Jesus Lane Sunday School

Cambridge District Scout Archive

Jesus Lane Sunday School had a significant place in early Cambridge District Scouting.

Despite a name that suggests little more than a local Church religious education class it was a body that played a significant part in the education of children in Cambridge and had a role in the initiating the 1870 Education Act. (See Rosemary Gardiner’s An Epoch Making School)

Founded in 1827 by students from Queens’ College to educate children from Barnwell, then a slum area housing 7000, it came to be described as ‘the most famous Sunday School’.  JLSS relied on volunteer workers and initially taught through reading Christian works. To do so they had to teach the children, boys and girls from the age of 3, to read.  A wider remit was clearly adopted as the later provision of a Youth Club with a Gym demonstrates.

The Jesus Lane Sunday school started in Jesus Lane; quickly outgrowing the space it moved to Kings Street School in 1833 and to Paradise Street in 1867.  In 1877 Jesus Lane Sunday School built a special building for its Youth Club in Grafton Street which backed onto the property in Paradise Street.  This was named the Albert Institute and carried the engraving Jubilate Deo J. L. S. S.   AD  1827 – 1877 over the entrance.

At its height it had 600 children on its books but this declined with the increased provision of education following successive Education Acts and it was dealt another blow by the 1914 – 1918 war.

1952 08 23 From Mike Petty – Cambridgeshire History Facebook

1952: Jesus Lane Sunday School has been wound up. It was founded in 1827 by a group of University men distressed by the spiritual desolation of Barnwell who decided to start a “Gownsman’s Sunday School”. Four of them set out to visit every house in search of scholars and on the first Sunday the school opened with over 200 children attending at the Friends Meeting House. Later they erected a large new building in Paradise Street where 600 children were on the books. The 1914 war dealt the school a blow from which it never wholly recovered and in 1936 the building was sold to the Boy Scouts Association.


The JLSS, or some of the volunteers, may have seen in Scouting a natural extension to its educational outreach.  There is no evidence of a direct planned change of focus from pure teaching to less direct educational methods.

The Treasurer of JLSS at the point when it was hired to the Cambridge Scout Association was Rev P Gardner – Smith whose second wife was later a long time Cub Scout leader in the District. The initial rent was £7/10/0 a quarter.

Some evidence of an overlap of active members can be identified between JLSS and Scouting and a shift of ownership of property did occur – with the significant involvement and contribution of Rev C T Wood. 

In 1912 Rev J R S Taylor, Superintendent of the JLSS was a Member of the local Association. In this year the short lived 4th Cambridge (Jesus Lane Sunday School) was registered, but it does not appear to have lasted beyond the year.

From Rev C T Wood’s album we have a photograph of C T Wood and H Doncaster at the Grafton Street building of JLSS in 1895.

The Rev Wood, later Dean of Queens’ College, was to become SM of the Lolworth Troop, of the 7th for a time in WW1 and most importantly of the 9th Cambridge.  The 7th were ‘Christ Church and JLSS’ and from the 1912 annual report the leaders were H S Morton and W M Askwith.

C T Wood was later DC and CC and instigator and part financer of the later purchase of Grafton Street and later the JLSS building and Abington camp site.  H Doncaster appears in a photo with Rev Wood at an early Scout camp.  Other named teachers and students photographed have not been identified as active Cambridge Scouters.

Paradise Street – Scout use before 1926

Christ Church and Jesus Lane Sunday School hosted the 7th Cambridge Scout Troop between 1912 and 1913, presumably at the Institute and 9th Cambridge moved there 1917

Rooms were generally available for hire.  The Albert Institute was home to a Scout Club, or Senior Scout Club, for a time.  This club was for older boys but struggled with the insistence that all members become Scouts within three months off joining.

A later incarnation of the 7th County School also hired rooms at the Albert Institute at the time of change of ownership.

Scout Ownership 1926

Consisting of three classrooms, two reading rooms and a gymnasium the Albert Institute became the Scout Headquarters in 1926.

In 1936 the Jesus Lane Sunday School in Paradise Street which backed onto the Albert institute was added to the Scout purchase and so both parts of the JLSS building came into Scout ownership.

See also Structure/ Meeting Places/ Grafton Street Plans

The building slowly became beyond the resources of the District to maintain and was sold to the Co-op as part of the move to Perne Road in mid 1950’s.  The Grafton Street portion is now known as Jubilee Hall and has become residential Flats.

JWR Archivist Oct 2020