A Brief History 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.

The executor of the brothers’ wills was William Cleave, described as their “kinsman”, and also a wealthy merchant and a Liveryman of the Haberdashers Company. He assiduously purchased land and property in the area of the present High Street and Fairfield in Kingston so that by 1641 income was being provided for education and clothing of a number of pupils each year. (William Cleave left money in his will on his death in 1667 for the building of the Almshouses in Old London Road and also for establishing two schools in Yalding, Kent and Woodchurch, Cheshire.) The Tiffin Charity also provided £5 for each pupil to be apprenticed at the end of their education. By the mid 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 Fairfield is still part of the endowed land of Tiffin School). The school opened on 20th January 1880 under the Headmaster C J Grist.

The school prospered and suffered as well from a pressing problem of space as numbers increased. Following the First World War a site in London Road, Elmfield, was identified as providing sufficient space and a new classroom block, the Main Building, was constructed. (Elmfield is a Grade II listed Georgian townhouse.)

The school moved on to its present location in September 1929. Since then, numerous buildings have been added, notably the Roberts Building (1986), the Chester Centre (Creative Studies) (1991), the Sports Centre (1996), the Dempsey Centre (2004) and most recently the new dining and teaching block (2018). The playing fields at Hampton Court, opened in 1948, are known as Grist’s, commemorating the name of the first headmaster.

On the 1st July 2011 the school became an Academy.

Since 1880 there have only been eight Headteachers of the School, which is a record for a state school.

We remember with gratitude Thomas Tiffin and brother John, who by their bequests laid the foundations for the present school.
OFSTED 2011-12 Language College Arts College International School Award Arkwright