Sir William Fettes, twice Lord Provost of Edinburgh, was a man of considerable fortune, largely accumulated during the Napoleonic Wars. Having lost his only son and heir in 1815, he decided to devote his wealth to "the maintenance, education and outfit of young people".
The size of his bequest enabled the architect David Bryce to pursue a grandiose design for Fettes College. Influenced by a recent trip to the Loire Valley and with the Scottish Baronial style clearly in mind, Bryce created what a modern architectural expert has praised as "Undeniably one of Scotland's greatest buildings".
When Fettes College opened in 1870, it was a very different school from what it is today. There were only fifty-three boys, the majority of them Foundationers, that is, orphans and the sons of needy parents.
Under its formidable first Headmaster, Dr Potts, the school quickly gained a reputation for academic and sporting excellence, a reputation that has persisted and grown richer over time.
Throughout the next century the School built on its traditional values as it adapted to change and grew to its present size of seven hundred and fifty children. The most welcome and significant development within the last 30 years has been the introduction of girls; since 1981 the School has been fully co-educational, with students drawn from all over the world. Steady evolution has made Fettes College a stimulating, cosmopolitan and forward-looking place in which to live, work and prepare for the challenges of the 21st century.