Chetham's School of Music

Chetham's School of Music
Chetham's School of Music
Baronial Hall Chetham's.jpg

The main courtyard
Motto Love to live to play
Established 1969
Type Independent school
Head Claire Hickman
Deputy Head Chris Newman (curriculum)
Carolyn Rhind (pastoral)
Chairman of Governors Dame Sandra Burslem
Specialism Music
Location Long Millgate
Greater Manchester
M3 1SB
Local authority Manchester
DfE URN 105588
Students 295
Gender Mixed
Ages 8–18
Houses Victoria, Boys, Girls
Colours Orange

Chetham's School of Music (pronounced /ˈtʃiːtəmz/), familiarly known as "Chets",[1] is a specialist independent co-educational music school, situated in Manchester city centre, in North West England. It was established in 1969, incorporating Chetham's Hospital School, founded as a charity school by Humphrey Chetham in 1653. After becoming a boys' grammar school in 1952, the school turned to music as its specialism, and became an independent school. There are approximately 290 pupils on roll, making it the largest music school in the United Kingdom.[1] The oldest parts of the school date to the 1420s, when the building was constructed as a residence for priests of the church now Manchester Cathedral; these parts are listed buildings, along with other parts of the complex. The site houses Chetham's Library, the oldest free public reference library in the United Kingdom.[2] A new building to replace the Victorian Palatine building and allow easier access for visitors is due to be completed in 2012.

Chetham's educates students between the ages of 8 and 18. Although admission is based solely on an audition to demonstrate musical potential and talent, the school regularly obtains good exam results. It maintains links to the cathedral by educating its choristers and holding regular concerts, and many Chetham's students have become professional musicians. Its ensembles, such as the Big Band and Symphony Orchestra, and many students have won awards for their music.




The school is built on the site of Manchester Castle, a fortified manor house owned by the Grelleys after the Norman Conquest, at the confluence of the River Irwell and the River Irk.[3] Medieval Manchester grew around the manor house and the parish church, which eventually became Manchester Cathedral.[4]

In the early 14th century, the de la Warre family acquired the land through marriage. Thomas de la Warre refounded the church as a collegiate church in 1421.[5] De la Warre gave the site of his manor house for the construction of a college,[6] where eight priests, four clerks and six lay choristers lived in the care of a warden.[7] It is likely that building began between 1424 and 1429,[8] and the main hall and cloister rooms finished by 1458.[9] It remains the most complete building of its kind in the country,[4] and at the time of its construction, was the second largest building in Manchester, surpassed only by the church.[8]

The college was dissolved during the English Reformation in 1547, and purchased by Edward Stanley, 3rd Earl of Derby.[10] It was re-founded by Queen Mary, before Elizabeth I refounded it as "Christ's College" in 1578. This arrangement lasted until the foundation of Manchester Cathedral in 1847.[11] The college buildings remained the property of the Stanleys, and wardens (including the Elizabethan astronomer and mathematician John Dee) lived on the premises with their families and servants.[12] During the English Civil War, the college was used as a gunpowder factory and a prison. Lord James Stanley, a Royalist, was executed in 1651, and Parliament confiscated his property, including the college.[13]

Humphrey Chetham

Chetham, by an unknown artist, painted after his death

Humphrey Chetham (1580–1653) was an unmarried and childless financier, philanthropist and cloth merchant from Manchester. In the 1640s, he provided money for the maintenance and education of fourteen poor boys from Manchester, six from Salford, and two from Droylsden.[14] In March 1649 he wrote to the Earl of Derby about his intention to establish a school. He attempted unsuccessfully to acquire the buildings of the Manchester College, which were "spoyld and ruin'd and become like a dunghill", to provide a hospital, school and library.[14][15] In his will, Chetham left over £8,000 from his estate (which was worth about £14,000 in total) to establish a hospital school for 40 poor local boys, between the ages of six and ten from "honest" families, who should be taught and cared for until they were 14.[16][17][16] His executors obtained the lease of the college where Chetham wished to house the school and library in 1654.[18]

Charity school

After repairs to the college were completed in mid-1656, the first admissions were made.[19] The first headmaster, Richard Dutton, was appointed in 1655,[20] and in 1665 the institution became an incorporated charity.[21] The number of pupils grew, with admissions rising to 100 by the 1870s.[22] Boys were admitted based on the parish they lived in, and on need, health and background of the family. Illegitimate boys were not admitted, and all boys had to be able to read to a certain standard that meant they were not hard to teach.[23] In 1878, a new schoolroom designed by architect Alfred Waterhouse (who designed Manchester Town Hall) was built in a Tudor style.[24] The number of boys admitted was reduced to 75 in 1908 to save money, though three years later admissions increased to 99. In 1916, no boys were admitted due to lack of funding caused by World War I, and in 1918 the number was limited to 70. Successful public appeals resulted in the numbers rising to 97 in 1929. In 1926 a scheme was set up which allowed boys to apply for scholarships to join a grammar school,[25] which meant that while they lived at Chetham's, they were educated elsewhere during the day. Further, they would stay at grammar school until at least the age of 16 and sometimes 18.[26]

World War II and aftermath: 1939 to 1952

During World War II, the boys were evacuated to the seaside town of Cleveleys, Lancashire, where they shared accommodation with a primary school. Chetham's was damaged by an explosion in December 1940, when most of the windows were shattered and the roof was set alight.[27] The boys relocated to Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, in 1943 where all 41 boys were together. Thirteen boys attending grammar school moved to Buxton College. By 1944 the governors believed that it would not be appropriate for the school to return to Manchester, and it was proposed the site become a religious education centre.[28] However, after years of discussion, it was decided to return the school to Manchester.[29] The Education Act 1944,[30] which stipulated that schools should be classified as primary or secondary, complicated matters, since Chetham's went across the middle.[31] It was decided in 1950 that Chetham's should become a grammar school, and this change took place two years later.[29] In 1950, Chetham's amalgamated with Nicholls' Hospital School,[32] a similar school based in Ardwick which had been established in 1863. While it could take up to 100 boys, by the end of the war there were only 22 and it was considered beneficial for the schools to merge.[33]

Later history: since 1952

Millgate building, parallel to Long Millgate, is the former Manchester Grammar School, and became part of Chetham's in 1978. It currently accommodates most of the teaching space, and is a Grade II listed building.

After the change in organisation, Chetham's could no longer afford to provide education based on scholarships and other allowances, and charged fees.[32] In 1952, the school buildings were considered insufficient so a new block was built, which opened in 1955.[34] Numbers of boys admitted increased significantly while the number of boarders remained about the same, day pupils increasing the number on roll in 1960 to 230, 64 of which were boarders.[35]

Before becoming a specialist school, Chetham's had a good reputation for music,[36] and on this basis the decision was made to become a co-educational music school in 1969.[37] The former Palatine Hotel, which housed offices and shops, was converted into extra teaching space and practice rooms. In 1969, 50 students were admitted based on musical potential[38] and by 1972 this had risen to 150, more than half of the entire school. In 1977 the school changed to its present name.[39] In 1978 the Long Millgate building, the original home of Manchester Grammar School, was purchased to provide additional space.[40]

There are plans to build teaching space and a 400-seat concert hall on land next to the school.[41] Classrooms will be converted to other uses,[42] and the Palatine building will be demolished to reveal the currently hidden medieval buildings and allow easier access to the library.[43] The work is due to be completed by 2012.

Academics and pastoral care

Manchester Cathedral has been associated with Chetham's since its beginning, when it was a church and the school was built as accommodation for its priests, choristers and clerks.


Students are admitted to the school on musical ability and talent.[44] The application process involves an audition. In addition to competency in playing an instrument, qualities such as aural awareness, creativity and ability to sight-read are sought. Grades and exam results are not required (with the exception of Grade 5 theory for sixth form); as musical potential is considered most important. Students between the ages of 8 and 18 can apply for a place studying any instrument except electronic and non-Western types.[45]


As a specialist music school,[1] Chetham's requires all students to study a curriculum that concentrates on music[46] and other subjects in accordance with the National Curriculum.[47] Students taking GCSEs and A-levels study music and music technology.[47] All students study at least two instruments[46] and choir practice is compulsory.[48] Voice is available as an area of study only in the sixth form.[49] Despite entry being solely through musical audition, the school regularly obtains good exam results, in comparison to other local schools and nationally.[50][51]

Chetham's educates choristers from the cathedral who follow a similar curriculum to other students and study an instrument. However, they do not apply in an audition. When a chorister reaches Year 8 (age 12 or 13), or their voice breaks, they can apply to join Chetham's via the usual audition process.[52]

Ensembles form an important part of the musical curriculum, with all students taking part in at least one. The ensembles include the Symphony Orchestra, which has performed all over the world, including Germany, Spain and the United States, and on BBC Radio 3.[53] The award-winning Big Band, was an integral part in the creation of a Jazz Studies programme, and has won many prizes, including The Daily Telegraph Young Jazz Competition, and the junior section of the BBC Radio 2 Big Band of the Year Competition three times.[54] The Chamber Choir has performed on Songs of Praise and the BBC Proms[55] and the Symphonic Wind Band and Orchestra have won prizes at the Boosey and Hawkes National Concert Festival.[56]

School life

Chetham's admits boarding and day students to one of three houses: Victoria House, a mixed-gender house for students aged 8–12; Boys' House, for boys over the age of 12; and Girls' House for girls over the age of 12. In senior houses, boarding students share rooms for four people, and in the sixth form students either have single rooms or share with one other person. Students have a personal tutor to discuss their progress, and boarding students have a house parent who communicates with parents at home.[57]

The school offers extra-curricular activities during free time. It has a swimming pool, and offers trampolining, aerobics and fencing, as well as computer games, board games and Scalextric. Weekend trips are sometimes organised for climbing and mountain biking, or to the cinema or theatre.[57]


College House, the original 15th-century college. This building contains the library, hall, Audit Room, kitchen and offices.

Chetham's is situated in Manchester City Centre, close to Manchester Victoria railway station, Urbis and Manchester Cathedral. There are several buildings on the site, many of which are listed. They surround a large open space, the north part is a car park and courtyard, and the south part is a playground.

College House

A walkway in the cloister range

College House, the original 15th-century college, is a Grade I listed building built of sandstone in the shape of a lowercase 'b' with a slate roof. It is accessed by the original gatehouse;[8] which was constructed on a plinth and contains the original timbers. The upper storey is accessed by an external staircase.[58] Baronial Hall, once the Great Hall, contains many of its original features, such as its timber roof, dais and canopy. There is a large fireplace dating from the 19th century,[59] and three windows likely to date from the 16th century.[60] The Audit Room, originally a common room,[61] contains a panelled ceiling with decorations suggesting it was installed by the Stanley family.[62] The upper room, originally the warden's chamber,[61] is now the library reading room, and contains a large bay window within an elaborate Tudor arch,[62] as well as original 17th-century doors.[63] The west part of the building surrounding the cloister courtyard contained accommodation known as sets, for people who lived in college.[64] There were two rooms in each set on two floors, the lower floor being used as a study.[65] Historian, Clare Hartwell, describes the cobbled courtyard which has a restored well as "one of the most atmospheric spaces in the building".[64] It is surrounded by many windows, which were probably originally unglazed.[66] Inside there are several corridors and passages containing open beams and original stonework.[65] To the east is the kitchen and associated rooms,[67] and further east are rooms used for administration offices, most of which have been substantially altered.[68]

Other buildings

Millgate Building, the former Manchester Grammar School, is a Grade II listed building designed by Alfred Waterhouse in the 1870s. Attached to it is Nicholl's building. They contain the school hall, gym, swimming pool, classrooms, dining room, kitchen, and Boys' House. Vallins Arts Centre, containing the art department and performance space designed by Alfred Waterhouse in 1878, is Grade II listed. Waterhouse was responsible for much of the alterations made to College House in the 19th century. Palatine Building contains the music department and Victoria House. New College House contains Girls' House, and the sixth form common room is attached.[69]

Notable former pupils

Chetham's, as a music school, has produced dozens of notable alumni. Many of its students become professional musicians, as well as conductors, teachers and actors. This is a partial list of alumni:


  1. ^ a b c "About Chets". Chetham's School of Music. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  2. ^ Nicholls, Robert (2004). Curiosities of Greater Manchester. Sutton Publishing. p. 20. ISBN 0-750-93661-4. 
  3. ^ Hartwell, p.10
  4. ^ a b Hartwell, p.12
  5. ^ Hartwell, p.13
  6. ^ Hartwell, p.20
  7. ^ Hartwell, p.14
  8. ^ a b c Hartwell, p.21
  9. ^ Hartwell, p.43
  10. ^ Hartwell, p.49
  11. ^ Hartwell, p.50
  12. ^ Hartwell, p.51
  13. ^ Hartwell, p.54
  14. ^ a b Crosby, Alan G.. "Chetham, Humphrey (bap. 1580, d. 1653), financier and philanthropist" (Subscription or UK public library membership required). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  15. ^ Hartwell, p.56
  16. ^ a b Hartwell, p.61
  17. ^ Hartwell, p.93
  18. ^ Hartwell, p.62
  19. ^ Hartwell, p.64
  20. ^ Hartwell, p.65
  21. ^ Hartwell, p.89
  22. ^ Hartwell, p.91
  23. ^ Williams, p.3
  24. ^ Williams, p.33
  25. ^ Williams, p.40
  26. ^ Williams, p.41
  27. ^ Williams, p.46
  28. ^ Williams, p.47
  29. ^ a b Williams, p.50
  30. ^ Williams, p.49
  31. ^ Williams, pp.49–50
  32. ^ a b Williams, p.54
  33. ^ Williams, p.55
  34. ^ Williams, pp.61–2
  35. ^ Williams, p.59
  36. ^ Williams, p.86
  37. ^ Williams, p.87
  38. ^ Williams, p.89
  39. ^ Williams, p.101
  40. ^ Hartwell, p.110
  41. ^ "Phase 1 – The creation of a new building for Chetham’s School of Music". Chetham's School of Music. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  42. ^ "Phase 2 – The refurbishment of the Millgate and Nicholls Building". Chetham's School of Music. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  43. ^ "Phase 3 – Revealing History and Manchester’s Medieval Heritage". Chetham's School of Music. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  44. ^ "Aims and Ethos". Chetham's School of Music. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  45. ^ "How do I apply?". Chetham's School of Music. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  46. ^ a b "Music". Chetham's School of Music. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  47. ^ a b "The School Curriculum". Chetham's School of Music. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  48. ^ "Academic Study at Chetham’s". Chetham's School of Music. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  49. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Chetham's School of Music. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  50. ^ "Exam Results". Chetham's School of Music. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  51. ^ "Chethams School of Music". BBC Online. BBC. 13 January 2010. Retrieved 27 December 2010. 
  52. ^ "Life as a Chorister". Chetham's School of Music. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  53. ^ "Chetham's Symphony Orchestra". Chetham's School of Music. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  54. ^ "Chetham's Big Band and Jazz Ensembles". Chetham's School of Music. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  55. ^ "Chetham's Chamber Choir". Chetham's School of Music. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  56. ^ "Chetham’s Symphonic Wind Orchestra and Wind Band". Chetham's School of Music. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  57. ^ a b "Pastoral Care & Boarding". Chetham's School of Music. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  58. ^ Hartwell, p.22
  59. ^ Hartwell, p.24
  60. ^ Hartwell, p.25
  61. ^ a b Hartwell, p.26
  62. ^ a b Hartwell, p.27
  63. ^ Hartwell, p.29
  64. ^ a b Hartwell, p.30
  65. ^ a b Hartwell, p.34
  66. ^ Hartwell, p.32
  67. ^ Hartwell, p.38
  68. ^ Hartwell, p.39
  69. ^ "Report for resolution". Manchester City Council. 23 July 2009. Retrieved 27 December 2010. 
  70. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Notable Alumni". Chetham's School of Music. Retrieved 18 December 2010. 
  71. ^ "Grant Llewellyn". BBC Online. BBC. Retrieved 18 December 2010. 
  72. ^ "Dominic Seldis". BBC Online. BBC. Retrieved 18 December 2010. 
  • Hartwell, Clare (2004). The History and Architecture of Chetham's School and Library. Yale University Press. ISBN 0300102577. 
  • Williams, Penry (1986). Chetham's Old and New in Harmony. Manchester University Press. ISBN 0719019737. 

External links

Coordinates: 53°29′10″N 2°14′36″W / 53.48611°N 2.24333°W / 53.48611; -2.24333

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