The Royal School Wolverhampton owes both its existence and ethos to the good-hearted and pioneering Victorian philanthropist, Mr John Lees. A successful merchant and Wolverhampton resident, Mr Lees first opened the school in 1850 to provide a secure home and schooling for the city’s many orphans, brought about as a result of the cholera epidemic that was rampant in the mid 1800s.
It is hard to imagine that he began with just 13 children and that without his clear vision and determination we may never have evolved into a co-educational non-denominational Free School of such historic and educational stature.
Within two years of opening, the ‘Orphan Asylum’ as it was known, extended its pupil numbers and moved to our current site on Penn Road. Thanks largely to the generous donations of local dignitaries and entrepreneurs the building was added to in phases by the end of the 1800s, most of the existing Senior School was complete, including our very beautiful and historic chapel.
In 1900, the Duke and Duchess of York paid a royal visit to open the School’s new infirmary declaring that Queen Victoria had granted Royal patronage. The orphanage was proudly renamed ‘The Royal Orphanage of Wolverhampton’, a title that remained for the next four decades until, in 1944, King George V1 commanded via the Home Office that the School’s name should be changed to the Royal Wolverhampton School.
Growth continued apace and by 1931 work had begun on the Junior School. This opened a year later as a brand-new, purpose-built establishment with 47 pupils aged 5-10. Within a year this grew to 49 boys and 22 girls and by the early 1940s pupil numbers rose even more, necessitating further capital outlay for extensions, largely in response to the tragedy of war and children left fatherless and destitute.
The Royal continued as a charitable institution until the mid-1960s when it ran into financial difficulties and in a bid for survival the School’s Constitution was amended to allow some fee-paying pupils.
The generosity of Mr Lees and our Victorian forefathers continues to be acknowledged and celebrated on our School walls today; the result of which has meant that the School has housed and nurtured thousands of young people over the years. Even as a fee-paying School, The Royal offered sponsored ‘Foundationer’ places to at least 10% of pupils attending each year.
Now an independently-run Free School we do, turn full circle by offering ‘education for all’ in an all-inclusive and inspiring learning community that welcomes children from all social backgrounds and creeds.