Kingswood School (1748-1998)

Kingswood School

Education was implicit in John Wesley’s evangelical technique. From his early days at Oxford he took a practical interest in Education in its widest sense, and it is significant that the agenda of his first Conference in 1744 opened with the questions ‘What to teach’ and ‘How to teach’.

John Wesley’s educational memorial was Kingswood School which he opened in Bristol on Midsummer Day in 1748. His brother, Charles Wesley, composed a hymn for the occasion and John Wesley preached on the text: “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Just over 100 years later, in 1852, the school moved to its present site in Bath.

In 1739 George Whitefield had decided to preach in the open air at Kingswood, a mining area noted for its poverty, squalor, violence and crime. To continue his work he set about creating a school for the miners and their children, and to educate them in the Christian faith.

John Wesley was interested in Whitefield’s idea for a miners’ school and he set about raising the necessary funds to complete the project.

The school provided separate classes for boys, girls and adults and also served as a centre for John Wesley’s ministry.

In 1746 Wesley decided that he would create another school that would be a boarding school for ‘the sons of our principal friends’. It was to be built on land close to the miners’ school. For Wesley, education was now to be centred on the new Kingswood School.

Kingswood began as a school for the young – boys were sent from the age of six and no one was accepted older than twelve. Wesley produced strict regulations for the routine lifestyle of his new school. His first general rule was “The children rise at four, winter and summer. And spend the time will five in private; partly reading, partly in singing, partly in self-examination or meditation, and partly in prayer.”

He decreed that all pupils at Kingswood should have no holidays or ‘play-day’ at all. He allowed for no time to play on any day for “he that plays when he is a child will play when he is a man.”

When not being taught or attending worship or meals, Kingswood pupils were to “work according to their strength in the garden or in the house” unless they were involved in another approved activity, such as learning music. The pupils were also to be constantly supervised by the Masters.

Kingswood achieved public school status in 1922 and during the headmastership of Alfred B. Sackett entered a new, more liberal phase.

Priors Court at Chieveley, near Newbury, became the wartime home of the preparatory department during World War II. The property was bought at the end of the war, but was given up in 1998, following the establishment of a new preparatory department, Westwood, on the Bath campus.

Girls were first admitted in 1972. In 2003 there were around 940 day and boarding pupils aged 3-18 in the upper school and the Day Preparatory School (opened in 1991). The School reports annually to the Methodist Conference, which appoints its Governors.

John and Charles Wesley