School History

The Reverend William Rogers was born in 1819 and became Rector of St. Botolph’s Church, Bishopsgate in the City of London in 1863.  He was a pioneer in the education of children and in the early years when legislation for compulsory child education had just been introduced, was involved in opening many schools in the east end of London.

Rogers soon realised that as well as a need for simple elementary education for children, there was a need for a more extended form of tuition directed towards the sons of skilled workmen and tradesmen who were able to pay only a limited amount towards their sons education and which would prepare them for entry to business, the professions and university.  With the assistance of the Lord Mayor of London and other wealthy patrons, he set up in 1866 the Middle Class School, initially occupying the site of the old French Protestant Hospital in Bath Street in the City of London.

This soon proved inadequate and a site for the new School was purchased in Cowper Street. A photograph exists (date about April 1867) of the boys and their masters in the playground at Bath Street with the architect and the headmaster looking at plans for projected new permanent buildings in Cowper Street, close to the City, where a site some two acres in extent had been purchased.  The Foundation Stone was laid by the Lord Mayor in 1868 and the new school buildings in Cowper Street were opened on 29th February 1869, the great hall being erected and opened in 1873.  Fees were set at £4 per annum, a significant, although affordable, sum and the school rapidly expanded to take 1000 pupils.

Pioneering East London education since the 1860s

Funding & Charity

Funding was obtained by making the schools a minor beneficiary of the Charity of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift at Dulwich and this charity, now renamed “Dulwich Estate”, continues to provide a major source of income for the schools today.

Edward Alleyn was born in 1566 and became a celebrated actor and actor-manager.  He must have known William Shakespeare well and acted in and produced his plays.  He managed the Rose and the Fortune Theatres in London and became Master of the Royal Bear Gardens in 1604.  He purchased a large estate to the south of London and when he died in 1619 he endowed a college for 12 poor scholars together with an almshouse for aged parishioners and a chapel where he is buried.  Land development round London made this a wealthy charity and it was reconstituted by act of parliament in 1854 with the Duke of Wellington as chairman.  William Rogers was appointed chairman in 1862.  The charity now supports Dulwich College and a number of other prestigious private schools in Dulwich, as well as the foundation.

Girls' School

The Central Foundation Girls’ School is one of the oldest schools in London and has its roots in the City of London.  The original Bishopsgate Ward School in St. Botolph’s Without Bishopsgate was founded in 1726 to provide education for the children of Huguenot refugees from the religious persecutions in France who had settled in the east end of London. From the mid 1700s to 1772 the school was based in various locations, including the Fanmakers’ Hall, St. Botolph’s Churchyard and buildings around what is now Liverpool Street Station.

In 1891 the Middle Class School took over the Bishopsgate Ward Schools in the City of London.  A separate Girls’ School was set up in Spital Square and the boys incorporated in the existing Boys’ School with a new Charter being granted and the schools being renamed the Central Foundation Schools of London.

Trustees & Governors

Both Boys’ and Girls’ Schools remained academically selective and fee paying until the 1945 Education Act compelled all schools to become primarily state funded or to become entirely financially independent.  Central Foundation lacked sufficient financial endowment to become fully independent and in 1945 abolished fees and became state funded.  In 1975 the Girls’ School was moved from their very overcrowded school site in Spital Square to refurbished buildings in Bow in east London, and the Trustees, under funding pressure from the Inner London Education Authority, agreed to accept a comprehensive all-ability intake for both schools, the Girls’ School becoming voluntary controlled.

Prior to 1975, both schools were governed by a combined trustee and governing body.  Trustees are appointed by various nominating bodies such as the Corporation of the City of London, the University of London, the London Chamber of Commerce, the Bank of England and the Vestry of St. Botolph’s Church, Bishopsgate.  Additional trustees, selected for their expertise and notability, are co-opted as required.  The Lord Mayor of London is an ex-officio trustee.

In 1975, as a result of legislation relating to schools governance, it was decided to divide the responsibilities of the trustees and governors and separate governing bodies were set up for the Boys’ and Girls’ Schools with the trustees nominating representatives to each board whilst remaining owners of its school properties.  The remaining governors are appointed by the Local Education Authority, the parents and staff of the Schools.  The trustee body manages the finances of the foundation.

Central Foundation Boys' School Headteachers Through The Years


The Girls’ School buildings were adapted over the 1970s and 80s to provide space for the expanding school roll and to provide better facilities for a wider range of subjects to be taught.

From 1996-98 a new building on Harley Grove Campus, funded by the DFEE, was designed and built and in 2002 the school entered the LBTH Group Schools PFI project to refurbish existing buildings and to build a new sports hall.

The trustees have purchased a large building adjacent to the Harley Grove campus with the hope of accommodating the school on a single site.

The Boys’ School buildings were badly damaged by bomb blast and fire during 1940 and the governing body was able to carry out little repair work until after the war ended in 1945.  When the school re-opened, therefore, only two classrooms were available for use, the remainder of the school buildings being in a terrible condition.  Repairs were undertaken but owing to regulations, restrictions and shortages these went on, but slowly, and it was not until 1951 that the great hall was re-opened by the Lord Mayor.

Since 1952 many improvements have been carried out by the trustees, both major and minor, with the help of the Local Education Authority and grants from the Education Ministry.

In 2005, the former Shoreditch County Court was returned to the possession of the trustees. It was transformed, at a cost of approximately £6,000,000, into a modern educational building. It houses new technology rooms, a library, general classrooms and a lecture theatre.

Over the last few years, the school has been undergoing a major redevelopment of its campus. Phase 1 of the redevelopment project was completed in the autumn term 2021 and delivered a brand new Science Centre with a new reception area and a refurbished Maths and Humanities Block with general classrooms and a heritage gym.

Phase 2 of the campus redevelopment project is underway and due to be completed in April 2023. The Phase 2 works include the construction of an underground sports hall and a performing arts centre housed in a former methodist chapel. The performing arts centre will contain a theatre, music practice rooms and classroom, and two art studios.

Visual concept for the campus redevelopment project
New entrance to the School
Brand new reception area
Artist rendition of the inner Courtyard
Refurbished buildings with a focus on accessibility
Brand new Science Centre
Fully-equipped Science labs
Artist Impression of the Courtyard


Traditionally both schools have provided education for the children of immigrants who have tended to migrate and settle in the east end of London.  The record of achievement of pupils from both schools is impressive and very many famous names in law, medicine and science were former pupils of CFS.

In the late 1800s many of the pupils came from Russia and east european families fleeing the pogroms and religious persecution and in the 1920s and 1930s many of the pupils were children of German and Jewish refugees.  This tradition of educating and integrating first generation immigrant children continues with many of our pupils coming from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds.

Both schools are very popular with parents and despite several enlargements, are consistently oversubscribed.  The Boys’ School provides places for 870 boys and the Girls’ School has over 1200 pupils. Since 2005, the Boys’ School has accepted girls into its Sixth Form.

Our Alumni

Alumni Through History