Skip to content ↓

25-33 Bow Road, London, E3 2AE0208 981 1131

School History

Central Foundation Girls’ School is one of the oldest schools in London and has its roots in the City of London.

In 1697 a small Charity School for 20 boys was set up in the parish of St. Botolph’s, London. It was to be financially supported by the churchgoers of the parish of St. Botolph without Bishopsgate. By 1715 there were 30 boys and 6 girls in the school, who were to be educated and ‘cloathed’ by the charity of the church. 

In 1726 The Bishopsgate Ward School was established and set up in the Artillery Lane premises ‘for the teaching and instructing such a certain number of poor and indigent boys and girls to read or write’.

In 1803 Sir William Rawlins, Sheriff of London and Churchwarden of St. Botolph, became Treasurer of the Board of Trustees. Determined to expand the now flourishing school, Rawlins, through profitable investment was able to build a new Schoolhouse in Peter Street at a cost of £2800 to accommodate 350 pupils. This schoolhouse opened in 1821. Statues of the Ward School Boy and Girl were made and set up – at a cost of £15 each – to mark the occasion, and are still to be seen in the Churchyard of St. Botolph (near Liverpool Street Station).

The Schools were now under the control of a Committee consisting of the Alderman, the Clergy, Deputy and Common Council of the Ward, Life Governors, the Treasurer and 12 Subscribers of One Guinea and upwards per annum. A new statement of aims was laid down for the new school:

The design of the Bishopsgate Ward Schools is to train up the poor children of the Ward in the knowledge and practice of the Christian Religion as it is professed and taught in the Church of England; to give them such useful learning as is suited to their condition, and to form in them such principles and habits as may qualify them to do their duty in the state of life to which it has pleased God to call them.

In 1863 The Reverend William Rogers became Rector of St. Botolph. Within three years of his arrival he had waived the demand for baptismal certificate for non-charity children, thus making it possible for children from other denominations to attend the School. He altered the Charity School garb to something less conspicuously ‘charity’ and the Boys’ School curriculum at least, had grown from the 3-Rs and Religious Knowledge to include English Grammar, Composition, Letter-Writing, History, Geography, Book-keeping, Drawing, Vocal Music, and a School Band which played weekly in St. Botolph’s Churchyard. There was also a circulating library from which senior scholars could borrow one book per week for home reading.

The coming of the Great Eastern Railway into the second precinct of the City made it necessary to move the School from Peter Street. The money paid by the Great Eastern Railway secured a new site for the School on the west side of Bishopsgate and on the very edge of the new railway line, with a frontage to Primrose Street and to Skinner Street. There, a great block of buildings was erected including a school for hundreds of children, a parish hall and a new parsonage. In 1873 the School moved into the new buildings and was joined by St. Ethelburga’s Society School (a poor Charity School situated at that time in Wormwood Street and faced with the alternative of extinction or absorption) chose amalgamation with the Bishopsgate Ward School.

By 1887 the Great Western Railway once again needed land to expand and, after a two-year court case, the Skinner Street School site was allocated to them. In 1889 the Boys’ School had to close and the boys and staff were transferred to Roger’s Middle Class School in Cowper Street and the Girls’ School found temporary accommodation in Whitfield’s Tabernacle in Tabernacle Street.

In 1891 the Central Foundation Schools of London came into existence incorporating the Bishopsgate Upper Girls’ School and the Middle-Class Corporation Boys’ School in Cowper Street.

In 1892 the new school in Spital Square was opened by the first Chairman of the Foundation Schools, Lord Goschen (ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer).

The charitable nature of the original Schools was maintained by the education of 30 Boys and 20 Girls - called Alleyn Scholars – who were exempt from fees, half of these being children who already had two years elementary education. There were also a small number of half-fee paying Foundation Scholars and in 1900 there were 16 L.C.C. free scholars in the Boys’ School.

Any free pupils in need were given a Maintenance Allowance of not more than £10 p.a. Not more than 200 boys and 100 girls (that is one in five) could be accepted as free Scholars at the School at any one time.

There were also to be no religious restrictions: every child was equally entitled to any endowments from whatever source. The Schools were also particularly interested in training new teachers. Special provisions were to be made to enable older girls intending to qualify for elementary teaching to spend part of their time as pupil teachers in neighbouring schools.

When the School Board for London ended in 1903, the School became an ‘Aided’ School under the London County Council and received the usual Government Grant for secondary schools. The pattern of teaching seems to have been uncommonly progressive – it certainly drew many visitors both from this country and abroad.

During World War 2, the School was evacuated to Ely and became dependent upon the good will of the local schools for their academic hospitality.

In September 1943 the School officially returned to Spital Square. Under the 1944 Education Act the School became a Voluntary Aided Grammar School and fees were abolished entirely.

In 1975 Central Foundation Girls’ Grammar School moved from its site in Spital Square to Bow taking over the Coborn Girls’ Grammar School and the Coopers’ Boys Grammar School buildings (as both these schools were moving out to Havering).

In September 1997 Central Foundation Girls School was on two sites. The College Terrace site [which had been Coopers’ School] housed Year 11, 12 and 13, and the Harley Grove site [which had been Coborn School] housed Years 7, 8, 9 and 10.

In 2013 the school acquired 47 Bow Road and its Sixth Form (Years 12 – 13) has moved from College Terrace to a new permanent home. The school is now on one site.

HISTORICAL ARCHIVES

A significant part of school archive is housed in our library on the Harley Grove site. This includes written resources, photographs and artefacts that span the years since the founding of the School in 1726.

In 1987, the Central Library on Bancroft Road, was converted into an archive strong-room to meet the standards required for the preservation of records. The Trustees of the Central Foundation Schools of London agreed to transfer a considerable part of the CFGS archive collection to this new home to be preserved for posterity and made available to those interested in educational history.

This transfer was on an “indefinite loan” basis. The legal ownership of the Archive remains with the Foundation. Copies of the catalogue detailing artifacts and papers housed at Bancroft Road are held at Central Foundation Girls’ School. For copies of this catalogue please email Michelle Terrell, the Library Manager, mterrell@central.towerhamlets.sch.uk