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Home LCHS History School Archive Occasional Paper No 6: A Brief History of Lincoln Christ's Hospital School

Occasional Paper No 6: A Brief History of Lincoln Christ's Hospital School


From the Garton Archive at Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School

 Occasional Paper No 6

 written and edited


Peter Harrod & Chris Williams

 from material by

Arthur Behenna, Charles Garton, Joyce Skinner et al

 January 2012




 Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School was formed in 1974 as a result of combining four schools; Lincoln School, Lincoln Christ’s Hospital Girls’ High School (subsequently referred to as Lincoln High School), St Giles Secondary School for Boys, and Myle Cross Secondary School for Girls. While Lincoln School’s history can be traced back to 1090, the other three schools were formed relatively recently; Lincoln High School in 1893 and the two secondary modern schools in 1933.

Writing a brief history of a school whose 900 year history dates back to the 11th Century presents something of a challenge, not least in summarising its long and complex history, and selecting those aspects which have been most influential in shaping its development. Inevitably the early part of the history of Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School focuses on the education of boys at Lincoln School, and it is only in the late 19th and 20th Centuries that the growth of girls’ education began to make an impact, both at Lincoln Christ’s Hospital Girls’ High School, and the local secondary modern schools on the St Giles estate.

This potted history owes much to a longer history entitled ‘Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School’, copies of which are available for consultation in the School’s Garton Archive. The editors also acknowledge the contributions made by the chapter ‘Schola Lincolniensis’ in Professor Charles Garton’s ‘Lincoln School: a Summary Honours Board’, and Arthur Behenna’s ‘Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School: a New School based on Old Foundations’. References to the history of Lincoln High School are indebted to Joyce Skinner’s researches. Latin master RP Baker’s Play about Lincoln School in Elizabethan times, and Headmaster Charles Young’s Lincoln School Song are used to provide some lighter relief.

For those wishing to engage in more serious research, the Garton Collection and other documents  preserved in the Archive present a treasure chest of information, more especially in the political events leading up to the formation of the present co-educational comprehensive school. The editors accept full responsibility for any inaccuracies or bias in this paper, either by selection or omission.


The Foundations of a School in Lincoln

            ‘Oh William came with horse and spear our country great to rule...’

The opening line of the Lincoln School Song, written by CE Young, Headmaster of Lincoln School from 1929-1937, and set to the tune of ‘The Lincolnshire Poacher’, is a reference to the familiar story of William the Conqueror’s reign in 11th Century England. The third line;

 ‘But soon arose in Lindum town a minster and a school’

reveals that the origins of Lincoln School were steeped in the Church when in 1090 Bishop Remigius, who was building his Norman Cathedral in Lincoln, founded a school in  what Sawyer (1998) describes as ‘the thriving City of Lincoln’, and appointed its first ‘Magister’ who may have been Albinus of Anjou. However, as Mr RP (‘Bunny’) Baker contends in his play ‘Elizabethan Schooldays; Some Incidents in the History of Lincoln School during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st’;

‘The beginnings of Lincoln School are lost in antiquity. We cannot with certainty name our founder. We have no date of our foundation. But we do know that, when Elizabeth 1st was Queen, our School had a history of at least 500 years.’

Since those early days Lincoln School has maintained its close association with the Cathedral, and the present school preserves its somewhat more tenuous links through representation of the Dean and Chapter on the Governing Body, and the Foundation of Christ’s Hospital at Lincoln, established in 1613 by Royal Charter, which continues to provide financial support to the School from the endowment of Dr Richard Smith of Welton. . This had been established by Dr.Smith in 1612 as an endowment for twelve boys; five ‘poor’ boys from Lincoln, one from the Bail of Lincoln, and three each from Welton and Potterhanworth.

It is likely that Lincoln School was located close to the Cathedral for much of its early life, but in the 13th Century it would appear that it moved into premises in Upper Scolegate, now known as Danesgate, and in the 1330s further down the hill into the parish of St Rumbold, where it remained for some 200 years in a street that became known as Lower Scolegate. Its new location some distance from the Cathedral suggested a growing interest by the City in the education of its young. For much of its history an uneasy relationship existed between the City and the Cathedral ‘close’, and during the Tudor period in the 16th century this led to the formation of two separate schools, one uphill and one downhill.

RP Baker, in his Play referred to above, sets the scene for his pageant, colourfully performed at Lincoln School in the summer of 1953. The Narrator is the first to take the stage;

‘So at the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth 1st there were two grammar schools in Lincoln, the Close School, and the old school near St Rumbold’s which was becoming derelict. It is against this background that our first scene takes place. Ladies and Gentlemen; come back with us in imagination. It is May 8th 1567, and the Mayor, Aldermen and Counsellors of the City are meeting to discuss the condition of our ancient school.’

The conflict caused by the two separate schools was resolved in the late 1500s when both schools moved into the Greyfriars building, the former home of the Franciscans in Lincoln, where the school remained until 1883. RP Baker’s Play recalls an imaginary scene at the new Greyfriars School in which the boys of the lower form were engaged in a Latin lesson with their ‘usher’, Master Plumtre, who later became Headmaster in 1548, and was ably played by the legendary Latin Master, Mr JA (‘Jab’) Baxter. Some things never change as this brief extract portrays. Master Plumtre is calling his pupils to attention;

‘Come now, you have wasted too much time already on your dancing. Open your books. Virgil it is. Page 207. It may be some of you remember something of the passage we read yesterday, though I doubt it. You think of nothing but your dancing.’

        The cast of ‘Elizabethan Schooldays’



           This photograph shows the legendary Latin master JA (‘Jab’) Baxter in the role of Headmaster Plumtree                                                 

The Play also records the ‘...wicked quarrel between City and Cathedral’, and ends on a positive note when the Bishop reassures the Mayor and Aldermen that the Dean and Chapter had appointed Master William Temple, a ‘man of outstanding gifts’ from King’s College Cambridge, as Headmaster of the new united School

            The Greyfriars building is still standing in Free School Lane and is currently part of the City and County Museum.

The Greyfriars building as it was in 1784


The Greyfriars period in the history of the School produced some interesting and famous sons, charted in Professor Charles Garton’s Lincoln School: a Summary Honours Board. Many became clergymen while others were colonels in Oliver Cromwell’s army. Professor Garton writes that Etonian William Temple, later knighted, became Headmaster of the School, and in addition to the reference in RP Baker’s Play is celebrated in the third verse of Charles Young’s Lincoln School Song; 

            ‘How Temple worked for good Queen Bess and donned the scholar’s gown...’

John Hutchinson, who gave his name to one of the Houses at Lincoln School, sat as one of the judges at the trial of Charles 1st, and is also commemorated in the third verse of  the School Song;  

            ‘And Hutchinson for Cromwell fought, in battle brave and cool...’

In the late 19th Century Lincoln School moved to new premises on Lindum Terrace before transferring to its present site on Wragby Road in 1907, where it remained until 1974 when the present comprehensive school was formed and took over the buildings. Headmaster FH Chambers MA, who had had public school experience at Charterhouse, presided over the School during its early days at the new iconic buildings.  The school numbered 130 boys and 6 masters in 190. It contained a boarding house and excellent facilities for teaching a broader curriculum, based on the traditional classics of Latin and Greek, but including the more contemporary subjects of science, modern languages and the humanities. Playing fields and a gymnasium provided additional facilities for sport and physical training.

                                                 Games on the Lincoln School playing field



               Staff and pupils of Lincoln School lined up in the cloisters in the early days of the Wragby Road site

During its 77-year life on the Wragby Road site Lincoln School underwent several changes, including those brought about by Acts of Parliament such as the 1944 Education Act. During World War I it moved to temporary premises on Sewell Road when the School buildings were taken over by the Fourth Northern General Hospital, while during World War II it shared its premises with schools from Leeds and Coventry. Despite these disruptions the School in the 20th Century has been described as one of its ‘golden ages’, aided by membership of the prestigious public schools’ Headmasters’ Conference, and perhaps galvanised by rivalry with the new technical College which later became the City School. The influence of the leadership skills of Headmasters of the quality of Young, Moxon, Franklin, Martin and Behenna must not be underestimated either, as they did much to attract high quality teaching staff to meet the challenge of increasing numbers and a broader curriculum.


Lincoln Christ’s Hospital High School for Girls



              Lincoln Christ’s Hospital High School for Girls Lindum Hill site in the early days of the 20th century

Meanwhile Lincoln High School, formed in 1893, was making its mark on the education of girls in the City, although unlike Lincoln School its history may be measured in decades rather than centuries. The difference reflects the shameful neglect of girls’ formal education during our history, not only in schools but also in universities, which did not admit women until relatively late in the 19th Century. Lincoln High School originally opened in buildings on Christ’s Hospital Terrace, but soon moved to its purpose-built site half-way up Lindum Hill where it remained until its closure in 1974, when it merged with the other three schools to form LCHS. As with Lincoln School in the 20th Century, a series of committed and highly qualified Headmistresses were instrumental in shaping its development and establishing its qualities. The original rather terse motto ‘Disce aut Discede’ (‘Learn or get out!’), inscribed above the entrance on Greestone Stairs, encapsulated its early mission formulated by its first Headmistress Miss Agnes Body. The curriculum was progressive for its day, and was modelled on public schools such as Cheltenham Ladies’ College and the more enlightened boys’ schools. It included the classics, literature, natural science, history, modern languages, art and music. Swedish gymnastics was also taught by a visiting teacher from Nottingham. Miss Body left the school after seven years having established its direction and purpose, and given it a more restrained motto ‘Instanter, Simpliciter, Fideliter’. Philip Race, Chairman of Governors at Lincoln School from 1966-1990, wrote in a letter to David Cox, Headmaster from 1985 to 2004, that the girls were told to go up Lindum Hill on the school side of the road, whereas the boys were ordered to go up on the other side!


Miss Body was replaced by Miss CE Ashburner whose ten years of service before her premature death in 1990 saw the school grow in numbers and ultimately in size, with further classrooms, laboratories, an art studio and a gymnasium being completed under her successor Miss Lucie Savill. Miss Savill remained in post for 30 years, established its high reputation, and steered it through World War I and the early part of World War II, including the depression that intervened. The numbers during her regime grew rapidly, reaching 500 by 1922 and stabilising at about 450 when the South Park High School for Girls was established in the south of the City. During this time school boarders became an increasing part of the scene as they did at Lincoln School.

From 1922 pupils in both Lincoln School and Lincoln High School worked towards the School Certificate Examination, and the most able of those who could afford it stayed on in the 6th form to sit for the Higher School Certificate, which prepared them for college or university. Most pupils were fee-paying, but some older girls at Lincoln High School were eligible for scholarships, including six holders of the coveted Christ’s Hospital Foundation Scholarship awards, which had been extended for the first time to girls in 1893.  A ‘steady trickle’ of girls qualified for university places including Oxford and Cambridge, and in 1937 three entered medical schools to qualify as doctors at a time when women doctors were few and far between. Under Miss Savill’s leadership Lincoln High School thus shared in the nationwide Girls’ High School movement and prepared pupils for the professions and other employment opportunities open to women at the time. These included teaching and nursing, but also banking, insurance, local government, secretarial work and the Civil Service. As was the case with Lincoln School, discipline was established through form tutors, prefects, detentions and the ‘House’ system, which introduced healthy competition through the award of trophies and other awards. At Lincoln School corporal punishment was also used as a sanction. It became illegal in state-run schools in 1997.

In 1943 Miss Savill was succeeded by Miss IV Cleave who had the unenviable task of following such a highly respected Headmistress as Miss Saville. She was ably assisted however by her Chair of Governors, Francis Hill, who later became Sir Francis Hill, and who was Chairman of the Governors of both Lincoln School and Lincoln High School from 1935 to 1966. The 1944 Education Act provided free education for all, which meant that fee-paying pupils were gradually phased out, and the preparatory departments in both schools closed down. Academic traditions persisted in the 1940s and 50s, but the replacement of the School Certificates by ‘O’ and ‘A’ Level examinations allowed for a limited enrichment of the curriculum through the addition of subjects such as new sciences, law, psychology and economics.

Following Miss Cleave’s retirement in 1964 Miss Leahy took over the reins at a time when it was apparent that the City would adopt a ‘comprehensive’ policy towards secondary education, which would bring to an end the selective 11+ system and herald the demise of the separate grammar school tradition. A reluctant disciple of this new system, promoted by Harold Wilson’s Labour Government, Miss Leahy left the school for another headship, and in 1972 the Governors appointed a strong advocate of comprehensive education to facilitate the transition to the new LCHS in 1974.

St Giles Secondary Boys’ School and Myle Cross Secondary Girls’ School


                                       Girls playing netball at Myle Cross Secondary Girls’ School in the 1950s.

Although these schools were separate institutions by the time that LCHS was formed in 1974, they had much in common and brought with them similar traditions. They began life as one school in 1933 as a new Senior Elementary School founded by the City to serve the new and growing suburb of St Giles. The school was part of a City-wide reorganisation of elementary education following the publication of the Hadow report of 1925, which recommended a change of school for all pupils at the age of 11, and the phasing out of all-age 5-14 schools. The new school on Macaulay Drive, unlike most other Lincoln schools beyond the infant stage, admitted both boys and girls. Following the 1944 Education Act the school was designated as a Secondary Modern School. In 1954, after the raising of the school-leaving age to 16, the school became two separate single-sex institutions, although little seems to have been done to provide additional facilities and buildings that might have led to a broader and less restricted curriculum. It was also widely believed in Lincoln that secondary modern schools suffered as a result of disproportionate funds being allocated to the four grammar schools. Despite these limitations, the wise leadership of enlightened head teachers such as Mr Humble and Miss Gentry, supported by loyal and hard-working colleagues, gave their pupils a sound education and contributed much to the local community of St Giles.

Following the comprehensive reorganisation in 1974, most of the pupils were admitted to the newly-formed LCHS, and many of the staffs of both schools were appointed to the new school where they contributed from their strengths and talents to the tradition of learning at all levels of ability, whilst demonstrating their particular experience of teaching those with less academic interests, more vocational skills and special educational needs.


Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School: a New School Based on Old Foundations

The above title was given to a paper written by Arthur Behenna, Headmaster of Lincoln School and subsequently Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School from 1972 to 1985, and who shepherded the School through its transition to a fully comprehensive school in 1974. Mr Behenna was a pioneer in establishing a single school with a distinct identity, an enriched and coherent curriculum and a resilience that has enabled it to meet the external pressures and changes that characterised its early formative years, and continues to do so.

The rising numbers necessitated new buildings designed by Lincolnshire County Council.  These included additional science laboratories, technical workshops, facilities for domestic science and physical education, a sixth form centre, a new assembly hall with a stage well-equipped for music and drama and a large kitchen block adjoining the main hall to provide school meals. The overall cost was around three quarters of a million pounds, much of which was funded by the Governors of the Foundation of Christ’s Hospital at Lincoln.

The new School opened in September 1974 with some 1400 pupils aged 12-18 on roll, with a sixth form of 240 and a full-time staff of ninety-five. The official opening took place on 3rd May 1975, when the former Chairman of Governors of Lincoln School and Lincoln High School unveiled a plaque in the main entrance. The School celebrated with a performance of Twelfth Night. The School maintained its links with its long history through representatives on the Governing Body from the Dean and Chapter, the Lincoln Christ’s Hospital Foundation, the Local Education Authority, and the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Nottingham. Links with the alumni of Lincoln School and Lincoln High School were maintained through the newly amalgamated Old Christ’s Hospital Lincolnians’ Society. Key figures during this period were the new Chairman of Governors, Mr Philip Race, Vice-Chairman Mrs Constance Seely. When they retired in 1990 they were replaced by Neville Camamile and Dr Joyce Skinner respectively.

In 1984 the School faced another major reorganisation when the Middle School system in Lincoln was discontinued, and the entry was changed from 12+ to 11+. Although this entailed a major rearrangement of accommodation, it afforded the advantage of an extra year to work towards the external examinations at 16+.

In 1985 Mr Behenna retired and was replaced by Mr David Cox who was headmaster until December 2004. In these two decades there were more major changes, often reflecting political changes and new priorities at national level. In 1992 Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School took on Grant Maintained Status as promoted by the Thatcher administration, a position which was reversed during the Blair first term. In contrast moves towards specialist status were supported by both the Conservative and Labour parties. In 2001 LCHS became a Specialist Language College reflecting both its growing reputation for international projects and a new interest in non-European links. Alumnus Neville Camamile was succeeded as Chairman of Governors by Dudley Proctor. The latter was followed as Chairman by Canon Alan Nugent, who oversaw the transition on David Cox’s retirement. After a three month interregnum when Chris Williams was Acting Headteacher, Dr.Andrew Wright, headteacher of Bedlington School, became Headteacher on 1st April 2005.

Major changes continued in first decade of the new millennium. There had been a decline in pupil numbers in the 1990’s due to a combination of the falling birth rate and the Conservative decision to allow several local 11-16 schools to open their own Sixth Forms. The number on roll fell from about 1500 in 1981-1982 to 1155 in 1991-1992 which had a significant impact on staffing levels. However, the concurrent opening catchment areas, the closure of Sturton-by-Stow secondary school and the rapid growth of commuter villages to the north-west soon led to a completely new population of pupils coming to the school by bus. The initial minibus with six pupils from Saxilby and one from Sturton became a daily operation with several double-decker buses. Demographic shifts in Lincoln with the opening of the University and growing immigration also had a positive impact on pupil numbers. And after the enlargement of the European Union in 2004 the school began to welcome families from eastern Europe attracted by its positive attitude to foreign languages.

Building for the future

The school site has undergone significant change since 1974. There were a lot of ‘temporary’ buildings for another three decades. The World War One hospital hut on the east side survived into the 1990’s. A hut opened by Sir John Hunt of Everest fame and four classrooms brought in to accommodate the surge in pupil numbers in 1981 when the admission age dropped from 12 to 11 saw in the new millennium before being removed. These buildings were mainly used by the Maths department until a much needed suite of new accommodation opened in 2002. Other long-serving ‘temporary’ buildings included the two storey Ruston Hut, a toilet ‘mobile’ and the Biology hut (1954) in the courtyard between Languages and DT, and the Special Needs hut on the site of the original swimming pool next to Geography. Most of these were eventually demolished as being unfit for purpose, but the Special Needs rooms were destroyed in an arson attack on Valentine’s Day 1987 in a fire which nearly ignited the top corridor in the main building.

New buildings came in waves, funded from national and local sources depending on national priorities and local availability of money. An early modernisation took place in the Library where the forbidding rows of book-cases were shifted to create a more open and welcoming environment, and then the lecture room, formerly the Old Hall balcony enclosed in 1974, which became a classroom. The 1954 Physics laboratory was expanded on two floors in 1992 to create a large ICT room, a real sign of the times, and new Maths rooms upstairs named after Marjorie Calladine in recognition of a significant bequest to the Foundation, which was used for the magnificent upgrade of the Withers Pool. The 25 yard open air pool became a 25 metre heated indoor pool with dedicated changing rooms opened by Princess Anne on 9th June 1992. A decade later the Calladine Building was greatly extended for Maths, Science and ICT, and the Languages Corridor was remodelled commensurate with the new specialist status. The Garton Archive, partly funded by alumnus Charles Garton, was opened in December 2004 in Headmaster Cox’s final term and has become a significant reference point with materials from all four of the pre-1974 schools

The first building project in the headship of Andrew Wright was a major reconstruction of the central toilets to build what is known as ‘the superloo’ in response to priorities identified by the pupils. The old shower and toilet block from Lincoln School were then demolished and new Special Needs accommodation created in 2005-2006, followed by the Science block, and then the Design Technology and Art facilities. Another sign of the times was the decision to re-use the Lincoln School bike sheds with new roofs and modern Sheffield stands. The importance of the school buses led to the opening of a new pedestrian gate funded from a bequest left by alumnus Cyril Kirby.  The dining-room and Sixth Form were remodelled with the creation of The Buzz Bar, now a very popular eating and social venue, and a variety of study, consultation and leisure areas for senior pupils. Most recently, there has been a major sports development with the proceeds from the sale of the unused and distant Nettleham Road playing fields on which the Palmer Road development has now taken place, Paul Palmer being a former pupil who won an Olympic silver medal in the pool at the Atlanta games in 1996. New facilities include an all weather pitch with floodlights, new cricket pavilion and pitch, seven tennis courts, a fitness suite, four outdoor changing rooms and a dance studio.

And underpinning all these changes in the last forty years came a revolution in teaching and learning methods in which ICT provided a central thread as well as a determinant of how much capital was spent as the School tried to keep up with educational consequences of the communications revolutions. We can only imagine what Leonard Stokes, architect of the 1907 building, would have made of terms such as ‘server’, ‘broadband’, ‘wifi’ and ‘internet’.

Academically the post-1974 School has prospered, its students gaining hundreds of places at universities and other institutions of higher education , including 20 at Oxford and Cambridge, and there are not many businesses in the city who don't have at least one person who can say "I was at Christ's" . The 'new' School also established a good reputation for its music and drama productions, including Oliver, The Mikado, West Side Story and My Fair Lady, and an increasing wide range of activities including the annual art exhibition. Educational visits had played an increasingly important role in the previous schools during the second half of the 20th Century, and this tradition was continued and developed through visits to Europe, the USA and later China with Chinese Sixth Formers now attending LCHS. The school is one of only seventeen in the UK to have held the British Council's International School Award since its inception in 1999.  Sport also continued to thrive, having the benefit of excellent playing fields and other facilities on site".

In 1985 Mr Behenna retired and was replaced by Mr David Cox, who remained in post until 2004, when Dr Andrew Wright was appointed as Headmaster. Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School has recently gained ‘Academy’ status, but that will be another story.


Behenna, A., Skinner, J., Garton C. et al (1990) Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School. Lincolnshire County Council

Behenna, A (Undated) Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School: a New School based on Old Foundations. Unpublished typescript probably written in 1984

Sawyer, P (1998) Anglo-Saxon Lincolnshire. History of Lincolnshire Committee

Letter from Philip Race to David Cox, dated 24th May 1999 (Ref FC1/021 Garton Archive)


About the Authors

Chris Williams is the Honorary Archivist at LCHS. He was Deputy Head at Lincoln Christ's Hospital School from 1986 to 2007, and Acting Headteacher for two periods in 2001 and 2005. He now works as a consultant specialising in international school partnerships.

Peter Harrod is the Assistant Archivist, and a Foundation Governor at LCHS. He was a pupil at Lincoln School from 1952-59, and a senior lecturer at Bishop Grossteste College, Lincoln from 1967-2002.





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