City of London School

From Academic Kids

Arms of the City of London and City of London School
Arms of the City of London and City of London School

City of London School, or CLS for short, is an independent boys' school located on the banks of the River Thames, at the edge of the City of London in London, United Kingdom. It is the brother school of the City of London School for Girls (a girls' school located within the Barbican Estate complex). Intake is from age 10 to 18, although many of its pupils enter at age 11 and somewhat fewer at age 13.

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The City of London School on its present site on the River Thames


The City of London School traces its origins to a bequest of land by the town clerk of London, John Carpenter, in 1442, "for the finding and bringing up of four poor men's children with meat, drink, apparel, learning at the schools, in the universities, &c., until they be preferred, and then others in their places for ever." (Stow's Survey of London). This bequest was administered by the Corporation of London.

Over the centuries, the value of the bequest vastly exceeded the expenses of the boys' education and it was in order to make fuller use of the endowment that the City of London School was founded by a private Act of Parliament in 1834. It has always been under the governance of the Corporation of London (which is the governing body of the City of London, as opposed to Greater London, and which has as its head the Lord Mayor of London).

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The City of London School building in Milk Street 1835-1883

The foundation stone of the new school was laid by Lord Brougham at premises in Milk Street, in the City of London near Cheapside, on the site of the old Honey Lane Market, in 1835. The school was remarkable for its time in three respects. First, it did not discriminate against pupils on the grounds of religious persuasion (at a time when most public schools had an Anglican emphasis): it included many pupils from non conformist and Jewish families. Second, unlike other public schools, it was a day school (although there were in early days a handful of boarders, no boarding department ever became established). Third, and most importantly, it promoted a rigorously practical and progressive scheme of education which was well ahead of its time. It was the first school in England to include science on its curriculum and to include practical scientific experiments as part of its teaching; it was also the first school to teach English literature (and not just classical literature) as part of the curriculum. It also offered education in commercial subjects for those who wanted it. This did not, however, diminish the excellence of its teaching in the subjects traditionally favoured by public schools, and it sent many brilliant classical and mathematical scholars to Oxford and Cambridge throughout the nineteenth century. These included the mathematician Edwin Abbott (whose exploration of a world in other than three dimensions, "Flatland", is still in print and who returned to the school as headmaster) and, among classical scholars, H H Asquith, who went on to become the British Prime Minster.

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An early photograph of the City of London School building of 1883-1987

The school rapidly outgrew its original site, and by a further Act of Parliament (the City of London School Act 1879) it was empowered to move to a new site at Blackfriars on the Victoria Embankment overlooking the Thames (still in the City of London), where a grand building said to be in the Italian Renaissance style (but actually in a high Victorian style with a steep pitched roof resembling that of a French chateau) was constructed for it at a cost exceeding 100,000 in the money of the time - a colossal sum in modern values. On the front were statues of Shakespeare, Milton, Bacon, Newton and Sir Thomas More, the first four apparently nodding to its literary and scientific traditions, the last being a religious martyr, a famous lawyer, and the author of "Utopia". This building still stands and is now protected by a preservation order; it is presently occupied by the investment bank J P Morgan.

The Victoria Embankment building remained the home of the City of London School for the next hundred years, although the site expanded to include, not only the original building on the Victoria Embankment itself, but a range of buildings at right angles along the whole of John Carpenter Street (which was named after the founder of the school) and further buildings constructed at the back along Tudor Street, with the school playground, Fives courts and cloisters enclosed within this island site. (All but the original Victoria Embankment building were demolished when the school left the site).

In this position, it was next door to the City of London School for Girls (which was founded by the Corporation of London as a sister school in 1894 and moved in 1969 to its present site in the Barbican) and to the Guildhall School of Music (which has also since moved to the Barbican). It was also next to the traditional home of the British newspaper industry in Fleet Street. The musical excellence of the school was fostered by an arrangement whereby all the boy choristers of the Temple Church (the church serving the barristers and judges of the Inner and Middle Temple Inns of Court, which are two blocks west of the old Victoria Embankment site of the school) and all the boy choristers of the Chapel Royal at St. James's Palace, were given scholarships at the City of London School. They included Ernest Lough whose recording of Mendelssohn's "O for the Wings of a Dove" with the Temple Choir in 1927 made him world famous; it was the first classical record to sell (by 1962) more than a million copies. Other musicians educated at the City of London School include the cellist Stephen Isserlis.

In 1987, the City of London School moved to its present site in purpose built buildings facing on to Queen Victoria Street (where it is opposite the College of Arms and just below St Paul's Cathedral) on one side and facing onto the banks of the River Thames on the other side. The new Millennium Bridge (a footbridge opened in 2000) is just next to the school buildings. It is a wholly modern building, although some of the stained glass and sculpture from the Victoria Embankment building has been relocated to this new school.

School Fees

Although the City of London School has always charged fees to most of its pupils, those fees have been low relative to other public schools, and it has always offered many scholarships, both on the basis of academic and musical ability.

For the 2004-05 academic year, school fees are 10,521.

Academic Standard

Although the school considers itself to have a high academic standard, its GCSE league table position has fallen from 36 in 1991 to 126 in 2004. Conversely, the school's results for the more demanding A-Level examinations continue to rise; as do its success rates with entry into Oxbridge.


It has never been a school which offers or emphasises social status and it has been as free from snobbery and prejudice as it is possible for any school to be. It has throughout its history encouraged practical and independent thinking and learning, and it has stressed the importance of individual merit and achievement above any other yardstick. It continues to produce free thinkers and often radical sentiment. The school is fortunate to have a extremely popular Politics Society which attracts some of the leading lights in British and International political spheres. Tensions threatened to erupt between the some 30% Jewish majority and a Muslim minority following the visit of George Galloway.

Famous Current Pupils

Current pupils include Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe.

Famous Old Citizens (Old Boys)

Further reading

  • Carpenter's Children: History of the City of London School T Hinde (1995)
  • The City of London School A E Douglas-Smith (1st edition 1937, 2nd edition 1965)

External links


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