• Erin

History - The Old Choir School of St Paul's Cathedral

Just around the corner from St Paul's Cathedral, this rather charming building isn't quite as spectacular as it once looked, but is rather nice to stumble upon if you are in the area.

36 Carter Lane, London

Built in 1874, this was the home of the school for the choristers of St Paul's Cathedral. Their history goes back much further though, right back to 1123, when eight boys were given a home and an education in return for singing for the Cathedral. Their original school burnt down in the Great Fire of London in 1666, and this was where they moved too.


This would have been where they were taught and they practised, as well as where they also lived too. There was a even a chapel inside and a cricket pitch on the roof!

The decorative text around the building and the ornate details in the graffito technique (scratching through the surface to reveal the underneath layer) certainly make it look as though no expense was spared when it was initially built.

MIHI AUTEM ABSIT GLORIARI NISI IN CRUCE DOMINI NOSTRI JESU CHRISTI / PER QUEM MIHI MUNDUS CRUCIFIXUS EST ET EGO MUNDO. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world - from St Paul’s letter to the Galatians 6:14.

It's a really beautiful building, and it's a shame that it hasn't aged so well, but we are lucky it even survives at all! It has a lovely Italian Baroque style to it with the round decorative windows, orange decoration above the windows and doors, cartouches and other details and decorations.

The choristers were here until 1967 when plans were afoot to demolish the building due to a road widening scheme. Today the choristers are at New Change, just to the east of the Cathedral. Luckily the plans never went ahead and the building was saved, with the site remaining empty until the Youth Hostel Association took it over.


The building links nicely to a previous blog post I have written on Maria Hackett, otherwise known as the Choristers' Friend.

It was really thanks to her relentless campaigning that the Choristers were actually cared for properly and eventually got a suitable home here on Carter Lane. You can find that post here.


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Heard in London