St Paul's Cathedral School (London)

St Paul's Cathedral School (London)

Infobox UK school
name = St Paul's Cathedral School

dms =
motto = "Fide Et Literis"
(Latin: "By Faith and By Learning")
motto_pl = "Schola Sancti Pauli"
(Latin: "School of St Paul's")
established = 1123
approx =
closed =
c_approx =
type = Independent School
religion =
president =
head_label = Headmaster
head = Mr Andrew Dobbin
r_head_label =
r_head =
chair_label = Bursar
chair = Mrs Nicola Lovell
founder =
founder_pl =
specialist =
street = 2 New Change
city = City of London
county = London
country = ENG
postcode = EC4M 9AD
LEA = Corporation of London
ofsted =
staff = c.40
enrollment = c.240
gender = Boys
lower_age = 4
upper_age = 13
houses =
colours = Burgundy and White
color box|Maroon color box|White
publication =
free_label_1 = Former pupils
free_1 = Old Paulcathes
website =
website_name =
St Paul's Cathedral School is a co-educational school for children aged 4-13 and a boarding school for boy choristers from 7-13 years. It is governed by the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's Cathedral. Originally solely a choir school, it expanded to accept day boys in 1989. In 1998 the co-educational pre-prep department was opened and the school became fully co-educational in 2001.


St Paul’s Cathedral School has existed for over nine hundred years; it has been on its present site for a mere forty. Now a co-educational school for two hundred and forty pupils from four to thirteen, it was originally founded for only eight boys, educated free in exchange for singing the daily office in the cathedral.

The school was almost certainly founded in the seventh century at the same time as the Diocese of London. However, nothing is known about it until the twelfth century when Richard de Belmeis, Bishop of London refounded it for the choristers. Their house stood almost on the site of the Carter Lane School. St Paul’s seems to have been the earliest cathedral to house its choristers instead of boarding them out with canons. The boys were in the charge of the almoner who, as well as looking after them, was responsible for their education.

The fourteenth century

In 1315 William of Tolleshunt was made almoner and was given a house near St Paul’s by Bishop Richard of Newport to accommodate the choristers. William of Tolleshunt died in 1329 and left a shilling to each of the senior choristers and 6 pence to each of the juniors. He also left £1, six shillings and eight pence to provide them with shoes in return for singing twice daily the psalm De Profundis, the Lord’s Prayer and Ave Maria for his soul. Later in the fourteenth century the almoner records that if a clerk were not kept to teach the boys grammar they must go to St Paul’s school, the predecessor of Colet’s school, for their lessons. Gradually two schools emerged, the Choir School and the Grammar School. For many years they co-existed happily, the choristers graduating to the Grammar school to finish their education, until the latter was re-founded by Dean Colet in 1511 and became St Paul's School (London) which is now in Barnes and has only a tentative connection with the Cathedral. The grammar school at Barnes, St Paul's School (London), further extended to establish an independent girls school, St Paul's Girls' School, in 1904.

Choristers acting at court in the sixteenth century

Acting had always been a popular pastime with the choristers and at one time they petitioned the king to prohibit certain amateurs from acting their plays. They became such a favourite band of players that they were frequently asked to act at court. Dean Newell instructed the master of the choristers, Thomas Gyles, to teach his boys writing, music and the catechism, and send them to St Paul’s school to learn grammar and read good books.

The seventeenth century

There is a small oil painting depicting Bishop King of London preaching to James the First and his queen at Paul’s Cross in 1620, and in the background are twelve little white blobs, the choristers! Acting came to an end in 1626 as there had been instances of the kidnapping of boys to other groups of players. Also it was thought to be inconsistent with their religious duties.

The Civil War

The time of the Civil War was much the same for St Paul’s as in every cathedral city in the land; the usual destruction took place and in the words of Cromwell’s Commissioners:

"Those servants of the church whose duty it had been to perform the most solemn services should find some employment less offensive to God than singing his praises".

The Restoration and the Great Fire of London

At the time of the Restoration it was with great difficulty that a sufficient number of suitable boys could be found to establish a new choral tradition. To add to the problem, the Great Fire of London in 1665 destroyed the cathedral and Colet’s school where the choristers had been educated during the war. But a fortunate appointment had been made in Dean John Barwick, himself a keen musician. He worked hard to restore order out of chaos and even managed to gather a choir of boys. Whether it was for those boys or for another group is uncertain, but an almonry was built about 1666 in Pardon Churchyard. It was very soon demolished for fire reasons, being so near to the cathedral.

Christopher Wren appointed as architect for the new St Paul'sAfter the Great Fire of London, Christopher Wren was selected as the architect of the new St Paul's, the previous building having been completely destroyed. Although the architect of many fine buildings, Wren is particularly known for his design for St Paul's which is the only Renaissance cathedral in England.

However, his ideas had initially met strong opposition but were finally accepted in 1675. Construction was completed in 1710 and today St Paul's is regarded as one of England's finest buildings. Michael Wise, celebrated church composer, became almoner and master of the boys in 1686 and John Blow, even more celebrated, one year later. In 1697 one Charles King held the appointment while Jonathan Battishill, later to become a "great" in church music, was one of his choristers. King was popular with the boys – apparently he never used the cane!

The eighteenth century

They all moved to a house in the parish of St Benet until Charles King's death in 1748. His successor was William Savage and the boys lived with him at Bakehouse Court until he was dismissed for misconduct. Meanwhile, Maurice Greene, former chorister and composer of much well known church music, had been appointed organist and remained until his death in 1755. William Savage was succeeded as almoner by John Bellamy, followed shortly after by John Sale who found that his allowance for the boys was totally inadequate. He asked the Dean and Chapter for a larger allowance but was refused. He had no alternative but to turn the boys out onto the streets.

Some went to their own homes but those who lived further away were virtually homeless. As long as they turned up for service and practice, for the rest of the 24 hours there was not a soul who cared where they were or what they were up to, and of course they were having no education at all.

The nineteenth century

Maria Hackett

In about 1811 Maria Hackett began her great work for choristers. After many letters to the bishop, the dean and other dignitaries, and about four years later, she saw her dream come true. Mr Hawes, a vicar choral was appointed almoner at an increased salary and the boys were sent to live with him at 27 Craven Street, Charing Cross.

Upheaval in the mid-nineteenth century

Some years later eight St Paul’s boys and ten "children of the Chapel" were living at 7 Adelphi Terrace. When Mr Hawes died in 1848 Archdeacon William Hale became almoner and the boys lived in his care in the Chapter House. Two years later the boarding school was abandoned and the choristers, of whom one was John Stainer, future organist of St Paul’s, were taught at 1 Amen Court, going to their homes at night. However in 1872 some boys were boarded in Amen Court and some in the Chapter House.

Expansion of the choir and laying the foundations at Carter Lane

This was an important year in the musical life of St Paul’s. Stainer became organist in succession to Sir John Goss. He gained permission to enlarge the choir to 40 boys and 18 men so this move required the building of a new choir school. In January 1874 the foundation stone of the new choir house in Carter Lane was laid and in a year’s time it was ready for occupation.

There is a true story which dates from this time. Two choristers who gave out the music discovered that they were short of copies so decided not to give any to Dean Church or Canon Liddon. Punishment followed but the boys, undeterred, went to Novello’s and ordered two expensive copies of a work which was also in short supply, and had them charged to the Dean and Chapter! What followed is unknown. Entry to the choir school at this time was quite demanding.

The written examination included catechism, religious history, reading, writing and Latin.

The Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria

In 1897 a chorister, E Girdlestone, describes the great gathering on the cathedral steps for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The choirs of St Paul’s, Westminster Abbey, St George’s Windsor and the Chapel Royal were lined up in the middle of the steps with Sir George Martin, organist of St Paul’s, facing them. There were two military bands and the voluntary choir at the back — 650 voices and 200 instruments. In the meantime a great procession passed by consisting of British and colonial troops 50,000 in number with 200 guns. These were followed by many red and gold carriages carrying a variety of royalty. After some time he saw helmets and swords glittering in the sunshine; it was the procession of the princes. There followed the eight cream ponies of the Queen, and finally the Queen herself.

When everyone was in their place Sir George Martin raised his baton for the Te Deum he had composed specially for the occasion. The service followed and at its end the Archbishop of Canterbury called for "three cheers for the Queen". The Princess of Wales then beckoned to the boys of the choir to come closer to her carriage and as Girdlestone put it, "a stampede followed". She gave them a bow and a smile which, said Girdlestone, they were able to return. As the procession was leaving, the archbishop summoned the boys to the front of the crowd so they might get a better view. Later they went up to the stone gallery and saw the searchlights playing on the dome which looked like a huge silver ball.

Further chorister reminiscences at the end of the nineteenth century

JA Bouquet was a chorister between 1885 and 1890 and he had a few memories of his time in the choir. He remembered the advent of the Oxford Movement at that time and how it gave new life and meaning to the services. He said that the choristers’ favourite canon was the precentor, Henry Scott Holland who was responsible for the revival of Bach’s music at St Paul’s. There were choristers’ outings then, as today, and Bouquet’s favourite was to Drury Lane to see Dan Leno, Marie Lloyd and Little Tich.

The twentieth century

In the 1930s the Carter Lane school was being modernised so choir practices had to be held in the cathedral crypt. At this time Mr Jessop Price became headmaster and it wasn’t long before academic standards rose significantly and the boys were winning scholarships to the major public schools.

The Second World War

At the outbreak of the Second World War the choristers were evacuated to Truro singing services in Truro Cathedral. The juniors were housed in Trewinnard Court, the boarding house of Truro Cathedral School, and the seniors were boarded out in the town. Dr John Dykes Bower, organist of St Paul’s and his assistant Dr Douglas Hopkins took it in turns to go down to Truro for a month at a time and in between, a month at St Paul’s where the lay clerks were singing the services. The choristers were brought up to London occasionally for a short spell when it was thought to be safe. Dr Dykes Bower was called up to the Royal Air Force just before the great fire bomb raid in the City – he had been appointed organist in 1936 from being organist at Durham Cathedral. He was a first class musician both as organist and choir trainer. When conducting he achieved miracles with the smallest amount of visible effort; someone once said his beat was like God "no beginning and no end"! He was known affectionately to his choristers as "Dickie-Boo". He was knighted in 1968 shortly after his retirement.

AG Frost, a chorister at this time, recorded his favourite works then. They were Parry’s I was glad, Brahms’ How lovely are thy dwellings fair and WH Harris’s Faire is the heaven (known to choristers as "fairies in heaven"). Equally he dreaded the Byrd masses and Thou art Peter by Palestrina ("Paddle steamer" to the boys because of the great effort needed).


The original school, which stood in St Paul's Churchyard, was destroyed with the Cathedral in the Great Fire of London in 1666. [ cite web|url= |title=The Great Fire of London, 1666 |accessdate=2008-04-27 |last=Jokinen |first=Anniina |date=2001-10-26 |publisher=Luminarium ] The school was twice rebuilt, first in 1670, and again in Cheapside in 1822.

A new school in New Change

In November 1965 the dean, the Very Reverend WR Matthews, laid the foundation stone of the new choir school in the New Change at the east end of the cathedral which cost in the region of £315,000. A modern purpose built structure was just what was needed. Sir John Dykes Bower retired in 1967 and was followed by Christopher Dearnley from Salisbury. The latter extended the repertoire considerably to include more modern works — he also introduced Haydn masses on Sundays accompanied by St Paul’s Chamber Orchestra. In May 1967 the new school was opened. Gone forever was the famous "crocodile" of boys crossing from Carter Lane to the cathedral at service time with the head chorister holding up the traffic. The Reverend JFH Llewelyn was now headmaster. He reduced the number of weekly sung services by four to allow more time for school work and recreation. More instruments were made available to the boys, and for the first time science was taught. Mr Derek Sutton was appointed headmaster in 1974 and at the retirement of Mr Harry Gabb the sub-organist, Mr Barry Rose from Guildford became master of the choir; he was responsible for the choir training and conducting at the wedding of The Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.

In the same year the death occurred of Sir John Dykes Bower and a fund in his name was opened. When in 1985 the money had reached a total of £1,511.75 discussions were held as to the best use of it, it was decided that it should be invested and that the income used to supplement grants to the choristers for instrumental tuition. A new laboratory was created in 1988 and the standard of science work became very high.


The school offers a broad curriculum leading to scholarship and Common Entrance examinations. The refurbished school facilities include modern class rooms, science laboratory, computer room, art room, music room and practice rooms, library, hall/gymnasium, common room and a TV/video room. All pupils are encouraged to play a musical instrument (most pupils play two) and there are two school orchestras. A wide variety of games is offered - pupils play field sports at local playing fields and have weekly swimming lessons. The children have their own playground and the use of the hall for indoor games and gymnastics. Located in a purpose built block at the eastern end of the Cathedral site in London's 'Square Mile', every opportunity is taken to make use of the school's proximity to museums, galleries, theatres and other attractions which London has to offer. The chorister boarders are housed on the same site and are fully integrated with the day children for all their academic studies and games. The stimulating cathedral choral training offers the chorister boarders a unique opportunity to participate in the rich musical life of St Paul's and the City. The pre-prep department has purpose designed classrooms and separate play areas.

Choir and Music

Inevitably, since it developed from being a choir school, St Paul’s Cathedral School has a very strong music department. Musical aptitude is not a pre-requisite for entry, however. Facilities for a school of its size are excellent. There are 14 individual teaching and practice rooms, a large music teaching room with keyboard and computer access, also used for ensembles, and the hall for orchestras.

The school’s Director of Music and the Music Administrator organise a large number of part-time instrumental teachers who visit the school regularly. Currently they teach about 320 lessons a week. Almost any instrument can be taught (there is an embargo on the bagpipes), including the harp. All pupils study music in form, most will learn at least one musical instrument (often two or three). The director of Music advises parents and pupils about the suitability of an instrument. Most sit the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music examinations. The school has had outstanding success in music scholarship to senior schools: thirty-seven in the last five years.

The school runs ensembles for strings, brass, wind and Jazz, three orchestras and three school choirs. Children perform at assemblies, at school concerts and around the City. The main school choir, the Bread Street Choir, sings at the Bank of England, before the Old Bailey judges at Christmas, and at several Livery Company halls. It also sings a termly evensong at St Mary Le Bow and in the Cathedral’s St Faith’s Chapel. There are form concerts for the Middle School in which every child performs. Most children in the Pre-Prep are learning an instrument by the time they reach Year 2. The, too, have regular informal concerts.

Organists and Directors of Music at St Paul's Cathedral (Past and Present)

* 1528 Bernad Sibsalem Fembesas
* 1530 John Redford
* 1549 Thomas Giles
* 1591 Thomas Morley
* 1622 John Tomkins
* 1624 Adrian Batten
* 1638 Aibertus Bryne
* 1687 Isaac Blackwell
* 1699 Jeremiah Clarke
* 1707 Richard Brind
* 1718 Maurice Greene
* 1756 John Jones
* 1796 Thomas Attwood
* 1838 John Goss
* 1872 John Stainer
* 1888 George Martin
* 1916 Charles Macpherson
* 1927 Stanley Marchant
* 1936 John Dykes Bower
* 1968 Christopher Dearnley
* 1990 John Scott
* 2004 Malcolm Archer
* 2007 Andrew Carwood

Notable former pupils

:"See also: "

External links

* [ St Paul's Cathedral School official website]
* [ St Paul's Cathedral Website official website]

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