Trinity College School (TCS) has an extensive history which begins in Weston, Ontario in 1865. There, the School was founded by the Revd. William Arthur Johnson, who, unhappy with the public education system of the time, sought a means to educate his own children. In 1864, Father Johnson (as he became known to the students) approached the Corporation of Trinity College with a proposal to establish a school for boys in Weston with an affiliation to the university. He collected $900 from his friends to start the School. On May 1, 1865, Trinity College School was officially incorporated. Father Johnson became warden of the new Trinity College School and hired a classical scholar, Reverend Charles H. Badgely, as its first headmaster. TCS opened its doors with nine students, including Father Johnson’s three sons.
Three years later, due to increasing enrolment, TCS moved to its present site in Port Hope, Ontario, on the Ward homestead. Three years’ rent on the property was paid by a committee of people from town who were eager to have TCS locate in their midst.
In 1870, with the departure of Revd. Badgely, the Reverend C.J.S. Bethune was appointed headmaster, despite having said some years earlier, “To be a school master is the last thing that I should care to undertake.” He would remain at TCS for 29 years.
Throughout Bethune’s tenure, the School continued to expand, adding a dormitory and classroom building, a chapel and, in 1882, The Lodge, residence of the head of Trinity College School. Designed by renowned architect Frank Darling in 1886, The Lodge has the distinction of being the oldest intact building on campus. The growth of the “School on the Hill” also resulted in the creation of the “Old Boys’ Association” (1886), which today continues as the TCS Alumni Association.
In 1891, in an effort to relieve the burden of duties on Dr. Bethune, the Reverend Arthur Lloyd was appointed headmaster while Dr. Bethune became warden. However, Revd. Lloyd resigned in 1893 and Dr. Bethune once again took full responsibility of the School. His abilities were soon tested when, in February 1895, a coal oil lamp exploded and started a fire: while no one was injured, the School was destroyed. Dr. Bethune leapt into action, accessing living and learning space in town for the students, and engaging on an ambitious rebuilding plan that saw the School re-open in October of the same year.
Following Bethune’s retirement in 1899, the School was first led by Reverend R. Jones (1899-1901) and then Reverend Herbert Symonds (1901-1903). Although of a short tenure, Dr. Symonds did urge for the creation of the TCS Ladies Guild, which met for the first time in 1902 to organize fundraising in support of the chapel and other school interests. Today, the TCS Parents’ Guild is one of the oldest such organizations in Canada.
In 1903, Reverend Oswald Rigby took over leadership of TCS, and would remain here for 10 years, only departing following the heartbreaking death of his wife, Ellen. Revered Rigby did not go far, though, transitioning to St. Mark’s Church in Port Hope.
On the cusp of World War I, in 1913, Revered Graham Orchard was appointed headmaster of TCS, a title he would hold through the upheaval of the next 20 years, including World War I, the Great Depression and, in 1928, another massive fire that destroyed most of the school buildings (although once again there were no injuries). Only remaining was the Junior School, for students aged 15 and under, which had opened in 1924 under the leadership of Reverend C. Howard Boulden (for whom the Junior School building would later be named).
During the rebuilding phase after the 1928 fire, the Senior School students were moved to premises in Woodstock, Ontario. This time, reconstruction would prove more difficult as, following the stock market crash, many alumni were unable to fulfill the financial promises they had made to the rebuilding campaign. Dr. Orchard persevered and the new buildings were officially opened on May 1, 1930. This included two residences (Bethune and Brent House, named after Dr. Bethune and prominent alumnus Bishop Charles Brent), and the buildings now known as Trinity House, Osler Hall and the W.A. Johnson Classroom Block. However, the weight of the Great Depression, declining enrolment and outstanding school debt weighed heavily, and in 1933 Dr. Orchard stepped down.
His successor, Dr. Philip Ketchum ’17, was the first layman and first alumnus to lead the School. Among his first achievements, in 1937, a debt of a quarter of a million dollars was paid off through the generosity of Mr. Britton Osler (for whom Osler Hall is named) and 70 alumni and friends of TCS. Dr. Ketchum provided a steady influence during the war years, including welcoming many students as “war guests” seeking refuge from the bombing in the U.K. Enrolment climbed in the post-war period, including in Boulden House, where, in 1941, Mr. Charles Tottenham (later the Marquis of Ely) was appointed head of the Junior School, a post he held for the next 40 years.
New construction projects were undertaken, including the Peter Campbell Memorial Rink (1950), a third dormitory (Bickle House, 1937, named in memory of E.W. Bickle ’25), Russel House (1946) and the Memorial Chapel, consecrated in 1951 in honour of the 185 TCS Old Boys and masters killed in the Boer War, WWI and WWII. To ensure a sustained approach to fundraising, the TCS Fund was created in 1956. This would lay the groundwork for the creation, in 2007, of the TCS Foundation.
Dr. Ketchum retired in 1962 and, sadly, would pass away just two years later. His successor, Angus Scott, had been a teacher at the School since 1952, and would remain here a further two decades until his retirement in 1983. Mr. Scott oversaw major additions to the campus, including a new gym, science wing, library and administrative offices, and the addition of a fourth residence, named in memory of Dr. Ketchum. Later, a fifth dormitory was added, named after alumnus, benefactor and former TCS board chair Charles Burns ’25, and a sixth, named in honour of Angus Scott. Declining enrolment amongst younger students, however, forced the closure of the Junior School in 1981.
In 1983, Rodger Wright was named 10th headmaster of TCS. Among his early achievements was the creation of Hodgetts House (named after former teacher Birnie Hodgetts) to serve as a space for the School’s growing day population to gather. Three further day houses would be added over the years: Rigby House (1996), Orchard House (2002) and Wright House (2002). Today, the enrolment of the Senior School is approximately 40% day students and 60% boarders.
Perhaps the biggest change in the history of TCS came in 1991, when the School became co-educational. While the first cohort of female students numbered just 61, enrolment grew quickly and steadily, and today the School is balanced in gender composition.
Evidence of the continued expansion in enrolment, in 1999 the Junior School re-opened under the direction of Barbara Winsor Piccini.
In 2004, Stuart Grainger was appointed the 11th head of Trinity College School.
In more recent years, the School has placed an emphasis on balancing all aspects of the student experience: academics, athletics, arts and service learning. This can be seen in investments in arts facilities (LeVan Hall, 2002, and the Visual Arts Wing, 2010); athletics infrastructure (Ernest Howard Squash Centre, 2007, Arnold Massey ’55 Tennis Centre, 2010, and Arnold Massey ’55 Athletics Centre, 2017); and the Clinton T. Sayers ’80 Service Learning Centre (2022).
In 2015, Trinity College School celebrated its 150th anniversary. That same year, the School also marked the official opening of the Cirne Commons (named in honour of lead donor, Lewis Cirne ’89). This significant infrastructure project included a new commons area and renovated Senior School library, guidance, academic support and administration spaces.
Today, Trinity College School’s 100-acre campus welcomes 600 day and boarding students, Grades 5 to 12, from more than 30 countries, and provinces across Canada, each year. TCS graduates go on to attend universities and colleges around the world. And, importantly, the School aims to instill in its students habits of the heart and mind that will help them to live lives of purpose and service.