Charity Scholars (4)

For some time I was mystified by these statues of little children on the façade of churches in London.
They are charming, and they also tell interesting stories.
A little research reveals that they are “Charity Scholars” and signify that the church used to have a school for poor children.

Charity scholars - St. Mary Abbots School, Kensington

These two scholars are on the church school at St. Mary Abbots in Kensington.It is a very popular place for local families to send their children today.


Charity Scholars - Rotherhithe Free SchoolHere are two old charity scholars on Rotherhithe Free School, charity school run by the church of St. Mary Rotherhithe. The church across the street had a congregation that included many sailors and sea captains, including Christopher Jones, part-owner and captain of the Mayflower which took the colonists to Massachusetts in 1620.


If you walk north from Fleet Street on Shoe Lane and continue on St. Andrew Street, you reach Holborn Circus and the church of St. Andrew Holborn. There are two charity scholars on the front of the church.

From Holborn Circus it is a short walk up Hatton Garden to a former church that is now home to business, but the charity scholars are still standing on their brackets.

The figures look very similar to those on the church of St. Andrew Holborn, but they are not exactly the same.

The girl is holding a paper that says “These statues were redecorated on behalf of Johnson Matthey”. It’s a British multinational chemicals and technology company whose HQ is nearby on Farringdon, so this is a little bit of subtle advertising, I guess.
This is the church on Hatton Gardens where the scholars stand just above the entrance.

This is the church on Hatton Gardens where the scholars stand just above the entrance.

This is the church on Hatton Gardens where the scholars stand just above the entrance.

The plaque explains their historyHatton Garden- Charity School - sony 20

Blewcoat School, Victoria - Sony 162The Blewcoat School on Caxton Street in Westminster only has a boy scholar, so I thought that perhaps the school never admitted girls. A little research revealed that this school for the poor was built in 1709 and did admit girls from 1718- 1846.   The school moved and the building ceased to be used as a school in 1926.Blewcoat school-Charity Scholar -  sony162In 1954 the Blewcoat School was purchased by the National Trust who used it as an information centre and gift shop until 2013.
I was really surprised to learn that in 2014 British designed Ian Stuart was given permission to turn the building into an exclusive shop selling his evening wear, special occasion wear and up-sale bridal wear – so it is no longer open for the curious visitor looking for a little history. Too bad.

These two scholars standing under their seashell-covered niches are on the front of the Sir John Cass Foundation School in the Aldgate area of the City of London. John Cass was born in London in 1661. He became a merchant, builder, politician and philanthropist, and served as Sheriff of London and a Member of Parliament. He was very involved with the Livery Companies which are still the main body that runs the government of the City of London. Cass served as Master of the Carpenters’ Company and then later Master of the Skinners’ Company – positions of great prestige which brought with them the obligation to support good causes that were important to the City.

In 1709 John Cass founded a school for 50 boys and 40 girls in buildings in the churchyard of St. Botolph’s Aldgate.When he died in 1718 his will had not been completed, but his wife continued the school. After she died the trustees of the school petitioned Parliament for the permanent endowment of the school. The Sir John Cass Foundation was established in 1748. It must have been a very significant amount of money and it must have been wisely administered over the years. Part of the school founded by John Cass evolved into the Sir John Cass Technical Institute which became the Sir John Cass College; in 2002 it was merged into London Metropolitan University. Another part of the school developed into the Sir John Cass School of Art which is now located opposite the Whitechapel Art Gallery. In 2002 the City University Business School changed its name to the Cass Business School following a substantial donation from the Sir John Cass Foundation.

The story of Sir John Cass makes me think about Bill Gates and his effort to encourage today’s super-wealthy to donate a large portion of their wealth to improving life for the rest of the world. It’s good to see that philanthropy can have a long-lasting effect.

Greycoat Hospital- Charity Scholars - Sony246Grey Coat Hospital school was founded in 1698 by the congregation of St. Margaret’s Westminster to provide an education for the poor of the parish. They bought an old workhouse in the parish and established the school there; I imagine that is why the name is Great Coat HOSPITAL.   At first the school was for boys only but after only 3 years they started admitting girls. In 1874 it became a girls-only school under church management. Grey Coats Hospital school is still going strong and was recently rated as providing an “Outstanding” education.



I I like to think about the community thinking that education was important – even though 300 years ago they were supporting a very basic education of reading, writing and math. I must admit a feeling of serious concern about the “education” standards that seem to be falling dramatically these days. I sat next to a man at a dinner recently.   He was convinced that poor education was a world-wide problem because politicians did not want a population that could think and analyze issues.
Gosh – I hope that’s not true!

@Cathey Leitch, 2015