Nestling almost unnoticed amongst the building frenzy of modern Victoria, is a beautiful 17th century building, said to have been built by none other than London’s most eminent architect of the time, Sr Christopher Wren and known locally as Blewcoat school.
Blewcoat Schools were charity schools for the children of poor families, set up to teach them reading, writing and religion and also to help them learn a trade.
At the time education was generally only available to the wealthy and privileged, but 20 boys from the local parish were educated free here alongside fee paying boys. The boys were clothed in a long blue coat uniform (hence the school name) because blue dye was the cheapest in use at the time. Their stockings were apparently soaked in saffron to stop the children’s ankles being bit by rats! From 1714 girls were also allowed in the school too.
The building continued as a school until 1954 when it was acquired by the National Trust as a Grade Listed 1 building and opened to the public. Nowadays it is used by a local designer who was granted permission to refurbish the interior to house his clothing collections.
I love this building and what it represents. It stands so serene and calm, seemingly untroubled by its newer brash neighbours. With its combination of red and yellow rubbed brick façade, its Doric pilasters rising up at each corner, and elegant stone doorway, it’s a poignant reminder of when children’s education was a privilege, not a right.