The Wolmer's Trust

Wolmer's History

“A section of Wolmer's Boy School,” National Library of Jamaica Digital Collection,

The Wolmer’s Trust Schools have an extremely rich and proud history and tradition. The Wolmer’s motto, crest, and official school colours have helped to inculcate within generations of Wolmerians, a strong emotional connection, linking them inextricably to their alma mater and to each other.

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.

Wolmer’s is 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 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.

In May 19th, 2019 a proclamation was issued by the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Linton Allen, the Governor General of Jamaica, to recognize May 21st henceforth as ‘Wolmer’s Day.’ Wolmer’s is the only Jamaican school to have received such recognition.

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.
Since 1904, Wolmer’s Schools has educated 23 Rhodes Scholars, the most for any individual school in the Caribbean.

“Wolmer's Girl School,” National Library of Jamaica Digital Collection,
"IN PLEASANT MOOD: The wife of the Prime Minister, Mrs. Mitzie Seaga, presents a certificate which was one of three awards she handed to Deborah Whittingham, 1980-'81 head girl of Wolmer's Girls' School, at the school's annual prize-giving Wednesday evening last, Deborah also carried off the Board Chairman's Trophy donated by Mr. E.C. Thorburn (seated at centre)." Jamaica Information Service, “Deborah Whittingham,” National Library of Jamaica Digital Collection,
Miss Rosemarie Webster, the first Jamaican female accountant to be employed to the Royal Bank of Canada at the Hagley Park branch. She was a graduate of Wolmer's High School for Girls and was a member of the Jamaica Rifle Association. Daily News, “Rosemarie Webster,” National Library of Jamaica Digital Collection ,
Wolmer's Girls' Class of 1950
Wolmer's Boys' School 1910
Cenotaph - Dedicated to the 21 Wolmerians who lost their lives in WWI. "Erected by the Old Wolmerians to the memory of their school fellows who laid down their lives in the Great War. Great love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends."
Marble sculpture commemorating the gratitude for John Wolmer's gift for a free school.
The Laws of Jamaica, 1799-1803, CAP 33

July 11, 1706 – John Wolmer is Married to Mary Elizabeth Lombard at Halfway Tree. 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 or Germany. We know that he was married in the St. Andrew Parish Church. His wife died in 1717.

May 21, 1729 – John Wolmer wrote his last will and testament, within which he left money for the founding of a free school in the parish where he should happen to die.

June 29, 1729 – John Wolmer died.

1736 – By an Act of the House of Assembly, a law was passed establishing a Trust for the management of the school, commonly called ‘Wolmer’s Free School’. The first members of the Trust were John Gregory, William Nedham, George Ellis and Rev. Dr. May. Rev. Dr. May started the library with gifts of dictionaries, grammars, Fables, an English Bible and 12 catechisms of the Church of England (Anglican).

1736 – The school opened in the house of Samuel Turpin, (who had left it for the school in his will in 1734), on Harbour and Port Royal Street, with 10 boys and 1 teacher, Mr. Bolton. Wolmer’s began as a Grammar School, with the teaching of Reading, Writing, Latin, Greek and Mathematics.

1742 – The Trust bought 6 vacant lots on Duke Street from Samuel Clarke and moved the school to that location. The first Foundation Scholars, (boys with Wolmer’s Scholarships paid by the Trust), were admitted. They were Peter Quarrell (9), Stephen Reed (12), Michael Luncheon (9), Matthew Croe (8) and Edward Morgan (5). The school body numbered 40 boys.

1755 to 1757 – The school was closed after the death of the Headmaster, Mr. Michael Mill. The Duke Street building was leased to the government, as storage for public records.

1757 – Classes resumed in rented quarters, probably at Parade, up to 1777.

September, 1777 – The school was set up at Church Street. It consisted of an infant and grammar division and was known as ‘Wolmer’s Academy’. More land was acquired to the north of the school in 1794.

September 15, 1777 – The Trustees passed a resolution whereby “none but children of white parents be admitted into this school of this corporation”.

1779 – A female division was introduced into the school. The head of this division was Miss Margaret Richardson.   

October 1811 to August 1812 – Wolmer’s operated from Coke Chapel, while the school’s property on Church Street was being enlarged.

1815 – The limit placed on the admission of Jewish children was removed. Coloured children were also admitted.

March 3, 1857 – The Infant division of the school was abolished.

August 1, 1862 – Rev. Robert Gordon was appointed as the first black Headmaster of the school.

1867 – Wolmer’s ceased to be a Grammar School, becoming an Elementary School.

1894 – Wolmer’s returned to Grammar (High School) status, upon the recommendation of The Jamaica Schools’ Commission. The Boys’ and Girls’ Divisions were formally divided into 2 distinct schools.

1895 – Both schools opened as secondary schools. The first Headmaster of the new secondary Wolmer’s Boys’ School was Mr. Albert Dews, while the first Headmistress of Wolmer’s Girls’ School was Miss Maud Barrows.

1897 – The decision was made to abolish the lower (Elementary) division at both schools.

1905 – The Wolmer’s Old Boys’ Association was established to help develop sports at the school and “to provide an opportunity for past pupils of Wolmer’s School to keep in touch with one another, and generally do all in its power to foster the interests and advancement of the school and keep ever green in the memory of Wolmerians their Alma Mater”.

January 12, 1907 – The Great Earthquake did substantial damage to the schools.

1908 – The decision was made to relocate the schools to the Quebec lands.

January 1909 – Wolmer’s occupied its new buildings at Quebec Lodge.

April 20, 1909 – The Wolmer’s Old Girls’ Association was founded “to promote easy intercourse of Old Girls with one another, to help the School in whatever way possible, and to join together in some social work”.

January 1937 – The House System was introduced at the Boys’ School by Philip Sherlock, principal between 1933 and 1938. The original houses were Crosse, Wolfe, Harrison and Patterson.

1939 – The khaki uniform was introduced by Mr. Lewis Davidson, principal between 1939 and 1942.

1941 – The Wolmer’s Parents’ Teachers’ Association was inaugurated by Mr. Davidson.

1991 – A fire destroyed the building housing the Principal’s office, assembly hall, prefect’s room, staff room and 2 classrooms.

August 21-22, 2014 – The cenotaph was moved to its current spot to make way for the construction of the school’s auditorium.

September 5, 2014 – An official groundbreaking ceremony was held at the school, marking the start of construction of the school auditorium, after 23 years of being without one.

May 21, 2019 – Wolmer’s Day is Declared by the Governor General

Mrs. Evelyn Skempton (Founding Principal)

Mrs. Duperly

Miss Marjorie Fraser

Mrs. Campbell

Miss Hope Valentine

Miss Orane

Mrs. Freda DeMercado

Miss J. Mordecai (1960 – 1965)

Miss Valerie Packer (1959, 1965 – 66)

Mrs. Patricia Bayston

Mrs. H. Daley

Mrs. Joyce Tyson

Mrs. Hyacinth Bennett

Mrs. Tyson

Mrs. June Spence

Mrs. Lorna Downie

Mrs. Weida Saddler

Ms. Janet Howard

Mrs. Norma McNeil (Acting 2020 – )

Miss Maud Barrows                                                      1896 – 1904

Miss Kate Howson                                                         1904 – 1927

Miss Mary E. Cowper                                                     1927 – 1940

Mrs. Evelyn Skempton                                                   1941 – 1962

Miss Audrey Pinto                                                         1962 – 1985

Mrs. Pamela Harrison                                                    1985 – 2003

Mrs. Colleen Montague                                                 2003 –



Mr. Bolton


Rev. William Alcock


Rev. Dedsbury


Michael Mill


Rev. Isaac Taaf


Samuel Evans


Francis Grant

1759 – 1774

Walter Gibbs


Rev. Dr. Morgan 


Rev. Alexander Cummins

1779 – 1789

Thomas Downes


Rev. Robert Stanton Woodham

1789 – 1791

Rev. James Dymoke

1791 – 1799

Rev. David Duff

1799 – 1803

John P. Nugent

1803 – 1812

Bartholomew Owen Williams

1812 – 1815

Rev. Thomas Pearce Williams


Rev. Ebenezer Reid (Snr.)

1815 – 1843

Ebenezer Reid (Jnr.)

1843 – 1847

William Augustus Hunt

1847 – 1852

Rev. Charles P. Street

1852 – 1855

Solomon Myers

October 1, 1855 – October 15, 1855

William Carter

1855 – 1862

Rev. Robert Gordon

1862 – 1867

John Tillman

1868 – 1895

Albert Dews B.A.

1895 – 1901

William Cowper

1901 – 1915

F.M. Peachell 

1915 – 1917

Rev. Symms

1917 – 1919

F.W. Day

1919 – 1920

Reginald Murray

April 1920 – 1933

Philip Sherlock

1933 – 1938

Lewis Davidson

1939 – 1942

J.R. Bunting

1943 – 1949

Dr. Simpson

1950 – 1953

Norman Jackson

1953 – 1964

H.N. Walker

1964 – 1966

Donald Bogle

1966 – 1971

Richard Morris

1971 – 1978

Gilbert Smith

1978 – 1979

E. Coleridge Barnett

1979 – 1998

Mrs. DeAnne Robb

1998 – 2000

Dave Myrie

2000 – 2007

Mrs. DeAnne Robb

Sep. 2007 – Apr. 2008

Dr. Walton Small

2008 – 2019

Dwight Pennycooke

2019 –