Christ Church Cathedral School Publishes First History

Cardinal Wolsey founded Cardinal College, Oxford in 1525 with provision for 16 choristers and a master to teach them. Henry V111 refounded the College as Christ Church in 1546, by which time there were just eight choristers. The story of Christ Church Cathedral School has been written for the first time by Richard Lane, a former chorister and head boy and Michael Lee, a master at the school in the 1950s.

Chorister numbers went back to 16 with the appointment of Dean Henry Liddell in 1855. It is his daughter Alice who was immortalised in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and pupils are pictured here at the Alice Door in the Deanery Garden. Within three years numbers had increased to include 17 non-singing day boys.

Towards the end of the 19th Century an entirely new choir school was built at No 3 Brewer Street, the site we are familiar with today. New classrooms were added and numbers went up and both Exeter and Worcester Colleges offered bursaries at CCCS for choristers to sing in their chapels.

During Allan Mottram’s headship from 1991-2000, the school secured a loan of £330k to build the Sir William Walton Centre (CCCS 1911-1916) which was opened by Lady Walton In 1994.  Day boy provision expanded with boarding eventually solely for choristers.

Martin Bruce took over as headmaster in 2005 and one of his first actions was better signage for the school. Those of you who know him won’t be surprised to learn that he spotted that the Christ Church coat of arms above the front door on 3 Brewer Street had been painted in the wrong colours. He set about repainting it!

As a singer, Martin was able to deputise on many occasions at Worcester College and was quick to recognise the opportunities the government’s Sing Up Programme presented. The school signed up to chorister outreach and developed a highly productive relationship with the Oxfordshire County Music Service.

The Cathedral Music Trust was set up in 2014 with the object of providing fully funded places for all choristers. Current Headmaster Richard Murray arrived the same year and says: “I am thrilled that CCCS’s first 500 years are now documented – a fitting accompaniment to the School’s 500th anniversary in 2025”.