King Edward's School, Witley is an independent co-educational boarding and day school, founded in 1553 by King Edward VI and Nicholas Ridley. The School is located in the village of Wormley, Surrey, England, having moved to its present location in 1867. The School became fully co-educational in 1952.
The School was originally founded as Bridewell Royal Hospital, after Nicholas Ridley pleaded with the Edward VI to give some of his empty palaces over to the city to house homeless women and children. Children were taken into Bridewell and apprenticed to learn trades from the late 16th century. They were trained by craftsmen and tradesmen rather than schoolmasters. The first schoolmaster was appointed in 1632 to teach apprentices reading and writing for a couple of hours a week. Subsequent schoolmasters were appointed at intervals but the apprentices were only permitted to attend until they could read and write. In the 18th century the apprentices were often punished for disobedience to their masters and for absconding. This was attributed by the Bridewell governors as due to their close contact with prisoners. As such there was considerable debate towards the end of the century amongst officers and governors as to the purpose of Bridewell. The educational party won, no more apprentices were accepted into Bridewell, and in 1830 a new House of Occupations opened at St George’s Fields, Southwark, away from the corrupting influence of the prisoners. The House of Occupations accepted children (boys and girls) aged 8 - 18 from the City, County of Middlesex and Borough of Southwark. There were apprentices at first in the House of Occupations but the focus of the school was clearly on educating children and there are no records of apprenticeship after 1837.
In 1860 a new charity scheme was established for Bridewell Royal Hospital (BRH). The House of Occupations was renamed King Edward’s Schools (for boys and girls) though still funded by BRH. Under the new scheme, children could be admitted from anywhere in the UK at 10 (girls only); 11 or 12 (girls or boys). The pupils were taught reading, writing, arithmetic, geography and history and they were trained in occupations as well. Several headmasters forged a strong link with the Royal Navy and many boys entered the Navy on leaving school.
In 1867 the school moved from its original site in London to the village of Wormley in Surrey. After the move, it changed its name from Bridewell Royal Hospital to King Edward's School, Witley, although the school is still referred to in some circumstances as the Bridewell Royal Hospital, to distinguish from other schools named after the eight King Edward's of England. The girls’ school remained at Southwark and became known as King Edward’s School, London. In 1922 the girls’ school closed, after which grants were made to other educational establishments for girls in lieu of direct provision of education for girls. In 1952 King Edward’s School, Witley became fully co-educational.
The school was commandeered by the Royal Navy during the Second World War to test and develop the use of radar. The school still remembers this with a plaque in the central area, a junction of corridors known as 'Piccadilly'.
The President of Bridewell Royal Hospital (the title was kept after the move of location) is now The Duchess of Gloucester, appointed from 1 January 2006. The Queen Mother held the title from 1953 to 2002.
The school's creation was sanctioned by the same charter as that of Christ's Hospital and St Thomas' Hospital. The school maintains strong links with the City of London, and is still supported by it, with some students on bursaries funded by the City.
There are ten houses in total, five male and five female. The boarding houses at the school are paired, and, in the case of the senior pupils, conjoined in the centre of the buildings. This central area (known as the 'Accy Area', from activity area) allows the boys and girls from the paired houses to meet in the evenings and during spare time, to chat, watch television or a DVD, or play pool or table football. The right-hand half of the iconic front building of the school is used as Copeland house, the junior girls boarding house, while Queen Mary House was formerly a care home for the mentally ill, and then the school sanatorium until later becoming the junior boys boarding house.
The senior houses were built in the 1970s, and the plans can be seen in the School Museum, housed in the History Department. Borders moved into these new buildings in 1977 and the inauguration of the new buildings was commemorated by a visit from HRH Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.
The houses, in their pairs, are:
The school has a very competitive atmosphere between all of the houses. They compete in different competitions and challenges such as House Drama, House Music, Sports Day and other various sporting and academic events. These all allow the winning houses to accumulate points for the Cock House Cup, which is awarded to the house with the most points at the end of the School Year.
The current holders of the Cock House Cup are Grafton House and St. Bridget's House.
Extra-curricular activities take place every weekday after lessons. These include Art, Ceramics, Chess, Climbing, Creative writing, Cross-stitching, Dance, Digital Video, Drama, Golf, Karate, Life Saving, Riding, Sailing, Canoeing and editing the School Magazine.
These all take place in the afternoon for an hour after afternoon lessons have finished. On Wednesday activities take place for 2 hours. There are also team practices in addition to the standard activities offered by the school.
Past students of King Edward's are referred to as Old Witleians. See also Old Witleians.