Samuel Saltus, after whom the school is named, was a descendant of Richard Norwood who first surveyed the Bermuda Islands in 1622. At his death in 1880 Saltus left a bequest in his will for the founding of a boys' school, but it was not until 6th February 1888 that Saltus Grammar School first opened its doors in the Pembroke Sunday School Building at the corner of North and Angle Streets in Hamilton, with thirty-five male students enrolled.
Created within the broader educational expectations and culture of the British Empire and later Commonwealth, early emphasis was on traditional curriculum, athletics, cadets and firm discipline. In 1893, the School moved to “Woodlands,” an historic house which still serves as the heart of the current main campus. The following decade saw modest improvements in both facilities and programme.
In 1923, classrooms were added to the Woodlands building to accommodate the increase in the student population. By the early 1940s, a small number of Portuguese boys were admitted to Saltus, thus opening the door to an often-discriminated minority. During the tumultuous social and political change of the 1960s, enrolment reached 170 students, including 2 black students who were first enrolled in 1966. The first black teacher was employed at Saltus in 1968.
In 1971 the Trustees made the major decision to have Saltus become a completely independent, fee-paying school. This affected the school’s ability to make progressive decisions and adapt to meet the needs of its students in the context of a rapidly changing world. To handle the larger numbers and the increasingly diverse curriculum, major additions were made to the campus to the Laboratory and Science Block in 1969 and the Cavendish-Preparatory Department in 1972.
Saltus leased Cavendish Hall in 1972, thus establishing a second campus. Thanks to the generosity of the Cavendish Trustees, that school was incorporated into Saltus Grammar School and serves as the lower primary campus to this day.
Other major facilities projects highlighted growth throughout the latter part of the century. These included: The Reiss Library (1975), The Haygarth Gymnasium (1979), and The Henry Hallett Art and Music Facility (1982). Also, in 1982, land leased to the Bermuda Swimming Association enabled a 25-metre swimming pool to be constructed on the main campus with the School having use of the facility.
In 1990, the Board of Trustees made the decision to extend co-education at Saltus, previously only at Grade 12 level, throughout the School. In September 1991, eighty-nine girls joined 608 boys to commence a new era in the history of the School. At the same time, an extensive building programme was undertaken, adding a new block to Cavendish plus several additional classrooms at the main campus and including major reconstruction to the interior of Woodlands.
Rebuilt in 1993, the new Woodlands centre now contains administrative offices, including the Headmaster’s office, Upper Primary classrooms, an Art classroom and the Secondary Design Technology Department. This phase of construction was concluded in late 1993 when total enrolment stood at 780, including 156 girls. By this time, the teaching staff numbered 59, and the School was led by its 6th Headmaster in 106 years, Mr. James Keith McPhee.
In August 1995, Mr. R. Trevor Rowell joined the school as its next Headmaster and immediately launched a consultative School Development Plan with input from staff, parents, trustees and students. This outlined the School's growth and development during Mr. Rowell's energetic tenure which saw the continuation of the Saltus tradition of academic excellence.
In June 1999, Mr. Nigel J. G. Kermode, then a twenty-two year veteran teacher at Saltus, became the School's 8th Headmaster. He sought to continue the pace of the School's advances whilst retaining both its high academic standards and its nurturing and caring atmosphere. During his tenure as Headmaster, Saltus developed a school-wide strategic plan that resulted in the development of a Foundation Year Programme at the Preparatory level, the establishing of a Centre for Learning and significant curricular developments and additions to the School’s physical plant on both its campuses -- the largest and most significant of these being The Francis "Goose" Gosling Centre on the main campus. Mr. Kermode retired in August of 2009.
Mr. E. G. “Ted” Staunton, former Head of St. Andrews College, one of Canada's oldest boarding and day schools took over as Headmaster in 2009 and with him Saltus entered another period in its distinguished history. Mr. Staunton’s influence guided Saltus through the Canadian Accredited Independent School’s (CAIS) accreditation process and ushered in a new era academic excellence at Saltus, imparting values such as pride, respect for one another, good behavior and honesty, as well as a commitment to community service on students and faculty.
In July 2013 Mrs. Claire Charlemagne was appointed as Saltus’ 10th Head of School and first female Head following an extensive international search. Having formerly served at Saltus as Head of Modern Languages, Director of Studies and Deputy Head (Academics) for a period of eleven years, Mrs. Charlemagne worked to establish the ‘Saltus Teachers’ Academy’ with links to the National College for Teaching and Leadership (UK) and Nottingham Trent University, through which professional qualifications are offered to faculty both from Saltus and other island schools, fostering increased professional growth and collaboration.
It should be noted that in 2011, Mr. Gil Tucker was appointed the first chairperson of African descent and currently holds the position of Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Saltus. Mr. Tucker, who is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bermuda, The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the district of Columbia state board of accountancy; joined the Board of Trustees in 1997. His appointment is made more significant by the fact that Gil Tucker was one of those 2 black students who originally started at Saltus back in 1966. He graduated in 1971 and has gone on to have a strong career and a significant role in the Bermuda Community, including various government advisory boards and the Chamber of Commerce.
In 2015, former Headmaster, Ted Staunton returned to Saltus to guide the Board of Trustees in selection of a next Head of School. This lead to the appointment of Deryn Lavell in 2017 and the process of building a new strategic plan set on a rich history and foundation of diversity and community defined by the Saltus of the Future.
Today, Saltus’ student population has grown to over 850 students and staff numbers more than 150 teaching and professional positions. Both students and staff boast backgrounds and ethnicities representing the world over. This is partially due to the schools’ continuing focus of a strong academic programme, but also intentional growth in diversity of experience and curriculum.