From 1875 a private venture grammar school existed in Chippenham, conducted in St. Mary Street by a Mr. Wilson and from 1883 by Mr. Cruikshank. In 1893 Mr. Edward Newall Tuck was appointed by the Education Committee of the Borough of Chippenham to organise technical classes in Chippenham and district. Classes were held in rented premises at 21 London Road and at the Jubilee Institute; they were also held in villages including Grittleton and Yatton Keynell. Teachers from elementary schools attended classes in art on Saturdays at Jubilee Institute. Mr. Tuck, in addition, gave talks on Wiltshire history and nature study; he also served as town councillor and was Mayor of Chippenham from 1931 to1932.
In 1896, under the provisions of the Technical Instruction Act 1892, the Borough of Chippenham established the Chippenham and District County School, subsequently known as the Chippenham County Secondary School for Boys and Girls, with Mr. Tuck as the first Headmaster. He would remain in this post until 1939. The first Chair of Governors was Alderman John Coles. The premises were still located at 21 London Road and the Jubilee Institute. As the tenancy of the private venture school was to end on 25 March 1896, The Town Council paid Mr. Cruikshank £10 for the desks, books and goodwill of his school. Boys were drawn from three elementary schools in Chippenham, the British, National and St. Paul's Schools. In addition twelve boys had previously attended the private grammar school. Others were from other private schools in Chippenham, Corsham, Devizes, Calne and surrounding villages. Thirty nine boys aged 11 to 16 were on the admission register from 13 April 1896. The curriculum included Latin, French, Science, History, Geography, Grammar, Book-keeping, Shorthand, Arithmetic, Writing, Geometry and freehand drawing.
In September 1898 a girls' school was established in the Temperance Hall, Foghamshire. Twenty two girls were admitted at opening, from the schools of Mrs. Parry (Market Place), Miss Alexander (Monkton Hill), Mrs. White (Marshfield Road), from private tuition and from local National and British schools.
In 1896 the County, Urban and Rural District Councils had bought one acre of land at Cocklebury Lane for the purpose of erecting new school buildings. The Cocklebury Lane buildings opened on 24th September 1900 when a ceremony was attended by the Mayor and Aldermen of Chippenham. In addition to Mr. E.N. Tuck the Headmaster, the staff included three masters and one mistress; there were 99 pupils. The total cost of the project was £6,000. In addition to the buildings and playground, four acres of adjoining land were rented for playing fields.
On 1st May 1901 the decision was taken by the Governors for the school to become a Science School. Four scholarships were granted in 1901 to 3 female and 1 male students. In July of the same year it was decided to establish a centre for pupil-teachers at the school. Latin was omitted from the curriculum in 1902. By 1904 there were 101 pupils, 50 from urban and 51 from rural areas. In addition 49 pupil teachers were attending, nine from urban and the remainder from rural schools, and the evening classes had 139 pupils. From 1905 girls from elementary schools attended cookery classes at the Cocklebury Road site.
By October 1907 the school had 128 pupils - 64 boys and 64 girls. The age of admission was 9 and the leaving age 17 - 18 years.
In addition to the yearly fees paid by pupils the school was financed by County and Government grants. In 1908 the fees were £5 5s. 0d. a year, including books. However, there were a number of scholarships available and figures for the year show that of 115 pupils (66 girls and 49 boys) 57 held scholarships, one a Free Place, and only 57 were fee-payers.
In the interwar years numbers of pupils on roll increased steadily: there were 262 in 1929 and 288 in 1935. Also in 1929 the Junior department was reorganised as a Kindergarten and Preparatory Form, catering for 61 children aged 8 - 10 years. However, the number of pupils over the age of 16 was proportionally small in comparison with the average for Wiltshire Grammar Schools; consequently there was no discrete sixth form, although a small number of pupils did progress to University, some with the aid of County Scholarships.
By the early 1930s the buildings were presenting difficulties of overcrowding. In 1939 the preparatory department closed and the school moved to Hardenhuish Park. By 1940 there were 414 pupils, of whom 25 were evacuees; ten percent were under the age of 11 and, still, only two percent over 16.
The new school at Hardenhuish was on a site extending over 40 acres. The old Manor House of Hardenhuish housed the Headmaster's room, the school library and some classrooms. New buildings contained a hall, gymnasium, laboratories, classrooms, and cloakrooms.
In late 1940/early 1941 the school took in a large number of evacuees from Wanstead, East London, who had already spent a year in Gloucester. A field next to school housed a camp occupied by soldiers of the American Armoured Division, whose headquarters were at Lackham. Close relations developed between these troops and the school.
After the Second World War there was a steady increase in the numbers of pupils and additional buildings were constructed. The catchment area of the school covered the triangle between Chippenham, Corsham and Melksham. By 1956 there were 547 pupils - 102 now in a sixth form. In this year the new Girls' High School opened on 28 September and was sited in two buildings on the west side of the Hardenhuish site. The Headmistress was Miss E. Denne and she had in her charge 486 pupils.
In 1966 the Grammar School and the Girls' High School integrated with the Chippenham Secondary Modern Schools in a semi-comprehensive system with all 11 to 13 year old boys and girls being educated on the Hardenhuish site.
Finally, in 1975 a fully comprehensive school came into existence, serving the northern and western areas of Chippenham and adjacent villages, and taking the name Hardenhuish School.