For some 300 years Hertford was the home of Christ's Hospital and the Bluecoat girls and boys that inhabited it. The name is misleading however, as the institution was not only a hospital but a school, established under the same Royal Charter as St.Thomas's Hospital and Bridewell Hospital. Nor was it, as widely beleived, a private school, but a charitable institution.
Christ's Hospital was established in 1552 by Edward VI to care for the homeless or unfortunate children in London. It was based originally in Greyfriars and unusual at the time in that it catered for girls as well as boys. It was not only a hospital, but also a school of reading, writing and arithmetic, and had an original intake of 380 children.
It is unclear when children from the school first came to Hertford, but it may have been during the latter half of the 16th century that The Plague necessitated the removal of children in households in Hertford, Ware and Hoddesdon. Place House in Ware was one of the homes used and still to this day you can see where girls and boys etched their names into the brickwork of the buildings.
In 1682, land to the north of Fore Street known as Meager's Farm was purchased by the school and about two years later two parallel rows of cottages were built to house 400 children and attendant nurses.
The entrance to the school features the figures of two Bluecoat boys right (now replicas, the originals having been relocated to Horsham) donated by Sir John Dimsdale in 1721.
In 1778 the girls school was moved to Hertford in buildings to the left of main gates. This was part of a re-organisation of the school that saw it expand, taking in land occupied by the Congregational Church.
The Girls Grammar School was opened in 1783 to the left of the main gates, with the new headmistresses house to the right.
Between 1902 and 1906 the boys were moved to new premises in Horsham, Sussex, and the 17th century cottages that housed them were demolished to make way for eight new blocks and a chapel that were opened in 1906 by The Prince and Princess of Wales.
Further expansion took place in 1928 with the opening of further buildings. However, in 1985 the girls joined the boys in Horsham and the school was sold off. Some buildings were demolished and flats built, whilst the remaining buildings became offices and sheltered housing.
In recent years some of the office blocks have been converted to residential flats.
For more photos see our Bluecoats Gallery.
This article was last updated on 23rd August 2021..
The History of Hertford by Dr.F.M.Page