Little is known about arrangements for accommodating boarders in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Most are likely to have lived in the Mint Yard. Some may well have lodged elsewhere in the town. Miss Couchman advertised a boarding house in St Alphege Lane in 1817 – “Each young Gentleman will be accommodated with a single bed, and every attention to their health, morals, and comfort paid them” – and in 1841 at least ten boys were lodged with Mrs Morris in Castle Street.
With the building of the new School House in 1864, and the acquisition of The Grange shortly afterwards, the problem was temporarily solved, but expansion of the School under Arthur Galpin (HM 1897-1910) led to significant numbers of boys lodging with masters and the introduction of a de facto house system. Holme House, Mr Bell’s House and Langley House were added in the first decade of the 20th century.
A tutor system was instituted by Thomas Field (HM 1886-97) and from 1895 there were sports matches between tutor sets. Teams were known by the name of their tutor: Mr Mason’s, Mr Bell’s, etc. In 1909 “in order to give permanency to the names of tutor sets” it was decided to give them names: Martlets, Hawks, Herons, Choughs, Gryphons and Swallows. The Junior School became the Parrots. In 1929, house matches replaced tutor set matches and were competed between School House, The Grange, Langley House, Holme House and Day Boys.
Day boys were always to some degree separate, and until the 19th century they were probably the majority. It is recorded that the 1863 cricket season started – ‘as usual’ − with a match between Boarders and Day Boys and the tutor set cricket challenge shield was first won in 1895 by the Day Boys. When the School moved into Lattergate in 1924, one of the rooms was the day boys’ hall.
John Shirley (HM 1935-62) acquired more houses within the Precincts and closed the ‘out-houses’. After the War, further expansion once again meant the use of some houses in the town. With the acquisition of the St Augustine’s site in 1976 and the building of two new houses within the Precincts, the ‘out-houses’ disappeared. Since 1990 and the advent of full co-education, three more new houses have been built.
From 1971 girls were admitted to the Sixth Form. Until 1990 they were all attached to boys’ houses for administrative purposes. Many were lodged with various landladies in the Precincts, as well as in school properties in Broad Street, Radigunds and Bailey House. From 1990 to 1993 during the transition to full co-education Broad St Radigunds and Bailey House were independent sixth form girls’ houses.
There are now sixteen houses at the King’s School.