The Royal Belfast Academical Institution, is a grammar school in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Locally referred to as Inst, the school educates boys from ages 11 to 18. It is one of the eight Northern Irish schools represented on the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference. The school occupies an 18-acre site in the centre of the city on which its first buildings was erected.HistoryThe first demands for the school which would become "Inst" came from a group of Belfast merchants, and professional gentlemen. They insisted that the existing Belfast Academy under William Bruce did not offer a "complete, uniform, and extensive system of education." They hoped that a new school would give more access to the 'higher' branches of learning as well as to those which would fit youths for a practical commercial career. The foundation stone of Inst. was laid, in pouring rain, on 3 July 1810 by George Augustus Chichester, 2nd Marquess of Donegall. Donegall owned much of the land in the Belfast area and granted the school a lease for the grounds at an annual rent of £22–5s–1d. The eminent English architect John Soane, who designed the new Bank of England in 1788, offered to draw up plans in 1809.Building began in 1810. Money was collected to pay for the buildings by encouraging rich merchants and businessmen to subscribe one hundred guineas each for the privilege of being able to nominate one boy to receive free education at Inst. The roof of the main building was completed during the winter of 1811. The Institution was formally opened at 1:00pm on 1 February 1814. William Drennan announced that the aim was to ‘diffuse useful knowledge, particularly among the middling orders of society, as a necessity, not a luxury of life.' He also referred to the particularly noble and rural setting of the school – in front a fair and flourishing town, and backed by a sublime and thought-inspiring mountain. Until the middle of the 19th century, the RBAI was both a school and a university, a dual function which the Belfast Academy never had.