These distinctive figures mark a charity school, many dating back to the mid-16th century, with the costumes being normal school attire of the period. Blue was used for charity school children because it was the cheapest dye available for clothing. Socks were dyed in saffron as that was thought to stop rats nibbling the pupils’ ankles.

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St Mary Kensington

High on a wall behind the church – over the doors to the old school still labelled ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ – these two statues have marked St Mary Abbots Charity School since 1712. The scroll the boy is holding reads: ‘I was naked and ye clothed me.’ The girl looks slightly shocked.

Kensington Church Street W14
Tube: Kensington High Street

Christ Church Blewcoat

This school, set up in around 1688 by public subscription to rival the free schools run by the Catholic Church, took in 50 boys. However, it was 1709 before this building was put up in Caxton Street to house it, with the first 20 girls being admitted in 1713. Closed in 1939, it is now a National Trust shop.

Caxton Street SW1
Tube: St James’s Park

St Mary Rotherhithe

This pair of Bluecoats stand above a plaque marking the school’s history. ‘Founded by Peter Hill and Robert Bell in 1613. Removed here 1797.’ Living to the age of 80, and married twice, Peter Hill gave £3 a year to the master to teach eight children, ‘sons of seafaring men'.

St Marychurch Street SE16
Tube: Rotherhithe

St John’s Old School

Although founded in 1695 – a year after the parish of Wapping itself – the building you see now dates ‘only’ to 1765. These are two of the finest Bluecoat statues in London, with the costume details outstanding. The separate boys and girls entrances are clearly marked.

Scandrett Street E1
Tube: Wapping

Hatton Garden

Built as a Chapel of Ease in 1687 – some say by Sir Christopher Wren – this graceful building became a  charity school in 1721. Bombed in World War II, it was rebuilt as offices and is now called Wren House. Fortunately, the Bluecoat boy and girl were in safe storage during the war.

Hatton Garden EC1
Tube: Farringdon

Greycoat Hospital

In 1698, eight local men set up a school in Westminster, then a seedy area full of poor refugees from the Great Fire of 1666. In 1701, an old workhouse was bought to use as premises. With 67 boys and 33 girls in 1851, by 1874 it had become the school for girls that it is today.

Greencoat Place SW1
Tube: St James’s Park

St Andrew’s, Holborn

St Andrew’s Parochial School was founded in Brook Market in 1696 but moved to Hatton Garden in 1721. These pair were over the Cross Street entrance to the Hatton Garden school (right) but were moved here when the church was refurbished after WWII bombing.

St Andrew Street EC4
Tube: Chancery Lane/Farringdon

Christ’s Hospital School

The only school to actually now retain the Bluecoat uniform for daily use is Christ’s Hospital, founded in 1552. It moved to Sussex in 1902 but still parades through the City on St Matthew’s Day each year, with its band giving regular performances at events such as the Lord Mayor’s Show.

Horsham, West Sussex RH13
Rail: Christ Hospital

Sir John Cass Primary

Cass was a merchant, builder and politician who founded a school for 50 orphans in the churchyard of St Botolph's Aldgate in 1709. His statue  outside the school is a copy of one in the Guildhall by Roubiliac dated 1751.  He is wearing a long wig and a Sheriff's gown.

Duke's Place EC3
Tube: Aldgate/Liverpool Street


The Greencoat Boy

The lovely sign on this pub near the Greycoat Hospital school (left) shows a running Greencoat boy. A plaque marks the founding of the school in Tothill Fields ‘for the relief of poor, fatherless children’ by Charles I in 1633. By ‘fatherless’, one might assume single mums are not a totally modern issue.

Greencoat Place SW1
Tube: St James’s Park


Raine Street School

Henry Raine (1679-1738) was a Wapping brewer who founded this charitable school in 1719. This original building is now a community centre but the school continues in Bethnal Green. Its motto – still above the door – is: ‘Come in and learn your duty to God and man.’

Raine Street E1
Tube: Wapping