King's College London
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In the Beginning ...

King's College School

Engraving of the front of King's College London a three storey neo-classical structure with people outside in front, some in mortar boards and gowns and boys in flat round hats playing in the foregroundNew King's College building including boys likely from King's College School 1833 When King's opened its doors in 1831, it was to children as well as adults, as provision had been made for a day school for boys located in the first basement of the new building in the Strand.

This was styled the 'Junior Department' to distinguish it from the adult college. The School admitted boys between the ages of 9 and 16 and preference was given to the sons of donors and shareholders who paid reduced fees.

Boys were expected to contribute Ā£1 per annum for books and stationery. The school was a popular success with numbers of students rising to 500 in 1834.

One purpose of the School was as a feeder to the adult college - the move from Junior to Senior Departments was known as 'going upstairs'. However, King's also drew its intake from various grammar schools 'in union' with the College, and numbering eleven by 1836.

It was intended that these should channel students to the senior department and otherwise provide a benchmarked liberal and Christian education to sons of the aspiring middle classes - army officers, merchants and manufacturers.


The curriculum of the King's Junior Department was broadly liberal in outlook, including the classics, mathematics, natural philosophy and modern languages, reflecting in part the expertise of teachers in the Senior Department who, for a fee, also regularly delivered lectures and scientific demonstrations to sometimes large audiences of excited boys.

The School also offered more technical subjects such as drawing classes, the first instructor being the famous painter, the water-colourist, John Sell Cotman.

Other notable early teachers included Italian master Gabriele Rossetti, father of the poet and painter.


Discipline remained a problem during the early years of the School. This was made worse by the cramped and gloomy facilities in the College basement and the distractions provided by nearby theatres and pubs.

The Headmaster required boys 'not to go to evening places of amusement except with friends of their family' and instituted a nightly curfew for boys lodging with their masters.

Aside from the annual prize giving, boys tended to organise their own sporting and social events, practising cricket in St John's Wood and at the Oval. One consequence of this overcrowding of pupils on the premises was numerous complaints of noise from neighbours of the College, in particular from boys in the playground and by staff beating carpets.

The head also complained that the enforcement of discipline was made more difficult by the absence of corporal punishment, unusual in schools of this time.

Declining numbers and competition from suburban schools eventually led to the relocation to its present premises in Wimbledon in 1897.

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