Presented at the Port of London Study Group on 7 October 2019
East End Educators – 1536 – 1769
During this period a number of schools were established in the East End of London.
They were founded by wealthy citizens of the East End, many with connections to City Companies. These citizens were united, in wishing to use their wealth, to support the education of poor children, in accord with their Christian faith.
The Nicholas Gibson free school, was founded in 1536, by Nicholas Gibson a prominent grocer in the City of London. After his death in 1549, Gibson’s wife Avis took over the running of the school, which could take up to 60 boys. Avis asked the Coopers’ Company to undertake the management of the school and to include their title in its name.
The school was situated in Ratcliff, between Shadwell and Limehouse. Schoolhouse Lane is still there and marks the place where the School and the Coopers’ Company Alms Houses were located for over three hundred years.
The widow of Thomas Coborn, a brewer, established a co-educational school in Bow in 1701as a result in the terms of her will, investing the school with lands let to tenants in Bow, Stratford and Bocking. The School was first sited near Bow Bridge.She was buried at Bow Church.
In 1891 the two foundations were united as Coburn girls and Coopers’ boys. In 1971 the schools were amalgamated as the Coopers’ Company and Coburn School, and moved to Upminster.
The Reverend Ralph Davenant, Rector of St Mary’s Whitechapel, drew up his will, leaving his household goods and plate, to his wife, with the provision, that it should eventually be sold and that the monies raised should be used to build a school for 40 of the poor boys of Whitechapel. Further funds were raised to educate 34 poor girls.
Boys were to learn reading, writing and arithmetic; girls were to learn reading, writing and sewing. A site for the school was found on the Whitechapel, the old school buildings still stand on the site.
The School moved to Loughton in Essex in 1966, as a two form entry boys’ grammar school. The school became co-educational in1980, for 1,000 girls and boys.
He was a devout Christian, and lived in Wapping between 1679 and 1738. He made a fortune in brewing, and built a fine home in Woodford in 1714, on the proceeds.
Henry Raine believed that he should do some good with his money and established a charity school for 50 boys and 50 girls in the hamlet of St George’s in the East.
At the school, poor local children were clothed, fed and taught to read. The boys were also taught to write and to handle accounts; the girls were instructed in sewing.
The building still stands, the stone over the door bears the school motto and in stone niches each side are two statues of a boy and a girl in the school uniform.
In 1736 Henry Raine built a boarding school for girls, named the “Asylum”. It allowed the foundation to rescue 40 girls from sometimes chaotic home lives. The students would be clothed, educated and provided for, and after four years training, would go into domestic service at the age of 19. He also established a fund of £210 for two marriage portions available by lottery to students of Raine’s Asylum.
The Asylum and marriage portions are long gone, but the school continues.
In 1964 the two schools merged and became co-educational. They are now located in Approach Road, to the north of Bethnal Green, near Cambridge Heath Railway Station.
In 1737 Francis Bancroft, a wealthy city merchant left the bulk of his fortune to the Drapers’ Company “to establish a school for one hundred poor boys aged between seven and fifteen”. The Drapers’ Company became Trustees of Bancroft’s School
The boys were to be instructed in “reading, writing and casting accounts”.
Bancroft’s School was set up in Mile End on what is now the site of Queen Mary University of London. The first boys were all day boys, the first borders were not admitted until 1802.
The site in Mile End proved increasingly unsuitable as Victorian London expanded. The school sold the site and moved to Tottenham for three years, and then to its present site in Woodford Wells. The Charity Commission insisted that the poor of London retained the right to foundation scholarship. Until 1964, 50 scholars from the administrative County of London, were admitted to the boarding house.
Sarah Bonnell School is one of the oldest girls’ schools in England.
Sarah Bonnell, a rich resident of Walthamstow, left £3,500 in her will for the setting up of a school for poor girls in West Ham.
The first school, established in 1769 was situated opposite West Ham Church and was known as Miss Bonnell’s School. There was one school room, one teacher and forty girls.
In 1905 the school moved to Stratford, and in the 1920s it became part of the state education system. In1944 it became the Sarah Bonnell Grammar School, and is now known as the Sarah Bonnell Schoool, and is one of the comprehensive schools in Newham. It moved to Cannon Street in Stepney in 1883 and then to Arbor Square in 1913.