An illustrated lecture by Fred Steward, Emeritus Professor, School of Architecture & Cities. University of Westminster.
In the 1690s, the East India Company merchant Sir John Moore endowed the construction of two new school buildings: the Appleby Free School in the central Midlands, and the Writing School at Christ’s Hospital in the City of London. Both involved Sir Christopher Wren in their design, and had an innovative schoolroom with long bench desks for large classes of over 100 pupils.
How did these two strikingly different people find a common cause in building a new type of schoolroom? Wren was an intellectual prodigy with a metropolitan High Church background; Moore was a pragmatic businessman with provincial midlands Puritan roots. Both lived in the age of a commercial revolution in global maritime trade which drove the prosperity of London. Their links developed in the 1680s and 1690s through Christ’s Hospital school for poor children in the City of London. They shared an interest in educational innovation and in widening access to learning: a need was seen for writing and drawing skills for business which were unmet by traditional schooling, and a new kind of schoolroom was developed.