Christ's Hospital, commonly called the Blue Coat school, one of the oldest and most famous of the charitable educational establishments of London. It was founded in 1552, by the citizens assembling a number of poor children for education and maintenance. Edward VI. favored the plan, and by charter, dated June 20, 1553, 10 days before his death, incorporated the three hospitals of Christ for poor fatherless children and foundlings, Bridewell, and St. Thomas the Apostle, vesting lands for their support in the mayor, commonalty, and citizens. Five years afterward Christ's hospital was opened, under the charter, in the building in Newgate street belonging to the recently suppressed brotherhood of gray friars. Four hundred children were entered. On entering they were clothed in russet, which was subsequently changed to the costume they now wear, namely, a blue tunic reaching to the feet, bright yellow petticoat and yellow stockings, red leathern girdle, clerical band around the neck, and a little round cap of black woollen. Charles II. granted £1,000 for seven years to found a mathematical school for 40 "king's boys," and an annuity of £370 10s. to send 10 others to sea; 14 additional pupils in mathematics were added on other foundations, and a writing school in 1694, by Sir John Moore, lord mayor.
The course of study was gradually augmented, until at present it embraces all the branches of a sound elementary education. The main establishment at London has four classical masters, two writing masters, two ushers, and mathematical, drawing, and singing masters, with about 800 scholars. In 1683 a branch hospital for preparatory training was established at Hertford, which now has a classical master, a writing master, two ushers, two female teachers for the girls' department, 400 boys, and 70 girls. The domestic economy of the hospital is on a plain but comfortable scale, from which, however, many of the peculiarities of old times have but recently disappeared. Formerly the scholars performed all the menial duties of the establishment, but now they are required merely to make their own beds. Until 1824 the boys breakfasted on bread and beer, and till more recently ate from wooden trenchers and drew their beer from leathern blackjacks. Every Easter they visited the exchange and the lord mayor.
The "king's boys" were formerly presented at court once a year; and even now from Quinquagesima Sunday to Good Friday the hospital is visited by the public to witness the "suppings in public." The government of the hospital is vested in the lord mayor and aldermen of London, and in contributors of £500. Governors exercise the right of presentation to the hospital, and have also the patronage of some ecclesiastical benefices. The hospital has long since ceased to be a "charity," properly so called, most of the pupils now admitted being children of freemen of the city of London and of clergymen of the church of England. Children whose parents have an income of £300 a year cannot be lawfully admitted. No pupil is admitted under the age of 7, nor can he remain after 15, mathematical and Greek scholars excepted. The total income is about £40,000, and the expenditures about the same. The buildings of the hospital were mostly destroyed by the great fire in 1666, but were rebuilt under the direction of Sir Christopher Wren. They were repaired and partially rebuilt in 1825-9. Excepting the new hall, which is one of the ornaments of the city, the buildings are irregular, although not inconvenient. Portraits of many historical personages, patrons of the institution, are preserved in its apartments.