History

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

1545 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.
1558 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.
1565 Queen Elizabeth I visits the School.
1602 The third Headmaster, John Tovey, founds the School Library.
1604 Princess Elizabeth visits the School and makes a gift of money towards the cost of more books for the library.
1617 Visit to the School by King James I.
1666 The Great Fire of London.
1850 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.
1885 The School moves to its current home in Warwick Road.
1918 R E S Wyatt joins the School. A promising cricketer, he would later captain both Warwickshire and England.
1930 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.
1940 Most of the School are evacuated to Alcester. The centre of Coventry is obliterated during a single night of German bombing in November.
1941 Much of the School is destroyed during an air raid by German bombers.
1945 The 400th anniversary of the School’s foundation is marked with the publication of the firstSchool history.
1975 The first girls are admitted to King Henry VIII.
1996 The Sixth Form move across Warwick Road into the newly built Trevor Webb Centre. Trevor Webb was Chairman of Governors for many years.
1997 King Henry VIII Junior School move into a new purpose-built block.
2002 The new Sports Hall is opened by David Moorcroft.
2002 The School celebrates the quarter-centenary of the Library with a series of special events, including the opening of the Philip Larkin Room.
2004 Roger Wilton, a retired member of staff, publishes a second volume to the School history – From Blitz to Millennium.
2009 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’.

Former alumni include:

Philip Larkin (1922 - 1985)
An English poet, novelist and jazz critic, Larkin spent his working life as librarian at Hull University. Following the death of John Betjeman he was offered the Poet Laureateship, but declined the post. Larkin is commonly regarded as one of the greatest English poets of the latter half of the 20th century.

Andy Goode (1980 -)
Andy Goode is a Rugby Union player.  Formerly a member of Leicester Tigers, he currently plays for Wasps who are now resident in the Ricoh arena, Coventry.

R E S Wyatt (1901 - 1995)
Bob Wyatt played cricket for Warwickshire, Worcestershire and England, winning 40 caps, 16 of those as Captain. He is probably remembered as the first England Captain to employ the controversial ‘bodyline’ tactic against Australia. Warwickshire’s home ground, Edgbaston, has a stand named in his honour.

John Phipps (1934 -2011) was an Old Coventrian and Headmaster of Coventry Prep School, which is now King Henry VIII Preparatory School. Click here to visit the John Phipps Legacy website.
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