Page updated 16th May 2018
Elize Hele who died in 1635 left money in a trust for founding a school in Exeter. Sir John Maynard and others were designated as trustees, and in 1658 they conveyed the property in the trust to the Mayor and Corporation as the Hele's Charity. For two hundred years, Hele's request was ignored by a succession of trustees until in 1837, the Lord Chancellor ordered that the funds be released for grants to existing schools, and then for founding new schools.
The Charity Trustees funded a new school from the Elize Hele's Charity, at a site in St David's, near Bury Meadow that was on a 1,000 year lease from the City Council. The trustees of St John's Hospital School provided £1,500 to build the school, but in the event the work cost £1,000, while the Hele's Charity provided £400 per year for maintenance. With a capacity for 88 boys, the Victorian Gothic building opened on 15 January 1850. The boys received instruction in reading, writing, arithmetic, mathematics, English grammar and history. Those under 10 years old paid 21s, and those over 42s per year. E H Shorto, who became headmaster, was appointed as a pupil teacher to the school, a month after it opened, at the age of sixteen. He became an Assistant master in 1856, and the Second Master, the next year, becoming the Headmaster in 1889. He remained at the school, until his death in 1905.
By 1890 there were 150 boys on the roll, and by 1903, it was apparent the facilities were no longer adequate. In 1909, a school hall, two laboratories and five classrooms were added by architect C E Ware and Son, with R Wilkins and Son, of Bristol winning the construction contract, at a cost of £7,889. The historian W G Hoskins attended the Episcopal School at Mount Dinham before winning a scholarship to Hele's at the age of ten in 1918.
After the First World War, a memorial of English oak, made by Harry Hem's son, listed the 81 dead from the conflict who were old boys from the school. Names from the Second World War were added to the memorial. In 1921, the school changed from grant aided to maintained, only to revert to grant aided in 1929. It was after the 1944 Education Act that the school again became maintained, and under the control of Exeter Education Authority.
In 1931, a new building with a front loggia and a sundial over the entrance, was added, designed by the City Architect. Other additions at the time included a metal workshop, art room, laboratories and more classrooms. The adjoining St David's vicarage was added to the school premises in 1950.
During the May 1942 blitz, the school was used as an Emergency Feeding Centre as well as the HQ for the Information Centre where people could see the casualty list pinned to the wall, and get help such as replacement clothing.
The school badge, was a variation of Elize Heles coat of arms. It is a red shield with five lozenge shaped ermine furs. Over the shield is a cap of maintenance and an eagle, while under the shield is the Latin "Tentando Superabimus" or 'We shall overcome by trying'.
In 1959, the school moved to a new site at Southam Farm, next to Quarry Lane, where it merged with the Secondary Technical College which had started out as the Junior Technical School in Paradise Place off Bartholomew Street. The merged schools were known as the Technical Grammar School. The new site was not large enough for all the boys from the two institutions, and the old army huts, that had been the last home of the Secondary Technical College, on the opposite side of the by-pass were occupied by the school. The Hele Road site was taken over by Exeter College, who took over the sixth forms of the two former grammar schools in 1972, and the Technical Grammar School was renamed Hele's High School.
Bishop Blackall School was amalgamated with Hele's in 1983 and the combined school renamed St Peter's School. In 1986 the army huts were closed following a new building scheme.
During the summer of 2005, the old Hele's buildings at Exeter College were demolished and a new entrance block and other facilities built.
Sources: The British Newspaper Archive.
The original school buildings dating from 1850. They are still there, buried behind the modern college.
The Hele's School Memorial is inscribed with:
"TO THE PROUD AND GLORIOUS MEMORY OF THE OLD BOYS OF THIS SCHOOL WHO FELL IN THE WORLD WARS 1914 - 1918 AND 1939 - 1945
FOR GOD, KING AND RIGHT THEY GAVE THEIR ALL
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