The Grammar Schools Act of 1860, required that to obtain government endowments to construct a private school, it was necessary to match the sum requested from private subscriptions. The first grammar school was established at Ipswich and in three years time the wealthy elite of Brisbane were able to raise the necessary money to establish the Brisbane Boys Grammar School. Hon Thomas Blacket Stephens (Bio) was involved in the foundation of Brisbane Grammar School, and was the first Chairman of its Board of Trustees from 1869 until 1871.
The building was designed by Benjamin Backhouse. A ceremony to lay the foundation stone of the Brisbane Boys Grammar School held on 29 February 1868 was attended by Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh. Built on the then outskirts of Brisbane at Roma Street, the school opened a year later.
This building was situated on the railway side of the road at approximately the junction of Roma, George and Herschell Streets. The school opened in February 1869 with ninety-four students and four masters under the leadership of Headmaster, Thomas Harlin. Donald Cameron was Second Master of Brisbane Grammar School from 1869 - 1875.
A few years later the rapidly expanding railway yards of Roma Street made the site unacceptable due to the unpleasant noise and smoke. In the early 1880s with enrolment increasing and financial loans freely available, a new site on Gregory Terrace was selected.
The new Brisbane Boys Grammar School was completed under the supervision of the architect James Cowlishaw and subsequent additions, the Great Hall, hospital, boarding house and house master's residence were designed by the architect Richard Gailey and built between 1883 and 1886.
With the opening of the Boarding House in 1886, the School became one of the first to provide unified boarding facilities on site. ‘State of the Art’ science laboratories were constructed in 1912. The old school served as Railways Department Offices after 1881.
Brisbane Boys Grammar School principal, Reginald Hebert Roe had a rare combination of brilliant scholar and athlete. His 33 years' leadership encompassed the revolutionary attitude of the encouragement of sport and physical fitness while still maintaining exceptionally high educational standards.
It was described at the time as a handsome brick edifice in the Gothic style, consisting of a main building with two cross buildings at its ends and a large hall across the centre. This hall is fitted with two large stained-glass windows, one of which contains pictures of Queen Victoria. The grounds are attractively, planted with English and tropical flowers and trees; and the two Moreton Bay figs, planted by the two Princes are especially handsome and thrive vigorously.
F. S. N. Bousfield Headmaster at Brisbane Boys Grammar School, ca. 1923