Chester – A History of The Kings School Chester
The King’s School has a proud history which forms the bedrock of the current modern, dynamic school. The school was founded in 1541 by by King Henry VIII following the dissolution of St Werburgh’s Abbey, which became Chester Cathedral. The statutes provided that there should be “24 poor and friendless boys between the ages of 9 and 15”. The School was housed in the former Monastic Refectory for most of its the next 400 years until 1869. The school was variously called “The Free School” and “The Grammar School”. It was not known as The King’s School until the mid 19th century when it was referred to as the “Grammar School or King Henry VIII”. Dedicated school buildings were opened by Gladstone in 1876 adjoining the North West corner of the Cathedral. We celebrate this history with a cathedral service every term and continue to have strong links with the Cathedral.
From the late 19th to early 20th century, the school ran a Boarding House under the charge of one of the masters. In 1885, this was located at 98 Watergate Flags, but later moved to Eaton Road. By 1911, the governors had acquired new premises at Arnold House, Walpole Street, which became the Junior School and school boarding house. The latter was closed in 1931 due to the lack of pupils wishing to board.
During the Great War, games sessions were replaced by military training. A Cadet Corps was founded in 1916, and shooting practice took place every day of the week. Rough grass land at Arnold House was dug and planted with potatoes, whilst senior boys assisted with the hay harvests and with the national re-afforestation programme.
The inter-war years saw the arrival of typewriters, the installation of electricity in 1922, a telephone exchange and new tuck shop. Major changes became necessary during the Second World War. Parts of the Cathedral were adapted as air raid shelters, whilst some of the playing fields were ploughed up and used to produce crops. Pupils contributed towards the war effort in many ways; helping out on local farms, collecting scrap metal, and training as First Aid workers.
As pupil numbers rose during the 1940s, The King’s School took over part of the former Bluecoat School buildings on Upper Northgate Street. By the early 1950s, a 999 year lease had been secured with the Eaton Estate for the current 32 acre site on Wrexham Road on the outskirts of the city. Designing the buildings started in 1956, and in 1960 the whole school moved to the new site, and the royal connection continued when the school was opened by Her Majesty The Queen Mother. Further building extensions, including a sixth form centre and sports hall, were subsequently opened by HRH Princess Margaret in 1989.
In recent years, the school has further developed with Co-educational 6th Form in 1998 and full co-education for the whole school in 2003.