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Chetham's School of Music

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Chetham's School of Music
Chetham's Library 2015 3.jpg
The main courtyard
Established 1969
Type Independent school
Head Claire Moreland
Deputy Head Chris Newman (curriculum)
Carolyn Rhind (pastoral)
Chairman of Governors Dame Sandra Burslem
Location Long Millgate
Greater Manchester
M3 1SB
Local authority Manchester
DfE URN 105588 Tables
Students 290
Gender Mixed
Ages 8–18
Houses Victoria, Boys, Girls

Chetham's School of Music (/ˈtəmz/ or occasionally /ˈɛtəmz/[1]) familiarly known as "Chets",[2][3] is a specialist independent co-educational music school in Manchester city centre in North West England. It was established in 1969, incorporating Chetham's Hospital School, founded as a charity school by Humphrey Chetham in 1653. After becoming a boys' grammar school in 1952, the school turned to music as its speciality, and became an independent school. There are approximately 290 pupils on roll,[4] making it the largest music school in the United Kingdom.[2] The oldest parts of the school date to the 1420s, when the building was constructed as a residence for priests of the church (now Manchester Cathedral); these parts are listed buildings, along with other parts of the complex. The site houses Chetham's Library, the oldest free public reference library in the United Kingdom.[5] A new building to replace the Victorian Palatine building and allow easier access for visitors was completed in 2012, and a 480-seat concert hall, The Stoller Hall, will open within the new school building in April 2017 as a home for both school and professional music and other genres of performance.[6] The school is a registered charity under English law.[7]

Chetham's educates students between the ages of 8 and 18. 90% of students receive full or partial funding for their education and boarding through the UK Government's Music and Dance scheme, ensuring that admission is based solely on musical potential and not on ability to pay.[8] The school regularly obtains good exam results in both music and academic subjects.[9] It maintains links to Manchester Cathedral by educating its choristers and holding regular concerts, and many Chetham's students have become professional musicians. Its ensembles, such as the Big Band and Symphony Orchestra, and many students have won awards for their music and progressed to highly successful careers, both in music and in other sectors.

In February 2013, the school's former Director of Music Michael Brewer was convicted of having indecently assaulted a pupil, Frances Andrade, who committed suicide during his trial. Investigations began into allegations against others associated with the school in the past, and in May 2013 the Greater Manchester Police reported that over 30 women had reported incidents of abuse relating to the school. An Independent Schools Inspectorate report published in 2014 praised the school's current leadership, including its safeguarding provisions.[10]



The school is built on the site of Manchester Castle, a fortified manor house owned by the Grelleys after the Norman Conquest, at the confluence of the River Irwell and the River Irk.[11] Medieval Manchester grew around the manor house and the parish church, which eventually became Manchester Cathedral.[12]

In the early 14th century, the de la Warre family acquired the land through marriage. Thomas de la Warre refounded the church as a collegiate church in 1421.[13] De la Warre gave the site of his manor house for the construction of a college,[14] where eight priests, four clerks and six lay choristers lived in the care of a warden.[15] It is likely that building began between 1424 and 1429,[16] and the main hall and cloister rooms finished by 1458.[17] It remains the most complete building of its kind in the country,[12] and at the time of its construction, was the second largest building in Manchester, surpassed only by the church.[16]

The college was dissolved during the English Reformation in 1547, and purchased by Edward Stanley, 3rd Earl of Derby.[18] It was re-founded by Queen Mary, before Elizabeth I refounded it as "Christ's College" in 1578. This arrangement lasted until the foundation of Manchester Cathedral in 1847.[19] The college buildings remained the property of the Stanleys, and wardens (including the Elizabethan astronomer and mathematician John Dee) lived on the premises with their families and servants.[20] During the English Civil War, the college was used as a gunpowder factory and a prison. Lord James Stanley, a Royalist, was executed in 1651, and Parliament confiscated his property, including the college.[21]

Humphrey Chetham[edit]

Chetham, by an unknown artist, painted after his death

Humphrey Chetham (1580–1653) was an unmarried and childless financier, philanthropist and cloth merchant from Manchester. In the 1640s, he provided money for the maintenance and education of fourteen poor boys from Manchester, six from Salford, and two from Droylsden.[22] In March 1649 he wrote to the Earl of Derby about his intention to establish a school. He attempted unsuccessfully to acquire the buildings of the Manchester College, which were "spoyld and ruin'd and become like a dunghill", to provide a hospital, school and library.[22][23] In his will, Chetham left over £8,000 from his estate (which was worth about £14,000 in total) to establish a hospital school for 40 poor local boys, between the ages of six and ten from "honest" families, who should be taught and cared for until they were 14.[24][24][25] His executors obtained the lease of the college where Chetham wished to house the school and library in 1654.[26]

Charity school[edit]

After repairs to the college were completed in mid-1656, the first admissions were made.[27] The first headmaster, Richard Dutton, was appointed in 1655,[28] and in 1665 the institution became an incorporated charity.[29] The number of pupils grew, with admissions rising to 100 by the 1870s.[30] Boys were admitted based on the parish they lived in, and on need, health and background of the family. Illegitimate boys were not admitted, and all boys had to be able to read to a certain standard that meant they were not hard to teach.[31] In 1878, a new schoolroom designed by architect Alfred Waterhouse (who designed Manchester Town Hall) was built in a Tudor style.[32] The number of boys admitted was reduced to 75 in 1908 to save money, though three years later admissions increased to 99. In 1916, no boys were admitted due to lack of funding caused by World War I, and in 1918 the number was limited to 70. Successful public appeals resulted in the numbers rising to 97 in 1929. In 1926 a scheme was set up which allowed boys to apply for scholarships to join a grammar school,[33] which meant that while they lived at Chetham's, they were educated elsewhere during the day. Further, they would stay at grammar school until at least the age of 16 and sometimes 18.[34]

World War II and aftermath: 1939 to 1952[edit]

During World War II, the boys were evacuated to the seaside town of Cleveleys, Lancashire, where they shared accommodation with a primary school. Chetham's was damaged by an explosion in December 1940, when most of the windows were shattered and the roof was set alight.[35] The boys relocated to Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, in 1943 where all 41 boys were together. Thirteen boys attending grammar school moved to Buxton College. By 1944 the governors believed that it would not be appropriate for the school to return to Manchester, and it was proposed the site become a religious education centre.[36] However, after years of discussion, it was decided to return the school to Manchester.[37] The Education Act 1944,[38] which stipulated that schools should be classified as primary or secondary, complicated matters, since Chetham's went across the middle.[39] It was decided in 1950 that Chetham's should become a grammar school, and this change took place two years later.[37] In 1950, Chetham's amalgamated with Nicholls' Hospital School,[40] a similar school based in Ardwick which had been established in 1863. While it could take up to 100 boys, by the end of the war there were only 22 and it was considered beneficial for the schools to merge.[41]

Later history: since 1952[edit]

Millgate building, parallel to Long Millgate, is the former Manchester Grammar School, and became part of Chetham's in 1978. It currently accommodates most of the teaching space, and is a Grade II listed building.

After the change in organisation, Chetham's could no longer afford to provide education based on scholarships and other allowances, and charged fees.[40] In 1952, the school buildings were considered insufficient so a new block was built, which opened in 1955.[42] Numbers of boys admitted increased significantly while the number of boarders remained about the same, day pupils increasing the number on roll in 1960 to 230, 64 of which were boarders.[43]

Before becoming a specialist school, Chetham's had a good reputation for music,[44] and on this basis the decision was made to become a co-educational music school in 1969.[45] The former Palatine Hotel, which housed offices and shops, was converted into extra teaching space and practice rooms. In 1969, 50 students were admitted based on musical potential[46] and by 1972 this had risen to 150, more than half of the entire school. In 1977 the school changed to its present name.[47] In 1978 the Long Millgate building, the original home of Manchester Grammar School, was purchased to provide additional space.[48]

A new school building adjacent to the existing site was opened in 2012 by the Earl of Wessex (Patron of the school). This includes space for a 400-seat concert hall although this remains to be completed.[49] Old classrooms will be converted to other uses,[50] and the Palatine building will be demolished to reveal the currently hidden medieval buildings and allow easier access to the library.[51]

2013 sex abuse scandal[edit]

In February 2013, Michael Brewer, Director of Music from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, and his ex-wife, were convicted of indecently assaulting a pupil, Frances Andrade, between 1978 and 1982. She committed suicide after giving evidence at their trial.[52] Prosecutors claimed Brewer was forced to resign in the 1990s after an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old girl.[53] The school's statement said the current staff were "shocked... to the core" by the revelations of "the most appalling acts which took place during his time at the school...".[54] In March 2013 Brewer was found guilty of indecent assault, and was sentenced to six years imprisonment.[55]

It was reported that allegations of assault were made against another teacher in the 1980s.[56][57] On 12 February, Professor Malcolm Layfield, Head of Strings at the Royal Northern College of Music resigned from the RNCM Board after claims of his previous sexual misconduct were brought up during the Brewer hearing. Before he was appointed Head of Strings, Layfield had admitted to having relationships with six Chetham's pupils aged between 16 and 18 whilst he taught there, leading two RNCM teachers to resign in protest at his appointment in 2002, including Professor Martin Roscoe, Head of Keyboard Studies.[58][59] In October 2013 he was arrested on suspicion of raping and indecently assaulting an 18-year-old woman between 1988 and 1999.[60]

On 14 February, Professor Wen Zhou Li, a violin teacher at the Royal Northern College of Music and former teacher at Chetham's, was arrested on charges of rape that allegedly occurred whilst he taught at the school.[61] This case was dropped in 2016 before coming to trial, and Wen Zhou Li told that he left court "without a stain on his character."[62] Allegations of sexual abuse were also made against the pianist Ryszard Bakst, who died in 1999, and former violin teacher Christopher Ling.[63] Ling, who had moved to Los Angeles in the 1990s, shot himself at his home when US marshals arrived in September 2015 with a provisional arrest warrant.[64]

On 8 May 2013, the Greater Manchester Police reported that over 30 women had reported incidents of abuse, relating to the school.[65] Their investigation was known as Operation Kiso.[66] Allegations against 39 individuals in total had been assessed; of those, ten cases were proactively investigated. The police said that those cases "have or have had connections with either Chetham's and/or Royal Northern College of Music and/or have taught music privately."[65] The school issued a statement that they were assisting the police with their inquiries, and that they had instigated an action plan to review their safeguarding processes and procedures.[66] An Independent Schools Inspectorate report published in 2014 praised the school's current leadership, including its safeguarding provisions.[10] The lawyer representing some of the claimants, Liz Dux, said that she had been told that abuse had been "rife" at the school, and that teachers had allegedly been involved in "rape and habitual indecent assault".[67]

Academics and pastoral care[edit]

Manchester Cathedral has been associated with Chetham's since its beginning, when it was a church and the school was built as accommodation for its priests, choristers and clerks.


Students are admitted to the school on musical ability and talent.[68] The application process involves an audition, and advance 'advice auditions' are offered to help potential applicants to prepare. In addition to competency in playing an instrument, qualities such as aural awareness, creativity and ability to sight-read are sought. Grades and exam results are not required (with the exception of Grade 5 theory for sixth form); as musical potential is considered most important. Students between the ages of 8 and 18 can apply for a place studying any western instrument.[69] Funding for up to 100% of study and boarding fees is available to most students through the UK Government's Music and Dance Scheme.[8] Open Days are held twice each year.


As a specialist music school,[2] Chetham's requires all students to study a curriculum that concentrates on music[70] and other subjects in accordance with the National Curriculum.[71] Students taking GCSEs and A-levels study music.[71] All students study at least two instruments[70] and choir practice is compulsory.[72] Voice is available as an area of study only in the sixth form.[73] Despite entry being solely through musical audition, the school regularly obtains good exam results, in comparison to other local schools and nationally.[74][75]

Chetham's educates choristers from the cathedral who follow a similar curriculum to other students and study an instrument. However, they do not apply in an audition. When a chorister reaches Year 8 (age 12 or 13), or their voice breaks, they can apply to join Chetham's via the usual audition process.[76]

Ensembles form an important part of the musical curriculum, with all students taking part in at least one. The ensembles include Chetham's Symphony Orchestra, which has performed all over the world, including Germany, Spain and the United States, and on BBC Radio 3.[77] The award-winning Big Band played an integral part in the creation of a Jazz Studies programme, and has won many prizes, including The Daily Telegraph Young Jazz Competition, and the junior section of the BBC Radio 2 Big Band of the Year Competition three times.[78] The Chamber Choir has performed on Songs of Praise and the BBC Proms[79] and the Symphonic Wind Band and Orchestra have won prizes at the Boosey and Hawkes National Concert Festival.[80]

School life[edit]

Chetham's admits boarding and day students to one of three houses: Victoria House, a mixed-gender house for students aged 8–12; Boys' House, for boys over the age of 12; and Girls' House for girls over the age of 12. In senior houses, boarding students share rooms for four people, and in the sixth form students either have single rooms or share with one other person. Students have a personal tutor to discuss their progress, and boarding students have a house parent who communicates with parents at home.[81]

The school offers extra-curricular activities during free time. It has a swimming pool, and offers trampolining, aerobics and fencing, as well as computer games, board games and Scalextric. Weekend trips are sometimes organised for climbing and mountain biking, or to the cinema or theatre.[81]


College House, the original 15th-century college. This building contains the library, hall, Audit Room, kitchen and offices.

Chetham's is situated in Manchester City Centre, close to Manchester Victoria railway station, The National Football Museum and Manchester Cathedral. There are several buildings on the site, many of which are listed. They surround a large open space, the north part is a car park and courtyard, and the south part is a playground.

College House[edit]

A walkway in the cloister range

College House, the original 15th-century college, is a Grade I listed building built of sandstone in the shape of a lowercase 'b' with a slate roof. It is accessed by the original gatehouse;[16] which was constructed on a plinth and contains the original timbers. The upper storey is accessed by an external staircase.[82] Baronial Hall, once the Great Hall, contains many of its original features, such as its timber roof, dais and canopy. There is a large fireplace dating from the 19th century,[83] and three windows likely to date from the 16th century.[84] The Audit Room, originally a common room,[85] contains a panelled ceiling with decorations suggesting it was installed by the Stanley family.[86] The upper room, originally the warden's chamber,[85] is now the library reading room, and contains a large bay window within an elaborate Tudor arch,[86] as well as original 17th-century doors.[87] The west part of the building surrounding the cloister courtyard contained accommodation known as sets, for people who lived in college.[88] There were two rooms in each set on two floors, the lower floor being used as a study.[89] Historian Clare Hartwell, describes the cobbled courtyard which has a restored well as "one of the most atmospheric spaces in the building".[88] It is surrounded by many windows, which were probably originally unglazed.[90] Inside there are several corridors and passages containing open beams and original stonework.[89] To the east is the kitchen and associated rooms,[91] and further east are rooms used for administration offices, most of which have been substantially altered.[92]

New building[edit]

A new building opposite Victoria Station was opened in 2012. This contains most academic teaching rooms and all music teaching rooms, as well as two performance spaces. The Carole Nash Recital Room is used regularly for recitals and masterclasses, including free Lunchtime Concerts which take place three times each week during the school term. A second concert hall is currently under construction and will house larger scale performances for audiences of up to 500. In September 2015 it was announced that this would be named The Stoller Hall, after its chief benefactor Sir Norman Stoller, and would open in April 2017. Meanwhile, the old Palatine Building will be demolished to open up the medieval site and create a new access to Chetham's Library.

Other buildings[edit]

Millgate Building, the former Manchester Grammar School, is a Grade II listed building designed by Alfred Waterhouse in the 1870s. Attached to it is Nicholl's building. They contain the school hall, gym, swimming pool, dining room, art department, kitchen, and Boys' House. The old classrooms inside them are being refurbished into boarding facilities. Vallins Arts Centre, which was designed by Alfred Waterhouse in 1878 and contains a performance space, is Grade II listed. Waterhouse was responsible for much of the alterations made to College House in the 19th century. The Nicholls Building contains Victoria House, and New College House contains Girls' House, with the sixth form common room attached.[93] There is also a small chapel which houses the drama department.

Notable former pupils[edit]

Chetham's, as a music school, has produced dozens of notable alumni. Many of its students become professional musicians, as well as conductors, teachers and actors. This is a partial list of alumni:



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  • Hartwell, Clare (2004). The History and Architecture of Chetham's School and Library. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-10257-7. 
  • Williams, Penry (1986). Chetham's Old and New in Harmony. Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-1973-7. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°29′10″N 2°14′36″W / 53.48611°N 2.24333°W / 53.48611; -2.24333