Established as a charity school in 1815, the Bombay Education Society has played a major role in Mumbai's education culture
Tucked away in a cosy corner on Byculla’s bustling Clare Road, Christ Church School boasts of a rich history. The school is currently busy celebrating the 200th anniversary of the foundation of their management — the Bombay Education Society (BES).
The Bombay Education Society, which runs Byculla’s Christ Church School, celebrates its 200th anniversary. Pics/Rane Ashish
It was started as a charity institution with 168 children in 1815 by Archdeacon George Barnes, a chaplain of the East India Company. An appeal for funds was made to the government to run charity schools, which led to the formation of the BES.
Carl Laurie, principal, Christ Church School
“The classes first started at St Thomas Cathedral (Fort), which, over a span of few years, became a congested place because more and more sought admission. Eventually, George Barnes made an appeal to the government as well parishioners at St Thomas, who pitched funds to build a school building here in Byculla,” said Carl Laurie, principal of Christ Church School.
Using these donations, a school building was constructed in 1825 on a large site in Byculla given by the government. The school, named after BES, was divided for separate schools and residential sections for boys and girls, also run by two separate principals.
“The school was started as a boarding school for children of European and Anglo-Indian soldiers and around the same time locals also demanded schools. Taking this into consideration, a printing press was put in place by BES to translate all English books to regional languages including Marathi, Gujarati and Urdu,” added Laurie.
Looking at the increasing population of the area where the school is situated, the BES deiced to move the residential school to Devlali in Nashik a century later, in 1925. The Byculla school was converted into a co-education day school, and re-christened Christ Church.
At present, over 3,000 students study in the school building which is affiliated to two boards, ICSE as well as IGCSE. The ground and first floors of the building still bear marks of history, clearly engraved on the stone and concrete walls. The original plaque laid in May 1825 still finds a place in the new structure.
Celebrations have been on since January, bringing together many ex-students of the school, some travelling across continents. Well-known alumni include Bollywood director Abbas Tyrewala, fashion designer Shane Peacock and actor Mahesh Kothare.
The school hall has been transformed into a museum of sorts, with the history of school printed on pages taken from century-old books of the BES, for students to get a clear idea of the rich history of the school.
Charity begins at school
The sole purpose of starting schools in 1815 was to promote education of the poor, including children of soldiers, mariners, topasses, etc.
The first batch of students admitted by the Bombay Education Society in 1815 had a total of 168 children-including 18 orphans, 67 students who had lost their fathers, 19 who had lost their mothers, 64 were children of street dwellers.
There were 30 boys in the first batch, of which some were found wandering the streets of the city and were immediately placed under the care of BES for education as well as shelter.