Christ's Hospital School in 1731
The following information is taken from London in 1731 by Don Manoel Gonzales. The complete text of this work is available at Project Gutenburg.
If you were the child of a freeman of London, had one or fewer living parents, were more than seven years old and were in good health you were eligible for entrance into the Christ's Hospital School. You had to be sponsored by one of the governors but if you could get in your chances of success (and survival) in life were greatly improved.
You would be fed and housed, taught reading, writing and grammar, together with mathematics and drawing if you showed the aptitude. When you were fifteen you would be sent to sea, entering the king's service after seven years.
Food was not too bad, if a trifle sparse and short of fresh vegetables (a common dietary issue at the time). The environs were reasonably healthy - Don Manoel records a year in which only fifteen out of more than eleven hundred children died. This compared well with the general population and was better than being cared for on Parish charity by an order of magnitude.
The school is still in business - visit the Christ's Hospital School website for more details.
Don Manoel's Account
Christ's Hospital is situated between Newgate Street and St. Bartholomew's Hospital in Smithfield. Here, as has been observed already, was anciently a monastery of grey friars, founded about the year 1325, which, upon the dissolution of monasteries, was surrendered to King Henry VIII., anno 1538, who, in the last year of his reign, transferred it to the City of London for the use of the poor. King Edward VI. endowed this hospital--together with those of Bridewell and St. Thomas's Hospital in Southwark--with large revenues, of which the City were made trustees, and incorporated by the name of the mayor, commonalty, and citizens of the City of London, governors of the possessions, revenues, and goods of the hospitals of Christ, Bridewell, and St. Thomas the Apostle, to whom the king granted 3,266 pounds 13s. 4d. per annum.
It was opened in the year 1552, in the month of November, and a good writing-school was added to this foundation in the year 1694 by Sir John More, Kt., and alderman.
The children admitted into this hospital are presented every year by the Lord Mayor and aldermen and the other governors in their turns, a list of whom is printed yearly and set up at the counting-house, and a letter is sent to each of the said governors, some days before the admission, reminding him of the day of choosing, and how those he presents should be qualified, wherein is enclosed a blank certificate from the minister and churchwardens, a blank petition to the president and governors, and a paper of the rules and qualifications of the child to be presented. Upon this the governor, having made choice of a child to present, the friends of the said child come to the counting-house on the admission-day, bringing the said petition and certificates, rules, and letter along with him, and on the back side of the said petition the governor who presents endorseth words to this effect.
"I present the child mentioned in the certificate on the other side, and believe the same to be a true certificate.
"Witness my hand . . . the day . . . of 17." Which the said governor signeth, and the child is admitted.
The said rules and qualifications are as follows:
- That no child be taken in but such as are the children of freemen of London.
- That none be taken in under seven years old.
- That none be taken in but orphans, wanting either father or mother, or both.
- That no foundlings, or that are maintained at the parish charge, be taken in.
- That none who are lame, crooked, or deformed, or that have the evil, rupture, or any infectious disease, be taken in.
- That none be admitted but such as are without any probable means of being provided for otherways; nor without a due certificate from the minister, churchwardens, and three or four of the principal inhabitants of the parish whence any children come, certifying the poverty and inability of the parent to maintain such children, and the true age of the said child, and engaging to discharge the hospital of them before or after the age of fifteen years if a boy, or fourteen years if a girl, which shall be left to the governor's pleasure to do; so that it shall be wholly in the power of the hospital to dispose of such child, or return them to the parent or parish, as to the hospital shall seem good.
- That no child be admitted that hath a brother or sister in the hospital already.
- To the end that no children be admitted contrary to the rules abovesaid, when the general court shall direct the taking in of any children, they shall (before taken in) be presented to a committee, consisting of the president, treasurer, or the almoners, renters, scrutineers, and auditors, and all other governors to be summoned at the first time, and so to adjourn from time to time: and that they, or any thirteen or more of them, whereof the president or treasurer for the time being to be one, shall strictly examine touching the age, birth, and quality of such children, and of the truth of the said certificates; and when such committee shall find cause, they shall forbid or suspend the taking in of any child, until they receive full satisfaction that such child or children are duly qualified according to the rules abovesaid.
And that such children as may be presented to be admitted in pursuance of the will of any benefactor, shall be examined by the said committee, who are to take care that such children be qualified according to the wills of the donors or benefactors (as near as may consist with such wills) agreeing to the qualifications above.
The Lord Mayor and Court of Aldermen present each their child yearly, but the rest of the governors only in their turns, which may happen once in three or four years.
No child is continued in after fifteen years of age, except the mathematical scholars, who are sometimes in till they are eighteen, and who, at the beginning of the seventh year of their service as mariners are at His Majesty's disposal; and of these children there is an account printed yearly, and presented to the king the 1st of January, setting forth:
- each boy's name
- the month and year when they were bound out
- their age
- the names of their masters
- the names of the ships whereof they are commanders
- what country trade they are in
- the month and year when they will be at His Majesty's disposal
Also an account of the forty children annually enjoying the benefit of this mathematical foundation, etc., setting forth their names and age.
The governors, besides the Lord Mayor and aldermen, are many, and commonly persons that have been masters or wardens of their companies, or men of estates, from whom there is some expectation of additional charities. Out of these one is made president, who is usually some ancient alderman that hath passed the chair; another is appointed treasurer, to whom the care of the house and of the revenues are committed, who is therefore usually resident, and has a good house within the limits of the hospital. There are two governors also, who are called almoners, whose business it is to buy provisions for the house and send them in, who are attended by the steward.
The children are dieted in the following manner:
- They have every morning for their breakfast bread and beer, at half an hour past six in the morning in the summer time, and at half an hour past seven in the winter.
- On Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays they have boiled beef and broth for their dinners
- On Mondays milk-porridge
- on Wednesdays furmity [ wheat porridge with milk, sugar and spices ]
- On Fridays old pease and pottage
- On Saturdays water-gruel
They have roast beef about twelve days in the year by the kindness of several benefactors, who have left, some 3 pounds, some 50s. per annum, for that end.
- Their supper is bread and cheese, or butter for those who cannot eat cheese
- On Sundays legs and shoulders of mutton
- On Wednesdays and Fridays they have pudding-pies for supper
The diet of these children seems to be exceeding mean and sparing; and I have heard some of their friends say that it would not be easy for them to subsist upon it without their assistance. However, it is observed they are very healthful; that out of eleven or twelve hundred there are scarce ever found twelve in the sick ward; and that in one year, when there were upwards of eleven hundred in this hospital, there were not more than fifteen of them died. Besides, their living in this thrifty parsimonious manner, makes them better capable of shifting for themselves when they come out into the world.
As to the education of these orphans, here is a grammar-school, a writing-school, a mathematical-school, and a drawing-school.
As to grammar and writing, they have all of them the benefit of these schools without distinction; but the others are for such lads as are intended for the sea-service.
The first mathematical school was founded by King Charles II., anno domini 1673. His Majesty gave 7,000 pounds towards building and furnishing this school, and settled a revenue of 370 pounds per annum upon it for ever; and there has been since another mathematical school erected here, which is maintained out of the revenues of the hospital, as is likewise the drawing-school.
This hospital is built about a large quadrangle, with a cloister or piazza on the inside of it, which is said to be part of the monastery of the Grey Friars; but most part of the house has been rebuilt since the Fire, and consists of a large hall, and the several schools and dormitories for the children; besides which there is a fine house at Hertford, and another at Ware, twenty miles from London, whither the youngest orphans are usually sent, and taught to read, before they are fixed at London.