The Exeter Free Grammar School opened in 1633, on the upper floor of the medieval buildings of St John’s Hospital, which had stood on the south side of the High Street since the 12th century. On the ground floor beneath this, was established the English Free School. A uniform of blue caps and gowns was introduced for the boys of this Free School, leading to the pupils being nicknamed Blue Boys. A least two small statues of a Blue Boy were made, and one was placed at the entrance to the main hall.
The two schools separated, moved, developed and changed over time. Sadly, the original ancient school buildings were destroyed in the bombing of Exeter in May 1942. Post-war, the damaged area, close to the cathedral, was demolished and cleared and repleaced with the Princesshay shopping area, which opened in the 1950s. The Blue Boy statue that had stood outside the old school was salvaged and placed on a plinth in the precinct, at a spot that marked the original position of the main entrance of the school.
In 2005 the old shopping area was destroyed and replaced with a modern mall. The work to develop this area included archaeological investigations and some of the findings, including Roman tiles, can now been seen in the retail area, which opened in late 2007. And a very blue Blue Boy is still there to remind everyone of the area’s history. When I met him in 2015, he was exuberantly yarn bombed as well as brightly blue!
Hex colour reference: #1974D2
A colourful note: Navy blue was a new name and a new colour for Crayola in 1958. Theirs is a very bright shade of what is traditionally a very dark blue, named after the uniform worn by the officers in the British Royal Navy since 1748 and subsequently adopted by other navies around the world. As regards the use of navy blue as a colour name in English, the Oxford English Dictionary has an example dating back to 1813.
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 2 March 2016