Bolton School was established as Bolton Grammar School and is undoubtedly one of the oldest schools in Lancashire. It is not known exactly when the Boys' School was founded, though it is recorded as being a 'going concern' as early as 1516 and was endowed by Robert Lever in 1644. In 1899 the school moved from its site next to the Parish Church in Bolton to its current site on Chorley New Road.
In 1913 it was re-endowed by Viscount Leverhulme. The current buildings on Chorley New Road were begun in the 1920s though they were not completed until the late 1960s.
The Girls' School was established in 1877 as Bolton Girls' Day School and was quickly renamed to Bolton High School for Girls, moving to the Park Road site in 1891 with 67 girls. The new building was 'the last word in school design and was rapturously appreciated' when opened by the suffragist Mrs Henry Fawcett.
In 1913 the Girls' Day School amalgamated with Bolton Grammar School and the Bolton School Foundation was formed.
The Boys' Junior School was established in Broomfield on Chorley New Road in 1928 and moved into its current premises in 1938. In 1940 the main Boys' Division building was abandoned and classes were moved to Park Road due to the efficient 'coke heating plant'. In 1946 three Upper School forms remained at Park Road, leaving in the early 1980s. The school took Y3 for the first time in 2002.
The school coat-of-arms was granted in 1923. The Armorial Bearings for the Boys' Division were blazoned in the grant: 'Argent two bendlets the upper one engrailed on a Chief Sable an Open Book proper edges and clasped Or between on the dexter a Rose and and on the sinister a Wreath of Roses also Or And for the Crest On a Wreath of the Colours Upon a Trumpet fesswise a Cock between two sprigs of Laurel all proper.' The Girls' Division was authorised to display the same arms on a lozenge, i.e. a diamond shape, surmounted by a true lovers' knot but without the Crest - this is unusual as female institutions usually display a shield.
The devices of two black diagonal stripes, the edges of the upper one scalloped, on a silver shield together with the cock and bugle crest have been used by the Lever families of Great, Little and Darcy Lever since the Middle Ages. The Lever family was one of the medieval land owning families of South East Lancashire.
Forty families had black and silver or white in their coats of arms so it was important for the school to be differentiated from them so appropriate symbols were added:
- An open book - frequently found in the heraldry of academic institutions to represent learning.
- The rose of Lancashire - gold, not red so that it stands out against a black background.
- The gold wreath of roses, or chaplet signifies not only honour but also the Lancashire Hulme family (from Viscount Leverhulme - his wife's family).
- The language of heraldry is based on Norman-French and Lever transposes to se lever - to rise: the cockerel and bugle symbolizing the reveille.
The school's motto, Mutare Vel Timere Sperno - 'I spurn to change or to fear', is that of various Lever families and others besides.
(Adapted from The History of Bolton School by W. E. Brown 1976)