As a charity that’s over 420 years old, we are proud of our rich heritage and the fact that we are one of the oldest charities in Croydon. From John Whitgift’s founding vision way back in 1596 to create a better Croydon, to the present day in our schools, care services and community projects, we uphold our Founder’s mission to educate and care for the people of Croydon.

With our charity steeped in so much history, it’s important that we preserve our collection of irreplaceable historical records to ensure we can continue to tell our story to future generations.

For this reason, John Whitgift Foundation has an impressive collection of archives material, including vintage photographs, historical records, deeds and registers, and a range of heritage objects such as sporting trophies, school clothing and paintings.

Take a peek inside the archives at just some of the objects that have shaped our history, and the stories behind them.

The origins of John Whitgift Foundation

One of the most significant objects from the John Whitgift Foundation archives is the seal of Queen Elizabeth I, pictured below. The dark wax seal forms part of the Letters Patent of 25th November 1595, which gave authorisation from Her Majesty for Archbishop John Whitgift to proceed with his founding of the Hospital of the Holy Trinity, or the Whitgift Almshouses, to provide care for poor Christians in Croydon. This document is framed and today it hangs in the Audience Chamber of the Almshouses.

The evolution of Old Palace

Housed in a beautiful Grade I listed building, Old Palace Seniors is a site of amazing history stretching back to the 9th century. For centuries, the building was the summer palace for the Archbishops of Canterbury and was used as a place of rest for John Whitgift himself as he travelled between Lambeth and Canterbury.

Throughout its long history, the site has evolved to adapt to its changing uses, and features some stunning rooms, including a 16th century Long Gallery, the medieval Great Hall, the Guard Room and of course the chapel, which dates from the 15th century.

The below image from the archives is a plan of Old Palace from 1912, showing the various additions to the building over the previous centuries.

A history of sport at Trinity

Originally located in Church Road followed by Croydon’s North End where it was known as Whitgift Middle School, the school was renamed as Trinity School of John Whitgift in 1954, moving to its current site in Shirley Park in 1965.

Trinity has a long history of sporting successes, with memorabilia and displays mounted around the school for pupils, staff and visitors to view. Within the Trinity School archives, plenty of team badges, awards and sporting apparel through the ages can be found, representing the school’s broad range of sports from rugby and football to athletics and swimming.

An unusual addition to the school archives, this teddy bear, affectionately known as “Cuddles”, was the mascot used by the rugby 1st team at Trinity School in the 1960s.

Whitgift School pupils and staff celebrate Founders Day

With so much history surrounding Whitgift School, it has built up an impressive collection of archive material over the years. Part of the collection includes extensive photographs detailing school life and notable events such as the Annual Founders Day celebrations, where students and staff gather together for a special service to give thanks to Archbishop John Whitgift.

The below photograph from the Whitgift School archives was taken at the Founder’s Day Parade of 22nd March 1916. It shows the Corps of Drums leading a parade of the Officer Cadet Corps (known today as the Combined Cadet Corps or CCF). They are followed up at the back by the boys and teaching staff walking from the School in North End, where the Whitgift Shopping Centre now stands, towards Croydon Parish Church (Croydon Minster).

Local photographer C.H. Price captured this evocative image, taken in Lower Church Street towards the bottom of Crown Hill with Stanton’s hairdressers on the left and just in view on the right, a sign for E. Reeve, furniture store.

from the archives

Want to learn more?

If you are interested in finding out more about the history of John Whitgift Foundation and some of Croydon’s most historic buildings, you can follow our dedicated Heritage Instagram account on @johnwhitgiftheritage.