In the Classroom


CH educated children from the very beginning, its first staff list at the outset including a grammar school master and a grammar usher, a ‘teacher to write’ and two schoolmasters for the ‘pettite’ school for the youngest children.  The first CH boy recorded as attending University went to Cambridge in 1566, and the first Writing School was founded in 1577 by one of CH’s greatest benefactors, Dame Mary Ramsey, in the year in which her husband, Sir Thomas Ramsey, was the Mayor of London.  Girls were taught writing from 1653.

Although the Grammar School, where classics was taught,  was regarded as the senior School, its Master being regarded prima inter pares as the Head Master, only a very few boys stayed on beyond the age of 15 to study for University, typically no more than ten or a dozen.  The great majority of boys were prepared for later life in the Writing School, where they were taught writing, arithmetic, English grammar, penmanship and accounting in preparation for a life in commerce.

The Royal Mathematical School was founded in 1673 as a separate Royal Foundation, where initially 40 boys were taught to become navigators at sea, their numbers later increased by other mathematical foundations. 

The girls at Hertford were taught reading, writing and arithmetic as well as needlework.

CH was one of the first schools to award prizes. There is a record of ‘disputations’ (ie debates) between the scholars of London schools taking place in the CH Cloisters in the reign of King Edward VI (1546 to 1553) where the best scholars were awarded bows and arrows made of silver, and in 1605 a celebrated English historian, John Stow, recorded the award of pens as prizes to the winners of disputations between Paules Schoole, Saint Anthonies School and Christ’s Hospital.

CH first awarded silver gilt pens to its own pupils for penmanship in 1798, the year in which Governors first made Visitations to inspect the boys’ performances in writing and drawing.  Further annual prize medals quickly followed for writing (1798), arithmetic (1799) and drawing (1801) and medals were also awarded to the younger boys at Hertford and to the best girls in reading, spelling writing and arithmetic.   CH has a fine collection of silver and gold prize medals awarded during the 19th century and into the 20th century.

Great emphasis was placed by the Governors on finding apprenticeships for both boys and girls when they left CH, and many benefactors provided money specifically to pay for such apprenticeships.  The Admissions registers recorded each pupil’s destination on leaving the School, and showed the wide range of work to which the boys and girls left.