Lichfield Cathedral School: Past, Present & Future

A thinly attended March meeting saw Society members listen to an entertaining talk by Peter Allwood, headmaster of Lichfield Cathedral School. He confessed that the distant history of the school was very much lost, so starting from the 1930s, he recalled that the school was a very small affair with a single teacher and around 19 choristers. In 1942, the Cathedral authorities decided to establish the school on a stronger footing, renaming it St Chad's Cathedral School and creating places for 19 boy choristers. And so life passed for 40 years until, in 1981, the school became independent of the Cathedral (though of course closely linked on a day to day basis). Renamed Lichfield Cathedral School, it has its own governing body and operates as a charity. Girls arrived as both day pupils and boarders in the 1970s. Further expansion has seen a senior school created, with the first pupils now reaching sixth form level. At the other age extreme, the school has run a nursery school for a number of years, whilst the junior school is now established at Longden. With 475 pupils and over 150 staff and supporters, spread over buildings across the centre of the City, the school is now well established as a well known independent school, drawing pupils from some distance.

Life for a boy chorister is a busy one. Required to be a boarder, you're roused by the house mother at 6.30 am. Choir practice precedes school lessons, and follows at the end of the school day, whilst cathedral services also have to be accommodated. There's no escape in school holidays, with attendance at services required during the Easter and Christmas period especially. There are no plans to introduce girls into the choir, although a girls' choir was formed five years ago and sings in the Cathedral, but independently of the boys.

Peter was especially proud of the outreach initiatives created at the school. Besides partnering local schools, particularly where their music skills could be brought to the fore, pupils have travelled abroad, especially to Africa, helping to rebuild schools in Sierra Leone.

And what of the future? Well, Peter, after ten years as Headmaster, retires this year to spend more time pursing his musical interests in the south of England. His passionate enthusiasm for the school which he has seen go from strength to strength, will be sorely missed.

Roger Hockney
March 2011