No institution has its genesis in a vacuum and The King's School is no exception. William Grant Broughton arrived in the Colony in 1829 and after surveying his clergy, concluded that New South Wales needed grammar schools of superior quality offering classical, mathematical and general studies, possibly similar to the education he received during his time at Cambridge. His Plan for the Establishment and Regulation of The King's School in New South Wales was placed before Governor Darling in 1830 and despatched to England. His Majesty's Government approved the creation of two Schools, one in Sydney which was to be short-lived, the other at Parramatta, the despatch arriving in March 1831, thereafter the foundation date for the School.
While the opening of The King's School on 13 Februrary 1832 started somewhat inauspiciously with just three young boys in attendance, numbers quickly grew and by the end of the year, with numbers approaching a hundred, accommodation at the rented premises - now known as Harrisford in George Street Parramatta, was already stretched. Within three years, the School had moved to a new site supplied by the New South Wales government, on the banks of the river. Here, the School had a chequered existence, with scarlet fever, a depressed economy and fluctuating finances leading to a temporary closure in 1864 when a collapsing roof made the classrooms uninhabitable. Some students went to Macquarie Fields, where the Headmaster, Rev George Macarthur, once a pupil at The King's School, was destined to aid in the School's recovery.
Bishop Barker, supported by Old Boys and supporters of the School, worked tirelessly over the next few years to re-open the School, which ultimately occurred in 1868 under the headmastership of Rev Macarthur. The Cadet Corps, officially recognised as the oldest in Australia, had its beginnings at Macquarie Fields, where it was renamed The King's School Cadet Corps in 1868. While Macarthur felt the Chapel was the heart of the School, it was left to his successor, Rev A St John Gray to see the beginning of the building, which many years later made its way to Gowan Brae. The years from 1868 until the centenary were significant for many reasons as the following were instituted during the time the Colony was debating Federation:
The AAGPS was founded in 1892 and for the first four years the School was victorious on the rugby field. Not long after, Australia saw in a new century and the School adopted its black tie, mourning the loss of a long reigning monarch. Rev PS Waddy became the second Old Boy to become Headmaster, and his time at the helm saw the establishment of the Preparatory School, the House System and Day Boys being allowed to wear the School uniform.
The world was at war, and Old Boys of The King's School responded in large numbers to the call to arms. It was a time of “muscular Christianity” where boys were encouraged to play hard and study hard and no one exemplified this more than Rev EM Baker. For some, this was a “golden era” where once again the School reigned supreme on the sporting field, boarding numbers doubled and the Chapel was extended as a memorial to all those who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the war. Centenary celebrations were held, with a radio link up with our namesake in Canterbury, however, at this time ill health forced the resignation of Rev Baker.
While Baker's successor, Rev CT Parkinson, had visions for a rebuilding program and a broadened curriculum, his resignation after a few years saw little of the vision come to fruition, except the building of Baker and Forrest Houses to accommodate the ever increasing boarding numbers. The new Headmaster, the first not to be an ordained clergyman, had to first contend with the effects of the world again at war and a threat by the government to requisition the School for the use of the armed forces. Tudor House at Moss Vale was acquired and it was becoming exceedingly obvious that the site by the river in Parramatta would not allow the School to grow and develop as envisioned by the Council and its Headmaster, and so began discussions as to the future of The King's School.
The process to find a new site was perhaps the most contentious in the history of the School. The offer of a site in Wollongong was violently opposed by many Old Boys who saw the heart of the School in the Parramatta area, as envisioned by Broughton so many years before. A generous bequest by Mrs Violet Macansh, the sister of the Futter brothers who attended during the 1880s-90s, provided for the purchase of Gowan Brae, just a few miles up the road, and from 1955 the Prep relocated to Gowan Brae. The Senior School first attended classes in new buildings on this site from 1962.
Mr Hake's successor, Rev SW Kurrle, arrived in 1964 and during his time the building work was consolidated and the Chapel moved. The School adapted to new academic challenges with the introduction of the Wyndham Scheme and with it an added year of senior schooling. The School spent two years celebrating its sesquicentenary before Rev Kurrle retired in 1982.
The support of the parents and the wider community has provided many facilities for the School over the last forty years as new academic and social challenges have dictated the needs for providing the best in boys’ education. Under Mr Wickham, the School curriculum broadened and new subjects such as Industrial Arts and Visual Art became mainstream and provided for a new population which was slowly but steadily seeing the enrolment of more day boys. The Theatre, opened during the sesquicentenary celebrations, proved the impetus for more annual performances following on from the Gilbert and Sullivan tradition of the 1950s and 1960s.
Social changes forced the School to rethink its educational offering and question traditions inherited from the past. Major building renovations, a Centre for Learning and Leadership, a new Sports Centre and an emphasis on academic and all round excellence, have characterised the leadership of the present Headmaster, Dr Tim Hawkes. Leadership, excellence in boys’ education and a centre of excellence for boarding care are the current priorities as The King's School educates young men towards Manhood. More recently, the School has witnessed a rebuilding of its day and boarding houses, a major extension to the Preparatory School and the construction of a new Science Centre.