Bluecoat and Charity Schools


The closure of the monasteries by King Henry VIII inevitably led to large numbers of the poor being driven onto the streets.  Denied of the support which they had previously received at the doors of the religious houses, many had to resort to begging, with starving children being a particular concern.  Pleas were made to Henry for the return of some monastic property for charitable purposes and, shortly before he died, he did begin to transfer some buildings "for the relief of the poor".

Further buildings were transferred by his son, King Edward VI, including the setting up of Christ's Hospital for poor children.  In addition to being educated, these children also lived in the school buildings and were fed and clothed until they reached such an age when they could be apprenticed, sent to sea, or go to university.  Strict guidelines were set as to the quantity and quality of food and clothing provided, no rich foods being permitted and garments being hard-wearing.  The children were given a long gown of dark blue material to protect them from the cold, stout shoes, and hose in yellow as this colour was believed to ward off vermin.   In time, other items were added, including the white neck tabs, badges, shoe buckles and hats.

Christ's Hospital moved from the monastic buildings in London to Horsham, West Sussex in 1902, although it still retains close links with the City.  During the early days of its history, it received a number of benefactions from philanthropic bodies and persons, including King Charles II who, on his restoration, founded a mathematical school at the Hospital, to train boys as navigators for sea service.  Each scholar was given a large silver badge to wear, to distinguish him from the other children.  This tradition of giving badges associated with the benefactor has continued throughout the history of the Hospital.

Over time, further schools, based on the model of Christ's Hospital, were opened.  In each, the uniform of the blue gown girded with a leather belt, together with yellow stockings, was retained.