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22 May

From the Archives: History of Choir House

1943: Establishment of Choir House

The establishment of Choir House is closely entwined with that of the Choir School, the old Tredennyke prep school, and the early years of St Alban’s. 

The Choir School was formed in 1882 from the initiative of Worcester Cathedral’s Precentor, The Revd. Herbert Hall Woodward.  Woodward had the sympathy of the Dean and Chapter, and the Headmaster of The King’s School’s, Mr. Bolland; but he had to make himself financially responsible in case of the failure of his enterprise.  Eventually the Dean and Chapter gave them the building today known as Choir House – according to a survey of 1649, it had been the site of the ‘old singing school’. Woodward became Warden of the Choir School and continued in this post until his death on 25 May 1909, whereafter he was commemorated by the Woodward memorial wing of the Choir School.  In 1927 the Choir School was enlarged into a full preparatory school with younger pupils transferred from The King’s School.  It also catered for non-choristers, so absolving The King’s School from taking very young boys.  In 1927-1928 extra classrooms and more accommodation were added.

The Choir School and The King’s School were eventually amalgamated on 15 August 1943.  A very detailed agreement was composed in February 1943, but was not finally sealed until June 1944.  There were to be up to 24 Singing Boys at a time, 10 of them Choristers and the rest Probationers.  Those over the age of ten had to reach the entry standard of The King’s School in their work.  No one was to stay in the Choir after the age of thirteen.  All were to be available for singing at specific times; ‘singing in the holidays’ and responsibility for resulting travel bills were elaborately covered; so were reductions in fees.  The King’s School was to have the Choir School buildings, playing field and pavilion on a 21-year lease; the head of the Choir School, P.F. Davis, was to retire on a pension; and all his staff were to be employed by The King’s School after 31 July.  All Choir School boys over twelve, choristers included, moved from the Choir School to The King’s School; those under twelve were joined in “Choir House” by the under-twelves from The King’s School.

In 1943, C.P. Longland became the first housemaster of the newly-established Choir House.  Mr. Longland’s own son was in his first cohort of boys in Choir House: there were 35 boarders and 40 dayboys, many of them under the age of ten.  Miss. A. Campbell came back to The King’s School staff after twenty years at the Choir School: Miss. L.D. Forward and Mr. C.M. Thomas came with her.  Altogether eleven ex-Choir School boarders and two day boys joined The King’s School.  At the end of the year, Mr. Longland left to be Senior History Master at St Paul’s.

In 1944 Ronald Kittermaster (HM 1942-1959) persuaded his Governors to buy Tredennyke House, Worcester’s old preparatory school named after its house in Barbourne Terrace, as a preparatory school for The King’s School.  His brother, David Kittermaster, took charge of Tredennyke in September and his academic boys passed into The King’s School.  In 1948 Mr. and Mrs. L.M. Bradley took over: seven boys joined from other houses to start Tredennyke House.  In September 1949 there were 28 in the House and the last of the prep school boys had gone.  Developments nearer School House brought Tredennyke House to an end in December 1951, and the building was sold in 1952.

In 1951 The King’s School governors bought St. Alban’s (previously an orphanage) from the Sisters of St. Margaret.  When the Sisters of St. Margaret decided to leave St. Alban’s House in 1951, they refused to sell at any price unless the buyer undertook to continue to use their consecrated chapel.  King’s School Governors were initially unwilling to buy the building, but Canon Armstrong (who had arrived at Worcester in 1947) persuaded them to do so.  He reasoned that the school’s finances were good and that the future needs of the school could well require some further land to be purchased nearby.  In January 1952 King’s Junior School transferred to its new site: Lester Wilson (Master of the Junior School), with 91 boys, moved from Choir House to the new Junior School at St Alban’s; and L.M. Bailey and his wife moved into Choir House with 35 senior boys from Tredennyke.  Choir kept its name on the insistence of the landlords, the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral.  Because of the age range of boys, day boys from 8 to 11 and boarders from 8 to 13, all of the Cathedral Choristers were pupils at the Junior School – the connection with the Worcester Cathedral Choir has always remained a key aspect in the life of St. Alban’s.

 St. Alban’s Chapel, taken from The King’s School prospectus, c.1960. St. Alban’s Chapel, taken from The King’s School prospectus, c.1960.
After King’s acquired St. Alban’s in 1952, Lester Wilson and 91 former Choir House boys moved across from Choir House.

In Choir House, the number of boys steadily increased; and from the 1970s it began to take in dayboys alongside boarders, as the proportion of boarders began to fall.

Choir House in 2016

Choir House, photographed in 2016. The memorial to Revd. H.H. Woodward can be seen in the centre.