The collection of manuscripts starts with a formal document dated12 June 1553, an Indenture of Covenants, which was signed by Edward VI and completed by him with some words written in his own hand.  The Foundation Charter for the Royal hospitals of Christ’s, St Thomas’s and Bridewell, was dated two weeks later, 26 June 1553. 

There follow unbroken runs of handwritten children’s admissions registers from 1563 to the late 1990s, minutes of meetings of the Governing Body from 1556 to 1990, Treasurer’s account books from 1552 to 1897 and Treasurer’s cash books from 1624 to 1960, this last run comprising 136 volumes.  Other 16th century manuscripts include a promissory note (c1552); a receipt for a fine (1565) and a note on the children’s ‘dyet’ (1580). 

The oldest known history of the three Royal Hospitals, and of CH in particular, is contained in two small volumes written by John Howes, in 1582 and in 1587, and known as the Howes Manuscripts.  Howes worked as an assistant to Richard Grafton, the first Treasurer of CH, and he was resident within the site.

Other manuscripts range from single handwritten pages to letters, notebooks, log books, memoirs and registers.  Some of the most interesting manuscript material reflects everyday school life, such as collected series of letters written home from pupils at CH, and the wonderful volumes of mathematical and navigational work written by the boys when they were in the Royal Mathematical School (RMS). One of the key features of much of this material is the quality of the writing, the teaching of which had been an important part of the curriculum. Much of the pre-Horsham archive material is deposited with London Metropolitan Archives and is available to view there on microfilm, with copies available in the museum for research by the museum team.

The image on the left is from a 68 page report by Samuel Pepys in 1698, which he has personally signed.  Full information about this report, and about Pepys’s key role at CH, are given in The Sea and the Sky, a history of the RMS, by  museum volunteer Clifford Jones.