Our History

We’re proud of our long and rich heritage, for over 425 years we’ve been caring for Croydon. Discover our history and how we have evolved, from John Whitgift’s founding vision to the present day.


John Whitgift was born in Grimsby, Lincolnshire to parents Henry and Ann. The name Whitgift originated from a village of that name 5 miles east of Goole in East Yorkshire.


John Whitgift

John Whitgift was enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury on the 23rd of October. As Archbishop, John Whitgift would travel regularly between Lambeth and Canterbury, stopping off in Croydon along the way and staying at the Croydon Palace (now Old Palace School). It is these journeys that developed John Whitgift’s fondness for Croydon.


John Whitgift noted the hardships endured by the people of Croydon and developed his vision to leave a legacy to the town. He wanted to build an almshouse to look after the poor and needy and a school to educate the young. He bought land within easy reach of the church and palace and wrote to Queen Elizabeth I to ask permission to build a hospital on this site. The licence was granted and the first two foundation stones were laid to the Hospital of the Holy Trinity on 22nd March 1596.


The school along with a Schoolmaster’s House opened adjacent to the Hospital to educate 12 boys. It was a grammar school and the children from Croydon were taught freely while others who could pay were charged fees.


John Whitgift TombJohn Whitgift died on the 29th of February 1604 and he was laid to rest in Croydon Minster where his tomb lies today. His legacy continues more than four centuries later through the work of his charity, the John Whitgift Foundation.
By the mid-19th Century there were two schools: a “Poor” or elementary School, and a “Commercial” or “Middle-class” School.


With the limited funds available, it was only possible to open the “Poor” School, which was opened in January in Church Road with Mr William Ingrams as Headmaster.  To this School came the boys from the “National” School that had been conducted in the old Schoolhouse since 1812, and which had now closed down. Meanwhile, the Schoolmaster continued for a while to teach the classics to a few fee-payers in the Schoolmaster’s House.


Whitgift Middle-class School was opened (to distinguish it from the Poor School) but was known usually as Whitgift School. (In the 17th and 18th centuries the School had been known as the “Public or Free School of Croydon”, but early in the 19th century the Society of Friends had established a school known as “Croydon School” in the town, and a private schoolmaster had set up a Croydon Grammar School”, so the Governors had recourse to the Founders name for the title of the revived school). The new school was designed by architect Sir Arthur Blomfield (among his works; are Selwyn College, Cambridge and buildings at Eton, Charterhouse and other public schools). The design was ‘Collegiate Perpendicular Gothic’. The tower stands solidly when seen from the gated entrance in North End.


Whitgift Charity Commissioners established the Whitgift Educational Foundation. At the end of the year, the Poor School was closed, and its boys dispersed to the Board Schools or to the Church School that had been built nearby.


In January the Poor School’s premises were opened to new pupils, but under the same Headmaster (William Ingrams), as a secondary school of the third grade, called Whitgift Middle School.  At the same time, the “Middle-Class” School was unequivocally designated the first-grade school and took the name of Whitgift Grammar School; in nearly all respects it continued as before with the same staff, pupils and curriculum.


In Whitgift’s former Croydon residence, the Croydon Palace became a school, opened by the Sisters of the Church and named Old Palace School. The school became part of John Whitgift Foundation in 1993 and changed its name to Old Palace of John Whitgift School.


The Old Schoolhouse and the Schoolmaster’s House were demolished for road-widening and development purposes; at the same time, the Whitgift Hospital was first seriously threatened with demolition.


Whitgift Grammar School moved from North End to new buildings in Haling Park, South Croydon, and reverted to its earlier name of Whitgift School. Whitgift Middle School moved into the school building in North End. It was renamed Trinity School of John Whitgift in 1954.


Trinity School relocated to Shirley park, and its former site was developed to become the Whitgift Centre, one of the very first shopping complexes in the UK.


The Whitgift Centre was officially opened in 1970 by the Duchess of Kent. John Whitgift Foundation still retains the freehold of the Centre and the rental income is used to fund its £5 million a year bursary scheme for students who attend Whitgift, Trinity and Old Palace. It is one of the largest bursary schemes in the UK.


The Hospital of the Holy Trinity, now known as the Whitgift Almshouses, was modernised to offer sheltered accommodation to older people. 15 people currently reside at the Whitgift Almshouses.


John Whitgift Foundation built Whitgift House at Haling Park, a care home providing nursing care for older people. Later, new flats for Sheltered Living were added to the home which now offers 34 rental flats and 36 beds for nursing care.


Quatercentenary celebrations. On 16th February HM The Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh visited The Hospital, Whitgift House and the Schools of the Foundation.


The Carers Information Service was established to provide support for unpaid carers in Croydon. The service provides information, advice, support, advocacy, workshops and a Health and Wellbeing Service for carers.


Croham Hurst School, an independent girls’ secondary school and nursery, The Limes, in South Croydon, merged with Old Palace. Old Palace Prep School moved from its central Croydon site to this location and The Limes became Old Palace Nursery.


Trinity School opened a co-educational Sixth Form Centre, admitting girls to the school for the first time in its history. The official opening was performed by Boris Johnson, Mayor of London.


The Carers Information Service opened the Carers Support Centre on George Street – a joint venture between the John Whitgift Foundation and Croydon Council. Carers Support Centre is a drop-in centre offering a wide range of free activities, advice and support to Croydon carers. Whitgift School opened its boarding house, now named Founder’s House, and the first international boarders arrived. The Croydon Partnership was formed when Unbail-Rodamco-Westfield entered a joint venture with Hammerson PLC to combine Croydon’s two main shopping centres, the Whitgift Centre and Centrale, and deliver a comprehensive and transformational change to Croydon.


Whitgift Care launched the 1596 Club, its daycare service for older people following extensions to communal areas at Whitgift House and Wilhelmina House. The 1596 Club offers older people a home from home, helping relieve loneliness and isolation whilst helping maintain an independent lifestyle. Members can enjoy friendship and companionship through the many social events on offer, as well as gaining assistance with additional needs.


The Long Gallery at Old Palace School was restored and re-opened. Croydon Council gives approval for the £1.4 billion redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre to create 7,000 new jobs to help ensure Croydon’s future as the retail and leisure capital for South London.


Our charity changes its name from The Whitgift Foundation to John Whitgift Foundation.