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The school was founded by Edward Wilson in 1615 and was located in Camberwell, now part of Greater London but at that time a small village of cottages, homesteads, inns and larger buildings grouped around a village green. Wilson was born around 1550 in Cartmel, Lancashire, which had its own grammar school, from where he passed on to Cambridge University. No record remains of him taking a degree, although it is known that he went into the Church, being appointed Deacon at Ely in Norfolk in 1576. He subsequently became Vicar of the Parish of Camberwell, which was presented to him by Elizabeth I of England in person. This would indicate that he favoured the settlement of the Church of England which Elizabeth was resolved to make. His nephew Peter Danson became a governor of the new school at its founding. Danson was also vicar of Carshalton in Surrey, ironically only one mile from the present site of the school. A further member of the Wilson family, a namesake of Edward Wilson, is named in the Charter of the School as the Master.

At the time, the establishment of a grammar school in England required the assent of the crown. This was obtained after the first school buildings were constructed. The original Charter bearing this assent has since been lost, although in 1929 the governors of the school obtained a certified extract from the Patent Rolls. This requirement for the agreement of the Crown explains the legend Founded in 1615 by Royal Charter displayed near the main entrance. This charter was granted by King James I, who had succeeded Elizabeth by this time.
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Above: an extract from the matriculation record of Trinity College, Cambridge, for the year 1571. Edward (Ed) Wilson's name is listed bottom right. Reproduced by kind permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library.
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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 Following an Order in Council of Queen Victoria in 1880, which superseded the previous Royal Charter, the school was rebuilt on a different site in Camberwell, opening in 1883.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 to the need for schooling of boys in Camberwell, which by this time had grown considerably from its rustic origins. Its working population largely consisted of men working in the professions, clerks, journalists, tradesmen and labourers. Naturally, a grammar school provided an asset to the neighbourhood, with the prospect for boys to go on to University education.

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 south to Wallington. This was motivated by growing dissatisfaction with the school's buildings (the Great Hall could only accommodate half the school) and the plans of the Inner London Education Authority to force all grammar schools to become comprehensive. Fortunately, the growing London Borough of Sutton, which continued to operate the 11+, wished to introduce another grammar school and provided an ideal opportunity for the school to relocate. The original 1975 building in Wallington was phase I of what was intended to be a larger school built in three phases, but the original plans for the second and third phases were never put into practice. Instead there have been various additions made when funding has allowed: the Mary Datchelor wing for Music, the Art and DT block, the Sixth Form Centre, Foundation Building and Junior School.

The school was one of the first to be designated a specialist college in Mathematics and Computing in 2002. This status was re-awarded in 2007 along with a second specialism in the Arts.

The school acquired its officially sanctioned Coat of Arms in 1985.

Wilson's School in Camberwell

Wilson’s School

A boys’ grammar school in the London Borough of Sutton (UK), Wilson’s School is:

  • committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people and expects all staff and volunteers to share this commitment
  • a charitable company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales (no. 7536970). Registered office: Mollison Drive, Wallington, Surrey SM6 9JW
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