The original Christ's Hospital, also known as the "bluecoat school" because of its distinctive uniform, was founded by Edward VI in Newgate Street in the City of London in 1552 for the education of poor children. The age of admission of pupils has varied at different dates. It has always admitted both boys and girls. In the early years of the school, those too young to receive full-time education were "put out to nurse" in the country, usually in Essex or Hertfordshire, or else remained with their parents, who received a weekly allowance. Branches of the school existed at Hertford from at least 1653, at Hoddesdon, Herts., from 1666 to c.1690, and at Ware, Herts., from about the same period until 1760. From 1778 the Hertford premises were used as the girls' school and as a preparatory school for boys. The Royal Mathematical School, founded in 1673, was an integral part of Christ's Hospital, from which its pupils, all boys, were chosen at the age of 11 or 12. They were educated in mathematics and navigation, and were intended for service in the Royal Navy. Christ's Hospital moved from the City of London to Horsham in 1902, and at the same time the boys' preparatory school also moved from Hertford to Horsham. The girls' school remained at Hertford until 1985, when it also moved to Horsham.
Children are admitted to Christ's Hospital from many social and geographical backgrounds. From its origins as a foundling hospital to help relieve poverty, and to educate children born in the London area, it has developed into an independent school which admits pupils from all parts of the country and asks parents to contribute towards fees according to means. One paramount condition is applied to all admissions: that a child's parents or guardians must be in need of assistance towards his or her education and maintenance.
About 60 schools, modelled wholly or partly on Christ's Hospital but otherwise unconnected with it, were founded in different parts of the British Isles between the mid 16th and late 18th centuries. A number of these foundations, where pupils wore blue, were also known as "bluecoat schools" and a few were also known as Christ's Hospital.
The Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library holds the older records of the original Christ's Hospital. These include minute and account books; estate papers; and a single series of admission and discharge registers for children admitted between 1563 and 1911 (boys only from 1891), and to the Royal Mathematical School between 1673 and 1911. Admissions for the period between the foundation and the first register are recorded in the earliest court minute book, 1556-62. These have been published in Christ's Hospital Admissions, vol.1, 1554-1599 (1937) available in the Printed Books Section of the Library. The Manuscripts Section also has an incomplete series of presentation papers, containing petitions submitted by parents, guardians etc., which provide some personal and financial details of children's families, up to 1911 for boys and up to 1890 for girls. Information about boys admitted after 1911 and girls admitted after 1890 should be sought from the Clerk of Christ's Hospital, the Counting House, Christ's Hospital, Horsham, West Sussex, RH13 7YP.
Records of other bluecoat schools may not be easy to trace. Guildhall Library has no information about any surviving records of other bluecoat schools in the City of London. If the school was outside the City of London and its locality is known, enquiries about its records can be made to the appropriate local record office. Addresses of record offices can be found in the current edition of Record Offices in Great Britain: a Geographical Directory (HMSO, London), or in Record Offices: How to Find Them, by J. Gibson and P. Peskett, published by the Federation of Family History Societies. These books may be consulted in most record offices and reference libraries in the United Kingdom.
Guildhall Library holds many published works about Christ's Hospital, including Christ's Hospital, by G.A.T. Allan, revised by J.E. Morpurgo (1984). Full lists can be consulted in the Printed Books catalogue.
Last updated April 2002
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Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section