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Archbishop John Whitgift commemorated by young and old at annual Founder’s Day.

Staff, pupils and care home residents are gathering together to take part in The Whitgift Foundation’s annual Founder’s Day Service held at Croydon Minster today, Friday 20 March.

Commencing with a drum roll by Whitgift School’s Corps of Drums outside the Minster, the Service is a unique and momentous occasion where young and old gather together to give thanks to Founder, Archbishop John Whitgift.

Whitgift started building his Hospital of the Holy Trinity (now known as the Whitgift Almshouses), North End, in 1596 and he laid the first two Foundation Stones on 22nd March. 

His original vision to build a Hospital and support the more vulnerable sections of society continues today through the charitable work of the Foundation in education and care.

The charity now transforms the lives of thousands of children and young people through educational excellence; provides invaluable support to carers across the borough and enables older people to benefit from inclusive and caring communities.

The Founder’s Day Service is attended by representatives from the Foundation’s schools, comprising Whitgift, Trinity and Old Palace; care homes known as Whitgift Care and the Carers’ Information Service which runs the Carers Support Centre.

After the Service, all enjoy a Founder’s Day lunch at their respective schools or care homes.

A special lunch takes place in the Common Room of the Whitgift Almshouses attended by Governors, staff, residents and representatives from the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers’ who have supported the event for more than 400 years. 

The origins of Founder’s Day

The first Founder’s Day Service is recorded to have taken place in 1614 thanks to Dr William Barlow, Bishop of Lincoln and once chaplain to Archbishop Whitgift.  There is an entry in the Hospital’s ledger book referring to a gift made from Dr Barlow to the Hospital. In his will, proved in October 1613, Dr Barlow granted £100 to the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers’ to whom he had family connections.  The annual interest of this sum of money was to be given to the Hospital for a Founder’s Day Service. The interest was to be divided up as follows: 13s 4d to pay for a fish dinner in the Common Hall for all those residing at the Hospital, the more vulnerable sections of society; 13s 4d to a preacher to deliver a sermon and celebrate the life of Archbishop Whitgift; 10s to be put into the Hospital’s communal funds; 3s 4d to the Vicar of Croydon to give notice about the Service on the Sunday beforehand and 6s 8d to a member of the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers’ to visit and ensure that these wishes had been carried out. This tradition of distributing gifts is still carried out today at the Whitgift Almshouses following the Founder’s Day Service, where Foundation Governors and staff enjoy a fish lunch.

Over the years, other Founder’s Day traditions have come and gone. At one time, boys from both Trinity and Whitgift would parade from North End and Church Road (where the schools were once located) with their masters, dressed in academic robes and led by their respective Corps of Drums. Beforehand, each boy was presented with a button hole of white flowers or ‘white gift’ (Queen Elizabeth I’s pun after the Founder’s name) by the Chairman of Governors. Due to circumstances of the time such as nightly air raids during the Second World War and latterly the hindrance of traffic, these features were discontinued.

Learn more about our history.

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