The school was founded in 1760 with an endowment from John Bourne and was known as the Longton Free School. By 1763, enough money had been provided for the purchase of land and the construction of a school building, on land near to St John's church in Longton. In the 1820s, the trustees decided to merge the school with the nearby St John's national school and the school lost its separate identity for some years. The national school closed some time between 1859 and 1872 and the trustees of the Bourne estate decided to recreate the free school as a secondary school. The Endowed Schools Act 1869 enabled the trustees to sell the old property and in 1885 a new school was built in Trentham Road, Longton. Management of the school passed in 1900 from the trustees to Longton Borough Council, who placed it under the control of the headmaster of the nearby Sutherland Institute.
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