Fort Pitt is full of history. Our prime site, looking down over the surrounding area, was what drew the War Office to purchase the hill in 1780, in order to build defences over the River Medway. They finished building their fort after the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815. There used to be a large blockhouse where the art college now stands, designed to house 500 men who were able to fire upon potential attackers from their vantage point; a wooden drawbridge behind gave access to Fort Pitt. After Waterloo there was less need for defence, and Fort Pitt entered the next stage of its life, as a military hospital.
You can still see evidence of this period in the area we call the Crimea wing. Walking in this part of the school, you might discover old ward numbers written on the walls or skylights for the historic operating theatre. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited Fort Pitt three times during its days as a hospital, and in 1860 Florence Nightingale chose the site to house a temporary new medical school. Her school may have only been here for three years – but we can assume that Florence was often present during that time.
After the First World War, we finally became a school. Post-war British society needed girls to be trained for clerical duties, and the school epitomised this social change, becoming the first Technical School for Girls in 1926. Originally based in Elm House on New Road, it moved to Fort Pitt in 1929. At that time, school dinners cost 6d (two and a half pence), and if you brought a packed lunch you were still charged a small fee. The war years brought bomb damage but it was in 1973 that the school faced its biggest catastrophe, in the form of a school fire that destroyed the hall, dining room, classrooms, staff room and head teacher’s office.
Finally, in 1984 – fairly recently in the grand scheme of things, when you consider how old some of our buildings are – we became Fort Pitt Grammar School for Girls. Only in the last few years did we get round to redesigning the foyer, with new stained glass windows accompanying the new windows across the site. Our exciting plans for the future include developing a dedicated science building and sixth form centre – all we need now are the funds!