St George's School

John Rocque's Map of London in 1746 shows only only one school in the parish. This was the school founded by General William Steuart, who died in 1726 at the age of 82 and in his will left £5000 Irish to erect and endow a school for twenty poor boys of the parish. In English money the endowment was only worth £4,484. After some difficulties a site at the east end of South Street was bought from the 5th Lord Berkeley of Stratton and the school opened in 1742. The boys wore Steuart livery, the waistcoat of which earned the boys the nickname of "yellow-bellies". Two pews were allocated to them in S. George's, and those with good voices assisted in the choir, Mismanagement and neglect by the trustees reduced the number of boys who could be supported to ten in 1802.

Apart from this school virtually no provision was made for the education of the children of the poor, till May 1803, when a body of parishioners met to raise money to establish two "Day Schools of Instruction and Industry". The first of these opened in leasehold premises in South Street in 1804. The second did not come into being till 1815 in Belgrave Street. This was maintained by the St George's managers till 1846, when it was transferred to the new parish of St Peter's, Eaton Square.

These Schools of Instruction and Industry were severely practical in their purpose. In addition to elementary education, the boys were taught tailoring and the girls straw-plaiting, bonnet making and basket work. The maintenance of the schools was financed by voluntary subscription and by the proceeds from charity sermons preached annually in the churches and chapels-of-ease in the neighbourhood. On Sundays the children attended the services in the various places of worship in the parish. In St George's in 1804, extra galleries were built at the west end, on each side of the organ, to accommodate 200 children. Once a year until 1877 50 boys and 30 girls "from among the stoutest in the school" were marched to St Paul's Cathedral for the United Charity School service after which they returned to consume a substantial dinner.

In 1817 the St George's school amalgamated with General Steuart's, which was still in difficulties, and moved into the latter's premises, for which the managers paid a rent of £105 a year. The joint schools were limited to 500 children of over seven years of age, but in 1829 the managers tackled the problem of younger children. A Parochial Infant School was opened in 1831 on the north side of St Mark's Chapel, North Audley Street, for children from two to seven years of age. Ten years later a similar school was built on part of the yard attached to the north east corner of the Grosvenor Chapel. This is now Liddon House. Yet another Day School was established in Davies Mews in 1846, moving to larger premises in 1853 at 53 South Molton Street. During the 19th century the schools were under the patronage of Royalty, first of H.R.H. the Duke of Gloucester, and later that of H.R.H. the Duke of Cambridge. The two fine portraits of King George III, which still hang in the upper hall of the school today, by Sir William Beechey, were presented to mark the King's golden jubilee in 1809.

The next phase came at the end of the century. The General Steuart's School buildings were no longer adequate. On adjoining land, presented by the Duke of Westminster, in 1898 the present fine building was erected to the designs of W.D.Caroe. Parents of pupils were required to pay sixpence a week. The peculiar uniform of the Steuart Charity boys had been abolished in 1888, and in consequence their position was much sought after. In 1931 the Boys' and Girls' were amalgamated into a mixed school under a headmaster.

At the beginning of the 1939-1945 War most of the children were evacuated to the country, and the ground floor of the school was turned into a mortuary; but so many of the children were back in London by May 1940 that the school had to open again. The roof and the upper floors were damaged by incendiary bombs later in the same year, but work went on without much upheaval. In 1952 the Secondary and Primary departments were separated, the Secondary school going to St Martin-in-the-Fields, leaving the Infants and Juniors in sole possession. The endowments of General Steuart's Charity continue to benefit the boys, past and present, of the school.

St George's (Hanover Square) Voluntary Aided Church of England Primary School still operates from the 1898 building in South Street, London W1. The School continues to flourish and is heavily oversubscribed. Details of the present school and its current admission criteria may be found at the school website or by telephoning the School on 020 7629 1196.