The City of Leicester: Primary and secondary education

A History of the County of Leicester: Volume 4, the City of Leicester. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1958.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


'The City of Leicester: Primary and secondary education', A History of the County of Leicester: Volume 4, the City of Leicester, (London, 1958), pp. 328-335. British History Online [accessed 12 June 2024].

. "The City of Leicester: Primary and secondary education", in A History of the County of Leicester: Volume 4, the City of Leicester, (London, 1958) 328-335. British History Online, accessed June 12, 2024,

. "The City of Leicester: Primary and secondary education", A History of the County of Leicester: Volume 4, the City of Leicester, (London, 1958). 328-335. British History Online. Web. 12 June 2024,

In this section


Elementary Education (fn. 1)

The earliest school of which we have any knowledge (apart from the Free Grammar School and its monastic predecessors) (fn. 2) is mentioned in 1653. In that year, John and Robert King's schools were involved in a case, tried before the mayor and the borough justices, concerning the dissemination of anti-Cromwellian songs. (fn. 3) We know nothing further about these schools, but they probably provided elementary education. In 1687 we hear of another school, when the Common Hall ordered that 'Mr John Hardy senior bayliff shall pay unto Mr Henry Hargrave twenty pounds heretofore given to him towards building a loft in St. Martin's church for the gentleweomen schollars to his wife'. (fn. 4) This school was probably the forerunner of the young ladies' seminaries of the 19th century. By the early 18th century there were several charity schools in Leicester. According to Nichols, the first Leicester charity school was one for 24 boys; it was conducted first by a Mr. Stephenson, and later by his daughters, and already existed in 1711. In 1720 it was said that ten poor boys were being taught at Leicester at the cost of the Registrar, and ten poor girls at the cost of the Commissary. A school for ten poor boys of St. Margaret's parish was established in 1716, but the boys seem to have been taught at the Free Grammar School on weekdays, and to have been separately instructed only on Sundays. (fn. 5) The oldest school to continue into comparatively modern times was that founded by the Great Meeting, probably not long after it settled in its permanent home in East Bond Street in 1708, although the earliest recorded reference to a teacher in the church minute books is in 1736. (fn. 6) The school existed independently until 1870, when it was taken over by the School Board, and shortly afterwards closed, having accomplished its purpose: to provide an education for the children of nonconformists. It probably began as a dame school, with about twenty children, but seems to have grown rapidly. In 1760 the meeting was raising money to pay for 'Such children's schooling whose parents don't come to the Meeting', (fn. 7) and who, like the rest, would be clothed and educated at the expense of the congregation. When it closed the school was attended by about 700 children. (fn. 8)

Sunday schools, too, seem to have been begun by the nonconformist churches, and the first to be permanently established was again that at the Great Meeting, founded in 1783, although there had been some Sunday teaching in the borough before that. (fn. 9) In 1778, a John Moore was teaching poor children on Sundays. (fn. 10) The idea was quickly taken up by the Anglican churches, and although only St. Mary's had a Sunday school by 1788, a letter to the Leicester Journal in that year suggested that a similar school should be set up in every parish. (fn. 11) A subscription list had been opened in 1786, (fn. 12) and some teaching must have begun then also, for in 1791 a meeting held in the vestry of St. Martin's Church resolved that 'the past five years experience has shown the Leicester Sunday schools to be very advantagious'. Earlier in the year a sermon was preached for the benefit of Sunday schools of all denominations. (fn. 13) By 1792 there were at least 16 such schools, (fn. 14) but by 1795 it is possible that the foundation of more day schools had tended to draw some children away from the Sunday schools, as it was decided that if a Sunday school was not regularly attended by more than twenty children, it should be closed. (fn. 15) Sunday schools continued at the main churches and chapels in the town. In 1807 110 children were being taught on the Lancaster system at the Sunday school at Friar Lane chapel. (fn. 16) Between 100 and 150 children were clothed and taught yearly at St. Martin's and 80 at the Great Meeting, where reading, writing, and mathematics were the main subjects. (fn. 17) In 1813 150 children were taught at St. Mary's: of these 120 were also clothed, and the total of children in the school had risen to 200 by 1819. (fn. 18) In 1835 five Baptist and one Congregational Sunday schools established the Leicestershire and Rutland Sunday School Union, which had 20 schools in Leicester affiliated to it by 1840, with a further 21 in the county. (fn. 19) In 1882 the Sunday School Memorial Hall in the New Walk was built. (fn. 20)

Sunday schools were begun to meet the needs of poor children, especially those who had to work, and there are many references in the Report on the Condition of Framework Knitters to the attendance of framework-knitters' children at such schools. (fn. 21) For those who could attend a day school, even for a short time, another expedient was found, and the Great Meeting school, already mentioned, was the first charity school in Leicester to have a long existence.

By the end of the 18th century the Anglican church had begun to found charity schools of the same type. The first of these was that attached to the church of St. Mary de Castro, founded by the efforts of the vicar, Thomas Robinson, who had for some years before the permanent foundation of the school in 1785 been paying for the education of about 50 poor children in his parish, and who organized the regular payment of subscriptions for the new school among his friends and parishioners. (fn. 22) His school was founded to educate and clothe 50 poor children whose parents were inhabitants of the parish or of the Castle or Newarke liberties. He gave some land in the parish, not far from the church, as the school's site. A schoolmaster, John Wood, was appointed and provision made for the management and collection of subscriptions. In 1791 it was stated in the Leicester Journal that 240 children had been through the school and that there were then about 80 pupils in two separate schools. The girls were taught reading, sewing, and seaming, and the boys reading, writing, and accounts. All the pupils were given clothing at Easter. (fn. 23) The Sunday school was continued and was also opened as an infants' school in 1845, when the whole establishment catered for 80 boys and 40 girls. (fn. 24) In 1869, then affiliated to the National Society, the school was rebuilt on a new site in Castle Street, and the two figures of a boy and girl, dressed in the uniform of the school, which had been presented by two of the trustees, were transferred to the new building, where they are still to be seen. (fn. 25) By 1877 the school was so liberally supported that it was able to take 450 pupils. (fn. 26) It came under the management of the Leicester Education Committee, and was closed down in 1932.

Five years after the foundation of St. Mary's School, the Vicar and churchwardens of St. Martin's conveyed a piece of ground in Friar Lane to trustees for the erection of a charity school. (fn. 27) Clothes were provided for the children, and the school has always been known as the Bluecoat school. In 1812 evening classes for older children were begun, in the hope that this would 'promote the peace of the town'. (fn. 28) Like St. Mary's School, the new one was supported by subscriptions and later affiliated to the National Society. By the end of the 19th century it had become a boys' school, although in 1846 it was educating girls as well as boys, and was in that year attended by 100 children on the foundation, who received both education and clothing, and by a further 80 who were taught free. (fn. 29) New buildings were erected in 1870, and in 1877 there were over 400 pupils. (fn. 30) The school still exists as a secondary modern school with a grant from the City Education Committee, and is the oldest school in Leicester with a continuous record to the present day.

In 1805 one authority estimated that there were over 1,000 poor children in St. Margaret's parish who received no form of education, (fn. 31) and shortly afterwards Richard Davies, the last head master of the Free Grammar School, then curate of the parish, began his efforts to found a parish charity school, which was opened in the following year. Four years later the school building in Churchgate was completed and conveyed to trustees. (fn. 32) By 1821 it had 100 pupils. (fn. 33) In 1834 a new National school was built in Canning Place and attached to the church. (fn. 34) In 1846 the old school had 170 pupils, and the new one, where each child paid 2d. a week, more than twice as many. (fn. 35) By 1870 all the boys had been transferred to the Churchgate building and the girls and small children were taught at Canning Place. The Churchgate school was closed in 1928, and the building sold, while the Canning Place school was completely rebuilt with some help from the borough education authorities, as the Board of Education was prepared to recognize neither school under their old organization. Canning Place school was reopened in 1929 and was closed finally about 1945.

The money for these charity schools was raised by public subscriptions and by the proceeds of collections made at the annual charity school sermons. In 1810 the Leicester Journal commented upon the children's 'simplicity of dress and appearance together with their decent and modest demeanour' at the service. (fn. 36) At the service in 1814 the same paper reported that 'the assemblage of upwards of three hundred children from the different schools in the town, all neatly and decently attired, presented an interesting and grateful spectacle'. (fn. 37) Later in the year, however, the paper printed some figures regarding the state of education in the borough: 'although the charitable institutions of this town are numerous, still they are not sufficient for the population, it being ascertained on the lowest estimate that there are upwards of two thousand poor children without the means of efficient education and only about four hundred and sixty who receive daily instruction at the expence of £600 annually'. (fn. 38)

From this time until 1870 the foundation of new schools proceeded without any unusual features. In 1871 there were 26 denominational schools, and the Anglicans and nonconformists vied with one another to teach the children. The first National Anglican school was the so-called county school, near St. Nicholas's Church, founded in 1814 on land given by the king, and under the patronage of the Duke of Rutland and other eminent persons. It was designed to be a 'model' school for the county, and provided training for young teachers. Between its foundation and 1826 it educated some 2,000 children. (fn. 39) Schools were not founded in great numbers in the first part of the century, 9 only between 1800 and 1845, but between 1846 and 1870 23 new schools were built.

With considerable difficulty an Infants' School Society was founded in 1828, but it could only open one school at first, in Newarke Street. (fn. 40) The first nonconformist British school, the rival to the National school, was not opened until 1832. (fn. 41) In 1849 the educational position in Leicester was still far from satisfactory. In a report drawn up for the use of the mayor, Joseph Dare, who was in charge of the Unitarian school in All Saints' Open, estimated that only one-third of the juvenile population of the borough, or 5,099 children, attended a day school. Of these, 1,824 went to Church of England schools, which he admitted were by far the most numerous and efficient, 795 went to nonconformist schools, 110 to Roman Catholic schools, 1,598 to private schools of some kind, and 772 to infants' schools. The average period of attendance of a working-class child at a day school was only two years. (fn. 42) The addition of new church schools between 1846 and 1870 provided a further 2,800 places, and there were also some new nonconformist schools. In 1871 there were 26 denominational schools in the borough, which sought government grants after the passing of the Education Act in the previous year and which were considered to give a good education. A further five schools sought no grant and six others were held to be totally unsuited to receive one. There were also 31 dame schools. A few years earlier only 13 of the borough schools were in receipt of government aid, including the Parochial Union school in Sparkenhoe Street, founded about 1850. This school seems to have taught a wider variety of subjects than the average school, and received a favourable report from Her Majesty's Inspector in 1853, when it had 27 boys and 50 girls in attendance. (fn. 43) Some of the schools known to have existed in Leicester before 1871 do not figure at all on the list of that year. There had been, for instance two schools in Gallowtree Gate and Osborn Street, supported by the Gallowtree Gate Independent chapel, (fn. 44) which are not mentioned, and there may have been others like them, with only a very short existence, which have left no mark in any record or printed sources.

In 1870 the first really satisfactory attendance figures are available, from the report on education by Samuel Stone, the Town Clerk. (fn. 45) The position as he estimated it is shown below (see table). Stone estimated from the figures of the 1861 census that there were 18,480 children in the borough between the ages of 3 and 13, or 14,400 between the ages of 5 and 13. About 3,000 more school places would therefore be needed to fulfil the requirements of the Forster Act, and it should be noted that the Board of Education were to consider that 6 of the existing schools were not giving decent education. The 1871 census estimated that the number of children between the ages of 3 and 13 was 16,337. The only wards in the borough with surplus school accommodation were East St. Mary's and St. Martin's.

Accommodation Attendance
23 Church schools 6,500 5,500 (fn. 93)
5 Schools under 'uncertified' teachers 2,900 2,525
2 Roman Catholic schools 475 362
4 Schools under 'uncertified' teachers 720 440
1 Ragged school 330 160
3 Workhouse schools 180
42 Dame schools 1,250
12,175 9,147

The Education Act of 1870 provided for the creation of school boards in places where the existing elementary education was held to be insufficient to cope with the needs of the population under the requirements of the new Act, and consequently a school board was created for the borough of Leicester. In the first ten years of its existence the board built nine new schools and a further sixteen were built between 1880 and 1903. Ideas were formulated as early as 1876 for the creation of a so-called Industrial School for children whose homes were held by the local authorities to be totally unsuitable, whose parents steadfastly refused to send them to school, or who were criminally inclined. The school was opened at Desford in 1881, where 200 boys could lead an active outdoor life and where they were educated so that they could be found employment or apprenticeship when they left. The experiment seems to have been a complete success. Later a hostel was set up in Leicester for old boys of the school who were working in the town but this was closed during the Second World War.

In 1882 the board schools were providing education for 11,507 children, as opposed to the 11,306 who were receiving their education at denominational schools. The report of the chairman in that year stated that each school place created by the board had cost a total of £8 19s. 7d., a low average compared with other towns in the country. Fees paid were 2d. a week, and an average of over 90 per cent. of passes in examinations had been recorded in reading, writing, and arithmetic during that year. The number of children in the board schools continued to rise steadily, and by 1903 there were 31,793 children in these schools as compared with 13,326 in the voluntary schools. Attendance figures also showed a steady improvement; 85 per cent. was reached in 1890 and by 1903 the figure was 93 per cent. in the upper departments and 89.6 per cent. in junior and infant departments. The board had had to contend with the usual amount of discontent with the idea of compulsory education in its early days, and there were a considerable number of prosecutions of parents who refused to send their children to school, and hid them at home to work.

In 1892 the School Board, with the co-operation of the Leicester Savings Bank, established savings groups in all its schools, a move which proved to be a great success. The development of the type of syllabus taught in the schools is interesting. The early schools taught the three R's and the usual English History and Geography. In 1890 elementary science for the boys and domestic economy for the girls were introduced, and cooking had been taught to the girls for some years before that. (fn. 46) Art and all kinds of handicrafts were taught from a fairly early date, and the introduction of the Froebel system of teaching infants came early to Leicester, owing to the efforts of Mrs. William Evans, the first woman to be appointed to the board. (fn. 47) In 1890 swimming was introduced, as an out-of-school sport. As early as 1885, nine years before it was made compulsory, Leicester was making provision for the education of the deaf and dumb, when a class was set up at the Board's school in Milton Street. In 1888 a second class was established at Elbow Lane school. Two years later, an experiment was made towards the education of the blind, when a class for blind children was formed, also at Elbow Lane, but this was not a success. In 1894 the whole of the school at Archdeacon Lane was given over to the education of the deaf and dumb, and three years later, some classes were started for mentally retarded children. They were given nine lessons each day, each lesson lasting for 15 minutes and mostly of a practical nature but the teachers were instructed to persevere with reading and writing. In 1903 the deaf school was transferred to a building in Short Street, hired from the Friends' Adult School. A more permanent school was later set up in Churchgate and in 1927 both blind and deaf children were sent from this school to the newly purchased 'Stoneleigh', a house in Stoneygate Road, where the present school (1955) for deaf and partially sighted children is situated. By the end of the First World War, there were classes for mentally defective children at the Willow Street and Elbow Lane schools, but in 1924 these children were moved to a new school at the house in Narborough Road, called St. Mary's Fields. In 1932 the school for educationally sub-normal children in Duxbury Road was opened and some of the children from St. Mary's Fields were transferred to it. A school for maladjusted children was opened in 1932 at the 'Manor House' in Haddenham Road. The Western Park open air school for delicate children was opened in 1930. Education for children who are physically handicapped and in hospital is provided at the Royal Infirmary, the General Hospital, and the Isolation Hospital.

In 1903, under the provisions of the Education Act of 1902, the School Board was disbanded and the Education Committee of the borough council set up. Administrative changes in the present century include the grouping of all elementary schools in the city carried out between 1921 and 1929, so that each school now (1955) caters for a particular age group of children. (fn. 48) Most of the mixed schools have been re-arranged so that boys attend one and girls another. New schools were erected in the suburbs as demands grew, although the need for new schools was very great after the Second World War. This need has been met energetically, although in 1955 more schools were still needed. Under the chairmanship (1906–37) of Sir Jonathan North the Education Committee between the wars worked especially to provide secondary education on a wider scale. Although 18 new elementary schools were provided between the wars, and a further five came under the control of the Education Committee by the County of Leicester Review Order of 1935, when the city's boundaries were extended, 11 others were closed, mainly in the centre of the town. By 1944 the Education Committee had to advise the town council that 5 infants' schools, 7 junior schools, and 5 secondary schools were 'obsolete and inadequate' and should either be replaced or completely rebuilt. (fn. 49) The emergency programme planned in 1944 called for the erection of 10 new schools as soon as possible and the improvement of others by rearrangement. Seventeen new schools were opened in 1945–55; some of these were new buildings for previously existing schools, but others were new foundations. The standard of the architecture and planning of new schools both before and after the war is very high, and these buildings are of great credit to the borough and the committee. In 1954 there were 57 schools giving elementary education at either junior or infant stage which were wholly maintained by the Education Committee. A further 8 schools were denominational and receive transitional aid from the committee, while three further denominational schools were controlled by the committee although keeping their denominational character. Four Roman Catholic schools were aided by the borough, and three of these were the only schools remaining in the borough which provided education for children of all ages. There were 30 secondary schools, many of which, although counted as separate schools, were branches of the same, since there were no mixed secondary schools in Leicester. One secondary school was denominational, transitionally aided by the committee. In addition to these, the committee was responsible for the 9 grammar schools in the borough. (fn. 50) The total number of pupils in the care of the Leicester Education Committee in 1952–3 was 30, 640 in primary schools and 13,459 at grammar and secondary schools. (fn. 51)

The Free Grammar School and the Wyggeston Hospital Boys' School

The earliest education in Leicester was provided by the Abbey of St. Mary in the Meadows, and a public grammar school probably existed in the town from the early 13th century. (fn. 52) The canons also maintained an almonry school, but by the 16th century it seems that both these schools had lapsed, the former from decay, aggravated by the dissolution of the abbey, the latter solely from that cause. The Free Grammar School was founded by Thomas Wigston, canon of the Newarke College, who died in 1537, and whose impulse to found such a school for the borough had perhaps been formed during his executorship of his brother William's will. (fn. 53) William Wigston, a pious and wealthy merchant, died little more than six months before Thomas and left one-third of his considerable income to be used for charitable works at the discretion of his executors. It seems clear that Thomas Wigston urged Agnes, William's widow, and their fellow executors to agree that some of William's money should go towards the payment of a schoolmaster and the permanent foundation of a school. Between 1545 and 1557 the school came into being and was endowed. It was already in existence when the town was visited, some time before 1550, by John Leland. (fn. 54) The lands purchased for the support of the school were conveyed to the master and brethren of Wyggeston's Hospital who were to be the controlling trustees, with power to appoint and dismiss the master, whose salary was to be £10 a year. Further land in Humberstone and Aylestone was purchased in 1558 for the support of a second master.

In 1564, after representations made by the corporation and probably by Henry, Earl of Huntingdon, the queen granted the yearly sum of £10 out of the revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster for the support of a schoolmaster to be appointed by the corporation, which thus had the option either to increase the stipend of Wigston's schoolmaster or to appoint a rival. (fn. 55) After a short period of ill feeling and vindictiveness between hospital, corporation, and school, things seem to have settled down. The hospital also at this time underwent serious reorganization at the hands of Huntingdon and was in no position to offer resistance. (fn. 56) The school was housed in the decayed church of St. Peter, but in 1573 the corporation decided to pull down the church and with the materials and proceeds of the sale of parts of it to erect a new building for the school on the old site. (fn. 57) These premises, used by the school for the next 300 years, still stand at the end of what is now called Free School Lane. (fn. 58) New statutes were drawn up, embodying ideas which may largely be ascribed to Huntingdon himself, and sealed in the form of an indenture between the earl, the corporation, and the hospital. (fn. 59) The master was now to receive £20 annually, the sum of the original figure provided for him in the endowment and the queen's gift. A syllabus and a rigorous time-table were drawn up. (fn. 60) School was to begin at 5 o'clock in the morning and there were relatively few holidays. The master and ushers were still nominally appointed by the hospital but in fact from this time onwards the mayor and corporation were 'the effective managers of the school'. They remained so until 1841, and during this period the school met with every possible change in fortune. There were no fewer than seventeen headmasters between 1617 and 1678 when, with the appointment of William Thomas, of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, the school settled down to a time of consolidation and prosperity. Thomas remained at the school for 34 years, although for the last eleven of these he held two Leicester livings, as well as his headmastership. In this period after the Restoration, the school was dominated by the High Tory corporation, and acquired a markedly Anglican complexion. The growing body of nonconformists in the town formed their own school at the Great Meeting, although for higher education boys whose parents were not of the Established Church continued to attend the grammar school until the next century. From 1739 to 1762, under the headmastership of Gerrard Andrewes, the school enjoyed its most successful and brilliant period, but after his death its decay was rapid and unchecked. Although the headmaster's salary had several times been increased by the corporation, satisfactory candidates for the post were hard to find. Another difficulty was the curriculum which by statute had to be taught, but whose classical bias was considered by many parents to be totally unsuited to the needs of the future citizens of an industrial town. Although for the first few years of the headmastership of the Revd. Richard Davies the school seemed as though it might revive, the violent political and religious struggles of the early 19th century entirely prevented this. When Davies came to the school in 1816 there were 14 free scholars and none of the private pupils whom the headmaster was allowed to take and who boarded with him. Although Davies raised the numbers to as many as 25 free scholars and 15 boarders in three years, the revival was only temporary and by the time that Davies died in 1841 there were no pupils and the Free Grammar School had ceased to exist.

Although plans were made as early as 1842 for the refounding of the school, they came to nothing; the old building was sold in 1860, (fn. 61) and boys on the foundation of the grammar school were sent to the new Collegiate School, (fn. 62) whose headmaster was allowed to draw a salary as headmaster of the grammar School. Mill Hill School received these boys after the Collegiate School closed down, and when Mill Hill closed the boys were sent to a new school in Trinity Lane. In 1877 13 free scholars were being educated under the old grammar school trust. In 1873, however, after a review of the resources of Wyggeston's Hospital, which had greatly increased in value during the centuries, it was decided in Chancery that the surplus could and should be used to found a new Wigston school. (fn. 63) In the same year the Wyggeston Hospital Boys' School was established, and given a grant of £2,000 yearly from the hospital funds.

In 1890 the Charity Commissioners merged the endowments of the old free school with the new foundation, which also provided funds for a girls' school. (fn. 64) The Revd. James Went was appointed the first headmaster, and for nearly 40 years he guided the school's fortunes. (fn. 65) New buildings were erected in High Cross Street, near the site of the old Wyggeston Hospital, and opened in 1877. (fn. 66) The school grew rapidly. On the first day in 1877 160 boys attended, (fn. 67) in 1893 there were 460, and when the school celebrated its jubilee in 1927 there were 978. (fn. 68) The school came under the control of the Education Committee of the borough council in 1909 and from that date the governors have been appointed by the committee. (fn. 69) In 1919 T. Fielding Johnson presented the school with about 30 acres of land, on the north side of Victoria Park, on which were buildings forming part of the temporary military hospital set up during the war. Although the premises were not exactly suited to the purposes of the school, the following two years saw the removal there of the whole establishment. A swimming bath was built in 1923 and in 1932 a new assembly hall was opened, part of a design for new buildings by James Miller which is as yet incomplete. (fn. 70) Further additions have, however, been made, including the erection in 1937 of the dining hall. There were 876 pupils at the school in 1952. The school is no longer supported by the endowment made by the hospital, but under a scheme of the Ministry of Education in November 1950, the £2,000 is still (1955) paid to the schools and is applied in special benefits for the pupils.

The Wyggeston Hospital Girls' School

The same scheme which refounded the Wyggeston Hospital Boys' School provided for a girls' school under the same foundation, under the management of five ladies, to act in co-operation with the governors. (fn. 71) There were to be 200 day scholars, and in most respects the curricula and general arrangements were to be the same as for the boys' school. New buildings were erected in Humberstone Gate, between Clarence Street and Hill Street. (fn. 72) The architect was Edward Burgess, who had designed schools for the local school board since its inception. The premises were opened in 1878, and Miss Ellen Leicester was appointed the first headmistress. There were four assistant mistresses and 150 pupils. The numbers of both staff and girls grew rapidly and there were 683 pupils in 1928, when the present building by Symington and Prince in Regent Road was opened. (fn. 73) The junior school had previously been housed in the former St. Mary's Vicarage in the Newarke, but the new building was designed to house all departments. There were 708 pupils in 1952.

Alderman Newton's Schools

In 1760, Alderman Gabriel Newton, a prominent and wealthy member of the corporation, with which he had been associated for rather more than fifty years, conveyed to the mayor and corporation of Leicester land in several places in the county for the foundation of schools in various English towns and villages. (fn. 74) The corporation was given the right of visitation in these schools, and in addition the remaining income from some land at Cadeby, which was to be devoted in the first instance to the proposed school at Northampton, was to be used for the apprenticing of boys of Anglican parentage in Leicester itself. By his will, proved in 1762, Newton left a sum of £3,250 to be invested by the corporation to found a school for the education and apprenticeship of 35 or more boys of indigent or necessitous Anglican parents in Leicester without regard to any particular parish. (fn. 75) The founder laid great stress in his will upon what was to be the spirit of the school for the next 75 years, and the will reveals 'plainly the influence of the political and ecclesiastical controversies of Newton's lifetime'. (fn. 76) The marked emphasis upon the Athanasian Creed which Newton held to be 'the compleatest body of divinity ever composed since the time of the apostles, and a full answer to all heretical objections to the doctrines and tenets of the Church of England,' (fn. 77) and upon music and the liturgy which he loved is reflected in the provision in his will that the boys were to attend church, were to be taught the psalms and to tone the responses during the service. Finally they were to be provided with suits of peacock green, and the name 'Greencoat School' survived until the original school was closed in 1884. Although the corporation had considerable difficulties in obtaining the money (legal conflicts continued for over forty years), by 1785 a school was opened with 35 boys, a schoolmaster, and a singing master, in the old Shambles near St. Nicholas's Church. A committee of the corporation was evolved for the administration of the foundation, a task which it accomplished with faithful attention to the wishes of the founder. By 1808 the legal difficulties had been overcome, as the corporation had been able to produce evidence of 40 years' occupation and use of the property in question. The number of pupils increased to 100. (fn. 78) When in 1835 it appeared clear that the passing of the Municipal Corporations Act would transfer power in Leicester from the highchurch Tories to the nonconformist Liberals, one of the main arguments produced by those who opposed the bill in the town was that it would be both dishonest and illegal for a school which had been founded upon such strict Anglican principles to be administered by dissenters. Although the school did in fact come under the control of the new corporation it maintained its prosperity for a considerable part of the century. Rebuilt in its old position near St. Nicholas's Church in 1808, the school moved in 1869 to a new building of perpendicular Gothic, by Goddard and Paget (fn. 79) in St. Martin's. Neither funds nor buildings proved sufficient for the growing number of applicants for admission and the school was closed in 1884. With the aid of the Charity Commissioners, the new school was planned in 1885 to be a higher grade elementary school and it was opened three years later. Under the headmastership of James Muston, rapid development in the higher forms towards increased specialization in scientific subjects took place. (fn. 80) The elementary department was closed in 1906, when the school came under the control of the Education Committee. It is now (1955) a grammar school, and the earlier bias towards scientific subjects was removed after Muston's retirement in 1923. In 1920 the school was moved to the former Wyggeston School buildings in High Cross Street and the foundation increased to provide for the foundation of a girls' school in the following year, when the girls' school was opened in the former boys' building in St. Martin's. Both schools were considerably enlarged in the following years, although there has been no signal increase in the numbers of pupils attending. There were 516 boys and 258 girls in 1924, as against 523 boys and 200 girls in 1952.

The City Boys' School (fn. 81)

The City Boys' School was opened in 1920, when the former Newarke school was divided, and was at first housed in the former Great Meeting school building in East Bond Street. In 1928 it moved to the buildings recently vacated by the Wyggeston Girls' School in Humberstone Gate, which have since been extended. There were 294 pupils in 1924 and 474 in 1952.

The Collegiate School and the Collegiate School for Girls

The serious alarm felt in the town during the 1830's at the decay of the Free Grammar School during the later days of the headmastership of Richard Davies led to the formation of a company to found a new school, the shareholders having the right to send their sons to it, in the proportion of one child for every share, up to a maximum of four. (fn. 82) The first general meeting of shareholders was held in 1835, and among the decisions as to future policy was one declaring that at least the headmaster and the second master should be members of the Church of England and graduates of either Oxford or Cambridge. In the same year the school was erected in College Street. This limiting clause meant that considerable alarm was felt by the extensive nonconformist element in the borough that the new school was not going to fulfil the need for an undenominational school, as it had at first promised to do. The plans went through, however, and in 1836 the Leicester and Leicestershire Collegiate School was opened. One hundred and six pupils attended on the first day, and the numbers seem to have remained constant as long as the school survived; in 1863 there were 100 including the grammar school boys (see above). By this date, although its early success had been great, the school was beginning to feel the effects of too hasty building, in that there was a heavy mortgage on the College Street buildings. In 1866 the headmaster resigned and the shareholders decided to close the school and leave the mortgagee to sell the property. The school building was later partly used as the Wycliffe Congregational Church. The name of the school has been continued in that of the Collegiate School for Girls, founded privately in 1866 and purchased from the then owner, the headmistress, in 1922 by the Education Committee. (fn. 83) This school is now a girls' grammar school, with an attendance of 385 in 1952, an increase of 40 on the figure in 1922. It was still partly housed in the former Collegiate School building in 1955.

The Gateway Schools

The Gateway School for Boys was established in 1928 by the Leicester Education Committee, for boys between the ages of 11 and 16, whose interests were not primarily academic. (fn. 84) Emphasis was therefore laid on education of a technical nature. The school was at first housed in Skeffington House and an adjoining building in the Newarke, but in 1939 it moved to new buildings in Fairfax Street, added on to the former St. Mary's Lodge or Home, built about 1770. There were 270 boys at the school when it opened in 1928. By 1935 there were 430 and in 1952 there were 613. In 1946 a parallel school for girls was formed out of the old Art Secondary School, in the latter's former buildings in Wigston Lane, and moved to the former High Cross secondary school buildings in Elbow Lane in 1954. (fn. 85)

The Newarke Girls' School (fn. 86)

The Newarke Girls' School was originally established as a mixed secondary school with premises in New arke Street. In 1919, after the retirement of the then headmaster, the Newarke school was converted into an all-girls' school, with 500 pupils. In 1932 the school was moved for a short time to the new premises recently built for the Gateway School in Fairfax Street, although retaining the Newarke Street building. In 1939 a new building was completed in Fosse Road South, and the move was able to take place just before the outbreak of the Second World War. There were 603 pupils in 1952.

The Proprietary School (fn. 87)

The alarm felt in nonconformist circles in Leicester about the foundation and limitations of the new Collegiate School in 1835 led to the foundation of a second and similar company in the same year. The school was opened in 1837 in a grand classical building by Joseph Hansom in the New Walk. It began with 128 boys, but the fees charged were too low for the venture to be a financial success. The company made a great loss even in its first year. Although the fees were increased, the school was trying to pay the headmaster a salary which it could not possibly afford, and it was unable to carry on for more than ten years. In 1847 Leicester Corporation bought back the site, which it had previously sold to the company, together with the school building; the latter is now the Leicester Museum.

Private Schools

Little information exists about the foundation of private schools. Some have already been noted under elementary and grammar school education, and any unendowed school which existed in Leicester during the 17th and early 18th centuries must of course have been privately owned and maintained. Until the 19th century there are no lists of private schools and it is difficult to form any accurate idea from the directories about the number which existed even late in the century. In the classified lists of inhabitants, some teachers seem to have been listed as individuals even when teaching in a school which had been founded by one of the societies. As far as can be judged, there were 48 private schools in Leicester in 1846, of which 15 took boarders. (fn. 88) In addition there were 21 teachers of music, languages, and dancing. In 1877 there were 57 private schools, and of these, the 31 dame schools which have already been noted as existing in 1871 probably formed a considerable proportion. (fn. 89) By the end of the First World War there were 35 private schools, and they are thereafter noted yearly in the reports of the Education Committee. (fn. 90) Of these, 20 were classed as elementary, 12 as 'Preparatory-Secondary', and the remaining 3 as secondary. There were about 2,000 pupils in attendance at these schools in all; the smallest, one of the nine owned and organized by one teacher, containing 13 pupils. The Education Committee inspected these schools from that date. There were only 19 such schools in the borough in 1953, (fn. 91) and of these only 6 were recognized by the Ministry of Education as giving efficient education. Two took boarders, including Stoneygate School, a preparatory school founded over 70 years earlier by G. B. Franklin, and still carried on by his descendants. (fn. 92)


  • 1. Inf. about the period 1870–1903, unless otherwise stated, is from the triennial reps. of the Leicester School Board and more especially from the final rep. of 1903 which summarized the work of the board throughout its existence. There is a complete set of these reps. at the offices of the Leic. Education Cttee. Inf. about the period from 1903, unless otherwise stated, is from the reps. of the Leic. Education Cttee., of which there is a complete set in the cttee.'s offices, and from a list of all schools under the control or care of the cttee., which was provided for the purposes of this article.
  • 2. See below, p. 332.
  • 3. Leic. Boro. Rec. 1603–88, 415.
  • 4. Ibid. 587.
  • 5. Nichols, Leics. i. 513; [Cox], Magna Britannia (1720), ii. 1393. The school maintained by a private gentlewoman, mentioned by Cox, was probably that founded by Stephenson and continued by his daughters. A document compiled 1705–23 mentions a public school (presumably the Free Grammar School) and two other schools in All Saints' parish. It also mentions a Sunday school for 24 boys in St. Margaret's parish, presumably the school in that parish mentioned in the text: Assoc. Archit. Soc. Rep. & Papers, xxii. 296–7.
  • 6. A. H. Thomas, Hist. of Gt. Meeting, 65 sqq.
  • 7. Ibid. 67.
  • 8. White, Dir. Leics. (1877), 318.
  • 9. E. Gittings, Cent. Bk. of Gt. Meeting Sunday Sch.
  • 10. A. T. Patterson, Radical Leic. 20.
  • 11. Leic. Jnl. 5 April 1788.
  • 12. Ibid. 28 Aug. 1786.
  • 13. Ibid. 6 May and 11 Jan. 1791.
  • 14. Ibid. 9 Nov. 1792.
  • 15. Ibid. 12 June 1795.
  • 16. Ibid. 10 July 1805.
  • 17. Ibid. 8 and 24 May 1811.
  • 18. Ibid. 12 Nov. 1813; 12 Nov. 1819.
  • 19. H. Ranger, Cent. of Work for the Young, 15.
  • 20. Now a hosiery warehouse: see ibid. 30–33. The architect was James Tait: Spencer, New Guide to Leic. (1888), 107.
  • 21. Rep. Condition of Framework Knitters [609], H.C. (1845), xv.
  • 22. 32nd Rep. Com. Char. Pt. 5 [163], pp. 114–15, H.C. (1839), xv; Nichols, Leics. i. 514.
  • 23. Leic. Jnl. 22 April 1791.
  • 24. White, Dir. Leics. (1846), 100.
  • 25. Ibid. (1877), 317; for the figures see R. Gunnis, Dict. Brit. Sculptors, 1660–1851, 106.
  • 26. White, Dir. Leics. (1846), 100.
  • 27. 32nd Rep. Com. Char. Pt. 5, 112; Nichols, Leics. i. 514.
  • 28. Leic. Jnl. 12 June 1812.
  • 29. White, Dir. Leics. (1846), 100.
  • 30. Ibid. (1877), 317.
  • 31. Leic. Jnl. 20 Sept. 1821.
  • 32. 32nd Rep. Com. Char. Pt. 5, 107–8.
  • 33. Leic. Jnl. 28 Sept. 1821.
  • 34. White, Dir. Leics. (1877), 316.
  • 35. Ibid. (1846), 99.
  • 36. Leic. Jnl. 27 April 1810.
  • 37. Ibid.
  • 38. Ibid. 1 July 1814.
  • 39. White, Dir. Leics. (1877), 316; A. Fielding Johnson, Glimpses of Anc. Leic. (2nd ed. 1906), 386; T. Combe & Son, Dir. Leic. (1826), p. xxii.
  • 40. Patterson, Radical Leic. 161.
  • 41. Ibid.
  • 42. Ibid. 371–2.
  • 43. Mins. Cttee. of Council on Education; Schools of Parochial Unions in Eng. and Wales [1841], pp. 84–85 (1854), li.
  • 44. White, Dir. Leics. (1846), 100; Fielding Johnson, Glimpses of Anc. Leic. 386.
  • 45. S. Stone, Rep. on Elementary Education Act, 16–17.
  • 46. Leic. Sch. Bd. Instructions to Managers and Regulations (1897) includes a section on subjects taught.
  • 47. F. E. Skillington, Plain Man's Hist. of Leic. 111– 12.
  • 48. Leic. Education Cttee., Rep. on Grouping of Elementary Schools, 1921–9.
  • 49. Leic. Education Cttee., Rep. on Post-War development of Education.
  • 50. In 1955 a proposal to set up a comprehensive school on the New Parks estate aroused much criticism and no decision about the future had been made by Nov. 1955.
  • 51. Leic. Finances (1952–3), 17.
  • 52. M. C. Cross, Free Grammar Sch. of Leic. 5.
  • 53. Ibid. 7. Much of the following is also taken from this source.
  • 54. Leland, Itin. ed. Toulmin Smith, i. 16.
  • 55. 32nd Rep. Com. Char. Pt. 5, 2–3.
  • 56. See below, pp. 400–1.
  • 57. See below, p. 388.
  • 58. The building is of rubble, in 5 bays. It has a tiled roof with 5 dormer windows and there are 4 mullioned windows below. There were originally 6 bays, but one was demolished when Free School Lane was widened. The building is now a carpet warehouse. See plate facing p. 393.
  • 59. Leic. City Mun. Room, 3D42/91, printed in Cross, Free Grammar Sch. 15–20.
  • 60. Reconstructed in Cross, Free Grammar Sch. 26–27.
  • 61. White, Dir. Leics. (1877), 316.
  • 62. Ibid. 315–16; for the Coll. Sch. see below, p. 334.
  • 63. G. Cowie, Hist. of Wyggeston's Hosp. 63–66.
  • 64. Ibid. 103–4. One of the most important parts of the endowment was the Hayne bequest of 1640; Cross, Free Grammar Sch. 24–25.
  • 65. Wyggeston Grammar Sch. Jubilee 1927, 43–45.
  • 66. Cowie, Wyggeston's Hosp. 72.
  • 67. Ibid. 74.
  • 68. Wyggeston Grammar Sch. Jubilee, 43.
  • 69. Ibid. 42; further inf. from same source and from reps. of Leic. Education Cttee.
  • 70. Leic. Mercury, 25 Nov. 1930.
  • 71. Cowie, Wyggeston's Hosp. 66–67.
  • 72. Ibid. 75–76.
  • 73. Leic. Mercury, 12 Sept. 1928.
  • 74. R. W. Greaves, Origins and Early Hist. of Alderman Newton's Foundation, 16.
  • 75. Ibid. 17.
  • 76. Ibid.
  • 77. Ibid. 18; further inf. from same source.
  • 78. Patterson, Radical Leic. 20.
  • 79. R. Read, Modern Leic. 54–55.
  • 80. Greaves, Newton's Foundation, 33–34.
  • 81. Reps. of Leic. Education Cttee.
  • 82. C. J. Billson, Leic. Memoirs, 82 sqq.
  • 83. Reps. of Leic. Education Cttee.
  • 84. Ex inf. Leic. Education Cttee.
  • 85. Reps. of Leic. Education Cttee.
  • 86. Ibid.
  • 87. Billson, Leic. Memoirs, 88 sqq.
  • 88. White, Dir. Leics. (1846), 169, 195.
  • 89. Ibid. (1877), 842–3.
  • 90. Rep. Leic. Education Cttee. (1919–23), 19.
  • 91. Ex inf. Leic. Education Cttee.
  • 92. T.L.A.S. xviii. 3, 28–30.
  • 93. A further 850 places to be provided 'shortly'.