Since Christ’s Hospital’s founding in 1552, benefactors have played a major role in the life of the School. Indeed, up to 1892, when fees were introduced, CH was financed entirely through benefactions: from donations, including from Governors, and through wills, legacies and Trusts (including the City and Livery Companies), such largesse being received in the form of land, property, stocks, shares, monetary and non-monetary gifts. Some benefactions specified the way in which the gift was to be used, for example for scholarships; others were for non-educational uses, such as the Hetherington Fund for the Blind.     

The founder, Edward VI, gave land and buildings in Newgate Street and certain funds. However, much of the initial funding came from the City, although one early benefaction is of particular note – from Sir Thomas and Dame Mary Ramsey. About this time, the Foundation was given the task of licensing the working of carts within the City, from which they could keep most, if not all, of the monies collected, such practice continuing until 1838. 

From its beginning, the School began to benefit from the generosity of the Livery Companies, notably Carmen, Carpenters, Cooks, Drapers, Fishmongers, Grocers, Ironmongers, Mercers and Skinners, their donations financing usually the children of fathers employed in the Company’s trade. Later, four benefactors – Erasmus Smith, Sir Robert Clayton, Sir John Frederick and Sir John Moore – all gave large sums for the rebuilding of the School following the Great Fire. In the early 18th century, benefactions from John and Frances West and from Thomas Guy financed substantial numbers of presentations, and Samuel Travers provided funds for pupils to be educated in a separate Mathematical School.

The 19th century saw a number of generous donations from Old Blues, including Thomas Brown, John Thackeray, and Richard Thornton, these being recognised by plaques, initially in the London cloisters and then at Horsham, and Robert Precious and Robert Comb. Sir Walter Vaughan Morgan and his brother Septimus were both major benefactors around the turn of the century. In the early 1930s, generous gifts from Lord Wakefield and Thomas Whitehead built, respectively, the Scout Hut (now the Wakefield Centre) and the Dominions Library (now part of the Mellstrom Careers Centre), whilst many children have entered CH through Sir Barnes Wallis’s RAF Foundationers’ Trust and through The Sue Thomson Foundation, and a tablet records the generosity of HP Clay.

The foregoing has focussed on major benefactions, but not to be forgotten are the legions of smaller and collective donations – fulfilling the Charge (“to give according to your means”) – which have been made to the School across the years.