The Bluecoat School - Nottingham

The Bluecoat window of St Peter's Church, NottinghamThe Bluecoat School was founded in 1706 by Timothy Fenton, rector of St Peter's Church (1705-21), and the incumbents of the two other Nottingham parishes, St Mary's and St Nicholas'. It was Nottingham's first elementary school which educated both sexes free of charge. It took its name from the blue uniforms provided for the pupils from 1725 (before this date the clothes were grey in colour).

The movement to set up charity schools began in the late seventeenth century as an attempt to combat crime and un-Christian behaviour. It sought to provide schooling for the children of the poor in "pious instruction and education in the knowledge and practice of true religion". The school was funded by voluntary subscription. After an initial meeting on 27 February 1706 to gain subscribers to the venture, the school opened on 1 May 1707, possibly in a house loaned for the purpose in St Mary's Gate. The Nottingham Charity School undertook to clothe and teach forty children (25 male and 15 female) aged between 7 and 14, and apprentice them when their education was completed. In selecting pupils, the Trustees gave preference to orphans and those from large families. The children of those receiving poor relief were not eligible.

In 1723 the school moved to its first permanent location on High Pavement in a handsome building opposite Garners Hill. The school moved again in 1853 to a building on the west side of Mansfield Road (near the junction with Woodborough Road), which is now the International Community Centre. The School is now located in far larger premises on Aspley Lane, which were opened in 1967. The new Post-16 Centre was opened in February 1997.

From the beginning of the Bluecoat School, the incumbents of St Peter's, St Mary's and St Nicholas' parishes have acted as members of the Board of Trustees. The connection with St Peter's is commemorated in the "Bluecoat Window" at the west end of the wall of the north aisle, inserted into the existing tracery in 1964.

There is also a brass near the side altar commemorating John Curtin, who was Master of the School from 1862 until his death in 1908. For thirteen years he was also churchwarden at St Peter's. He was born in 1833 in Hull, and received his training at Kneller Hall under Frederick Temple (later Archbishop of Canterbury). He was a very gifted man culturally with a deep sense of spirituality - he was held in high esteem by the scholars and the school prospered during the 46 years that he was in charge. It is said that he was a little man, and that one day he was challenged by a boy bigger than himself. There was a fight at the front of the class, which ended in the Master sitting astride the boy's chest!

The east window of the south aisle commemorates Joseph Braithwaite (1798-1880), who work closely with Robert White Almond, rector of St Peter's, in restoring the fortunes of the Bluecoat School in the nineteenth century. Even today "Braithwaite Bibles" are given to new pupils, and the school has a Braithwaite House.

St Peter's History Group
St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 19th March 1998