Brief History of CH


CH, founded for the orphan children of poor Londoners, was given its Royal Charter in 1553 by Edward VI, as part of a foundation which included St Thomas’s Hospital (for the sick) and Bridewell Hospital (for idle vagabonds).  CH used the old Grey Friars Monastery buildings which Henry VIII had given to the City of London in 1546.

It admitted its first 380 children in November 1552, including 100 infants who were sent to Ware, Hoddesdon or Hertford to be looked after by nurses, who were paid a weekly allowance. Children usually came to the London school at the age of 10 or older.In 1563, when the first children’s register was compiled, there were 132 girls out of 396 children, although the proportion thereafter was usually much smaller.

In London, most children were educated in the Writing School for a position in commerce or trade, leaving when aged 15. A few children stayed on beyond 15 to study either in the Grammar School for University or in the Royal Mathematical School (RMS) for service at sea. The RMS was founded in 1673 by Royal Charter from Charles II.

When most of the buildings were burned down in the Great Fire of London in 1666, many children were billeted in Hertfordshire. In 1682 a site in Hertford was acquired for a boarding school, which CH was to own for over 300 years. Initially intended only for younger boys, in 1778 they were joined by the girls, who occupied a separate school on the site.

The rebuilding of the London school was completed in 1705, with Sir Christopher Wren designing the South front as well as Christ Church, the parish church immediately outside the walls of CH, which the school used for its worship.  A second major rebuilding took place from 1793 to 1836. 

In 1902 all the boys from the London and Hertford schools transferred to a new site in Horsham, the Hertford school becoming a girls-only school. In 1985 the Hertford site was closed and the girls transferred to Horsham, once again to form a co-educational school. CH now has over 800 boarding pupils, with an equal number of boys and girls, and takes day pupils.