History of Wolmer's
Wolmer's Schools, located in Kingston, Jamaica consists of Wolmer's Pre-School, Wolmer's Preparatory School and two high schools: Wolmer's Trust High School For Girls and Wolmer's Trust High School for Boys. While acknowledged as separate institutions, each school carries the same crest and motto, "Age Quod Agis", a Latin phrase which translates to 'whatever you do, do it to the best of your abilities'. The school is the oldest high-school in the Caribbean, being established in 1729 by John Wolmer. The Wolmer's Schools are considered among the Caribbean's most prestigious schools, and the most prestigious in Jamaica, with traditional British-style uniform and a strong Christian ethos. The schools more closely resemble British schools of the 1950s than of today, a trend that can be noted of the entire Jamaican schooling system.
Taken from the 2004 archives
Doing our best for Wolmers Schools in Jamaica...
Wolmer's can boast of being the oldest school in the Caribbean having been founded on May 21,1729. This was the day John Wolmer made his last will and testament, leaving the bulk of his estate for the foundation of a free school in the parish of his death. The sum of the legacy was 2,360 pounds sterling.
Little is now known of John Wolmer except that he was a goldsmith and had practiced his craft in Kingston for more than twenty years. It is possible that he was originally from Switzerland. We also know that he was married in the St. Andrew Parish Church on July 1705 and that he died in Kingston on June 29,1729.
There were some delays in giving effect to Wolmer's will, but after many amendments and conferences between the House of Assembly and the Council, a law was passed and in 1736 the Wolmer's Trust, which would manage the affairs of the school, was established.
The original Wolmer's Trustees then, as now, were persons of great repute in society. In fact, in the early days the trustees threatened to outnumber the students. They included the Commander-in-Chief and four senior members of Council. There was the Speaker of the House of Assembly; the Chief Justice; the Custos of Kingston; the four senior Magistrates of Kingston; all the members of the Assembly for Kingston; the Anglican Rector; the Church Wardens and vestrymen of Kingston plus six free citizens to be appointed each year.
The law which established the Wolmer's school made no distinction in respect of colour, class or creed of the students, nor was there discrimination between boys and girls. In 1782, there were 64 boys and 15 girls on roll and the staff consisted of a Chief Master; a writing master and accountant; a teacher of mathematics and a teacher of the French and Spanish languages.
The Wolmer's school was originally situated in downtown Kingston at what is still known as the Wolmer's Yard, now a parking lot and vendors' arcade beside the Kingston Parish Church. In 1896, the schools were separated and independent heads appointed for the Boys' and Girls' schools. After the 1907 earthquake, when most of the school buildings were destroyed, the schools were relocated to its present site, north of Race Course or what is now the National Heroes Park.
In 1941, at the instigation of Miss Skempton, the then headmistress of Wolmer's Girls, the Preparatory school was established to ‘feed' the girls' school. It opened its doors - in the area which now houses the canteen and art room - with six little girls.
Over the years, Wolmer's Boys, Girls' and Preparatory Schools have had many benefactors, who have contributed substantially to the institutions' growth and development. They have all helped to ensure that the schools, which at the start of the new millennium comprise some 3,000 students and 150 faculty members, have fulfilled the hope expressed in the law of 1736, that Wolmer's would become "a very considerable and beneficial seminary of learning for youth".
Our thoughts each Founder's Day, however, focus particularly on the man John Wolmer. The marble monument to his memory in the Kingston Parish Church is instructive and apt. It represents a seated figure of Liberty holding a medallion on which is seen the crest of the school, the sun of Learning breaking through the clouds of Ignorance.
Today, we bless the memory of John Wolmer whose vision and benevolence opened the doors of opportunity and advancement to thousands of young people.
Since John Wolmer's bequest, there have been many other contributions to the schools by citizens. The largest recorded legacy to Wolmer's was made in 1831 when Ellis Wolfe donated £1000. In 1998, Vernon A Barrett, an Old Boy, endowed the trust with $5 million for the three schools. Houses have been named after several of the benefactors. Glasspole House was named after His Excellency, the Most Honourable Sir Florizel Glasspole, O.N., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., C.D., LL.D.(Hon) former Governor General and Old Boy, who chaired the 250th Anniversary Celebration Committee and was instrumental in the building of the joint sixth form block, completed in 1984. Sir Florizel died on November 25th, 2000. The Wolmer's Trust owns all the lands housing the three schools, and is responsible for their maintenance and repair.
May Wolmerians always seek, in turn, to contribute as far as they are able to the school and to the society which have nurtured them.