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A Brief History of the School

Today’s BMS has its origins in the Bedford Charity (now The Harpur Trust), which was born from endowments left by Sir William Harpur in the sixteenth century. From our early beginnings as a ‘Writing School’ established in 1764, we focused on delivering education that would bring practical benefit to students. Initially, these boys were mainly the children of local businessmen. Over time, military and professional families from both Bedfordshire and further afield were also increasingly attracted to the school.

By the late 19th century we had been established in prestigious premises on Harpur Square designed by Edward Blore, the frontage of which is now the Harpur (shopping) Centre. The school was renamed Bedford Modern School to reflect the school’s modern curriculum. In time the Victorian buildings became cramped so, in 1972, the foundation stone for a new BMS campus on Manton Lane was laid by the Secretary of State for Education. The ethos behind our new build was that students’ social and educational needs should be more important than traditional grandeur. Since then, additional facilities have steadily been added.

We are delighted that so many former BMS students have made their mark in a diverse range of fields. Some examples include science (Sir William Augustus Tilden), engineering (Sir Charles William Oatley OBE), politics and the armed forces (Sir George Herbert Farrar DSO, MC), journalism (Sir Nicholas Lloyd), music and performance (Segun Akinola, Sope Dirisu), and sport (Tim Foster MBE and Paralympian Julie Rogers). BMS has grown and evolved considerably in recent decades, becoming an independent school in 1976 and a coeducational day school in 2003. We continue to provide an education that is modern, rigorous and relevant.

Our Archive: A Short Film

Find out more about the collections we hold in our archive here at BMS.

BMS at War

The Queen's Jubilee

BMS through the Decades


Filling in the Gaps

Cataloguing projects are currently underway and the School Archivist would welcome any items relating to the history of BMS or individual staff or students. In particular, there are significant gaps in the photograph collection and the Archivist would love to hear from anyone who may be willing to donate originals or copies of photographs from their time at the school.

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