Old College


Alleyn’s College Of God’s Gift

Edward Alleyn, a successful actor-manager and entrepreneur, purchased the Manor of Dulwich in 1605. Some years later, he decided to create a charitable foundation in Dulwich, endowing it with his estate and other property. Christ’s Chapel of God’s Gift was the first of the buildings to be completed, being consecrated on 1 September 1616. Letters patent were granted by King James I, and on 21 June 1619 Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift was formally established:

“. . to found and establish a college in Dulwich to endure and remain for ever . .”

For more information on Edward Alleyn see henslowe-alleyn.org.uk.

The original beneficiaries were twelve poor scholars, six poor brothers and six poor sisters, all chosen from four parishes with which Alleyn was closely associated: St Botolph’s Bishopsgate (where he was born); St Saviour’s Southwark (where he had lived and been Churchwarden); St Giles Cripplegate (where his Fortune Theatre was situated); and the parish of Camberwell, in which his Manor lay. In 1773 the new parish of St Luke’s took the place of St Giles as a nominating body.

James Allen, Warden and Master of the College of God’s Gift from 1712 — 1746, furthered the Founder’s wishes to provide education. In 1741 he made over to the College six houses in Kensington, the rents of which were to be used in establishing two small schools in Dulwich, one for boys and one for girls, the origin of James Allen’s Girls’ School.

In 1842 the College established a grammar school — later named the Lower School - for the education of 60 poor boys from Dulwich. The boys of the James Allen Foundation were transferred to the grammar school and that foundation became responsible for the education of girls alone.

The Dulwich College Act of 1857 reconstituted the Foundation and in 1882 the Charity was again re-organised. The Upper School became Dulwich College and the Lower School became Alleyn’s School. Two boards of trustees were formed: the Estates Governors with responsibility for the Estate and the Eleemosynary (Almshouses) branch; and the College Governors to administer Dulwich College, Alleyn’s School, Christ’s Chapel and Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Provision was also made for payments for educational purposes to schools in the parishes of St Saviour’s, St Botolph’s and St Luke’s in place of their right to nominate pupils to the Foundation. The present Scheme continues that provision, by the annual payments which are made to St Olave’s & St Saviour’s Schools Foundation and to the Central Foundation Schools of London.

New buildings for Dulwich College were built between 1866 and 1870 in College Road. James Allen’s Girls’ School was established on its present site in East Dulwich Grove in 1886 and Alleyn’s School moved to its buildings in Townley Road in 1887.

Until 1995, Dulwich Picture Gallery was also a beneficiary of the Estate. In 1811, an important collection of paintings was bequeathed to the Foundation, and Sir John Soane was commissioned to build a gallery for the pictures and a mausoleum for the benefactors.

Dulwich Picture Gallery, which opened in 1814, was the first public art gallery in England, pre-dating the National Gallery by 10 years. The annual payment from the Estate to the Picture Gallery was commuted into a single capital payment in 1995, a new and separate Board of Trustees of the Gallery having been formed earlier that year.

An annual payment made from the Eleemosynary branch of the Estate to St Luke’s Parochial Trust had been similarly commuted in 1994.

See also St Giles’ without Cripplegate

The current arrangements for the various charities of the Foundation were introduced by Schemes approved by the Charity Commissioners on 31 July 1995. The Boards of Estates Governors and College Governors ceased to exist on that day. With effect from 1 August 1995 the functions of the Board of Estates Governors were assumed by the Trustees of The Dulwich Estate (as regards the properties, investments and other activities of the Estate) and by the Trustees of the Dulwich Almshouse Charity (as regards the Eleemosynary Branch). All four of the parishes from which the original beneficiaries were chosen retain formal connections with the Dulwich Almshouse Charity. The Trustees of the Dulwich Estate also became Trustees of the Charity of Christ’s Chapel of God’s Gift at Dulwich. Separate Boards of Governors also came into existence for Dulwich College and for Alleyn’s School.

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