Bristol Grammar School was founded in 1532 by the brothers Robert and Nicholas Thorne, two wealthy and well-connected merchants. They wished to endow a school where the sons of Bristol merchants and tradesmen could receive a good education before settling down to the important business of making money.
On 17 March 1532, Henry VIII issued a Charter under which the Thornes could endow the Grammar School and establish it in premises at St Bartholomew's Hospital, near the bottom of Christmas Steps. There the boys learnt Latin and Greek, Divinity and some Hebrew.
The school motto Ex Spinis Uvas, which translates as "From Thorns Grapes", is a play upon the names of the school founders Robert and Nicholas Thorne.
Walter Sampson's history of the school, first published in 1912, thus covers nearly the first four hundred years of the school's existence.