In lieu of the establishment of Lurgan Model primary school in 1863, the town of Lurgan required a secondary education school which met the educational needs of the growing industrial town. The owner of a local brewery, Samuel Watts, set out plans for an endowment fund in his will for the formation of a middle class, secondary school which provided education to boys in Agriculture, Classics and English. After Watt's death in February 1850, a Trustee Committee was formed to ensure the £9000 in Watt's will would contribute towards creating a new school. However, it was not until December 1872 that the Trustee Committee had gathered enough funds to commence construction of the school.
The school was established at a residence on Market Hill, Lurgan in March 1873. The first headmaster was E. V. Boulger of Dublin. The construction of the school buildings in the township of Brownlowsderry was completed in August 1873 and the school accepted its first cohort of students in October of the same year.
Boulger was a Classical scholar and uncomfortable among small boys, and left in 1875, to be replaced by William T. Kirkpatrick of the Royal Belfast Academical Institution. Kirkpatrick oversaw the student population grow numerically and was responsible for the growth in academics at the College. Kirkpatrick retired in 1899 and
Mr James Cowan of Manchester Grammar School assumed principality of the College. Cowan was responsible for the introduction of Science education in the College in 1905 and the further integration of female student admission in 1918. Cowan retired in 1922 having failed to rectify the school's dwindling numbers with under 30 pupils enrolled when he retired.