Founded in 1539, The Crypt School is one of the oldest schools in the country. Now on its fourth site at Podsmead, the School’s work and ethos is still informed by the vision of its founders, John and Joan Cooke: to provide a free, grammar school education to bright children, regardless of their background.
That enduring vision takes its modern form in the work of the School today, which now provides an exceptional education to over 1000 boys and girls from the city of Gloucester and its wider community.
The original school room, where the first lessons were taught in Latin, exits still today in the very centre of Gloucester, next to St Mary de Crypt Church. Both the Tudor schoolroom, and Church have recently undergone a £1.5 m heritage lottery transformation into open, light and welcoming spaces to be enjoyed by the School and community.
By the 1850s, the Tudor schoolroom had become too small for the growing number of pupils, so in 1861 the School moved to a temporary site in Barton Street before moving to its new purpose built buildings in ‘Friars Orchard’, a site which had formally been the orchard of the medieval Franciscan Friary of the Grey Friars.
The School stayed there until its move to Podsmead in 1943, a site which had, with incredible foresight, been purchased by Joan Cooke back in 1539.
Since 1943, the School has witnessed significant change: new buildings abound, pupil numbers have grown sharply to over 1000 today and in 2018, the School changed its status from a boys’ school to becoming Gloucester’s only co-education selective school, with the admission of its first ever cohort of boys and girls into Year 7.
During the First World War some 58 OC’s were killed and in the Second World War another 78 died: that sad loss is commemorated by two memorials in the School’s Crush Hall and by the School’s annual Remembrance Service held in the main hall each year.
Over its near 500 year history, the School has inevitably produced some outstanding individuals who have richly contributed in a wide arena of activities: Robert Raikes, founder of the Sunday school movement; WE Henley (1861-67) famously wrote his poem Invictus at the age of 17 a poem which inspired Nelson Mandela whilst in prison and more recently Prince Harry’s Invictus games; John Moore (1739-44), Archbishop of Canterbury and George Whitefield (1726-31), preacher and evangelist, alongside of TE Brown (1861-3) a former Headmaster whose work revitalized a then moribund school. Old Cryptians can be found in all walks of life: in the arts; sciences; media; business, commerce and industry; education; government and many also live and work overseas.
The School is fast approaching its 500th anniversary and we are extremely fortunate at Crypt to have a rich collection of treasures gathered by Old Cryptians and staff over the past 200 years. The Library has a large number of books by or about past students (such as William Henley and Sir Robin Day) with the rarest book that we have is a hand-written and bound copy of a book on Latin by Dr Rudge (Headteacher, 1788-1803). The rest of our archive is housed at the city archive in central Gloucester.