Tractarian Choir Schools

An almost forgotten part of English Church Music history, I am researching over 41 choir schools which were formed as a direct result of the Oxford or Tractarian movement.

These were not in cathedrals, but in churches, chapels, private aristocratic households and schools which were independent of any establishment. They were founded to give the very highest standards of music to accompany the High Church ceremonial.   
  1. London, St Andrew's Wells Street. 1895
    London, St Andrew's Wells Street. 1895
    One of the classrooms in the purpose built choir school. St Andrew's was the first choir to issue a gramophone record in 1902.
  2. London College for Choristers, 1930
    London College for Choristers, 1930
    A group of boys on tour in Wellington, New Zealand. The boys from the London College and the London Choir were deadly rivals!
  3. Bristol All Saints, 1929
    Bristol All Saints, 1929
    Choristers taking part in the Boy Bishop ceremony.
  4. Newland Choir School, Malvern,  1914
    Newland Choir School, Malvern, 1914
    Just outside of Great Malvern, this is where the Archive of Recorded Church Music is located. This once famous choir school survived until 1945.
  5. Savoy Chapel Choir, 1930
    Savoy Chapel Choir, 1930
    The boys arriving in Canada for the start of their tour. Although the London Choir School which supplied the choristers to the Savoy closed in 1958, they now are educated at St Olave's School in Orpington
  6. Upper St Leonards,  St John's church, 1925
    Upper St Leonards, St John's church, 1925
    The Barham brothers, Edwin, Walter and Herbert
  7. Holborn,  St Alban-the-Martyr, 1928
    Holborn, St Alban-the-Martyr, 1928
  8. Tenbury,  St Michael's College,  1881
    Tenbury, St Michael's College, 1881
    One of the very last surviving Tractarian Choir Schools, St Michael's closed in 1985.
  9. London Choir School, 1937
    London Choir School, 1937
    A select group of boys from the school named 'The English Boy Choristers' who toured the USA & Canada on a regular basis to great acclaim.
  10. London, All Saints Margaret Street.  1960
    London, All Saints Margaret Street. 1960
    One of the last surviving Tractarian Choir Schools, it closed in 1968
  11. Clumber Park Choir School, 1929
    Clumber Park Choir School, 1929
    The choir, clergy and altar servers of the Duke of Newcastle's Choir School at Clumber Park, Worksop. The photo was taken by the Duke himself
  12. Tenbury,  St Michael's College, 1966
    Tenbury, St Michael's College, 1966
    Choristers with Watkins Shaw in the famous library looking at the original manuscript score of Handel's Messiah, the college's greatest treasure
  13. London,  All Saints Margaret Street, 1960s
    London, All Saints Margaret Street, 1960s
  14. St Mary of-the-Angels Song School, 1934
    St Mary of-the-Angels Song School, 1934
    Making Palm Crosses to raise money for the school
  15. Newland Choir School, Malvern,  1943
    Newland Choir School, Malvern, 1943
    The last photograph taken of the choristers before the school closed in 1945
  16. London Choir School, 1953
    London Choir School, 1953
    Choristers hired out to sing at a wedding
  17. Clumber Park Choir School, 1922
    Clumber Park Choir School, 1922
    The choristers outside their newly built Choir Hostel, which is where they boarded.
  18. St Mary of-the-Angels Song School, 1948
    St Mary of-the-Angels Song School, 1948
    Photo published in a newspaper and entitled 'Reflections'
  19. Savoy Chapel Choir, 1937
    Savoy Chapel Choir, 1937
    Christmas Carols

Click on photo to open slide-show

A list of the 49 known Tractarian choir schools

Newland Choir School 
1864-1945

St Andrew's, Wells Street
1847-1931

Click photo for history
Click photo for history & recordings
​​Newland Choir School, nr Great Malvern, was unique in being attached to the chapel of an Almshouse and is the now the home of the Archive of Recorded Church Music.


St Andrew's church and its famous Tractarian choir school was the first ever choir to make a gramophone record in 1902.  

The London Choir School  :  1915-1958
and the Savoy Chapel Choir

Amongst the many choir schools in London during the first half of the 20th century, there were two which are now almost forgotton, yet in their hey-day were of immense importance. 

One was the London College for Choristers, founded by James Bates in 1894 and which closed at the outbreak of World War II and the other was the London Choir School, founded by Carlton Borrowes in 1915 and which lasted until 1958.  
 
The purpose of both these choir schools, which were day and boarding, was primarily to supply the London churches with choristers, either on permanent contract or as and when required.  Between them, the two schools supplied over 150 London churches and Royal Chapels.
 
The London Choir School also supplied choristers for concerts, recitals and film work and their most famous appearance was in the film 'Sixty Glorious Years' starring Dame Anna Neagle, in 1938.
 
The Savoy Chapel and St Peter's Eaton Square were two of the many establishments where the LCS supplied the entire choir, St Peter's being the last before the school closed.  
  

A musical video presentation, written by myself, on the history of the London Choir School and its links with the Savoy Chapel choir.

St Peter's Eaton Square, 1955

A brief extract from the 1938 film starring Dame Anna Neagle as Queen Victoria and featuring two 'Royal Choirs' singing in Westminster Abbey.

The Chapel Royal are instantly recognizable and one assumes that they are singing with the Abbey choristers. However, they are not, and the choristers you see on the screen are from the London Choir School, who regularly undertook film work. 

        Read about the London Choir School  & Savoy Chapel Choir

        Article written by myself  for 'Once a Chorister'           

London Choir School Official photo : 1935

The most outstanding choristers from the London Choir School broadcast a Christmas service in 1938 which was simultaneously recorded by the BBC onto eight gramophone records.

Click here to listen to the only surviving records from the eight, with Keith Savage, opposite, singing the solo in verse 2.


John Gwilym Griffith was a chorister at the London Choir School.  

Click the 1928 record to hear him sing. 



The London College for Choristers
1894-1939

A separate and rival institution to the London Choir School, but fulfilling the same function.  

Some exciting discoveries have been made regarding this choir school, details of which will be posted soon.    

Clumber Park Choir School
1893-1928

The Duke of Newcastle's private chapel at Clumber Park, Worksop  was the size of a small cathedral.  His purpose built choir school was equally as lavish and afforded the choristers a level of comfort unknown at that time! 

The photo from 1925 is of the Duke, his chaplain, chauffeur and choristers heading off for a picnic, and not forgetting the famous Clumber spaniels!

The banner photo of this page also shows the Duke's chaplain, clergy, choir and altar servers in full Anglo-Catholic spendour.

Click on photo to view full size

    Clumber Park Choir School

    Catalogue of the music library frozen in time,                     December 1928
     A humorous and touching recollection of life at                  the Choir School, written by Rowland Chrett,
     ex-chorister
Although we don't have a recording of the choir itself, we do have a gramophone record made in 1928 by Bobby Lemair, who was the Duke's Head Chorister.

If the rest of the choir sounded similar then the Duke certainly had a very fine choir indeed.



Click photo to listen

Click on photo to view full size