Bluecoat School was established for education of poor children

Christ's Hospital School grounds
Christ's Hospital School grounds

A former deputy head at Christ’s Hospital, Horsham, William Avenell gave a very interesting and insightful talk on this special school.

The school, once on the site of the Grey Friars Monastery in Newgate Street, London, was established in 1552 for the education of poor children.

Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries had resulted in the increase of the needy onto the streets of London.

Henry had granted the use of Grey Friars for the relief of the poor and Edward Vl added the Palace of Brideswell for the same purpose.

Three Royal Hospitals were created – St Thomas for the sick; Brideswell Prison and Hospital for the children of wayward women and for the punishment of the disorderly poor; and Christ’s Hospital for the education of poor children.

Christ’s Hospital remained in the City of London for over 350 years.

Originally both boys and girls were admitted to this charitable institution but eventually the girls were relocated to a premises in Hertford and the boys moved, in 1902, to its present location, a purpose-built school on a 1,200-acre site near Horsham.

The school would again become co-educational when girls were admitted to the Horsham site in 1985.

Together with the move in 1902 the Christ’s Hospital railway station near to Horsham was opened by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway – primarily to serve the school.

Until the mid-1960s it provided the junction link to Arundel via Pulborough with connections to Guildford and Brighton.

The school’s Tudor uniform – a blue coat – gives the school its alternative name, The Bluecoat School.

However within the school community the coat is known as a Housey coat.

The uniform consists of a belted blue coat with white bands at the neck.

Knee breeches for the boys and skirts for the girls and the very distinctive yellow socks worn by all pupils.

Why yellow? It was thought in Tudor times that yellow was the only colour to ward off rats!

Every year more than 100 applications are made for a place at the school.

Pupils are admitted from a wide variety of social backgrounds and from all over the country.

Parents contribute to the fees according to their means, the education offered to its pupils is exceptional with more than 90 per cent of students going on to universities both here and abroad.

The educational emphasis is on the development of the student and his/her preparation for the wider world.

As a large independent boarding school, and like all charities finance is crucial, its current policy now allows for weekly boarders, full fee paying students and day pupils.

With its continuing ties to the City of London, the St Matthews Day Parade sees the pupils marching in London to receive their 50p pocket money from the Lord Mayor.

He in turn presents gifts and awards to pupils on the schools Speech Day with the music being supplied by the school band.

This same band plays daily in the quadrangle while the pupils march into dinner – no scrabbling to be the first to be seated at Christ’s Hospital School!

The term ‘old blues’ refers to the old boys of the school who continue to financially support the school although they cannot themselves send their own children there if their income exceeds £36,000 per annum.

The Charge, which is read to all students at their leaving ceremony, contains the following words: “,,,to never forget the great benefits they have received, and... in time to come, according to your means, to do all that you can to enable others to enjoy the same advantage.”

The next meeting of the Littlehampton Local History Society is on Thursday, September 14, at 7.30pm in The Meeting House, Church Street, Littlehampton. Peter Hill will give his talk entitled Looking around Lisbon.