Ashlyns is proud of its heritage dating back to the 18th century as a Foundling Hospital. Our journey began when a retired sea captain, Thomas Coram, became concerned about the number of unwanted children wandering the streets of London and infant bodies being abandoned on rubbish tips. He campaigned for a hospital to be built to accommodate and educate these children. In 1739 he was granted a Royal Charter to build the hospital which was established at Lamb’s Conduit Fields, Bloomsbury, in 1742 and was supported by many noted figures of the day in high society and the arts. Composer George Frederic Handel held benefit concerts in the Hospital Chapel to raise funds , performing his specially composed Foundling Hospital Anthem and the Messiah.
In 1926, the Hospital Governors decided to relocate to a healthier, less polluted environment outside London. The children were relocated to Redhill, whilst our magnificent Georgian-style buildings, based on the original hospital, were completed in 1935. Many features from the original hospital can be found in the school and at the Coram Museum today. The organ, which had been personally donated to the Foundling Hospital by George Frederick Handel in the 1750s, was installed in the chapel (later moved to St Andrew’s Holborn).
In 1951, Hertfordshire County Council took responsibility for the educational element of the hospital, and it was renamed Ashlyns School. The Coram Foundation phased out boarders in 1955, when the Foundation sold the buildings to the County Council. The living accommodation was converted into classrooms and laboratories, and a ‘grammar’ stream was added to the school, making Ashlyns the first bilateral school in Hertfordshire.
By 1972, Ashlyns School had become a comprehensive upper school, forming part of the three-tier system of education which operated in Berkhamsted. 2013 heralded a new chapter in Ashlyns’ history as we welcomed back students from the age of 11 to become a secondary school again.
Whilst enjoying the benefit of many modern facilities, the staff and students of Ashlyns School are proud and conscious of their historic surroundings and we have close links with the Coram Foundation (www.coram.org.uk). Our school is Grade II listed and has been the location for several film and award-winning television productions including The Crown. The wealth of architectural features including the stained glass windows in the Chapel, the beautiful staircase in the entrance hall and the carved fireplace in the old Board Room, provide a unique educational setting for our students.
Every year we invite The Foundling Museum to speak to our Year 7 students about our heritage and connection to the Foundling Hospital in Bloomsbury. Several books have been inspired by the Foundling story including Lucky Button by Michael Morpurgo, Hetty Feather by Jacqueline Wilson and Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin.
We maintain an archive of Ashlyns history for future generations and are always interested to see any old class photos, or written and filmed records of life at Ashlyns School. If you have any memorabilia that relates to the history of Ashlyns School, we would welcome the opportunity to record it for our archives. You can contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.