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School history

Through our long and rich history, Westminster City School has retained strong roots in the educational heritage of the City of Westminster. 

Our present building in Palace Street opened in 1877 and Westminster School grew from 307 to 850 by 1890, when it was given the name Westminster City School. In 1892, the first open scholarship to Cambridge was won. Under the 1944 Education Act, our School was designated a Voluntary Aided Grammar School, with Church of England affiliations and, in 1977, became a Non-Diocesan Voluntary Aided boys' all-ability school with a mixed sixth form. We have a strong Christian ethos and commitment to equal opportunities, and continue to have strong links with Westminster Abbey.

Our School has its origins in five educational charities founded in the seventeenth century. The first, resulting from a petition to Elizabeth I by Ann Sackville, Lady Dacre, in 1590, granted our Charter of Incorporation in 1601 and led to the establishment of the Brown Coat School (now Emanuel School) in 1736. The site of the original Emanuel Hospital is now occupied by the St James Court Hotel in Buckingham Gate, while Westminster City School is located in the former gardens.

In 1624, the Churchwardens of St Margaret's, Westminster, established St Margaret's Hospital to which Charles I granted a Charter of Incorporation in 1633. As children were dressed in green, it became known as The Green Coat School. St Margaret's Hospital was sited near the present Green Coat Place and "The Green Coat Boy" public house.

In 1654, another charity was established in Westminster by the Reverend James Palmer, Vicar of St Bride's Church, Fleet Street. He erected twelve alms-houses and a school house for "the education of 20 poor male children born within the parish of St Margaret". After fluctuating fortunes, the school closed less than ten years later, to re-open in 1671 as the Black Coat Hospital until 1728, in what is now Palmer Street. This fitful existence was matched by that of a similar forerunner of Westminster City School, the Emery Hill Foundation. Emery Hill, Churchwarden of St Margaret's Church, founded his school in 1674 but, in practice, nearly 150 years elapsed before it began to operate. In 1817, both Palmer's (Black Coat) and Emery Hill's schools were revived and continued until 1873, when a scheme for the establishment of the United Westminster Schools was approved by Queen Victoria. Emery Hill's school and alms-houses were located in Rochester Row in SW1, where the alms-houses still operate.

The United Westminster and Grey Coat Foundation now consists of Emanuel School, Queen Anne’s School, Sutton Valence School, The Grey Coat Hospital and Westminster City School. In 1909, the Blue Coat School (founded in 1688) closed and the charity's funds were divided between The Grey Coat Hospital and the United Westminster Schools. Thus Westminster City School, an amalgamation of the Brown, Green and Black Coat Schools, shared with The Grey Coat an inheritance from the Blue Coat School. The Blue Coat School building has been preserved in Buckingham Gate, where it is now a National Trust shop.

Visit our alumni page to hear what our former students have been doing since their time at Westminster City School.

The Old Westminster Citizens' Association (OWCA)

The Association comprises past students, staff and friends of Westminster City School. It aims to keep our alumni from around the world informed, in touch, entertained and suitably nostalgic for their schooldays! In 1908 and with remarkable vision, the then Headmaster, Dr Stevens, saw the importance of lifelong friendships that could be fostered amongst former pupils, and so the OWCA was born.

The OWCA maintains close links with our School and, through its trust fund, provides finance to support a number of activities and projects.


Page Downloads Date  
Origins of Westminster City School book 29th Aug 2019 Download
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