Gary Lineker traces his roots to Horsham

Gary Lineker spends a day at Christ's Hospital finding out his ancestor Thomas Billingham who was a scholar at the School. picture by Toby Phillips
Gary Lineker spends a day at Christ's Hospital finding out his ancestor Thomas Billingham who was a scholar at the School. picture by Toby Phillips
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Former England and Leicester City football player Gary Lineker visited a Horsham school to trace his ancestral roots as part of BBC1 series ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’.

The programme which features the 52-year-old discovering more about a relative thought to have been a scholar at Christ’s Hospital School was aired on Wednesday, August 21.

Gary Lineker spends a day at Christ's Hospital finding out his ancestor Thomas Billingham who was a scholar at the School. picture by Toby Phillips

Gary Lineker spends a day at Christ's Hospital finding out his ancestor Thomas Billingham who was a scholar at the School. picture by Toby Phillips

Thomas Billingham, who they school say is Gary’s four times Great Grandfather, was at the school between 1798 to 1804.

Filming for the programme took place at the school on a snowy day back in January - mainly in the museum which holds extensive records relating to pupils dating back to 1563.

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. “

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.

Gary Lineker spends a day at Christ's Hospital finding out his ancestor Thomas Billingham who was a scholar at the School. picture by Toby Phillips

Gary Lineker spends a day at Christ's Hospital finding out his ancestor Thomas Billingham who was a scholar at the School. picture by Toby Phillips

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.

“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,” continued Mike.

“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,” he added.

Gary Lineker spends a day at Christ's Hospital finding out his ancestor Thomas Billingham who was a scholar at the School. picture by Toby Phillips

Gary Lineker spends a day at Christ's Hospital finding out his ancestor Thomas Billingham who was a scholar at the School. picture by Toby Phillips

During the research in the museum, Gary also uncovered not only a writing connection which may have linked Thomas to the Stationers’ Company, but he also found something about football.

Mike added: “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 football there,” he added.

The highlight of the day for aspiring footballers was during the afternoon when Gary joined in a football match in the indoor sports hall.

Gary proved he hadn’t lost his touch and scored a goal, with cheers and handshakes all round.

David Messenger, director of dport at Christ’s Hospital said: “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 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.”

Gary stayed for lunch in Christ’s Hospital’s dining hall where the pupils flocked for autographs and photographs.

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

For about tracing ancestors linked to Christ’s Hospital email chmuseum@christs-hospital.org.uk