Archbishop John Whitgift, who came to know and love Croydon in the reign of Elizabeth I, was a generous benefactor and set up a Foundation in 1594 making provision for a hospital and a school in the borough. By 1850 the educational side of the Whitgift Foundation had diminished, and the School room had been let to the National society without fee. However, with Croydon growing rapidly, the Whitgift Foundation gave approval for the building of two schools in 1856, and the Poor school opened in Church Street in the heart of the parish.

The Poor School was for boys of 7 to 14 who lived in Croydon and who were ‘able to read and not afflicted with infectious disease’ for a maximum fee of 4 pence a week. Under the Headmaster William Ingrams, who remained in post until 1905, the school was very successful but changes in the Education act meant that primary schooling had to be provided elsewhere.

Early in 1881, the Poor School closed briefly but later in the same year reopened again in Pump Pail off Scarbrook Road, with the name of Whitgift Middle School.

Whitgift Middle School was a Third Grade Secondary School, the grade reflecting a specific purpose not quality, and was geared to providing education for those leaving at 14/15 years to enter commercial occupations. It was a popular and successful School in spite of the inadequacy of the buildings and in the 1920s it was intended to move the School to bigger premises at Haling Park. However the Foundation Governors eventually decided that the School would move to North End in the centre of Croydon in 1931 where it remained until 1965. The Trinity School changed again in 1954 to Trinity School of John Whitgift but the School remained at North End until 1965 when it moved to Shirley Park. The School in central Croydon was razed to the ground and is now the Whitgift shopping centre.

From this brief history of the School’s development, it is impossible not to realise that there is an enormous amount of history relating to the School. Unfortunately due to the changes that have taken place since the mid 1800s a great deal of the archive material has been lost. However there is a catalogued collection of memorabilia with photographs, artefacts and documents in the designated School Archive, and much of the material is currently undergoing the process of digitisation so that it can be seen on the School website.

From some of the memorabilia, displays have been mounted which can be seen by staff and boys, and also by OMWs and visitors to the School. Our Archivist, Amanda Oakes, is happy to respond to enquiries from the public and particularly welcomes contact from Old Boys of the School.