Gary Lineker visits school for family ties and football

Gary Lineker has been to Christ’s Hospital school while filming the BBC One TV series, Who Do You Think You Are?

The former professional footballer and TV presenter visited the school to trace his ancestral roots and the programme aired on August 21. He also had a game of football with some of the pupils.

Mr Lineker traced his four x Great Grandfather, Thomas Billingham, who was thought to have been a scholar at Christ’s Hospital from 1798 to 1804.

Most of the filming took place in the school’s museum, which holds extensive records relating to pupils dating back to 1563.

Prior to Gary’s visit to the school, he had visited the Stationers’ Hall in London where he found out that Thomas had been an apprentice stationer, paid for by Christ’s Hospital.

Tracing the records back further at Guildhall, where the School’s original records are still carefully preserved, led him to visit Christ’s Hospital’s Museum to find out more.

Mike Barford, Christ’s Hospital Museum Curator said: “Gary had already established that Thomas’s father found it difficult to provide for his family and asked Christ’s Hospital to show their ‘usual pity and charity to distressed men, poor widows and fatherless children’ and to grant permission for Thomas to be admitted.

“Gary was curious to know about Edward King, the signature on the admittance petition, and how Thomas became one of the select few who were admitted.  It became apparent that Edward King was a lawyer and an author who employed Thomas’ father as his gardener.

“Potential pupils had to be presented by a respected figure and it was fortunate that Edward King supported Thomas’ application to Christ’s Hospital.

“This method of entry to the School still exists today – around 40% of pupils are presented by Donation Governors, like Edward King, who become members of the Court of Governors.”

During the research in the Museum, Mr Lineker also uncovered not only a writing connection that may have linked Thomas to the Stationers’ Company but he also found something about football.

Mike added: “We discovered examples of the high standard of handwriting achieved by pupils in Christ’s Hospital’s Writing School in which Thomas was taught.

“Whilst there was no organised team sport, football was a popular children’s game at that time and Gary learned that the children in Christ’s Hospital were allowed to use one of the three playgrounds for “playing at ball” as all the windows opening onto it had been covered with wire to protect the glass. It is entirely possible that Thomas played some foot-ball there.”

The highlight of the day for aspiring footballers was during the afternoon when Gary joined in a football match in the indoor sports hall at the School. In spite of the boys’ excellent defence skills, Gary proved he hadn’t lost his touch and scored a goal.

David Messenger, director of Sport at Christ’s Hospital, told The District Post: “This was a great opportunity for the boys to match their skills and talent against one of England’s best centre forwards.

“It was a fast game and the boys weren’t afraid to tackle Gary. It was a fun and thoroughly enjoyable learning experience for the boys and we hope that Gary’s visit will have inspired budding footballers at Christ’s Hospital to one day realise their dreams and play football for England!”

The latest series of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ can be viewed on BBC iPlayer.


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