The King’s Hospital School was founded in 1669. It opened in Queen Street in 1675. In 1783, it moved to a new building at Blackhall Place, which is now home to the Law Society of Ireland.
Between 1957 and 1966, The King’s Hospital acquired two small schools – Morgan’s and Mercer’s – which contributed to a growth in pupil numbers and a need for additional space. In 1970, the school made a final move – relocating to an 80-acre site on the banks of the River Liffey at Brooklawn in Palmerstown, Co Dublin.
Known for much of its history as The Blue Coat School, it is one of the oldest secondary schools in Ireland.
That it survived and thrived down through the centuries is testament to its tremendous resilience and leadership. The King’s Hospital School weathered many historical, political and financial storms.
The King’s Hospital School – Through the Years
1669-1671 The King’s Hospital School is founded in 1669 and building work begins. The years following the Restoration of the monarchy in Ireland are marked by the expansion of the city of Dublin – the foundation of the school is part of this expansionary movement. A Royal Charter is granted in 1671 – entitling the school to call itself The Hospital and Free School of King Charles II, Dublin.
1675 The school opens in Queen Street under the headmastership of the Revd Lewis Prytherch, a young graduate of Trinity College. There are 60 pupils, including three girls.
1689 James II arrives in Ireland, taking possession of The King’s Hospital, imprisoning the headmaster, Thomas King, and ejecting the pupils. After the Battle of the Boyne, the building passes into Williamite hands, and falls into serious disrepair.
1694 Rebuilding of the school starts as the Protestant Ascendancy begin to consolidate their power – the project is only made possible by individual contributions. Building continues throughout the early 1700s.
1740s Rebuilding is completed but is not regarded a success. The days of the Protestant Ascendancy are numbered with a growing awareness of the rights of the Catholic majority. This has consequences for the Protestant-endowed schools such as The King’s Hospital. In the era of Catholic relief, the school enjoys less support and falls into decline.
1783 The school moves to Blackhall Place. The move does not herald a great era for the institution as lack of funds continues to plague the school. This continues into the new century.
1820s-1830s The decline of the school continues, and an all-time low is reached in the 1830s. The school is also suffering from a lack of purpose, emanating from uncertainty as to its role in the era of Catholic emancipation.
1839 The Revd Louis Le Pan is appointed as headmaster and the turnaround begins. The curriculum is expanded. Le Pan’s restoration of discipline lifts morale at the school and his competence as a teacher raises its standing.
1892 The first day pupils are admitted to the school under then headmaster, the Revd Thomas Brownell Gibson, following the appointment of an education committee.
1896 The Revd Thomas Parry Richards takes over as headmaster. In his first five years at the school, Richards raises the standard of education considerably and greatly improves facilities. A golden age of King’s Hospital cricket begins. Rugby also prospers, and the institution begins to establish itself as a leading rugby school.
1914-1918 The First World War has a major impact on the school. The headmaster’s wife operates a comfort fund to send packages to numerous former pupils on active service. Recruitment of teachers proves difficult as young masters volunteer for the war effort. Forty past pupils die in the war.
1922 Richards retires and the school he had moulded is reshaped gradually but emphatically over the following four decades. The advent of the Irish Free State and the less formal character of society after the First World War contribute to changes at the school.
1930s The school accepts the new state philosophically, if not apprehensively, but by the early 1930s, there are positive enthusiasts in the school for the new, independent Ireland and for Gaelic culture.
1971 A revolutionary transformation takes place. A move to a new site at Palmerstown, together with the introduction of full co-education and the acceptance of Catholic day pupils alters the character of the school.
1983 The school appoints its first lay headmaster. Subsequent appointments to the position are of lay members of the Church of Ireland. The separate role of school chaplain is introduced.
1990s Under the headmastership of linguist Harry Meyer, a growing number of pupils from the continent attend the school, further transforming the community in terms of social and cultural diversity.
2019 The school celebrates 350 years since its foundation with numerous current pupils excelling in many different fields and many of its past pupils prominent in public life.
Source: A History of The King’s Hospital by Lesley Whiteside