History

A History of Care and Education, “a place to lodge Christ in”.

To understand King Edward’s raison d’être, it is important to take a moment to reflect on the School’s rich and Royal history and strong links to the City of London.

A Christian vision, a Tudor palace and a boy King (Edward VI) each feature in the creation of our distinctive School, its values and vision.  Our Founder, Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London, knew that education can transform lives and that today’s children are tomorrow’s future. In 1553 Ridley persuaded the boy King, King Edward VI, to hand over Bridewell Palace to house, care and educate the under-privileged and destitute – ‘a place to lodge Christ in’. The establishment was known as The Bridewell Royal Hospital.  Financial support came from the services industry; the corporation’s structure included the Lord Mayor, the Court of Aldermen, the Court of Common Council, the Freemen and Livery companies of the City. The investment in Bridewell enabled its boys and girls to receive a basic classroom education and develop a trade, such as ironmongery, gardening, sewing, and working as a Matron.

In May 1860, with some closures of the Bridewell buildings the Governors decided to rename The Bridewell Royal Hospital to King Edward’s School, honouring King Edward’s Charter and reflecting more closely its purpose as an education institution. In 1867 the School moved to its current 100-acre site in Witley. The easy access via the London and South Western Railway’s station at Witley would facilitate continued strong links with the Lord Mayor and the City of London Corporation. The fresh country air was deemed healthier for the children, and the extensive grounds afforded space for more classrooms and bigger, better and more varied workshops, for example in 1888 a Carpenter Shop was opened on the South Side. Today, the work of the then pupils can be admired in our School Chapel.

During World War II the School was requisitioned by the Admiralty Signals Establishment, renamed HMS Mercury, and used for top secret war work to develop naval radar. It has been said that ‘the Battle of the Atlantic was won on the playing fields of Witley’.

Post war, the School returned to Witley in 1949 and has gone from strength to strength as a flourishing co-educational boarding and day school. The School is proud to maintain its royal links and is honoured to have had Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother as President of the Bridewell Foundation. Since 2006 we have been privileged to have HRH Duchess of Gloucester as our President, taking over the from Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother.

Tradition is greatly valued at King Edward’s and close links with the City remain through the Court of Governors. The Lord Mayor attends our annual Service of Thanksgiving at St. Bride’s Church and Admissions Day, while pupils participate in a range of events and activities associated with the City of London, perpetuating the links of our historical roots.

Over time the facilities and staff provided by the charitable foundation for a few scholars could profitably be extended to paying pupils. The School has evolved to become an independent boarding and day school for girls and boys aged 11 to 18, both local and international. The City links, that have continued for over four centuries, have guaranteed the vision of Nicholas Ridley and King Edward VI lives on in our pupil bursary provision.  Talented young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, who, through no fault of their own, cannot thrive educationally in their home environment are provided a first class, free or supported education at King Edward’s. These children can grow and learn in a wonderful school environment of care, challenge and opportunity, one set up so that they can go on to achieve everything in life which they are capable of.  These children live and study alongside pupils from all walks of life and corners of the world, and both benefit from the breadth of socio-economic and well as international diversity.

King Edward’s remains a Christian school but welcomes all cultures and religions and those of no faith. Our beautiful Chapel, which sits in the School grounds, is the centre of our spiritual life, and where our community meet every week.  All our pupils benefit from living in a community reflecting a wide-range of socio-economic families, a breadth of academic and co-curricular ability and a diversity of global cultures and religions. The Christian and traditional values, beautiful surroundings, extensive facilities and wide-ranging academic, cultural and sporting opportunities are all important. But what matters most is the quality of relationships and an integrity which exist in a happy, caring, stimulating community, where everyone is dedicated to bringing out the very best in those for whom they are responsible, whatever their background or ability.

The Bridewell Foundation

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