The Liverpool Blue Coat School

Continue walking along Church Road until you reach the corner of Bristol Road, opposite the gates of the Blue Coat School. The imposing Edwardian building - described as 'spectacular' by the late Prof. Nikolaus Pevsner - was designed by the Liverpool partnership Briggs, Wolstenholme & Thornely, perhaps best-known as the architects of the Dock Office at the Pier Head. It was opened in 1906, when the pupils were transferred from the old building in School Lane, Liverpool (nowadays known as Bluecoat Chambers). The very impressive Chapel - the large domed building to the left of the main school - was designed by the same architects, having been paid for by Mr T. Fenwick-Harrison (of the Harrison shipping line) as a memorial to his late wife. Like the neighbouring Holy Trinity Church, the school and its chapel are both Grade II* ('two starred') Listed Buildings: i.e. classed as 'particularly important' in the national context.

The Liverpool Blue Coat School - or Blue Coat Hospital, to give it its original title - was founded in 1708 by Mr Bryan Blundell and Rev. Robert Styth as "a school for teaching poor children to read, write and cast accounts". Blundell was a leading Liverpool shipowner - reputedly the owner of the first ship to enter the town's first dock in 1715 - and slave trader, participating in the 'triangular trade' which linked Liverpool, West Africa and the Caribbean. Styth was the first joint Rector of Liverpool, based at St Nicholas Church on the waterfront. Both men were aware of the problems of orphan children in Liverpool, large numbers of whom were left destitute by the loss of their fathers at sea.

The original school expanded rapidly and a new building (the present Bluecoat Chambers in School Lane) was opened in 1718. It was still in use in 1899, when the decision to move 'to the countryside' was made and the land here in Church Road - overlooking the newly-opened Wavertree Playground - was purchased.

The Blue Coat School retained its 'orphanage' role until the late 1940s, the boys and girls in their old-fashioned dress having been a familiar sight in Wavertree during the interwar years. In 1949, however, it became a 'secondary bilateral' school for boys only (day pupils as well as boarders). Girls were re-admitted - though to the sixth form only - in 1990, when the boarding house eventually closed owing to lack of demand. In 1997 - after several years as a nominally comprehensive school - the Blue Coat changed its status once again, becoming a Grant Maintained School selecting its pupils on the basis of academic ability.

The above is an extract from 'DISCOVERING HISTORIC WAVERTREE',
. © Mike Chitty 1999.
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Page created by MRC 26 February 2000.