For nearly 300 years the fortunes of this institution have been very closely interwoven with the history of East Grinstead.
The College was founded by Robert, second Earl of Dorset, a man of great ability and who spoke, which was rare in those days, several languages with much fluency. His father was the famous Thomas Sackville, Queen Elizabeth's High Treasurer and one of the Judges who sent the Duke of Norfolk to the headsman's block for his complicity in the alleged attempt to get Mary Queen of Scots placed on the English Throne. Through the founder of Sackville College these two families became closely united, for this eldest son of the High Treasurer married Margaret, the only daughter of the beheaded Duke. He held the title but a short time, dying on February 27th, 1608-9, at the comparatively early age of 48, having made his will on February 8th of the same year. It contained the following :—
Whereas I have been long and still am purposed to build and erect an Hospital or College in the said Town or Parish of East Grrinstead, in the County of Sussex, and to bestow on the building thereof the sum of one thousand pounds, or such a sum as shall be necessary, and to endow the same with a rent charge of £330 by the year, to be issuing out of all and singular my lands and tenements in the said County of Sussex, or elsewhere within the Realm of England, for ever, towards the relief of one and thirty single and unmarried persons, thereof one and twenty to be men and the other ten to be women, there to live, to pray, serve, honour, and praise Almighty God: I therefore will and devise that mine executors, if I shall not live to perform the same in my life-time, shall bestow a sufficient sum of money in the purchase of a fit place in the said Town or Parish of East Grinstead, to thereupon erect and build a convenient house, of brick and stone, with rooms of habitation for the said one and thirty persons, employing and bestowing thereupon such reasonable sums of money as they shall think fit in their discretions, and that they shall incorporate the same, according to the laws and statutes of this Realm, by the name of Sackville College for the poor.