History of the School

Photo by M Shammas

History of the school 

By Gerald Miller 1955-1962

St Nicholas Grammar School was a grammar school located in Northwood Hills, in the London Borough of Hillingdon, Middlesex.

The Beginning

Approval to begin construction of the school was granted on 11th May 1953, and the work was undertaken by construction firm Holland, Hannen & Cubitts. The grammar school opened in September 1955, and ran for 22 years.

 In 1954 two forms were established at Bourne Secondary Modern school to become the nucleus of pupils, forming 2a and 2b at the new building in 1955.

The School Crest

The school crest was a bishop's mitre surrounded by three money bags.  A mitre was worn by St Nicholas as he was a Bishop (as well as being the most popular Saint in Christendom).  The three purses of gold are not those of a miser but represent the dowries secretly bestowed by the saint on three daughters of an impoverished citizen who were about to abandoned to a life of shame.  This is said to be origin of the custom of giving presents surreptitiously on the eve of St Nicholas Day (December 6th), and from this comes the association of Christmas presents with Santa Claus which is merely an American corruption of San Nicolaas of the Dutch colonists in the New World.  Purple is the colour of King’s College Cambridge, one of the finest seats of learning in this country.

The Headmaster

The first headmaster was Robert Francis Edward Watson (8 March 1910 - 16 July 2004), who assembled the teaching staff during the late winter and early spring of 1955.  He held the position until retiring at the end of term 1975.

Robert Watson was succeeded by Leslie Shearn who guided the school through amalgamation with the neighbouring St Marys Grammar School for Girls in 1977 to form Haydon School.  In 1978, Haydon School changed the crest to a stylized stag's head.


At the time of the Norman Conquest, William I gave the manor of Ruislip with Northwood to the ABBOTS of BEC to be held forever. Later however at the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the KING Henry VI took the land and gave it to KING’S COLLEGE CAMBRIDGE.

The first tenant of Northwood under the Abbots of Bec was KEVERE who perhaps gave his name to Kewferry Road and other local places of interest.

Thus we have the House names:-

Abbots (red)

Bec (yellow)

Kevere (green)

Kings (blue) 

A House assembly was held once a week on Friday.  Each House had its own colours.  There were many inter-house competitions throughout the school year, the emphasis being on field sports, though there were also drama, chess, and art competitions.


There was a language laboratory, senior and junior science laboratories for chemistry and physics, a school orchestra, a library, workshops for metalwork and woodwork, a large gymnasium, and several pitches for games. 

Notable Alumni
(NB. This list has been updated subsequent to the initial creation of this page by Gerald Miller. Also note external links will open in a new window/tab)

Felix Dennis - publisher.  Originally of OZ magazine fame. See the Felix Dennis Foundation website here and Guardian Obituary here

John Henderson - film and TV director.  Credits include The Borrowers and Spitting Image.

Tony Hymas - musician/arranger.  Worked with Jeff Beck and others for many years.

Richard Rosser (Baron Rosser) - trade union leader.  General Secretary of the TSSA from 1989 - 2004. An example of Baron Rosser's school work can be found here.. On Looking Through My Poetry Book (1957) 

Gary Tibbs - musician and actor.  Played bass guitar with The Vibrators, Roxy Music and Adam and The Ants.

Andrew Jakeman (AKA 'Jake Riviera') - music entrepreneur and manager. He was one of the originators of 'Stiff Records' and managed (among many others), Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and Actor Max Wall ('Professor Wallofski').

(I notice that Felix and John both appeared in the 1963 production of A Man For All Seasons)

Why St Nicholas and St Marys?

Most of the land in the Ruislip area had been owned for centuries by King’s College Cambridge.  In the ancient Charter granted to King’s College Cambridge by its founder, King Henry VI, the King expressed a wish that his new College “shall henceforth be denominated Our Kings College Royal of the Blessed St Mary and St Nicholas.”   The College Authorities readily agreed that the two new grammar schools to be built in the Ruislip-Northwood district be named:-

St Nicholas Grammar School for Boys and St Mary’s Grammar School for Girls….so much more imaginative than other GS’s in the area i.e. Harrow County, Pinner County, Watford Boys, Rickmansworth GS, Hayes County. They could so easily have been Northwood Hills GS for Boys & Girls!

In the words of the College authorities “the College approves the proposal and is very pleased to see the long connection with Ruislip perpetuated in this way.”

It was considered that the name linked the Schools directly with Christianity, with the long history of England and with the ancient and gracious learning of the University of Cambridge.  These links would provide dignity and a fine beginning for the new schools.

Gerald Miller SNOB



The Strong Are Lonely (1970)


Music Memories


Dead Ground (1971)


School Christmas Party (1956)


No Snow Yet (1961)


Societies & Clubs (1963-64)

Advertisement (1957-58) Stothards