Did you know that one of the oldest schools in the country is in Birmingham? King Edward's School was founded by Edward VI in 1552. Taking over from the Guild of the Holy Cross. Located on New Street until 1936. They moved to a site in Edgbaston close to the University of Birmingham where they remain to this day. Former pupils include J. R. R. Tolkien, Sir Edward Burne-Jones and more.

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King Edward's School from New Street to Edgbaston





Did you know that one of the oldest schools in the country is in Birmingham? King Edward's School was founded by Edward VI in 1552. Taking over from the Guild of the Holy Cross. Located on New Street until 1936. They moved to a site in Edgbaston close to the University of Birmingham where they remain to this day. Former pupils include J. R. R. Tolkien, Sir Edward Burne-Jones and more.


King Edward's School

During the English Reformation which led to the Dissolution of the Monasteries, by 1547 all lands and religious buildings were confiscated by the state. This included the Guild of the Holy Cross in Birmingham. Which was located on New Street. It was founded in 1392 by three men: John Coleshill, John Goldsmith and William atte Slowe. The Guild was so important that by 1482, they placed the Master of the Guild higher than the High Sheriff of the borough.

Birmingham had no Grammar School, so John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland (who was the Lord of the Manor of Birmingham by 1552, having replaced the last Norman descended member of the de Birmingham family) gave permission to turn the Guild into a School in it's former hall on New Street. John Dudley gained the ownership of the Manor of Birmingham in 1536 (after falsely accusing Edward Birmyncham, the last of the line of Norman barons of highway robbery). 

King Edward VI granted a Royal Charter early in 1552 to found a school in his name. By the 1680s there was nearly 200 boys at the school and a foundation was set up. A Georgian building was built on the New Street site between 1731 and 1734.

The old image below shows the Free Grammar School as it was in the Georgian period. It was from an engraving published by W. Emans, 1829. It was demolished in the early 1830s. It suggests the building was built in 1706 (and not the 1730s dates).

Public domain image taken from Wikimedia here KES Free Grammar School original without tower. The original uploader to the Wikimedia Commons took it from a book called The Making of Birmingham: Being a History of the Rise and Growth of the Midland Metropolis, Published by J. L. Allday. By Robert Kirkup Dent in 1894.

This was replaced by the Victorian building designed by Charles Barry which was built from 1833 to 1837. He employed Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin for the interiors. Together they later designed the current Palace of Westminster (after the fire destroyed the old one in the 1830s).

This image below was from a photograph by Whitlock on New Street. It shows the spire of Christ Church in the distance (demolished in 1899).

Public domain image taken from Wikimedia here KES Free Grammar School Charles Barry. The original uploader to the Wikimedia Commons took it from a book called The Making of Birmingham: Being a History of the Rise and Growth of the Midland Metropolis, Published by J. L. Allday. By Robert Kirkup Dent in 1894.

The old building had become a fire risk by 1936, and they acquired a site in Edgbaston from Calthorpe Estates. Between Edgbaston Park Road and the Bristol Road (close to the University of Birmingham). The new school was finally completed by 1948, although there was some expansion in the 1950s.

Barry's school was demolished and replaced by the current office building called King Edward House at 135A New Street, built from 1936 to 1937. It includes restaurants and shops on the ground floor. The architects was Essex & Goodman. Pevsner refers to it as bland classical. The Odeon Cinema was built at the same time (1936-37) replacing the girls school. It was by Frank Verity & Samuel Beverley for Paramount Pictures. The Paramount Theatre opened in 1937. It didn't become an Odeon until 1942, months after the death of Oscar Deutsch. 

This view of King Edward House on New Street during January 2011. As you can see it is to the right of the Odeon Cinema.

I got a new photo of King Edward House back in January 2020. Hard to believe that we lost both a Georgian and Victorian building here. Yet alone the Tudor building that preceded both of them.

New Street in January 2013 while it was snowing. The cramped site of the old school didn't have it's own sports field at the back. And with Birmingham New Street Station behind, there wouldn't have been room for expansion on this site anyway.

Early morning on New Street in February 2020. Hard to believe a pandemic and lockdown would be declared at the end of March 2020. King Edward House seen to the left. Britannia Hotel on the right. Imagine the Houses of Parliament in Birmingham, well it would have been down here as King Edward VI Grammar School. Sadly after 100 years in 1936 the old building was in a bad condition and the school moved to the Edgbaston site, and the old building sadly demolished.

In early November 2008, a cousin from Australia came to visit us (several weeks before I lost my brother to cancer). And we took him to King Edward's School in Edgbaston (we thought his father went to this school, but it later turned out he went to King Edward VI Five Ways School instead).

The only building to survive from New Street was the school chapel. It was originally built as the upper corridor of the 1838 New Street School (by Charles Barry) and it was moved to Edgbaston in pieces (1938-40) by Holland W Hobbis, and was renovated and rebuilt in the 1950s.

The Chapel is a Grade II* listed building. It used to link the Grammar School to the Library ranges of Barry's school in New Street (built from 1833-38). Built of brick with stone dressings. The Chapel is used for services every Wednesday morning, when the Eucharist is celebrated by the school Chaplain.

Some more views of the exterior of King Edward's School. We did take my cousin inside, but I only took photos outside.

The Royal Coat of Arms above the main entrance to the school.

More buildings to the left, dating to the post war era of the late 1940s or into the 1950s.

On this site they had more land to build the school compared to the old New Street site.

In January 2018, on one of my many walks around the University of Birmingham's Edgbaston Campus I got some new photos of King Edward's School from Edgbaston Park Road. I've not been in the grounds of the school since we had my cousin with us 10 years earlier.

This building is the King Edward's Schools' Foundation Office. You can also access the King Edward VI High School for Girls from here (more on that further below).

Another Royal Coat of Arms above the Foundation building. Clearly the arms of King Edward VI.

There was also a Royal Coat of Arms on the school gate from Edgbaston Park Road.

Another walk around the Edgbaston Campus of the University of Birmingham, this time in February 2019, and I tried to get a couple of photos of King Edward VI High School for Girls. The sunlight was a bit bright from Pritchatts Road. The school was founded in 1883 and was sharing the boys school on New Street. They moved to Congreve Street in 1887 (the former Liberal Club building). In 1896 they moved to a new school building on the site of the Hen & Chickens pub on New Street. They moved to their present location on Edgbaston Park Road in 1940 to new buildings designed by Holland W. Hobbiss. The New Street site was bought by the Prudential Assurance Company and leased for the Odeon cinema.

Royal Coat of Arms on the Girls school building. Same one as the Boys school.

In February 2019, I was able to get this photo from the no 63 bus on the Bristol Road of King Edward's School. The long hedge that was here was cut down and replaced by a fence. You can see the large Rugby field from here. A new sports hall was built in 2018 near Vince House (it was complete by 2019). Not far from here is the Park Vale Gate. I think we drove up here back during the 2008 Sunday morning visit. The Chapel was visible from here to the right.

The modern 21st Century photos were taken by Elliott Brown between 2008 and 2019.

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Birmingham We Are People with Passion award winner 2020