The Kensington Proprietary Grammar School was an educational establishment founded in 1830 that is perhaps best remembered for being one of the founders of the Football Association in 1863.
The Kensington Proprietary Grammar School was colloquially referred to as the ’Kensington School’.
Kensington School was established in 1830 in union with the Corporation of King’s College London for the purpose "of providing an efficient course of education for youth, comprising religious and moral instruction in conformity with the principles of the Established Church, the Greek, Latin and Modern languages anc literature, History, Geography, Mathematics and such other branches of knowledge and such accomplishments as it may be practicable and advantageous to introduce." It was intended to create a first-grade institution in connection with the Church of England.
The Vicar of Kensington was the President the Bishop of London was the Patron. The school opened on 24 January 1831 with twenty pupils. The proprietors had taken a house on a short tenure in Kensington Square
, the intention being that if after a trial period of two years the school was a success they would either take a lease or go elsewhere. The school quickly established itself.
The school was famous for its athletic attainments and for the zeal with which all games, especially cricket and football, were pursued. It contributed more than one captain to the Cambridge and Oxford University elevens, and was the first school in England to institute a public "sports" day. The sports were known to fashionable London as the "Kensington Races."
At the time of the school’s inception in 1830, football had yet to find a uniform code of play, and neither Association or Rugby football had yet been formalised. The style of football that had become increasingly popular since its inception at Rugby School was not adopted by the Proprietary School. They tended towards the dribbling game, represented to an extent by Eton’s code and which would be set down formally in Cambridge rules in 1848. However, even the apparent acceptance of these rule sets for these two variations in the game did not avert controversy over the rules by which teams should play. With the exception of a rationalised and uniform football culture that was emerging in Sheffield in the 1850s, across the United Kingdom from club to club and school to school there was little agreement over the elements of a football game, be that the time it should take to play, the number of players in a side, or indeed whether running with the ball was illegal or not. Teams had to agree on rules before a match, or had to agree to play the code of each team for one half of the match each. In order to allow matches to take place without such constraints and problems, a number of captains and representatives from various London clubs met at Freemasons’ Tavern in Lincoln’s Inn Fields on 26 October 1863. Kensington School was one of the twelve teams represented, and thus became a founder member of the Football Association.
The school was established at No. 31 Kensington Square
in 1831. The proprietors had taken that house on a short tenure and within a year of opening the number of pupils had doubled and the schoolroom had had to be enlarged. The proprietors nevertheless decided against taking a lease of No. 31, due to the potential £600 ’substantial repairs’, and in June 1833 purchased the freehold of No. 27. This was an old house that had stood empty for some years and the proprietors planned to rebuild it. At the same time two-and-a-half acres of ground was leased behind the house, previously William Cobbett’s nursery, for use as a playground.
The rebuilding of No. 27 was carried out by George Todd of Chelsea in 1833-4 at a cost of some £3,500, the architect was William Crake of Notting Hill. The new school was in two parts: a front building, on the site of the old house, known as School House, intended as the headmaster’s residence, but it also contained other facilities such as a dining-room for the boys and bedrooms and a dormitory for boarders. A separate schoolroom was behind. The school was four storeys high with an austere brick front.
The schoolroom was housed in a free-standing single-storey building at the back of the main house from which it was separated by a paved playground covered by a corrugated-iron roof, known as the ’tectum’. A passageway through the basement storey of No. 27 gave direct access to the playground and schoolroom from Kensington Square
. West of the schoolroom was the large open playground. In 1838 the proprietors acquired the next-door house at No. 26, where two more classrooms were erected in the back garden. At the same time the tectum was extended behind No. 26. with the house itself was leased to the school’s second master for Â£65 a year. In 1845 another two classrooms were built on top of the original schoolroom.
In 1845, when the number of pupils had reached 130, of whom 85 were boarders, the directors decided to buy No. 28 Kensington Square
and use it as a boarding house, in order to relieve pressure on the headmaster’s own house. However, only a part of No. 28 was used in this way, the rest being let to the second master at £70 per annum, while his former residence at No. 26 was added to the headmaster’s house.
Records suggest that by 1857, despite the school’s enhanced academic reputation, the headmaster of the time had allowed general discipline in the school to relax. The formidable Haig Brown joined the school in 1857 instilling a sense of discipline once again and he remained at Kensington till 1863. His departure for Charterhouse was perhaps one of the causes which led eventually to the collapse of Kensington School. It is possible that, had he remained there, his powerful influence might have induced the Directors to oppose the Bill presented in Parliament by the Metropolitan Railway Company for powers to appropriate the playground, and they might thus have obtained sufficient compensation to enable them to remove the school elsewhere. The loss of the playground in 1865 was the chief cause of the final disbandment of the school. A much smaller playground was made in the back garden of No. 25, taken on lease in about 1864 and sub-let as a boarding house to one of the assistant masters.
By 1869, there were only 45 pupils left, and the school had accumulated debts of over £2,000. In July 1869, therefore, the proprietors voted to close it down and sold the school buildings to the Rev. Charles Tabor Ackland, one of the assistant masters.
In 1881, Ackland’s resigned and the trustees spent £3,650 on building works at the school enlarging classrooms and building fives courts behind Nos. 28 and 29, and other various alterations. The alterations at the three houses were partly intended to prepare them for letting to private tenants as the school contracted.
In 1898 the whole site was then offered for sale at auction but failed to attract a buyer, and in 1900 the trustees agreed to sell it to Derry and Toms
for £20,500 but this was superseded when the Crown, which had been negotiating to buy the free hold of various properties occupied by Derry and Toms
, agreed to buy the freehold of the Grammar School site and let it to Derry’s on a lease expiring in 1949.
Although Nos. 28 and 29 Kensington Square
continued to be occupied by private tenants, the other three houses in the square were used to provide accommodation for Derry and Toms
’ staff, and the back premises were converted for use as workshops. The only survival from the days of the school is the ’cottage’ behind No. 28, known as 27a, which is the ’new building’ of 1846.