John Cass

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Sir John Cass by Roubiliac, Guildhall, London
Memorial, St Botolph without Aldgate, London

Sir John Cass (February 1661[1] – 5 July 1718) was an English merchant, politician and philanthropist.

He was born in Rosemary Lane, in the City of London, son of Thomas Cass, carpenter to the Royal Ordnance. In 1665, the family moved to Grove Street, in South Hackney to escape the plague.[2]


Cass became a merchant, builder and politician who served as Alderman, for the ward of Portsoken and in 1711 was elected a Sheriff of London. He was elected as one of the Tory MPs for the City in 1710; until losing to the Whig faction in 1715. He was appointed a commissioner of the Commission for Building Fifty New Churches, in 1711; this was a scheme to provide new churches for the rapidly expanding population of the metropolis.[3] He was knighted in 1712.

Cass was Master of the Carpenter's Company in 1711-12, concurrent with his shrievalty;[4] but in 1714 he transferred to the Skinner's Company, and became their Master. Between 1709 and 1715 he was treasurer to the Bethlem Royal Hospital and the Bridewell,[2]

He died on 5 July 1718, aged 57 of a brain haemorrhage and was buried in the churchyard of St Mary Matfelon, in Whitechapel, now the Altab Ali Park. His widow Elizabeth née Franklin died on 7 July 1732.[5] They had no children.


He was also a philanthropist who founded a school for fifty boys and forty girls in buildings in the churchyard of St Botolph's Aldgate in 1709. Cass had made a will at this time, but when his health failed in 1718, planned a new version taking account of the extra property he had acquired in the intervening years. Cass began a new will, but by the time of his death only three pages had been initialled. The will – worth £2,000 – was contested by his heirs at law Court of Chancery. Lady Cass continued as patroness of the schools, but died in 1732. The school continued for a few more years under the aegis of Valentine Brewis, one of the trustees Cass had named, but was closed down after his death in 1738. In the early 1740s the remaining trustees petitioned Parliament for the permanent endowment of the school, and the will was finally upheld thirty years after Cass's death.[6] This enabled the Sir John Cass's Foundation to be established in 1748.[7]

Sir John Cass's Foundation[edit]

Sir John Cass Red Coat School in Stepney, London

His charity continued to fund the Sir John Cass Foundation School as well as providing for the establishment of the Sir John Cass Technical Institute, which was founded in 1899 and moved into newly built premises at 31 Jewry Street, London, in 1902; becoming Sir John Cass College in 1950. In 1965, the College's Department of Fine and Applied art merged with the Department of Silversmithing and Allied Crafts from the Central School of Art to form the Sir John Cass School of Art, which moved into its own new premises at Central House, opposite the Whitechapel Art Gallery. The Sir John Cass College merged with the City of London College in 1970 to form the City of London Polytechnic; becoming London Guildhall University and merging to form the London Metropolitan University in 2002.[8]

The modern Foundation provides support to a primary school within the City – near to St Botolph's, (Sir John Cass's Foundation Primary School); a secondary school (Sir John Cass Redcoat School) in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets; the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design within London Metropolitan University; and the Cass Business School within City University.

The Foundation has provided funding for the Sir John Cass School of Education at the University of East London campus in Stratford. Funding has also been provided for the Sir John Cass Hall, a hall of residence for students, in Well Street, London Borough of Hackney.


  • A statue of Cass is placed outside the Sir John Cass School, at Duke's Place and Mitre Street. He is shown wearing a long wig and the Sheriff's gown. This is a copy of the cast-lead original (by Roubiliac), dated 1751, which is housed in the Guildhall.
  • Cassland Road in Hackney commemorates the land holdings of the Cass family, in the district.
  • A row of almshouses (founded by William Monger) in 1669, were subsequently funded by land owned by Cass on Hackney Marshes. In 1849, they were rebuilt by Sir John Cass's Foundation.[9]


  1. ^ Baptism 28 February 1661
  2. ^ a b Sir John Cass, Statue, Sir John Cass School, Duke's Place / Mitre St Archived 1 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine (Public Monument and Sculpture Association) accessed 29 May 2009
  3. ^ List of commissioners and officers, The Commissions for building fifty new churches: The minute books, 1711–27, a calendar (1986), pp. XXXIV-XXXVII. Date. Retrieved 27 May 2009
  4. ^ Court Minute Books of the Carpenters' Company, Guildhall Library, London, MS. 4329/15, sub anno.
  5. ^  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSeccombe, Thomas (1901). "Cass, John". Dictionary of National Biography (1st supplement). London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  6. ^ Chancery Proceedings C11/991/10 9 December 1722
  7. ^ Shutters Court – Sir John Fouches, A Dictionary of London (1918). Date. Retrieved 27 May 2009
  8. ^ Sir John Cass College (AIM25) accessed 27 May 2009
  9. ^ Hackney: Charities for the Poor, A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 10: Hackney (1995), pp. 166–172. Date. Retrieved 28 May 2009

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