Sir John Cass’s Foundation dates formally from 1748. The origins of the Foundation are to be found in the early years of the 18th century during the turbulent and complex politics of the reign of Queen Anne.
The history of Sir John Cass’s Foundation
The Foundation takes its name from its founder, Sir John Cass. Cass was born in the City of London in 1661 and, during his lifetime, served as both Alderman and Sheriff. He was also MP for the City and knighted in 1712.
In 1710 Cass set up a school for 50 boys and 40 girls and rented buildings in the churchyard of St Botolph-without-Aldgate. Intending to leave the vast majority of his property to the independent school (having already generously supported the parochial school), when he died in 1718 of a brain haemorrhage, Cass had only initialled three pages of his Will. The incomplete Will was contested, but was finally upheld by the Court of Chancery 30 years after his death. The charity school was managed by nine independent trustees named in the Will, none of whom were ex-officio or nominated by external bodies. The school, which by this time had been forced to close, was re-opened, and the Foundation established.
The history of the Foundation touches upon education in and around the City of London at almost every level, ranging from primary education to postgraduate study and representing an historical microcosm of the development of English education over more than three centuries.
Today, the Foundation has links in the nursery, primary, secondary and tertiary sectors of education. It provides support to its primary school in the City of London and its secondary school in Tower Hamlets, as well as The Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design (part of London Metropolitan University) and the Cass Business School (part of City University).
The Foundation also funds schools and organisations benefitting young people from inner London and provides support with education costs to young residents of inner London who are under the age of 25 and from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Founder’s Day takes place each February on, or near, Sir John Cass’s birthday on 20th February 1661 and has been taking place almost every year since 1749.
It is a time of celebration when the pupils from our two schools, Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary School and Sir John Cass’s Foundation and Red Coat Church of England Secondary School, come together with luminaries from the City of London, representatives of those institutions that bear the Cass name and distinguished guests and friends, to celebrate and give thanks for the life and generosity of Sir John Cass who left money and property in his will to be used for educating the poorer children in London.
According to some, Sir John Cass died suddenly in the middle of signing his will by which his Foundation is still endowed and those present at Founder’s Day honour him by wearing a red feather, which has come to represent the bloodstained quill he was using at the time … that story certainly conjures up a vivid picture in everyone’s mind..