist Block extension. The Library extension was completed. The No. 3 rugby field converted to a sand carpet field.

The Development Office and Foundation Trust is set up to help raise additional money for the School, focusing on the Academic Endowment Fund to help recruit, retain and reward our best teachers, the new Sports Complex and the Annual Giving Programme.


Auckland Grammar School introduces international examinations to New Zealand in addition to NCEA. The University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) are trialled for the first time in New Zealand.


The School's new Technology Block is built and the Learning Support Department moves into the refurbished area that was previously home to the Technology Department. Two new classrooms are built on the 'D' floor of the Main Block, which were originally the tractor sheds.

The lower football fields were refurbished into sand carpet fields.


The ground floor of the new Technology Block was converted into two Computer labs plus office and resource space and the building won a national architectural award.

Foundations were laid for a new three-level extension to the Specialist Block.


The new Specialist Block extension is completed, housing the History, Geography and Languages Departments.

Plans were drawn up for a new Sports Centre.

The Caretaker's Cottage is renovated and designated as Augusta House, the new base for the Development Office and the Old Boys' Association. The Augusta Fellowship, the School's bequest society, was established.

Old Boy Hamish Carter won Grammar's first Olympic gold medal in the Triathlon in Athens.


The School's roll reached 2,500, as a result of government enrolment legislation that guarantees enrolment for all boys living in the 'Grammar Zone'.

An all-weather sports practice turf was created on the upper field.

The original Specialist Block was restrengthened as part of a Ministry of Education programme.

A full suite of Cambridge International Exams was offered for the first time (IGCSE, AS and A Level) and Auckland Grammar School students gain exceptional results.

The UK Friends of Auckland Grammar School was established.


Issues with the Ministry of Education over zone requirements continue.

The new Sports Centre is opened by the Minister of Education, Mr Mallard. It incorporates a double gym space, three classrooms, a staffroom and resource area and four changing rooms.

The original gym (built in the 1930s) is converted into a Study Centre for senior students.

Plans are sought for the construction of a new Pavilion and Squash Courts on the upper field.


The upper field was converted to a sand carpet base. The Old Boys' Pavilion and Squash Courts are opened by Old Boy Sir Wilson Whineray, replacing the original pavilion.

Over 50 schools throughout New Zealand are now involved in CIE exams.

The Old Boy of the Year Award is replaced by the annual Augusta Awards.


Grammar's most famous Old Boy, Sir Edmund Hillary, passed away.


Dr R. D. Kirkpatrick '64 retired from the Chairmanship of the Board of Trustees after a tenure of 12 years.


Mr A. J. Blackburn '67 became Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

The School's Heritage Hall Forms fundraising initiative was launched.

The Pavilion Changing Rooms were opened.

A legislative change allowed sons of Old Boys to attend the family school from out of zone.


The School secured its second Maadi Cup in rowing.

Sir D. J. Graham CBE, Grammar's ninth Headmaster, was awarded a KNZM in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

IGCSE was made available to all Form 5 students.

The refurbishment of the World War I War Memorial took place.


Tibbs House celebrated its 50 year anniversary.

Headmaster Mr J. Morris retired at the end of Term 3. Mr T. O'Connor became the School's 11th Headmaster.


The construction of the New Classroom Block, to be connected to the B floor of the Main block, started in May.

Auckland Grammar School and King's College celebrated the 200th game of 1st XV rugby with a lavish dinner at Vector Arena with over 1,300 people from both schools in attendance.

The first full School assembly (the Colours Assembly) was live-streamed.


The 2015 Form 3 cohort started their journey at Auckland Grammar School and will be the Form 7 leaders when the 150th celebrations take place in 2019.

The New Classroom Block was officially opened by His Excellency, Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae GNZM QSO, Governor-General of New Zealand.

The pre-fab 'O Zone' buildings were removed and the field adjacent to Clive Road was re-established in September 2015.


The School introduced Te Reo Maori as a compulsory subject for all Form 3 students and hires Mr Neitana Lobb, the first Te Reo staff member for the School.

The School's Main Block reached its centenary with a grand event in April.

The inaugural Grammar Art House Tour took place in November with a Launch event featuring over 30 pieces of student art, a live auction and a tour of 10 beautiful houses within the Grammar zone, with four art galleries exhibiting a number of their artists.

A new year-round astro turf was built adjacent to the Hockey Pavilion, perfect for Rugby and Football.


The 2017 Form 5 cohort were the first year group to have an 8-period day, studying six subjects, giving them more flexibility when it comes to choosing options in Forms 6 and 7.

Auckland Grammar celebrated the life of the School's ninth Headmaster, Sir John Graham KNZM CBE ED, who passed away in August. For the first time in the School's history, the 2017 cohort performed a full School haka at the conclusion of Sir John's funeral at St Mary's Cathedral in Parnell.


The Auckland Grammar School Old Boys' Association celebrated its quasquicentenary (125 years).

The 150th website went live in May, 12 months out from the 150th celebrations.

13 regional and international events were held in the lead-up to the School's 150th celebrations, including five in New Zealand, plus Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and for the first time, a gathering in Singapore.


Auckland Grammar School celebrated its sesquicentenary in May with 27 events across nine days. For just the second time in the School's history, the 2019 student body performed the full School haka before the annual Grammar vs King's College 1st XV fixture.

Click here to view the photos, videos and publications from the celebrations.

The School introduced Pre-Q for Form 5 students, replacing Cambridge IGCSE. The majority of Form 5 students will study Pre-Q subject courses.


For the first time in recent history, the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on public gatherings forced the cancellation of the School's annual ANZAC Day service in the Great Hall. Instead, a virtual commemoration video was made - click here to view.


Auckland Grammar School and King's College celebrated 125 years of games with the 211th match being played on Saturday 26 June. This is the oldest surviving rivalry between two Auckland secondary schools, which dates back to the foundation of the Auckland 1st XV competition in 1896. Grammar hosted King's and came away with a 24-21 victory.