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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 LMA/4442
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1473-2003
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 11.38 linear metres
Name of creator(s): John Roan School | Greenwich
Roan Schools Foundation
Grey Coat School x Roan's Charity School
National School of Industry x Roan School for Girls | Greenwich
Roan School for Boys | Greenwich
Charlton Secondary School for Boys


Administrative/Biographical history:

The school was founded by John Roan (c 1600-1644) of Greenwich, son of John Roan, a Sergeant of the Scullery to James I in the Palace of Placentia. In 1640, Roan was appointed Yeoman of His Majesty's Harriers. During the Civil War he was arrested for trying to obtain recruits for the King's Army and as a prisoner of war, he was 'stripped of all he had and in great necessity and want, ready to starve'. His brother Robert would not come to his aid, and his release was eventually obtained by a friend, Richard Wakeham.

In John Roan's Will, drawn up in March 1643, he left his property first to his wife Elizabeth, then to the daughters of Richard Wakeman during their lifetimes, and then to the founding of a school for 'poor town-bred children of Greenwich', 'up to the age of fifteen', wearing a school 'uniform and badge', and undertaking 'reading, writing and cyphering'. Roan's motives for founding a school may be attributed to his having died childless, his only son having been buried 'an infant' at Saint Alfege Church, Greenwich in 1624.

The Will also named the Vicar, the Churchwardens and the Overseers of the Poor of Saint Alfege, Greenwich as the Trustees. They were the forerunners of the School Governors (known as the Feoffees) of the Roan Charity (later Roan Schools Foundation), who managed the Roan Estate and appointed the School Master. The first Chairman of the Governors was Dr Thomas Plume.

Charitable bequests to the school included gifts by Sir William Hooker, Lord Mayor of London. The Charities Commissioners met in 1677 following the death of the last of the Wakemans named in the Will, to decide on the use of bequests to the poor of Greenwich. It was agreed that they be used for the building of a school, and that the Roan Estate would maintain it under the terms of the Will. The school began as the Grey Coat School or Roan's Charity school, and was opened for the education of boys in 1677-1678.

During the 18th century revenues of the Roan Estate grew dramatically. In the thirty years after 1775, the rentals trebled and by 1814 the Estate could afford to educate and clothe 100 boys. The first school building was surrendered to Greenwich Hospital in 1808 and a new school, paid for by the Hospital, was built in 1809 in Roan Street to accommodate 120 boys.

In 1814 Reverend George Mathew, Vicar and Chairman of the Governors proposed that the Roan Estate should make a contribution towards the education of girls in Greenwich. A decree was issued by the Master of the Rolls that 130 of the revenue of the Roan Estate was to be paid towards the maintenance of a school for girls. In January 1815 the National School of Industry was opened and became the forerunner of the Roan School for Girls.

In 1838 there were 200 boys. The demand for education grew and the Governors opened two branch schools at the junction of Old Woolwich Road and East Street. By 1853, the four Roan Charity schools were educating 630 boys and girls.

The Elementary Education Act 1870, aimed at putting education within the reach of all children, had a great impact on the Roan Schools. The School Board for London established by the Act began to lay its plans for new buildings and the Endowed Schools' Commissioners drew up a scheme of school closure and transfer of the boys and girls to the Board's two new schools built in 1877: one for 300 boys in East Street (later renamed Eastney Street) and one for 300 girls in Devonshire Road (later renamed Devonshire Drive), and the name was changed to the Roan Schools. The reorganisation was to give 'a superior education of the character usually given in the best middle class schools', and introduced a Headmaster for the boys' School and Headmistress for the girls' school, who were allowed to appoint assistant teachers, admit pupils and establish a curriculum.

As demand for accommodation grew, the boys' school moved to Maze Hill in 1928 and an extension was built at the Girls' school in 1937. The Roan Schools came to the forefront of London's Grammar Schools with modern purpose built buildings extra provision made for the sciences, library and games.

During the Second World War staff and pupils were evacuated for four years from 1939 first to Ticehurst, Flimwell and Stonegate, Kent, later to Rye and Bexhill, Sussex and a third move in June 1940 (for three years) to Ammanford and Llandebie, South Wales. During this time the South East London Emergency School was established by the London County Council in the Roan Girls' building. Pupils' fees were abolished under the Education Act 1944 and the junior school was closed.

In 1977, an agreement was made between the Inner London Education Authority and Roan Foundation Governors for the amalgamation of the Roan School for Boys, the Roan School for Girls and Charlton Secondary School for Boys and establishment of a new mixed comprehensive school, the John Roan School in 1980. New buildings were built at Westcombe Park Road in 1981 and last pupils in the former Roan Grammar School buildings were transferred in 1984.

The Inner London Education Authority was abolished in 1990 and from this time is managed by Greenwich Borough Council as a mixed comprehensive for 11 to 18 year olds and in 2002 there were 1,082 pupils. Their web site in 2003 was .


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the John Roan School, Greenwich, and predecessors. This collection contains Roan Estate deeds for property in Greenwich (1473-1955); Governors' minutes, Head Teachers' reports and Clerk and Surveyor correspondence files (1682-1995); Roan Schools administrative records (1866-2002), pupils admissions and discharge registers (1705-1994), various printed material including school magazines (1834-1999), a large collection of photographs depicting pupils and teaching staff (1895-1990), and commemorative trowel, school badges and items of clothing (1876-1979); and school log books (1884-1976) for various schools operating in Charlton.

Records of particular interest are the Roan Estate deeds (LMA/4442/01/01) which are an excellent resource for the research of family and local history of Greenwich from the 15th to the 20th centuries and the admission and discharge registers (LMA/4442/03/02) provide a fairly comprehensive set of details of pupils who attended the Roan Schools. The calendars and prize giving programmes (LMA/4442/03/03) are also useful for researching pupils at the school and the school magazines, prospectuses (LMA/4442/03/03) and head teachers' reports (LMA/4442/02/01) provide detailed information on school activities, events and other developments.

The school represents a good example of the use of increases in charitable gifts and funds in Greenwich from the 17th century and details can be found in the surviving records of the first school, the Grey Coat School, in the Orders of the Feoffees (1682-1716) (LMA/4442/02/01/01/001) and the Register of admissions and discharges (1705-1736) (LMA/4442/03/02/01/001) which includes churchwardens' charity payments to Greenwich poor widows.

The impact of the Second World War on the Roan Schools is documented by a number of records in the collection including the Governors' Clerk and Surveyor's correspondence files which give detailed descriptions of bomb damage in Greenwich.

Information on the school's planning for the evacuation can be found in the Governors' Clerk's files (LMA/4442/02/02) and some lists of pupils evacuated and accounts of the evacuation to Kent and South Wales for four years can be found in reports in the Roan Schools records (LMA/4442/03/01 and LMA/4442/03/03) and Governors' minutes and Head Teachers' reports (LMA/4442/02/01).

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

This collection has been arranged into four sections: Estate LMA/4442/01; Governors LMA/4442/02; Roan Schools LMA/4442/03; Charlton Schools LMA/4442/04.

Conditions governing access:

These records are open to public inspection, although records containing personal information may be subject to closure periods.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

The Estate and Governors' records (assigned 'A/ROA' numbering) were held for the Roan Schools Foundation by Alton, Batchelor, Solicitors, Greenwich Church Street, Greenwich. The rest of the collection was held by the John Roan School library.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Records deposited in 1969, 1970 and 2003.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

For further details of John Roan School's earlier history see W J Kirby's The History of the Roan Schools (1929) (reference LMA/4442/03/03/04/006).

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
June to August 2010.

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