125 years as a centre of learning 

Former pupils of Fairfield Grammar School have marked the school’s 125th anniversary.

Members of the Old Fairfieldians’ Society gathered at the school in Montpelier, which is now home to Fairlawn Primary School and the Hospital Education Service. 

Many memories were shared by the attendees, who enjoyed a tour of the Grade II listed building before having lunch, swapping reminiscences and poring over memorabilia. The afternoon ended with the cutting of a cake decorated with the school badge, its motto -Quanti est sapere: how great is wisdom – and three candles and balloons with the figures, 125, in the school colours.  

OFS president Lynda Goss said: “We were awash with nostalgia. Although ages at the event ranged from 51 to 91, we had much in common as many teachers spent most or all of their careers at Fairfield.”

She also commented: “Although boys and girls had separate playgrounds when we were at school, it’s amazing how many OFs married each other!”

Two days later four OFs attended an assembly at Fairlawn where the primary pupils asked   questions, such as ‘Did you have a detention?’  ‘What were the school dinners like?’  ‘Were the teachers strict?’ One of the visitors dressed up in her school uniform, to the amusement of the children and staff.

The following Saturday three OFs held a mini museum of memorabilia in a classroom at Fairlawn’s Summer Fair. Again, this sparked great interest among parents and children, especially when they saw school reports, exam papers, panoramic photos and an Open Day programme from 1914.   

The co-educational school, on a triangular site bounded by Falkland Road, Fairlawn Road and Fairfield Road, opened with 180 pupils in 1898 as a Higher Grade School before becoming Fairfield Secondary School in 1904.   There were fees of £1 per term, rising to £1.75 in 1930 or £4 for students living outside the city boundary.  A quarter of the places in the school were free for those who passed an entrance exam. Fairfield became a state grammar school in 1945 and was renamed Fairfield High School in 2000, by which time it had become non selective. In 2006 staff and pupils moved to new premises in Allfoxton Road. 

Fairfield’s most famous alumnus is Archibald Leach, who went on to become the film star Cary Grant. Leach was expelled in 1918 at the age of 14, for reasons  that are open to speculation. 

Fairlawn School, a state primary, now part of Venturers Trust, opened in 2015. Its headteacher Julie Molesworth welcomed the OFS visitors. 

“It was a pleasure to host the Old Fairfieldians’ 125th anniversary event,” she said. 

“We at Fairlawn are so privileged to be able to continue teaching and learning in this wonderful building and it was a delight to hear the stories of happy times spent in our classrooms over the decades.”

The Old Fairfieldians’ Society is holding its annual meeting at Fairlawn on Saturday September 9 at 11.15am. To find out more, visit oldfairfieldians.org.uk