The first mention of a grammar school in Richmond was in 1392, although it is believed it was founded earlier than this.
A new school was granted a charter by Queen Elizabeth I in 1566 and built in the Churchyard of St Mary’s. It acquired its seal of St James of Compostela, still the School's emblem. One of its most renowned headmasters was James Tate, “The Scholar of the North” and in 1850, under the headmastership of his son James Tate II, the school was moved to its present location as a testimonial to his father James Tate I.
The ‘new’ building was designed by George Townsend Andrews who also designed Richmond Station which opened in 1847. A west wing was added in 1867 and an east wing in 1937. The whole of this building was given a Grade II listing in 2004, but excluded the new 1960s building which is now the offices of Richmondshire District Council – Mercury House.
In 1971 the Boys Grammar School was merged with the Girls’ High School and with the Secondary Modern School to form Richmond Comprehensive School. The Grammar School site became the Lower School for year 7 pupils.
The site was closed in 2011 when the Lower School pupils were transferred to the main Richmond School site on Darlington Road.
Since then the building has been largely unoccupied and unused and is now in a state of dilapidation.
Famous ex-pupils of the Old Grammar School include John Bathurst, surgeon to Oliver Cromwell; Sir Francis Nicholson, governor of several American provinces; George Cuit the Elder and his son, landscape painters; Dr. Thomas Musgrave, who was Archbishop of York when the Tate Testimonial was opened; George Bell, who founded the famous printing house and book publishers and his brother, John Bell, who started the Ripon and Richmond Chronicle in 1855, to be incorporated forty-years later with the Darlington and Stockton Times: Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll and Rear Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock, who was killed in the First World War.