The Reverend Edward Wilson founded a free grammar school in Camberwell in 1615. He was born sometime around 1550 in Cartmel, Lancashire, having attended the local grammar school he went on to study at Cambridge University and from there took up a career in the church. He was appointed Deacon at Ely in Norfolk in 1576 and later became Vicar of the Parish of Camberwell, which was presented to him by Elizabeth I of England in person. Under the new monarch James I, Wilson decided to set up his own grammar school and managed to secure a royal warrant for “The Free Grammar School of Edward Wilson, clerk, in Camberwell, otherwise Camerwell, in the County of Surrey.” Camberwell, at the time being a small village of cottages, homesteads, inns and larger buildings centred around a village green. A further member of the Wilson family, also called Edward Wilson, is named in the Charter of the School as the Master. In 1845 the school was forced to close as a result of a financial scandal. Following an Order in Council of Queen Victoria in 1880, which superseded the previous Royal Charter, the school was rebuilt on a different site in Camberwell, opening in 1883. It again catered for boys in Camberwell, now, no longer a rustic backwater, but a middle-class suburb, with a population made up of men working in the professions, clerks, journalists, tradesmen and labourers. A grammar school provided an asset to the neighbourhood, with the prospect for boys to go on to university. In 1961, using the assets from the Greencoat School, a mixed elementary church school which had closed (having shrunk to a non-viable size during the Second World War), a new science block was opened opposite the main school site in Wilson Road and named the Greencoat Building. The 1883 building continued to be used until 1975, when the school moved to Wallington, having outgrown its Camberwell site. But there was another, more political, reason for the move. The Inner London Education Authority wanted to force all grammar schools to become comprehensive. At the time the London Borough of Sutton, which continued to operate the 11+, wished to introduce another grammar school and provided an opportunity for the school to relocate. It continues to run until this day making Wilson’s School one of the country’s oldest state schools in the country.
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