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A brief historical chronology of Tiffin School


The School can date its foundation to the will of Thomas Tiffin, dated 15th May 1638, who left £50 in trust to the Bailiffs and Freemen of Kingston to purchase land and/or buildings, the income from which would be used to teach ‘some honest poor man’s son’.


John Tiffin facilitated his brother’s wishes by leaving £100 to the same ends on his death just over a year later.

Thomas Tiffin and his brother John were two wealthy Kingston brewers, born at Yalding in Kent. Besides owning a brewery, the brothers owned or leased a number of inns and public houses in the local area. Thomas Tiffin was the holder of the office of High Bailiff (equivalent to Mayor today) in the Kingston Corporation in the 1630s.

19th Century

Between thirty and fifty pupils per year were being supported by the Tiffin Charity.

The Endowed Schools Act of 1869 allowed the various local Kingston educational charities to be combined, and permitted the building of the first Tiffin School on the Fairfield. (The building still exists as St Joseph’s RC Primary School and parts of the Fairfield are endowed land of the Tiffin School Foundation). The school opened on 20th January 1880 under the Headmaster C J Grist, after whom the School sports grounds are named.


The new Tiffins Schools are opened on the Fairfield. The boys were downstairs and the girls upstairs (and never the twain met).  The boys and girls schools were officially referred to as the Tiffins Schools, but once the girls moved on from the Fairfield site, the use of Tiffin Boys and Tiffin Girls became more usual. The Fairfield open space was used for games and recreation.


The girls move out to a new location and the boys’ school expands.


First consideration of building a new boys’ school on the remaining open space of the Fairfield. Public objections to the loss of the open space mean that the plans are shelved.


A plan to build a new school in Denmark Road, close to Surrey County Hall, is proposed but the plans are in abeyance during WWI and then abandoned afterwards.

Charles Grist, first Head of Tiffin, stays in post until the end of the war eventually retiring in 1919, with T. Dean taking over as Headteacher.


The Old Tiffinians fund a War Memorial for those who died in WWI. It is placed in the school on the Fairfield.

Kingston Corporation, as Trustees of the Tiffin Charity, are given permission by Surrey County Council in 1921 to purchase the Elmfield site in London Road as well as the land to the east that will become the school field.

The old Fairfield school closes in July 1929 and the new school, Main Building, opens in September.


The size of the school continues to expand and there are various proposals for new buildings that do not come to fruition.

In 1939 air raid shelters are built in various locations around the school but their late completion delays the start of term in September.


“Tubby” Dean, the second head of the school postpones retirement until the end of the war.

An anti-aircraft gun is placed in the middle of the school field, part of the defences of the Hawker aircraft factory, which is located on the other side of the railway. Sixth formers carry out fire watching duties based on the roof of Elmfield.

Brigadier J J Harper is appointed the third Head of the school in 1947. The Old Tiffinians and school together raise funds to purchase playing fields at East Molesey to be used by the OTs and school. The Grists War Memorial Ground opens in 1948.


The first temporary classrooms are erected near the Sports Hall.


Two new Biology laboratories are built at the east end of the main building. Further temporary classrooms are erected on the London Road playground.

The Harper and Dean Pavilions are opened at Grists.

The Canbury Boat Club is built, with Tiffin School and Kingston Rowing Club making use of the facility.  Tiffin is one of the very few state schools that offer a full rowing programme.


After 25 years in post, J J Harper retires in 1972 with A J V Roberts becoming Headteacher.


The Roberts building (classroom block) opens in 1986 named after the fourth Head of the school.

In 1988,  Tony Dempsey becomes Headteacher of Tiffin School.



The Chester Centre (Creative Studies) opens, named after Alan Chester, Chair of Governors, followed by the Sports Centre replacing the old war-time factory.


The Dempsey Centre (Learning Resource Centre) opens in 2004 named after Tony Dempsey fifth Head of the school with the addition of the Judge Lecture Theatre after a significant bequest from the Judge family and a previous Chair of Governors.

In 2009, Hilda Clarke became the first female Head of Tiffin School.


The Dining Hall and teaching block, an extension to the Dempsey Centre, were built followed by the Sports Hall extension and MUGA which finally clears the last of the temporary structures on the site.

In 2011, the School acquired academy status and ceased to be a maintained school regulated by the Local Authority.

In 2015, Mike Gascoigne became the eighth Headteacher of Tiffin.

In 2019, girls were admitted into the Sixth Form, creating the first co-educational section of the school.  The Sixth Form also expanded, with nearly 500 pupils across Year 12 and 13 in total.


The Sports Hall extension was completed in the early 2020s, as well as the Learning Resource Centre expansion.

Mike Gascoigne retired in 2023, with Garth Williams becoming the ninth Headteacher of the school.