The Parish of St. George, Hanover Square has a long association with educating the young and founded its first school in 1703, many years before education was compulsory.
This retrospective plan of Hyde Park was produced from an earlier plan held in the Vestry Room in St George’s Church, Hanover Square. Its title features at top right, with the scale bar at top left.
At over 340 acres of land the largest of all the royal parks, Hyde Park was originally a hunting ground for deer, boar and wild bull. Bequeathed to the monks of Westminster after the conquest of Geoffrey de Mandeville in the 1140s, the park was appropriated by Henry VIII at the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536. The park was opened to the public at the beginning of the 17th century, and remained a deer hunting ground until 1768.
In his will of 1726 the Rt Hon General William Steuart (Churchwarden of St. George’s Church in 1725 and formerly Queen Anne’s Commander -in-Chief in Ireland.) left the sum of £5,000 to establish a school for twenty poor boys of the parish. His trustees, as a result, bought freehold land in South Street in 1742 on the edge of the Grosvenor Estate. Thus was established the General Steuart School to teach the “Yellow Bellies”, so named from the yellow livery they were required to wear. This uniform was abolished in 1888.
Not only the children were responsible for financing the school, the clergy were also put to work. Charity sermons were preached locally to raise money.
An extract from the records states that, ’The members of the board who attended The Grosvenor Chapel on Sunday 6th report that after the sermon preached there by the Rev George Matthew the sum of £73.13.6 has been collected.’
Such sermons were popular but some more so than others – The Lord Bishop of Carlisle preached in St. George’s Church and raised £107.15.6. The Board was so successful with its fundraising that they decided to open another school in the ‘outward’ of the parish and being assured the cost would not exceed £377, what is now St. Peter’s Eaton Square came into being.
This school was maintained by the Board until 1846 when it transferred to the new Parish of St.Peter carved out of St. George’s Parish.
In 1817, because the premises were so inadequate, the school was amalgamated with The General Steuart and remained so until 1897 when the Girl’s and Infant schools moved to St. George’s Institute in Bourdon Street and The General Steuart School was demolished to make way for the building of a ‘mansion block’.
Fortunately, in 1887 the first Duke of Westminster had announced his intention to present a new site for the school but the leases of this land did not expire until 1895. There then evolved a complicated negotiation between the Duke of Westminster, the General Steuart Trustees and a certain Mr. James Innes who wished to redevelop his property.
In 1893 the Vestry surveyor produced a plan to widen South Street, at the request of James Innes, which would greatly enhance the value of his property. With the assistance of the Charity Commissioners, the complicated negotiations were completed and the Duke of Westminster presented the present site, then worth in excess of £9,000 with the proviso that it should be in keeping with the rest of South Street.
Phillip A. Robson, having successfully won the limited competition for his design, stated that his intention was ‘not merely to convey the impression of a school building, but that of a higher grade church school’. To this end Dove Brothers built the red-brick and Portland-stone Jacobean style building with its large mullion and transom windows.
The cramped conditions within the school were proving most unsatisfactory and the Secondary School moved to St. Martin-in-the-Fields in 1952 allowing the Primary School total use of the building.
Although there have been many internal changes to the building, the ethos of the school and its aim to promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, intellectual, and physical development of the child remains unchanged.
John Rocque’s Map of London in 1746 shows only only one school in the parish. This was the school founded by General William Steuart, who died in 1726 at the age of 82 and in his will left £5000 Irish to erect and endow a school for twenty poor boys of the parish. In English money the endowment was only worth £4,484. After some difficulties a site at the east end of South Street was bought from the 5th Lord Berkeley of Stratton and the school opened in 1742. The boys wore Steuart livery, the waistcoat of which earned the boys the nickname of “yellow-bellies”. Two pews were allocated to them in S. George’s, and those with good voices assisted in the choir, Mismanagement and neglect by the trustees reduced the number of boys who could be supported to ten in 1802.
Apart from this school virtually no provision was made for the education of the children of the poor, till May 1803, when a body of parishioners met to raise money to establish two “Day Schools of Instruction and Industry”. The first of these opened in leasehold premises in South Street in 1804. The second did not come into being till 1815 in Belgrave Street. This was maintained by the St George’s managers till 1846, when it was transferred to the new parish of St Peter’s, Eaton Square.
These Schools of Instruction and Industry were severely practical in their purpose. In addition to elementary education, the boys were taught tailoring and the girls straw-plaiting, bonnet making and basket work. The maintenance of the schools was financed by voluntary subscription and by the proceeds from charity sermons preached annually in the churches and chapels-of-ease in the neighbourhood. On Sundays the children attended the services in the various places of worship in the parish. In St George’s in 1804, extra galleries were built at the west end, on each side of the organ, to accommodate 200 children. Once a year until 1877 50 boys and 30 girls “from among the stoutest in the school” were marched to St Paul’s Cathedral for the United Charity School service after which they returned to consume a substantial dinner.
In 1817 the St George’s school amalgamated with General Steuart’s, which was still in difficulties, and moved into the latter’s premises, for which the managers paid a rent of £105 a year. The joint schools were limited to 500 children of over seven years of age, but in 1829 the managers tackled the problem of younger children. A Parochial Infant School was opened in 1831 on the north side of St Mark’s Chapel, North Audley Street, for children from two to seven years of age. Ten years later a similar school was built on part of the yard attached to the north east corner of the Grosvenor Chapel. This is now Liddon House. Yet another Day School was established in Davies Mews in 1846, moving to larger premises in 1853 at 53 South Molton Street. During the 19th century the schools were under the patronage of Royalty, first of H.R.H. the Duke of Gloucester, and later that of H.R.H. the Duke of Cambridge. The two fine portraits of King George III, which still hang in the upper hall of the school today, by Sir William Beechey, were presented to mark the King’s golden jubilee in 1809.
The next phase came at the end of the century. The General Steuart’s School buildings were no longer adequate. On adjoining land, presented by the Duke of Westminster, in 1898 the present fine building was erected to the designs of W.D.Caroe. Parents of pupils were required to pay sixpence a week. The peculiar uniform of the Steuart Charity boys had been abolished in 1888, and in consequence their position was much sought after. In 1931 the Boys’ and Girls’ were amalgamated into a mixed school under a headmaster.
At the beginning of the 1939-1945 War most of the children were evacuated to the country, and the ground floor of the school was turned into a mortuary; but so many of the children were back in London by May 1940 that the school had to open again. The roof and the upper floors were damaged by incendiary bombs later in the same year, but work went on without much upheaval. In 1952 the Secondary and Primary departments were separated, the Secondary school going to St Martin-in-the-Fields, leaving the Infants and Juniors in sole possession. The endowments of General Steuart’s Charity continue to benefit the boys, past and present, of the school.
St George’s (Hanover Square) Voluntary Aided Church of England Primary School still operates from the 1898 building in South Street, London W1. The School continues to flourish and is heavily oversubscribed. Details of the present school and its current admission criteria may be found at the school website www.sghsprimary.co.uk or by telephoning the School on 020 7629 1196.
Original Source. Reports of the Commission on Charities and Education in England and Wales, vol 22: London and Westminster, 1815-39, pp650-1, 723-7 [361.76]
Rocque’s map of 1746 shows two schools in St George’s parish – General Steuart’s Charity on the east side of the burial ground attached to Grosvenor Chapel, and St George’s School in Noel Street on land adjoining Trinity Chapel in Conduit Street. This seems to have been a private school which did not outlast the 18th century.
The Charity school, founded by the bequest of General William Steuart, whose will was dated 21 May 1726. He left £5,000 for the establishment of a school for 20 boys of honest poor parents of the parish. Master was to be a clergyman of the Church of England. Boys to be instructed in the principles of the church of England, and to be taught to read and write, so as to qualify them for servants or other useful employment. In 1742 his trustees bought a piece of freehold land in South Street, just outside the Grosvenor estate, and built a school house there.
By 1802 it had fallen into neglect. New trustees appointed who felt funds were insufficient to maintain more than 10 boys. In 1817 it was amalgamated with St George’s Parochial School, in General Steuart’s School building. 24 poor boys continued to be taught here under the bequest.
In 1817 they were taught reading, writing, cyphering and were entitled to be instructed in all trades that may be taught in the parochial school. They learnt the catechism and read other books of religious instruction. The boys are aged 7-15.
The endowments of the General Steuart Charity continue to benefit the boys, past and present, of today’s St George’s School.
In May 1803, a group of parishioners, concerned at the lack of educational facilities, met to raise money for the provision of Parish Schools. The first of these opened in leasehold premises in South Street in 1804.
The development of Belgravia brought a demand for a school in that area of the parish and in 1810 the Board of Managers discussed plans for a second school. Premises in Belgrave Street were acquired in 1815, and on 18 December 19 boys and 23 girls were admitted. This school still continues as St Peter’s, Eaton Square, Primary School in Lower Belgrave Street.1
The St George’s United Day Schools of Instruction and Industry were severely practical in their purpose. In addition to elementary education, the boys were taught tailoring and the girls straw plaiting, bonnet making and basket work. St George’s Schools were maintained by voluntary subscriptions and the proceeds of charity sermons preached in the churches and chapels of the neighbourhood.
The original premises in South Street were evidently not very suitable, and in 1817 this and General Steuart’s school were amalgamated, this united school being conducted in General Steuart’s buildings, which were probably enlarged at this time. (Site shown on 1869 OS map).
St George’s School was limited to 500 children over 7 years of age, and in 1829 the problem of younger children began to be tackled. In 1831 a Parochial Infant School for children from 2 to 7 years of age was opened on the north side of St Mark’s Chapel, North Audley Street. In 1841, another school was built on part of the yard attached to Grosvenor Chapel – this is now Liddon House.
In 1898 a fine new building was built on land in South Street presented by the Duke of Westminster. The architect was P A Robson, and it cost £13,745. The old school building was closed and demolished in 1897, and until the new school opened in 1899 the girls and infants were temporarily accommodated in the old Institute in Grosvenor Hill. Parents of pupils were required to pay 6d a week.
In 1903 the school in South Street was known as St George Higher Grade School, with accommodation for 600 pupils.
In1931 the Boys and Girls departments were amalgamated into a mixed school under a headmaster. At the beginning of the Second World War most of the children were evacuated to the country, and the ground floor of the school was turned into a mortuary, but many of the children had returned to London by May 1940 so the school had to be reopened. The roof and upper florrs were damaged by incendiaries later in 1940, but work went on virtually uninterrupted.
In 1952 the Secondary and Primary departments were separated, the Secondary School going to St Martin-in-the-Fields School, leaving the Juniors and Infants in sole possession.
North Audley Street. In 1903 it had accommodation for 392 pupils. Opened in 1831, on the north side of St Mark’s Chapel, as the first Infant School for the parish of St George’s, taking children from 2 to 7 years of age.
Minutes, 1828-1872 [Acc 1075]