The school was founded by John Wesley in 1748 to educate the sons of Methodist families 'in every branch of useful learning'. The regime was rigorous, with long hours of study, hard beds, no play and no holidays. From just after Wesley's death until 1932 the school, supported by the Connexion, was set aside for preachers' sons. From 1795 authority in the school was divided between the headmaster and a ministerial Governor but in 1904 th latter was replaced by a Visitor. There were riots against excessive beatings in 1820, but gradually the regime was relaxed and the curriculum broadened.
In 1851 the school moved from its site east of Bristol to new premises overlooking Bath, designed by James Wilson. To promote interest in higher education, it was reorganized in 1873 as an upper school, with Woodhouse Grove as its junior department for eight years. It began to establish and sustain an academic reputation and by the turn of the century 111 of its old boys had won awards at Oxford and Cambridge. It achieved public school status in 1922 and during the headmastership of Alfred B. Sackett entered a new, more liberal phase. Priors Court at Chieveley, near Newbury, became the wartime home of the preparatory department during World War II. The property was bought at the end of the war, but was given up in 1998, following the establishment of a new preparatory department, Westwood, on the Bath campus. Girls were first admitted in 1972. In 2003 there were around 940 day and boarding pupils aged 3-18 in the upper school and the Day Preparatory School (opened in 1991). The School reports annually to Conference, which appoints its Governors.
See also Creed, A.L.