Customs & Traditions


The image on the left is of the booklet, published in the CH Heritage Series, titled Customs and Traditions.  This booklet describes and illustrates annual activities which are (or were, if discontinued) essentially unique to CH, often involving a rich and special pageantry.  Daily activities which are unique to CH, such as wearing the uniform and Band Parade, are described in the CH Heritage Series booklet School Life.

St Matthew’s Day, 21 September, has since at least 1557 been an important day in the calendar of not only CH, but also of the other Royal Hospitals of St Bartholomew, Bethlem, Bridewell and St Thomas, for that was the day on which their Governors were announced and a list given to the Lord Mayor for his ceremonial approval.  The modern celebration, usually on the Friday nearest to 21 September, involves a visit to the City of London by the choir, the band and senior pupils for a service in a City church and a meeting with the Lord Mayor to receive a gift of newly minted money.  It continued in 1903 after the boys’ school had moved to Horsham. 

The CH Band has played at The Lord Mayor’s Show every year since 1981.  The pageant is the world’s oldest civic procession, held on the second Saturday in November.

The annual orations, now given by the Senior Grecian on Speech Day in the summer term and attended by the Lord Mayor, were originally given by all Grecians leaving for University, in a variety of languages, in London on St Matthew’s Day until a separate Speech Day was arranged in 1871.

The end of the school year is marked by the Leaving Service, at which pupils leaving are given a Presentation Bible and receive The Charge, and by Beating Retreat when the band plays Sussex by the Sea and then Auld Lang Syne.

Amongst its many Royal connections, the CH Senior pupil has traditionally greeted the new Sovereign with a loyal address on their first entry to the City of London, a custom stretching back to 1553. 

CH pupils drew the tickets for the National State Lottery from 1694 until they ceased in 1826.  Bluecoat boys appeared on many Lottery flyers, in many engravings and cartoons which depicted the lottery and on a halfpenny token issued in 1795.

Some of the many other customs and traditions covered in the booklet include the Public Suppers which used to be held in the Great Hall in London, one of which Queen Victoria attended in 1845, the Spital Sermons which pre-date CH and which still take place annually and the free entry still granted to the Tower of London to pupils in uniform.