The Collections

The Jill Grey Collection

The Jill Grey Collection consists of some 37,000 items relating to the history of education and the social history of childhood. This was collected between approximately 1962 and 1987 by Jill Grey, a Hitchin resident.

An eccentric yet extraordinarily gifted woman, Jill Grey (1919 – 1987) was a code and cypher officer with the Royal Air Force during World War 2. After the war she went to the USA as personal assistant to Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle, inventor of the jet engine, at a time when American companies were negotiating to use his important invention.

During the 1950s she began to collect all things associated with early education and childhood – eventually filling her house in Hitchin with books, postcards and items of furniture, costume and much, much more.

In 1975 she succeeded in getting the buildings at the British Schools in Hitchin ‘listed’, so confirming their architectural importance and helping to protect them from future demolition. On her death in 1987, Jill Grey left a collection of some 37,000 items. This highly acclaimed collection is now cared for by Hitchin British Schools Trust. Items and images from the collection form part of the changing displays and exhibitions at the museum.

Benchmark Collection

Since 1994 we have built up a separate collection of material relating to education and childhood, that has been donated to the British Schools Museum.

There are now more than 10,000 items in the Benchmark Collection to tell the full story of elementary education, and the childhoods and home lives of the children who attended the schools and those of the teaching staff. Items from the collection have been used to furnish the Head Master’s House, to equip the classrooms and the Discovery Room. It is an invaluable resource and has enabled us to build up an archive of photographs featuring the children who attended the school.

The Replica Quilt Project

We have started work on making a replica of our beautiful 1830's quilt. The original quilt was made painstakingly by hand with quality fabrics, some dating as far back as the 1700’s. Find out more