Christ's Hospital

Christ's Hospital (popularly known as The Bluecoat School, and also by the nicknames "Housey" and "CH") is a full board coeducational boarding school located in the countryside just south of Horsham, West Sussex, England. The school was originally founded in the 16th century in Greyfriars, London and Hertford.

The Charitable Foundation

Christ's Hospital is unique for a British independent school in that it educates a large proportion of its students free, and most at a reduced rate. This stems from its founding charter as a charitable school. School fees are paid on a means-tested basis (in 2006/7 families with a net assessed income of £7,499 pa (and below) pay nothing in contributions), with substantial subsidies paid by the school so that students from all walks of life are able to have a comprehensive, high quality, public school education that would otherwise be beyond the means of their parents. In 2005/6 average parental income assessed was £14,275; over 50% of pupils are from families with a household income of less than £13,000; half are from single parent families; a third would qualify for free school dinners in the state system (compared to the national average of 14.3%).

In 2005/6, 18% of parents paid nothing at all and about one third paid less than £250 per year per child. The entrance process uses exams and interviews and prefers to award school places to those who show academic potential that would benefit from the high quality environment that the school offers to those that would otherwise not be able to afford it. The number of pupils who pay the full fee (~£18,400) is limited to 6% of the School population; in 2005/6, the average annual parental contribution was £2,785 and 98% of parents received some form of support.

In 2005/6 82% of children attending CH came from state or grant-maintained schools. In 2006, 19% of children accepting places were assessed as being in "very high" need, 64% in "medium to high" need and 17% in "low" need.

The trustees of the foundation are the Council of Almoners, chaired by the Treasurer of Christ's Hospital, who govern the foundation according to a Scheme of Administration granted by the Charity Commission. The historic Court of Governors survives as a formal institution consisting of over 650 benefactors but its powers have since the 19th century been largely transferred to the smaller Council of Almoners.


Admission of pupils is either by open competitive examination or by "presentation" - in either case the suitability of candidates is judged according to criteria of need and parental income. Certain individuals and corporate bodies exercise rights of presentation, proposing suitable candidates for admission. In effect, the selection of pupils is made according to a complex set of scholarships.

  • Donation Governors are individuals who, in return for a financial donation, can propose a suitable candidate.
  • A number of livery companies have rights of presentation, including the Ironmongers' Company, the Cooks' Company, the Drapers' Company, the Grocers' Company, the Fishmongers' Company, the Skinners' Company, the Mercers' Company, the Master Mariners' Company and others.
  • The Guild of Freemen of the City of London have rights of presentation.
  • The Council of Almoners exercises rights of presentation in respect of:
    • Distinguished Service Presentation: sons, daughters, grandsons or granddaughters of persons distinguished in literature, science or art, the service of the Crown or services to Christ's Hospital (established 1866).
    • Royal Mathematical School: sons or daughters of Royal Navy, Royal Marines or Royal Navy Reserve List 1 (Merchant Navy) personnel
    • Girls' Additional Endowment Fund: orphan daughters of various professions (trust established 1904-1905)
    • Brodribb Foundation: blood relations of members of the Brodribb family (established 1927)
    • Almoners' Presentees: supplementary places should the number of children presented fall short of vacancies available

In the open competitive examination, precedence is given to candidates who satisfy the conditions of a number of trusts, including:

  • children from schools in the area formerly controlled by the Inner London Education Authority
  • children from schools in certain ancient country parishes
  • Oliver Whitby Educational Foundation: children from Chichester
  • Royal Air Force Foundation: sons and daughters of officers or men of the Royal Air Force, Royal Auxiliary Air Force or Royal Air Force Reserve. The Foundation was instituted by Barnes Wallis using the money he received from the Royal Commission on Awards for Inventors for inventing the bouncing bomb.
  • Reeve's Foundation: children of parents connected with the ecclesiatical parish of St Sepulchre in the City of London or the parish of Clerkenwell or St Andrews, Holborn.
  • Wests' Gifts: children of parents resident in the borough of Newbury, borough of Reading, parish of Twickenham (1911 boundaries) or in default any contiguous parish or place thereto. Preference in respect of a third of the places is given to children who can establish a relationship to the founders of the trust, John West (born 1640, Master of the Clothworkers' Company and witness to the will of Samuel Pepys) and Frances West (his wife, born 1643) with the charity paying up to 50% of the pupils school fees.
  • Almoners' Nominees are those selected for admission as a result of the competitive examination without satisfying any other means of presentation.

Some of the means of entry are denoted on the uniform by a round metal plate (varying in design according to type of presentation) sewn on the breast of the housey coat.


Christ’s Hospital was the result of the vision of King Edward VI, assisted by Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London, and Sir Richard Dobbs, Lord Mayor of the City of London. Its genesis was the earlier dissolution of the monasteries and the resultant overflow onto the streets of the poor and destitute. Encouraged by a sermon from Ridley, exhorting mercy to the poor, the King wrote to the Lord Mayor encouraging him to action. This he did via a committee of 30 merchants. Henry VIII had already granted the use of Greyfriars to the City for the relief of the poor and Edward granted The Palace of Bridewell, his lands of the Savoy and rents and other chattels to create three Royal Hospitals — Bridewell Hospital (now the King Edward's School, Witley, Surrey), St Thomas Hospital and Christ's Hospital, which was for the education of poor children.

The first boys and girls entered the school in Newgate in 1552. The Royal Charter was granted and signed by its Founder, Edward VI, the following year. The first Treasurer was Richard Grafton. The Protestant Foundation survived the Marian period and in the 1560s sent its first scholars to Oxford and Cambridge.

The school occupied Newgate as its major site for 350 years, but from time to time children were housed in other parts of the country. 32 children perished during the Great Plague of 1665 and the following year the Great Fire of London destroyed much of the Hospital except 4 cloisters and 3 wards, but there were no casualties among the children. Around 200 pupils were sent to Islington and Clerkenwell and then to Ware and Hertford. By the end of the 17th century the buildings had been rebuilt with the assistance of Sir Christopher Wren, a Governor of Christ's Hospital, and Nicholas Hawksmoor who designed the Writing School (1696). The church of Christ Church Newgate Street, designed by Wren, replaced the damaged choir of the former Greyfriars' church, and served as a place of worship for the children of Christ's Hospital in the City until the move to Horsham.

Christ's Hospital was bestowed with its second Royal Charter by Charles II in 1673. This charter specifically created the Royal Mathematical School whose original purpose was to train mathematicians and navigators who would progress into careers as Naval officers or merchant seafarers. Samuel Pepys, Secretary to His Majesty's Navy and from 1699 Vice President of Christ's Hospital, featured strongly in his considerable contribution to Christ's Hospital. Isaac Newton, Jonas Moore, John Flamsteed and Edmund Halley contributed to plans for the course of study of the new school within the Foundation.

The girls settled at Hertford from 1707. The Governors had been paying a teacher in Hertford from 1653, and the removal of some children from London following the Great Fire strengthened the link with the town. In 1761, 200 boys under the age of 10 along with the boys from Ware were relocated at Hertford. In 1778 the last girls were moved out of London to join the others at Hertford, where the school was rebuilt 1795-1798 to provide accommodation for the new numbers.

Christ's Hospital's most famous Upper Master was James Boyer who presided from 1778 to 1799 and instructed Leigh Hunt, Charles Lamb, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Two of 19th century London's most notable architects, John Shaw Senior and John Shaw Junior were architects and surveyors to Christ's Hospital throughout the first half of the 1800s. The Shaws' work included the old school hall (c. 1825).

A commission of inquiry in 1837 proposed reforms, and in 1864 the Taunton Commission investigated the endowed schools. As a result of this a greater number of girls were admitted. However in the 1890s boys still outnumbered girls at Hertford, and it was not until all the boys were brought together on a new site (as proposed by a commission of 1877) that Hertford became a girls-only school. of land outside Horsham was purchased from the Aylesbury Dairy Company for £47,500. The foundation stone was laid by Edward, Prince of Wales on 23 October 1897, on behalf of the Sovereign, the date being the anniversary of the birthday of the founder. Architectural features from the old school buildings (the Grecians' Arch and the Wren Arch) were salvaged and incorporated in the new buildings.

The boys were relocated from Newgate and Hertford to the purpose built site in Sussex in 1902.

Over the centuries Christ’s Hospital has continued to enjoy royal patronage. His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge started a tradition of Royal Presidents in 1854. In 1919 His Majesty George V became the first Royal Patron, followed by His Majesty George VI in 1937 and Her Majesty the Queen in 1953. The magnanimous support of the City of London Corporation and Livery companies of the City (some 20 actively support children in the School) remains uninterrupted. Christ’s Hospital remains true to its founder’s principles of supporting disadvantaged children and by remaining a School for the public.

Christ's Hospital today

The move in 1902 to the at Christ’s Hospital was greeted with much consternation among Christ’s Hospital Governors, being at the behest of a Government commission. His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge was moved to say "I am one of those who are perfectly prepared to go with the spirit of the age in which we live, but I confess that I am also one of those who do not love change for change’s sake. To upset an old and long standing institution... is a very dangerous experiment to try." Nevertheless the 'experiment' was to work spectacularly well, and Christ's Hospital now enjoys the benefits of the gentle Sussex countryside whilst being (in terms of campus size) the largest school in the country.

The Hertford school for girls merged with the boys at Horsham in 1985 and hence Christ’s Hospital returned to its original co-educational roots. The Charitable Foundation staff, who had remained in Great Tower Street, London, moved to Horsham in 1987.

Christ's Hospital is the most philanthropic of all independent schools, with assets of £261 million and an income from its investments in property and securities of £9 million (a substantial proportion of the income goes towards subsidising school fees). It said it was in a sound enough position to "withstand the vagaries of the markets". However, recent expenses (such as a gas leak which required a complete replacement of the CH gas pipes, and ongoing refurbishments which have incurred spiralling costs) have dented this title, and Christ's Hospital is now in a somewhat poorer financial situation.

The school is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference. John Franklin was appointed as the new headmaster from September 2007 in succession to Dr Peter Southern. Mr Franklin was born in Brisbane and was educated in both the UK and Australia. He was previously Headmaster of Ardingly College.

Christ's Hospital has been ranked in Tatler magazine's Schools Guide 2007 as one of the top 180 public schools in the UK.


Links with the city and the Lord Mayor of the City of London are maintained, with an annual parade through the City of London on St Matthew's Day and a regular place in the Lord Mayor's Show.

One of the Christ's Hospital traditions is marching into lunch with the band, which is done each day except Sunday, weather permitting.


The school is best known for the Tudor uniform: long blue coat, knee-breeches, yellow socks, and bands at the neck for boys. The nickname "Blue-coat School" comes from the blue coats worn by the students – however, the nickname used within the school community itself is "Housey" and the long coat is called a "housey coat".

Second and third form pupils wear a simple leather belt with a buckle. Once a pupil reaches their Little Erasmus (year 9), they are presented with a more elaborate hallmarked sterling silver 'broadie' buckle and belt which the pupil keeps after leaving the school.

A complementary uniform was introduced for girls on re-unification of the schools – knee length pleated skirt, summer jacket, yellow socks (for the boys and junior girls), and grey socks or grey/black tights for senior girls, as well as the long coat in winter, and the bands.

Chapel and Religion

As a "religious, royal and ancient foundation", the school chapel is central to Christ's Hospital life. The chaplain is Revd Avijit Mitra who is leaving CH to become the Head of Classics at The King's School, Rochester and his wife Revd Nicola Mitra, the previous Assistant Chaplain has left CH to become the Chaplain of Maidstone Hospital. The reader of the chapel is Mr Ian Howard (housemaster of Peele B).

As part of the commemoration of the 50 years since the artist's death, the chapel hosted an exhibition of the "Brangwyns": cartoons by the artist Frank Brangwyn of the paintings the artist made for the chapel depicting scenes from Christian history such as Peter standing up with the eleven, conversions and martyrdoms.

At the Leaving Service, school leavers receive a bible as a reminder of the school's commitment to Christian values.

Children are encouraged to explore their own worldview in the Theology and Philosophy classes at Christ's Hospital. Pupils are encouraged to respect religion very seriously and culture. The mother of Andrew Higgins was the previous Head of this department.


Christ's Hospital has a long and distinguished musical tradition and has one of the largest school music departments in the country, with around 35 visiting staff and 9 residential staff. The residential music staff include John Forster as Head of Piano and Conducting (a former Professor of the Royal College of Music) and Terry Whittingham as Bandmaster (a former Bandmaster of the Queen's Own Highlanders); the current Director of Music is Bruce Grindlay, who succeeded Peter Allwood (brother of Ralph Allwood, Director of Music at Eton) in 2001. Tim Callaghan LRAM is the Head of Strings. Famous alumni of the Music Department at Christ's Hospital include the conductors Sir Colin Davis, Charles Hazlewood, Adrian Bawtree and Simon Joly, the trumpeter David Mason (formerly Principal Trumpet of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra), the tenor Charles Corp, and the composer and conductor Constant Lambert.

The school's chapel (seating 1000 and second only in size to Lancing College Chapel) has a large five-manual Rushworth and Dreaper organ, one of four organs in the School (the others being a 3-manual 1829 Hill in Big School, played on by Mendelssohn and Karg-Elert, a 2-manual Father Willis in the Dining Hall, and a Flight and Robson chamber organ in the Court Room). The 140-strong Chapel Choir has made many recordings and through these has earned an excellent reputation. Throughout the School's history, many musically gifted pupils have gone on to take up choral and organ scholarships at Oxford and Cambridge or have gained places at leading music conservatoires.

The school has a Symphony Orchestra and many other smaller choirs and instrumental ensembles, along with the celebrated annual House Singing Competition.

The Music Department organises a concert every February at the Purcell Room in London, thus providing an excellent performance opportunity for budding soloists and chamber musicians, alongside masterclasses with musicians such as Stephen Kovacevich, Hugh Bean, Adrian Thompson and Patrick Russill. The school is also famous for being the first place in England to host a complete cycle of the chamber music of Brahms, under the direction of the then Head of Piano John Thwaites.

Christ's Hospital was featured in the first series of the reality television programme Rock School, in which KISS legend Gene Simmons helped a group of CH pupils form their own rock band.

Christ's Hospital Band

The school's most famous ensemble is the band, which plays for the daily parade and performs in the annual Lord Mayor's Show in the City of London. The band played in the prestigious Rose Bowl Parade in California in 2002.

The band led the procession at the Queen's 80th birthday in London on 21 April 2006.


An Arts Centre complex (architect: Bill Howell) was opened in 1974 including a theatre with Tudor style auditorium, music school extension, Octagon rehearsal/performance space and classrooms.

The Christ's Hospital Arts Centre served as a principal arts venue for Horsham and the surrounding area until the establishment of an arts centre in Horsham in the 1980s. A programme of performances continues to be open to the public. Old Blues who have achieved notability in theatre and film include Jason Flemyng, Leo Gregory, James D'Arcy, Michael Wilding and Roger Allam.

Organisation of the School

Year Groups

The ages currently range from 11 to 18, although "Leigh Hunt" was originally a prep school which took children from the ages of 8/9, in preparation for the senior school.

The school uses traditional year group names. The nomenclature used by the school and its National Curriculum equivalence are shown in the following table:



Nat.Curric. equiv.

Second Form

Year 7

Third Form

Year 8

Little Erasmus

Year 9

Upper Fourth

Year 10

Great Erasmus

Year 11

Deputy Grecians

Year 12 (lower sixth)


Year 13 (upper sixth)


The School Houses are named after notable Old Blue writers. Each house has an "A" and "B" side, each housing roughly 50 pupils:

Two additional houses provide sixth form facilities:

  • Grecians East & Grecians West

Grecians East and Grecians West were completed early in 2001 and provide individual study bedrooms plus several general common rooms and kitchenettes shared by a group of 7 to 10 pupils.

Originally the other houses provided two dormitories (Upper Dorm and Lower Dorm) sleeping up to about 30 boys each. As the merger of the boys and girls approached, some dormitories were divided into cubicles, and subsequent developments created dormitories accommodating about 12 pupils each. Since 2001 there has been a rolling refurbishment programme (due for completion in 2007). The refurbished houses provide a range of accommodation: 4-bed rooms for the junior pupils to 1-bed rooms for the more senior pupils.

Until the 1960s, boys at Horsham lived in all-through houses from 2nd Form to Grecians. Then houses were divided into Senior houses (Peele, Thornton, Middleton, Coleridge and Lamb) and Junior houses (Barnes, Maine, Leigh Hunt) with boys transfeyrring to a Senior house after L.E. In conjunction with the merger, a further reorganisation occurred with each house converting to a Senior side and a Junior side. This system reverted to the all-through houses in 2000.

Thornton was changed from a boys house to a girls house in 2007, meaning that there are now an equal number of girls and boys at the school for the first time in its history.

Old Blues

See List of notable Christ's Hospital Old Blues.


Notable members of staff have included:

See also


  • Christ's Hospital, G.A.T. Allan (revised J.E. Morpurgo), London 1984, ISBN 0-86364-005-2
  • Christ's Hospital quad and Grecians East photos by Sergiu Panaite
  • Christ's Hospital: A Short History, Nick Plumley 1986 (no ISBN)

External links

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