A RANGE of events has been planned to mark the history and achievements of a Darlington college, which celebrates its 450th anniversary this year.

What exists today as Queen Elizabeth (QE) Sixth Form College, in Vane Terrace, was granted the Royal Charter by Elizabeth I in June 1563.

A key event in the celebrations will be the opening of a £3.8m extension and refurbishment project, which has been carried out over the past 18 months.

The development includes the new Stanhope Building, which houses a dance studio, as well as an extended and refurbished library and extra study areas.

Also central to the celebrations is Project 450, which sees students striving to record at least 450 individual acts of volunteering within the college and the wider community.

This will culminate in an awards ceremony to recognise the efforts of those who have taken part.

There will be a variety of sporting activities, some commemorating events of the past when grammar school boys took part in traditional sports afternoons involving such things as tug of war.

It is also hoped that the original Elizabethan Charter will be returned to the college and that there will be historical talks and tours linked to QE.

At present, in the local history room in the town’s Crown Street library, there is an exhibition of memorabilia from the days when QE was a boys’ grammar school.

The college’s history club has hosted a visit from local historian Dennis Perkins, who will talked about QE’s historical development.

The granting of the charter was the result of a petition from Henry Neville, Earl of Westmoreland and James Pilkington, Bishop of Durham.

There had probably been a grammar school attached to St Cuthbert’s Church from the early 13th Century but it had fallen into disrepair and was struggling financially.

The petition and Charter led to the ‘free grammar school of Queen Elizabeth’ being established.

Since then QE has flourished, moving to its present site in 1878, with its iconic building designed by George Hoskins.

The boys’ grammar school came to an end in 1979 with the reorganisation of education in Darlington and the current sixth form college was founded.

QE principal Tim Fisher said: “We are proud to be celebrating 450 years of excellence and are delighted to be marking the founding of QE with such a wide variety of events.

“The college’s 450th birthday party is already underway with students taking a leading role, especially with Project 450.

“While valuing the past, we are very much focused on the success of current and future students. We hope as many people as possible will join in our celebrations.”