The history of our Camp Hill is also the history of the King Edward Foundation
from which it originated.
But, one could argue, its history goes back even further in time to the reign of Richard II when the Guild of the Holy Cross was founded in 1382, from which the King Edward Foundation later derived its funds. The Foundation still has a deed dated 28th October of that year, granted to four wealthy local businessmen: “to found a Chauntry endowed with lands, tenements and rents in Bermyngehame and Egebaston”.
The Guild was later dissolved and its funds confiscated by King Edward VI’s commissioners but a group of its members petitioned the King to restore part of its funds for the foundation of a school.
And so a charter was granted in 1552 for a Free Grammar School of King Edward VI “forever to endure”. In 1751, four teachers were appointed to give free instruction in English to boys and girls in Birmingham, the first lasting expansion of the Foundation’s activities. In 1837, several King Edward elementary schools were started leading to four branch schools, one of which, the Meriden Street school, had 125 boys and 120 girls. From 1878 onwards, these were known as Lower Middle Schools.
|1876 - 1881 Meriden Street||The early beginnings.|
|1881 - 1891 Camp Hill House||The school was officially granted Grammar School Status two years after it was established at Camp Hill House.|
|1893 - 1958 Camp Hill House||The “stately” school built on the site of Camp Hill House.|
|1958 - Present Camp Hill House||At Kings Heath, Birmingham.|
At Meriden Street, under the direction of its first headmistress Miss Harriet Grundy, the curriculum for girls was a simple one, consisting of mainly reading, writing, arithmetic, needlework, drawing and a little history, geography and scripture. In 1881 so few pupils lived near Meriden Street, that the governors searched for a new site elsewhere.
Eventually, Camp Hill House was found in three acres of land and purchased for £8,000. The house was suitable for a girls’ school and there was enough land to build a boys’ school immediately.
During the ten year tenure of Camp Hill House, an important change took place. Only eight heads have led the school since 1876, and in many ways the school’s history is also theirs. This was in 1883 when the Lower Middle Schools became Grammar Schools, with a much wider curriculum and improved status. This was when King Edward VI Grammar School for Girls, Camp Hill, was born, with Miss Grundy appointed as headmistress.
At this time, girls could enter the school at 8 years old and stay until 16. Numbers steadily increased until, 1891, when they decided to pull down Camp Hill House and re-build on the same site.
The school was temporarily re-homed in The Poplars, a large house on Stratford Road, during rebuilding.
The new building at Camp Hill was opened in 1893 by the Bishop of Durham (an Old Edwardian) Dr Westcott. During the 65 years in the Camp Hill building, growth was steady. Miss Grundy, the first head of Meriden Street since 1876 and then later Camp Hill, retired in 1903 after 27 years service.
Under the headship of Londoner Miss Helen Sullivan (1903–1913), the previous Chief Assistant Mistress at Camp Hill, greater emphasis was placed on academic work, and in her time the first inspection of the school took place in March 1909.
In a conversation with the Daily News at that time, Miss Sullivan referred to the remarkable developments which had taken place in the education of women. At a Prize Day one year a local Bishop gave out the prizes and, in his speech, advised girls to do domestic work when they left school. Miss Sullivan was reported to be furious and said he knew nothing about grammar schools!
This is the official photograph celebrating the school’s jubilee 1883-1933. The image has been restored and has been made available as a high-resolution download for you to explore.
It was after the arrival of the third headmistress, Miss Mary Keen (1913-1943) that girls began to take public examinations for the first time.
The age of leaving was also raised and Sixth Form work developed so that it was no longer necessary for girls looking to go to university to be transferred to another school.
Miss Keen was praised for her devotion to the work and spirit of the school, especially during the early years of the war when the school was twice evacuated and later brought back into operation in two sections some 20 miles apart!
She was certainly far ahead of her time with her ideas on the education of girls. A tribute paid to her said:
She was primarily responsible for modernising the school on the academic side. By the end of her time, school was working to School Certificate in Higher Education, sending girls to university and in due season they began to take Firsts.
Yet she never allowed to regard examinations as an end in themselves and took the liveliest interest in games and everything else.