Ancestry UK

Charity Schools

Founded in 1552, Christ's Hospital, on London's Newgate Street, was the first of a new type of institution which became known as the Charity School.

The Schools largely catered for poor children who would otherwise receive little or no education and were usually funded by some combination of legacy and public subscription. The schools might also maintain, clothe or apprentice their pupils. A few also provided lodgings for some or all of their pupils.

Some Charity Schools copied the uniform of blue coat and yellow stockings that had been adopted by Christ's Hospital and became known as Blue Coat Schools. Other variations on the theme resulted in Grey Coat, Green Coat, Brown Coat and other colour-associated school names.

Quadrangle at Christ's Hospital, Newgate Street, 1890s. © Peter Higginbotham

Charity Schools became very popular in the eighteenth century, due in part to their being promoted by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) which was founded in 1698. According to one estimate in 1792, it was reckoned that more than 1600 charity schools had been established since the Reformation.

Some charity schools, including Christ's Hospital, evolved to primarily serve fee-paying pupils and have continued to the present day as successful independent schools.

A list of those Charity Schools which originally provided charitably funded residential places — effectively operating as children's homes — is provided on a separate page.


  • Jones, M.G. The Charity School Movement: A Study of Eighteenth Century Puritanism in Action (1938, Cambridge University Press)