The school has a proud history dating back to 1545 when King Henry VIII instructed his hanaper, Sir John Hales, to found a school in the city of Coventry. The original royal seal and charter are on display at the school.
The school has evolved through many different guises since that day, but the legacy of our founding monarch has remained. Today we are an independent, co-educational day school of around 725 pupils from 11-18. The school is part of an educational charity, the Coventry School Foundation.
The school has educated local children throughout its history. Our outreach work with the local community is considerable and currently includes offering swimming lessons to primary schools, performance spaces for productions, letting of facilities to local sports clubs, voluntary work throughout the city and much more.
Key dates for King Henry VIII School
||The School is founded by John Hales as a condition, set by King Henry VIII, to his purchase of former monastery lands around the city. Lessons are taught in the choir of the church of the Whitefriars’ Monastery.
||The School moves to another of John Hales’ properties, the Hospital of St John the Baptist, known today as ‘The Grammar School’ in Hales Street. It would remain on this site for over 300 years.
||Queen Elizabeth I visits the School.
||The third Headmaster, John Tovey, founds the School Library.
||Princess Elizabeth visits the School and makes a gift of money towards the cost of more books for the library.
||Visit to the School by King James I.
||The Great Fire of London.
||Around this time John Fisher attends the School. He would later reform the Royal Navy, develop the Dreadnought battleship and prepare the fleet for the Great War.
||The School moves to its current home in Warwick Road.
||R E S Wyatt joins the School. A promising cricketer, he would later captain both Warwickshire and England.
||Philip Larkin joins the junior department and remains at the School for the next 10 years. He is now regarded as one of the most influential poets of the 20th century.
||Most of the School are evacuated to Alcester. The centre of Coventry is obliterated during a single night of German bombing in November.
||Much of the School is destroyed during an air raid by German bombers.
||The 400th anniversary of the School’s foundation is marked with the publication of the firstSchool history.
||The first girls are admitted to King Henry VIII.
||The Sixth Form move across Warwick Road into the newly built Trevor Webb Centre. Trevor Webb was Chairman of Governors for many years.
||King Henry VIII Junior School move into a new purpose-built block.
||The new Sports Hall is opened by David Moorcroft.
||The School celebrates the quarter-centenary of the Library with a series of special events, including the opening of the Philip Larkin Room.
||Roger Wilton, a retired member of staff, publishes a second volume to the School history – From Blitz to Millennium.
||The new Swimming Pool and Fitness Suite are opened.
History of the Library
We remember the third headmaster, John Tovey, because in 1602 ‘at his earnest request the Library at the Free School was begun’. The rules stated ‘that there be dictionaries chained in the school for general use of scholars’. It was both a school and a public library and as such was one of the first public libraries in the country.
The Library had a splendid collection of books and relied on former pupils, the gentry of the city and even visiting royalty for donations.
At the end of the 16th century, when the school building was altered to widen Hales Street, the books were taken to St Mary’s Hall for storage. On their return they were put in a small damp room and the decline set in. An inspection in 1830 accounted for 200 books, though most were in poor condition.
In 1885 the School moved to Warwick Road but a little later the School accounts record ‘for sale of old books, £70’ – our priceless relics from 1602, gone. However, had they remained, it is likely they would have been lost when the school was destroyed during bombing in 1941.
In 1958 our Memorial Library was opened, dedicated to the memory of the Old Coventrians who died in the two World Wars. In 1996 it was given a facelift and rejuvenated and in 2002 we celebrated our quarter-centenary and remembered John Tovey’s foresight that led to his ‘earnest request’.