Victorian London - Education - Schools - Christ's Hospital

christs2.gif (153776 bytes)

from The Illustrated London News, 1843

Christ's Hospital, in Newgate Street, or the Blue Coat School, as it is generally termed, from the outward garment of the children, is a royal foundation, indebted for its erection to the piety of Edward VI. The buildings of Christ's Hospital, though extensive, are irregular; the whole, however, is about to be rebuilt; and in furtherance of this design the Hall, a noble building in the Tudor style, has recently been erected. There are generally from 1000 to 1200 children in this part of the establishment, and about 500 more at the preparatory school at Hertford; all of whom are maintained, clothed, and educated. The Lord Mayor and Corporation are the governors and directors of this noble institution, which is supported at an annual expense of about 30,0001.

Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844

CHRIST'S HOSPITAL, NEWGATE STREET. A school on the site of the Grey Friars Monastery, founded by Edward VI, June 26th, 1553, ten days before his death, as an hospital for poor fatherless children and foundlings. It is commonly called "The Blue Coat School," from the dress worn by the boys, which is of the same age as the foundation of the hospital. The dress is a blue coat or gown, a yellow petticoat ("yellow" as it is called), a red leather girdle round the waist, yellow stockings, a clergyman's band round the neck, and a flat black cap of woollen yarn, about the size of a saucer. Blue was a colour originally confined to servant men and boys, nor till its recognition as part of the uniform of the British Navy, was blue ever looked upon as a colour to be worn by gentlemen. The Whigs took it up, and now it is a colour for noblemen to wear.
    ... The first stone of the New Hall was laid by the Duke of York, April 28th, 1825, and the Hall publicly opened May 29th, 1829. The architect was James Shaw, who built St. Dunstans-in-the-West. It is better in its proportions than in its details. Observe. - At the upper end of the Hall, a large picture of Edward VI. granting the charter of incorporation to the Hospital. It is commonly assigned to Holborn, but upon no good authority. - Large picture by Verrio, of James II on this throne, (surrounded by his courtiers, all curious portraits), receiving the mathematical pupils at their annual presentation: a custom still kept up at Court. The painter presented it to the Hospital. - Full-length of Charles II by Verrio. Full-length of Sir Francis Child, (d.1713) from whom Child's Banking-house derives its name - Full-lengths of the Queen and Prince Albert, by F. Grant, A.R.A. - Brook Watson, when a boy, attacked by a shark, by J.S.Copley, R.A., the father of Lord Lyndhurst. - The stone inserted in the wall behind the steward's chair; when a monitor wishes to report the misconduct of a boy, he tells him to "go to the stone." In this Hall every year on St. Matthew's Day, "the Grecians," or head-boys, deliver a series of orations before the Mayor, Corporation, and Governors; an odd custom which Stow has elucidated in a passage in his Survey (Stow p.28); and here every Sunday from Quinquagesima Sunday to Easter Sunday inclusive, the "Suppings in Public," as they are called, are held; a picturesque sight, and always well attended. Each governor has a certain number of tickets to give away. The bowing to the governors, and procession of the trades, is extremely curious.
The Grammar School was built by the son of Mr. Shaw, and answers all the purposes for which it was erected. The two chief classes in the school are called "Grecians" and "Deputy-Grecians."
    ... The Mathematical-school was founded by Charles II in 1672, for forty boys, called "King' boys," distinguished by a badge upon the right shoulder. The school was afterwards enlarged, at the expense of Mr. Stone. The boys on the new foundation wear a badge on the left shoulder, and are called "The Twelves," on account of their number. To "The Twelves" was afterwards added "The Twos," on another foundation.
    ... The Writing-school was founded in 1694, and furnished at the sole charge of Sir John Moore, Lord Mayor of London in 1691. The school has always been famous for its penmen. The Wards and Dormitories in which the boys sleep are seventeen in number. Each boy makes his own bed; and each ward is governed by a nurse and two or more monitors.
    ... The Counting-house contains a good portrait of Edward VI, after Holbein - very probably by him. The dress of the boys is not the only remnant of bygone times, peculiar to the school. Old names still haunt the precinct if the Grey-friars: the place where is stored the bread and butter is still the "buttery;" and the open ground in front of the Grammar-school is still distinguished as "the Ditch" because the ditch of the City ran through the precinct. The boys still take their milk from wooden bowls, their meat from wooden trenchers, and their beer is poured from leathern black jacks into wooden piggins. They have also a currency and almost a language of their own. The Spital sermons [see Spitalfields] are still preached before them. Every Easter Monday they visit the Royal Exchange, and every Easter Tuesday the Lord Mayor, at the Mansion House. But the customs which distinguished the school are fast dying away: the saints' days are no longer holidays; the money-boxes for the poor have disappeared from the cloisters; the dungeons for the unruly have been done away with; and the governors are too lax in allowing the boys to wear caps and haps, and even at a distance to change the dress. When the dress is once done away with, the Hospital will sink into a common charity school. Some changes, however, have been effected for the better: the boys no longer perform the commonest menial occupations; and the bread and beer for breakfast has been discontinued since 1824. Mode of Admission. - Boys whose parents may not be free of the City of London are admissible on Free Presentations, as they are called, as also are the sons of clergymen of the Church of England. The Lord Mayor has two presentations annually, and the Court of Aldermen one each. The rest of the governors have presentations once in three years. A list of the governors who have presentations for the year is printed every Easter, and may be had at the counting-house of the Hospital. No boy is admitted before he is seven years old, or after he is nine; and no boy can remain in the school after he is fifteen. - King's Boys and Grecians alone excepted. Qualifications for Governor - Payment of 500l. An alderman has the power of nominating a governor for election at half-price.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

see also London by Day and Night - click here

The school has always been famous for its penmen. The education consists of reading, writing and arithmetic, French, the classics, and the mathematics. ....
    The income arising from early endowments and bequests, which may be set down as exceeding 40,000l. per annum, is largely augmented by the contributions of Governors, of whom, on an average, twenty-five are elected annually; and, as they give 500l. each on election, 12,500l.  a year arises from this source.
    In 1865 the gross receipts amounted to 71,855l. 13s. 10d., more than one half of which is derived from the cents of estates, quit-rents, tithe-rent charges, &c. The benefactions were 8021l. legacies,  63801. 2s. 11d. The expenditure contains among other items, 2720l. 18s. 9d. payments under benefactions, wills, deeds of gift, &c., to various parishes and companies for their poor and for other objects, to pensioners, for relief of prisoners for debt, for setting up in business young men and women educated in the Hospital, and other purposes, 2827l. The sum available for the purposes of the Hospital was 57,389l. 0s. 11d. The washing at the two establishments amounted to 2010l. 9s. 6d. The provisions and stores (less the sum received by sale of kitchen-stuff and dripping), amounted to 10,842l. Os. 4d.; coals and fuel, 783l. 18s. 8d.; gaslighting and water supply, 1565l. 7s.; the charges for apparel, linen, bedding, shoes, and leather, wore 6408l. The average number of children maintained and educated in the London and Hertford establishments in 1865 was 1205; and the average expcnditure per child,  41l. 1s. 7?d.
Boys, whose parents may not be free of the City of London, are admissible on Free Presentations, no they are called; as are also the sons of clergymen of the Church of England. The Lord Mayor has two presentations annually; and the Court of Aldermen one each: it was the good practice of the late Alderman Humphery, to give his presentations to inhabitants of the Ward over which lie presided. The rest of thin Governors have presentations once in three years. A list of the Governors who have presentations for the year is printed every Easter, and may be had at the Counting. house of the Hospital. No boy is admitted before he is seven years old, or after he is nine; and no boy can remain in the School after he is fifteen, King's boys and Grecians alone excepted. There are about 500 Governors, at the head of whom are the Queen, the Prince of Wales, and Prince Alfred. The President is the Duke of Cambridge, whose election to that office was a departure from the custom, which had hitherto beets to elect the Lord Mayor for the time being. The qualification for a Governor is payment of 500l.; but an Alderman has the power of nominating a Governor for election at half price. About 200 boys are admitted annually (at the age of from seven to ten years), by presentations is a rotation, so that the privilege occurs about once in three or four years. A list of the Governors having presentations is published annually in March, and is to be had at the counting-house of the Hospital.

John Timbs, Curiosities of London

[ ... back to main menu for this book]

Christ's Hospital. Newgate-street. Presentations to Christ Hospital can only be obtained from governors under certain regulations. It is generally understood that the principal requirements are, briefly, that children must be presented when between eight and ten years of age, and must be free from active disease, as well as from any physical defect which would render them unable to take care of themselves that their parents (if one or both be living) have not adequate means of educating and maintaining them; and that the children have not such means of their own. A written statement, showing the amount, or average amount, of the parental income with particulars of its source or sources, the total number of children in the family, and how man of these are still young and dependent, and any other relevant circumstances, is in each case required to be made in the petition on the form of presentation for the consideration of the court or committee of governors, who have the power to reject any case which they may not deem a proper one for admission to the charitable advantages of the institution. The form of presentation is to be obtained from the individual governor presenting; and the child's name in full is to be inscribed therein in the handwriting of such governor, with a statement of his conscientious belief that the child so presented is a proper object for admission into this hospital. It is particularly requested that persons who are in no real need of assistance from a charitable foundation like this hospital will refrain from importuning the governors for presentations, or seeking the admission of their children into the hospital. It is to be regretted that the laxity of the governors themselves is responsible for the habitual violation of this most admirable rule. There can be no doubt that the benefits of Christ's Hospital, in common with those of many other well-intentioned charities, have been diverted from their legitimate objects. A printed list of the governors, and all necessary information in regard to the school, may be obtained on application to the clerk, at the Counting House, Christ's Hospital.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

Thomas Crane & Ellen Houghton, London Town, 1883

Christ?s Hospital, the institution in Newgate Street, familiarly known as the Blue-Coat School, dates back as far as the time of Edward VI. It was established as a school for the children of poor parents; and there are about eleven hundred here and at a preparatory branch at Hertford, receiving a good education. We know a Blue-Coat Boy as soon as we see him. His dress is so different from all other dresses that we are accustomed to. It consists of a blue gown or coat, with a narrow red leather girdle round the waist, yellow breeches and yellow stockings, a clergyman?s bands at the neck, and a worsted cap, which is seldom worn by the boys, who in consequence often suffer from deafness.

Uncle Jonathan, Walks in and Around London, 1895 (3 ed.)

CHRIST'S HOSPITAL, NEWGATE STREET ... This Institution, popularly known as the "Blue Coat School" was founded by Edward VI., and accomodates about 1,000 boys, who receive an excellent commercial or classical education. The quaint costume in vogue at the date of foundation is still worn by the scholars.

Reynolds' Shilling Coloured Map of London, 1895

George Birch, The Descriptive Album of London, c.1896

Victorian London - Publications - History - The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 - Christ's Hospital

Christ's Hospital - photograph


This view of Christ's Hospital is familiar enough to those who pass through Newgate Street. The building to the left is the Hall, built by John Shaw in the late Gothic style in 1825-9. Here the boys have their meals, including the time-honoured Lenten suppers, to which the public are admitted. The brick building over the cloisters is now used for dormitories, and the spire is that of Christ Church, Newgate Street, where the Spital (Hospital) sermons are preached. The School was founded in 1552 by Edward VI., and stands on the site of an old monastery of the Grey Friars. Christ's Hospital scholars are generally called Bluecoat boys, from the fact that they wear long blue coats, knee-breeches, and vivid yellow stockings. Camden, Richardson, Coleridge, Lamb, and Leigh Hunt were Bluecoat boys.

Victorian London - Publications - History - The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 - Christ's Hospital : The Dining Hall

Christ's Hospital : The Dining Hall -  photograph


The Dining hail occupies the first floor of Christ's Hospital, the exterior of which we have already shown (p. 192) , and it measures 187 feet in length, 51? feet in breadth, and 46? feet in height. Here the Grecians, as the senior scholars of Christ's Hospital are called, exhibit their oratorical powers on great occasions, and here, too, the suppers take place on Thursdays in Lent, coram populo. Our picture shows some of the Blue-coat boys in their quaint costume. There is a fine organ in the Hall, and on the walls are some interesting pictures, including one of the Founding of the Hospital by Edward VI -a reputed work of Holbein and another of the Presentation of the "King's Boys" at the Court of James II , by Verrio