On 20th December 1594, the will of Lady Anne Dacre directed her executors to build “a meet and convenient house to be called Emanuel Hospital in Westminster for the relief of twenty aged people and for the bringing up of twenty children in virtue and good and laudable arts”.

This original bequest of £300 was the foundation of an education for 10 boys and 10 girls.

Emanuel Hospital, Westminster, pictured in the 19th century.

On 17th December 1601 Queen Elizabeth I, cousin to Lady Dacre, granted a Charter of Incorporation to the executors of Emanuel Hospital, but it was not until 1736 when children first benefited from the education. By the middle of the 19th century the school had expanded to 60 children, aged between 7 and 14. Due to the demand for education, the Endowed Schools Commission merged several school charities. Emanuel School rose from the ashes of Emanuel Hospital and the new institution relocated to Wandsworth. The girls who attended the old hospital school were sent to Grey Coat Hospital and Emanuel remained boys-only until 1995.

Opening at its present site in Wandsworth on 22nd January 1883, Emanuel School occupied a building which had formerly been the Royal Patriotic Asylum; an orphanage for boys. The initial school roll was around 200 pupils. Many of the original pupils were boarders, but as industrial London expanded, their numbers declined and eventually ceased in 1913.

HRM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother on her visit to Emanuel School in 1951.

Over the 20th century Emanuel School slowly grew from a solitary building to the modern complex which now houses close to 1,000 pupils.

During the course of the First and Second World Wars, over 1,900 Old Emanuels (OEs) fought for their country with over 250 losing their lives. During the Second World War, the school was evacuated to the Hampshire town of Petersfield. HRM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother visited Emanuel School in 1951, and subsequently, HRM Queen Elizabeth II was the guest of honour in 1994, leading the celebrations of the school’s 400th anniversary.

HRM Queen Elizabeth II, leading the celebrations of the school's 400th anniversary in 1994.

Between 1879 and 1944 the school charged fees, although many pupils were on scholarships. In 1944 Emanuel became a voluntary aided grammar school until 1976. Rather than become a comprehensive at this time, the school instead became an independent school – a status it maintains today. In the mid-1990s girls were admitted for the first time since 1882 and now, over 35 years later, the co-educational pupil population is close to equal numbers of boys and girls, just as the founder, Lady Dacre, intended.

The school chapel, 1900 (approx). Much of the chapel, located at the heart of the Victorian building, remains unchanged to this day.