One of my favourite Saturdays of the constituency year is when we visit Christ’s Hospital School for the annual chapel service, march-past and prize-giving.
When I first came back to Horsham nearly 20 years ago, the pupils in their long Tudor coats and yellow socks were a familiar sight around Horsham, but now they are in mufti when in the town itself.
It is still a delight to see the traditions of centuries combine with modern living on the school site, and the pupils embody good manners, lively intelligence and a real pride in their school with an appreciation of what it gives them.
Founded at the urging of the young Edward VI in 1552, as a response to Bishop Nicholas Ridley’s sermon about poor orphaned children, the school was brought about the Lord Mayor who mobilised 30 City of London merchants.
The King endowed it with some of his own assets, and links with the City Corporation persist to this day. It was one of three ‘hospitals’ founded at the same time; the others being St Thomas’ still today providing brilliant healthcare in the heart of London; and Bridewell Hospital, which now exists as King Edward’s School at Witley.
Christ’s Hospital received its second Royal Charter from Charles II in 1673 at the Royal Mathematical School, with a mandate to produce mathematicians and navigators for the Royal Navy.
For centuries it was located in the City next to the Old Bailey, until at the turn of the last century it relocated to its current magnificent campus, becoming - I think - the only school to have its own railway station. Speech Day is a splendid occasion, with The Lord Mayor and her magnificently apparelled entourage in attendance, reflecting the fantastic support that the City Corporation and Livery Companies still provide.
Christ’s Hospital is a genuinely unique school. It provides a first-class independent education for academically able pupils, most of whom do not pay full fees, and many of whom pay no fees at all.
There have been times when only a tiny proportion of its income has come from fees, the rest coming from its munificent philanthropic endowment. To be educated in such a marvellous school in a beautiful setting is a privilege that all ‘Old Blues’ appreciate. Not the least of the lessons is that a strong society is one where the rich and powerful help the poor and vulnerable, and that we all depend on each other.
On that note, this is Volunteers’ Week, about which I shall say more next time. You can find out lots of facts and figures about our local area and how you might get involved here: http://volunteersweek.org