(This article is partly derived from "Aspects of the Early History of Hungerford" by Norman Hidden, HHA, 2009.)
The beginnings of class education came with the Grammar Schools, which started in the reign of Edward VI in the mid 16th century. Even as a small market town, Hungerford had a Grammar School. It occupied a site in The Croft where Croft Hall stands today. The site is shown on William Francis' map of Hungerford of 1794.
[The correct date of the foundation of the Grammar School is 1635. Other dates (1628, 1636 and even 1653) are erroneous. The founder, Dr Sheaffe (also spelt Sheaf or Sheaff) had died in 1640. ]
In 1591 Dr Thomas Sheaff, a Canon of St George's Chapel, Windsor, had bought a property in Bridge Street (now number 9) from a London merchant named Price. Dr Sheaff (the more usual spelling) resold the freehold of 9 Bridge Street to Henry Atkins in 1612.
The Free Grammar School is established, 1635:
Some years later, in 1635, Rev Thomas Sheaff DD, was Rector of Welford, but he clearly still had a great affinity for Hungerford, and he gave to the town of Hungerford half an acre of land in The Croft, for the leading citizens to erect a free school house and to elect a schoolmaster and pay his stipend. The original foundation deed has survived, and clearly gives the date as 29 Sep 1635. Incidentally, Thomas Sheaff DD had a son, also Thomas Sheaff, who became a Doctor of Medicine.
The land given by Dr. Sheaff was in Church Field adjoining Church Croft (now The Croft), and was formerly the property of the Priory of St. John.
Some years earlier, in 1628, John Lucas had left in his will the sum of £10 "towards the setting up of a school in Hungerford or Sandon, provided it be built or set up within these ten years." It seems clear from this that plans for the setting up of a new school had been discussed and that a final push was needed to bring the plans into realisation. A certain note of impatience, perhaps because of delays already incurred, may be detected in the proviso to the bequest.
It was in 1635, i.e. within the stipulated ten year period, that Dr. Sheaff donated the land in Church Field to the Constable and other trustees of the town for them to erect a house thereon. That this was done may be attested by the will of William Hobbes, of North Hidden, who in March 1635/6 left 20 shillings in his will to be administered by the churchwardens for "the free school in the place where the house is now set up."
It may have taken a long time, but at last the new school had been built and staffed. Although it was known at first as 'the free school', it later became known as 'the free grammar school' or more simply as 'the grammar school'. In 1633/4 the parish register records the birth of a son to "John Smith schoolmaster." It is probable that this man was the first master of the new free school and that he was related to Vincent Smith who in his will in 1627 left a bequest of his wearing apparel to "my kinsman John Smith.
The deeds record that "The master of the school shall be elected by the Vicar, Constable, Burgesses and Churchwardens. The Vicar, while he lives, and the Constable, each having a double voice. The school master might be deposed if he became viscious in his life or conversation, or notoriously negligent, or a heretic, of should fall into any notorious crime or fault."
That opportunities for young males were very much in the minds of the more enlightened townsmen may be suggested both by the several bequests already mentioned as well as by an earlier grant in 1626 by Vincent Smith, the tanner, of Charnham Street. A few local misconceptions about him (just as with Dr. Sheaff) need to be removed. Although he is entitled "Sir" Vincent Smith in a Charity Commissioners' report of 1837, Smith — though doubtless as deserving as many — was never knighted, except mistakenly by the Commissioners! In fact, Smith remained until his death plain Vincent Smith the tanner or, sometimes, Vincent Smith yeoman. Nor was his bequest specifically to the school, though it later became amalgamated with other charitable bequests for the benefit of young people. What Vincent Smith sought to provide was an annual sum to be used in purchasing apprenticeships for poor boys in the parish of Hungerford, and to this end he provided by grant the rent charges on two of his properties, one in Charnham Street, the other in the High Street, Hungerford. That this fulfilled a real need may be illustrated by another will, that of Henry Wyniate, yeoman, (Feb. 1637/8) who instructs his wife and executrix that she "shall keep my sons Henry and John at school to learn to read and write to be made fit for apprenticeship when they shall reach the age of 15 years, after which they are to be bound to some trades whereby they may get their living. "
- Detail from Francis map, 1794
- The Croft c.1890, showing the Grammar School on right
- Rev Edward Meyrick
- The Croft Hall, built 1900 on site of the Grammar School
Masters of the Free Grammar School:
1635 - John Smith
1642-51 - Civil War
1662-63 - Thomas Ring
1671 - Thomas Foster
1686 - Joseph Perkins BA
1688 - Joseph Wells
1710 - Thomas Young
1725 - Michael Baynes BA
1732 - Robert Paty
1761 - William Miller
1770 - Joseph Coxhead
1776-86 - Rev. Edward Meyrick
1786 - Joseph Andrews
1793 - William Francis
c1819- James Jelfs
c1832-47 Edward Jelfs
1847-84 - John Hives
Census entries for the Grammar School:
1851: John Hives (45) - 14 scholars
1861: John Hives (54) - 19 pupils
1871: John Hives (61) - 12 pupils
1881: Edward Hives (35) - 19 scholars
How was it funded?
A consideration of the names of those involved in these gifts or bequests, as executors or witnesses of wills or conveyances or as trustees, reveals a group of leading parishioners working in unison to the one end of providing educational opportunities for the town's young, and especially its potential breadwinners of the next generation. The trustees of Vincent Smith's grant included Sir Edward Hungerford, Edmund Hungerford, Francis Goddard of Standen Hussey, Thomas Smith of Soley, and John Lucas the elder. Of these Francis Goddard, Edmund Hungerford, and Thomas Smith were also trustees of Dr. Sheaff's grant of land in 1635. In addition, the names of vicar John Wirral and his prebendal canon Dr. Sheaff wind in and out of most transactions affecting the town at this time, showing the important role still played by the church. The churchwardens were given much practical responsibility in this as in other matters.
In 1645 Thomas Smith the elder, of Milton in Wiltshire, eldest son of Vincent Smith and executor of his father's will, granted an annuity of 40 shillings "for the advancement of the then new erected school in Hungerford for the teaching and instruction of two poor children or youth males [sic] of Hungerford yearly." The trustees were Francis Goddard of Standen Hussey, John Clarke the new vicar, John Gunter gent, Richard Goddard of Hidden gent, Jehosophat Lucas (a son of John Lucas the benefactor who died in 1626) and Nicholas Burch, both these latter of Hungerford.
One of the problems arising from charitable bequests was that of ensuring a continuing body of trustees. In the course of time the original trustees died and sometimes were not replaced. When Thomas Smith made his bequest in 1645/6 the country was in the short interval between the two Civil wars which dominated the years 1642-9. They were particularly disruptive years for Hungerford as the tide of war ebbed and flowed across the region. Some local inhabitants sided with one cause and others sided oppositely. The effect on community projects could only have been stultifying. The execution of the monarch in 1649 and the establishment of the Commonwealth continued the general unsettlement until the Restoration of 1660, which in turn brought its own changes. In 1654 Mr. Mills of Hungerford was named as the local Commonwealth Commissioner in "An Ordinance for ejecting Scandalous, Ignorant, and Inefficient Ministers." with the power to call before him vicars and schoolmasters to examine them.
These unsettled years had their effect on the earlier hopes arising from the achievement of a free school, for when the first trustees died the endowments provided by Vincent Smith and continued by his son Thomas remained uncollected during much of this troubled period. Apparently Smith's endowment was paid by the tenant of his property for the first four to five years only; and thereafter the charge, which had fallen on a new tenant, was refused.
In a much mutilated inventory attached to the will of Robert Curtis who died in February 1661/2 there is reference to "the chamber over the schoolhouse" where some of his books were stored whose value was apprised at £1. Despite the description of Robert Curtis in his will by his status as yeoman rather than by his occupation as schoolmaster, the inventory of his goods taken on his death seems to point towards the likelihood that Curtis was the 'live-in' schoolmaster. In the portion of the property below this "chamber over the 'schoolhouse' was an old tableboard and some 'lumber' apprised at five shillings. Even allowing for the hugely increased purchasing power of money in those days compared with our own, and for the fact that inventories often tended to undervalue the deceased's goods, whenever friendly appraisers (often neighbours) could do so, nevertheless this inventory seems to suggest that the school must have been a very small venture The 'schoolhouse' itself was merely one downstairs room, sparsely furnished, and the master's personal library was limited. Although it is not stated in the will that this is the free school, we know that William Curtis, Robert's son, was the parish clerk and judging from some entries in the parish register rather (mistakenly) fancied his own calligraphy — evidence perhaps of his father's teaching. We know also that in a court case Curtis v Curtis (1663) concerning the disposal of the property, one Richard Fox was mentioned in the interrogatories who "teaches children to read English only" (i.e. no Latin).
English teaching rather than Latin may have resulted from a demand for 'practical' subjects (the sort of education envisaged in Henry Wyniate's will); it may also suggest a lack of local candidates as potential entrants to the academic professions. Indeed, the small population of both town and parish must have resulted in a limited number of pupils even in the best of times.
After the collapse of the Commonwealth and the Restoration of the monarchy, evidence from a new source points more definitely to features which justify the title of grammar school. A previously existing requirement for teachers to be licensed by the bishop of the diocese in which they were employed was reinforced in 1662 by the Act of Uniformity which required all ministers and teachers to subscribe to the Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England.
1662 Thomas Ring:
Thus, in 1662 Thomas Ring schoolmaster in Hungerford signed. In the same year the churchwardens report that "by the information of Mr. Kinge there is one Thomas Godfrey hath taught school formerly." Beyond this simple statement nothing more is said; the churchwardens, having reported the information required, seem to have left the matter to the discretion of the diocesan authorities. One interpretation offers itself, that Godfrey, like many in Hungerford at that time, was or had been a moderate dissenter. Whether this was so or not, Godfrey resolved the situation by subscribing to the Thirty Nine Articles on which the Act of Uniformity was based , and in November 1663 was licensed by the Bishop of Salisbury to teach at an "English" school in Hungerford. His subscription to the Thirty Nine Articles was not written in Latin, which was more customary in the case of a grammar school master, but in English.
The possibility of Godfrey having been a teacher in a 'dissenters' school is perhaps given some weight by the fact that whereas in 1670 Thomas Ring was designated in the burials register as "schoolmaster", when Thomas Godfrey died, neither the parish register nor the administration bond in respect of his estate refers to his position as a teacher. It is possible that there were two teachers at the grammar school, one of whom did not teach Latin. Alternatively there may have been two schools, one using the traditional Latin as the basis of its curriculum, the other being an 'English' school which apart from the requirement of episcopal licensing of its teachers, was not under the control of the church and the local churchwardens.
1671 Thomas Foster:
In 1671 Thomas Foster was licensed to teach boys in Latin within the parish of Hungerford and his subscription to the Articles was written, appropriately, in Latin. That education was not confined to the free grammar school, however, is shown by the licence granted in September 1663 to John Hobbes to teach a school in Newtown (or Hidden) in the parish of Hungerford. The subscription is written in English in very good handwriting and signed by John Hobbes. This is probably the John Hobbs buried in 1675/6, who was of Newtown and by his will left everything to his wife Untonia during her lifetime; but after her death his estate was to go to the poor of the parish. Untonia did not die until 1693 and the will led to disputes which destroyed much of Hobbes' charitable intents. Once again, as in the case of Vincent Smith, the cause of education was set back, since charitable bequests were its main source of income.
We have already seen how Vincent Smith's charitable trust to provide scholarships had been thwarted during the unsettled years when the endowment was left uncollected. Following complaints by the churchwardens in 1671 concerning the unpaid sums due from absentee landlords, and with the school building declared to be in a state of decay, a second inquisition was set up by the Crown in 1674, which found that £49 (that is, rent charges for over 24 years) was owing, for which the owner or occupier of the premises was liable. The court made an order to this effect, setting up a new set of trustees to collect and receive the sum of £49, "which shall be used towards the expense and support of the school and for payment out of the moneys disbursed for repair thereof by workmen and others in that charitable work."
When Thomas Foster was licensed in 1671 as master of the grammar school, there may have been some query concerning him, for a special certificate signed by churchwarden Richard Sare and vicar George Farewell appears among the churchwardens' presentations in May 1671, attesting to his orthodoxy. We know little more of him; his wife Sarah was buried in the parish churchyard in 1676, but we have no burial record for himself. He was certainly alive in 1678 in which year (described as 'clerk') he was commissioned to make an inventory of the goods of vicar Robert Abbot.
1686 Joseph Perkins:
Presumably he carried on teaching until his replacement by Joseph Perkins B.A. who was licensed to teach "at the grammar school in the parish of Hungerford" on 5 October 1686.
Perkins's subscription to the Articles is in Latin; and is immediately followed by another licence issued on 23 November 1686 to Edward Marshall to teach an 'English school "and the art of writing" within the parish of Hungerford.
1687 Thomas Butler:
Perkins probably did not stay long, for although he had a daughter baptised on 2 July 1687, after that we hear no more of him. Possibly in order to be his replacement, the local vicar Joseph Wells was licensed in 1688 to teach boys "in schola grammaticale". In 1687 the churchwardens presented Thomas Butler for teaching without a licence. Presumably this deficiency was put right (although I have found no record of such a licence), since in 1695 the Hocktide Court refers to him as "Thomas Butler, master of the free school." The parish register described him as "schoolmaster" at his burial in 1705.
That there was a successor to Thomas Butler we know from the following entries in the Constable's Accounts for the year 1705-6: "Paid: expenses for choosing a schoolmaster 3s.6d.", also paid "expenses about ye schoolmaster 3s.6d." The Accounts also contain an entry "money disburst for ye schoolhouse", but no sum is entered and the entry seems more like a sub-heading, being immediately followed by a series of payments to tradesmen "as per bill." Payments to a tradesman are often made "as per bill", and since the bill presumably was kept which contained details of the article or work provided, there would be no need to enter them in the Accounts book. If these entries do indeed relate to the school house, it would seem that some fairly substantial re-building or repair may have been undertaken. As we shall see, the then Constable, John Hamblen, was closely identified with the school's development.
1710 Thomas Young:
The next licensed grammar school master was Thomas Young, but the licence for him to teach is dated April 1710. He may have been teaching in anticipation of his being licensed, for in January 1709/10 he is already referred to as schoolmaster in the parish register's entry for the baptism of his son Edward. Even earlier, however, in 1708-9 the Constable's Accounts contain an entry: "paid by consent of the inhabitants when Mr. Young was chose scolemaster, to Jno. Hidden [licensed victualler] for beare [beer] and fiering [firing i.e. provision of a fire?] ." It is interesting to note that the Constable may have been one of the town feoffees who appointed the [head] master of the Hungerford Free Grammar School, and with "the consent of the inhabitants" held a celebratory party afterwards at John Hidden's tavern. Young remained for many years in office, a popular and respected local schoolmaster, much in demand for the writing and witnessing of wills. In 1726 William Hamblen of Eddington appointed "my trusty and good friend Thomas Young schoolmaster" to act as overseer of his will, in which he made provision for the apprenticing of a poor boy from Hungerford.
William was related to John Hamblen who a few years later also gave a sum for local charity. John Hamblen's bequest in 1729 was of £100 for charitable uses "to be laid out by the Vicar, Churchwardens, Constable and Portreeve of Hungerford for purchase of a fee simple estate of land, the vicar [etc.] and successors to receive the profits of the estate" for various charitable purposes in aid of the poor. Nothing is said in his will about education, since Hamblen in fact had already (in 1726) made a grant to this effect during his lifetime. This was a grant of 8 acres of meadow ground called Chantry Mead, the rent of which was to be used for charitable purposes, "out of which issues the trust must annually pay £4 per annum for ever, free from taxes, to the Master of the Free School of Hungerford as a salary for his teaching in the same school 4 poor boys of the parish not only to read and write and cast accounts, but also for his instructing and educating them in the knowledge and practice of the Christian religion as professed and taught in the Church of England, which said poor boys were to be elected and chosen by the Vicar and Churchwardens, Constable and Portreeve; and to apply the surplus or remainder of the rents and profits in providing each and every of the said poor boys elected a new grey cloth coat trimmed with black, the sleeves faced with black and a hat and two neckcloths on Easter Monday yearly for ever."
It was not uncommon in the 17th and 18th centuries for a schoolmaster to be also the parish clerk or a curate. Both posts were subject to the church in general and to the local churchwardens in particular. In parishes where this arrangement existed it was usual that the churchwardens paid a fixed sum in respect of the duties of the parish clerk; but the appointee's teaching work was recompensed by fees obtained from the pupils or from scholarship endowments where this source was available. Thus in Hungerford Thomas Young is known to have enjoyed the dual role of schoolmaster and vestry clerk, and as we shall see later at other times a local curate undertook the duties of schoolmaster.
In 1717-18 efforts were made once again to secure the 'salary' or fixed income to be obtained from Vincent Smith's endowment: For example, the Constable "paid Mr James for a rieting [writing] charging the Three Swans with a sallery for the maintenance of the free school. 2s.6d."
Various other entries in later Constable's Accounts show efforts being made to maintain the school and its buildings:
- 1726-27: "Paid for ye scholl house as by Bill of Thomas Robinson for fetching 5 lods[loads] of earth and sand. 5s."
- 1729-30: the unforgettable entry "paid Mr John Butler as by Bill as [in respect of?] the skull house. £1.12s.0d".
In 1730-1 the Accounts record payment of six shillings for horse hire and expenses to Lambourn at two several times to desire the Commissioners for Charitable Uses to appoint new trustees. Some time before the date of Young's death other teachers had been licensed, but whether as additions or replacements we do not know. First was Michael Baynes B.A. who in October 1725 was licensed to instruct boys or scholars in Latin in the town of Hungerford, Wilts and Berks, [i.e. including Charnham Street]. Baynes is known to have been acting as curate to vicar James Barclay ( or Berkley) in 1732. In October 1732 another licence was issued to Robert Paty as a teacher in the free grammar school. Robert died at the end of December 1750, and is described as "schoolmaster" in his will.
In 1735 Mrs Elizabeth Cummins gave £400 to the town, the interest on which was to be used for the education of an equal number of boys and girls. The boys were to be taught Latin, and the girls reading, working (presumably needlework) and writing.
Once again the unhappy circumstances of the Vincent Smith rent endowment now resurfaced to add to the churchwardens' problems. Non-payment of such sums not only prevented some free places being available to scholars, but also was bound to affect the income available to teachers and thus in time the quality of the staff available for employment. In 1756 the churchwardens asked for yet another enquiry into the trust following yet another interruption to the payment of the rents due. One of the houses from which a rent was due was in Charnham Street and the rental charge on this had been paid more or less continuously until 1751 to the churchwardens as officers of the parish. In 1751 the house was purchased by a new owner who refused to pay the charge. "It does not appear" states a lawyer for the town authorities "that the original trustees ever conveyed the trust to any other persons, as they are authorised to do when there should be only two or three of them living." The result was the virtual loss of this charity.
1761 William Miller:
Nevertheless, in 1761 William Miller was licensed to "instruct youth in writing, reading, and Arithmetic" within the parish of Hungerford. William may be identified as the son of Robert Miller, victualler, and was born in 1741. Robert Miller's will (in 1772) bequeaths to his son William "all that south part of the dwelling house wherein he now lives and keeps a school in the Church Croft of Hungerford, and also the middle tenement thereto adjoining, together with the garden belonging to the same premises. "
1770 Joseph Coxhead:
During the lifetime of William Miller another teacher is known to have been licensed "to teach school in the Free Grammar School at Hungerford, to which he was nominated by the feoffees of the school." This was Joseph Coxhead, licensed 16 July 1770, and it raises once again the question of whether there were two teachers at the same school or two separate schools. There were several Coxheads in Hungerford, but the date of Joseph Coxhead's burial in November 1775 fits well with the licensing of a new schoolmaster in July 1776.
1776 Edward Meyrick:
This was Rev. Edward Meyrick. He is said to have moved from his native Carmarthen to Hungerford in 1775. "Wilts Returns to Visitations, 1783" states that Edward Meyrick, ordained priest 1774, and appointed Curate of Chilton Foliat "does not reside in the parsonage house [at Chilton] nor within the parish, but at Hungerford. The reason for non-residence is that he is master of the grammar school at Hungerford." But when Meyrick became vicar of Ramsbury in 1786 he is said to have taken some of his pupils from Hungerford to Ramsbury and established a boys private preparatory school at the Vicarage there.
A new schoolroom, 1782:
A new schoolroom was erected in 1782, the result of a legacy by Mr. Capps, (VCH Berks ,vol ii, p.277), said to be known as "Trusty", and to be a servant of the Hungerford family. A condition of the gift was that two boys, elected every five years, should be taught grammar and Classics. The building of a new school room is confirmed by an insurance policy taken out in 1786 which includes a sum on "the new School House ." As a separate sum is insured on the School itself, it is clear that the 'new' school house must be an addition. All the buildings are of brick and tile and situated in the Church Croft.
The Universal Directory of 1796 locates the school thus: "On the walk leading to the church is the free grammar school." This walk the Directory described as leading to the church "shaded with high trees, and is near a quarter of an acre; it is kept gravelled, and is a pleasant avenue to the churchyard, which is likewise planted with lime trees." The description is not only a pleasing one, as we imagine the schoolboy making his morning way to school, but it also further defines the site of the school as in Church Croft and approached from the High Street by the same pathway into the Croft which exists today.
1792 Joseph Andrews:
In 1792 (Universal Directory) and 1796 (British Directory), the Master of the Grammar School was Joseph Andrews.
1793 William Francis:
It seems that by January 1793 William Francis had been appointed Master of the Grammar School, probably having come from Hook:
Reading Mercury, 21st January 1793
The Reading Mercury of 15th July 1793 advertised "Hungerford School will be opened again on Monday 15th instant, where young gentlemen will be genteely accommodated and properly qualified for Trade, Business, the Army, Navy or University on easy terms by W. Francis assisted by a Clergyman of the Church of England (who has had the advantage of three years residence abroad, for French pronunciation) and by other approved masters."
The William Francis map of Hungerford, 1794: One of the town's great treasures is a detailed map of the town and surrounding land dated 1794. It is intriguing that the map was drawn by non other than William Francis!
The Reading Mercury of 19 Jan 1795 advertised "Hungerford School for Young Gentlemen by William Francis and Assistants, will be opened again on the 19th instant. Here they are boarded and properly taught every branch of useful and polite literature, on moderate terms.
N.B. Two or three Gentlemen who wish to engage themselves as Ushers, either in the Classical or English department, may hear of situations by applying as above, by letter, post paid."
The Reading Mercury of Mon 20 Jan 1800 includes the following advertisement: "The Grammar-School at Hungerford, Berks will be opened again on Monday the 20th instant where young gentlement will be boarded and properly instructed in penmanship, the classicks(sic!), mathematics &c on moderate terms, by W. Francis and Assistants."
The Reading Mercury of Mon 12 Oct 1801 advertised "Hungerford School Ball. Tuesday October 27th. To begin at six o'clock. Tickets to be had at the Bear and Three Swans Inn, Hungerford."
In 1817 the trustees and Master decided to change the inconvenience of having boys and girls in the same school, and replaced the girls by one further boy reading Latin.
In 1819 a Report by the Charity Commissioners recorded: 40 boys, 32 of whom (boarders or day) were private, only three boys were taught Latin, along with four boys (Mr Hamblen's Chairty) taught reading, writing, arithmetic, and clothed.
The 1823 Pigot's Directory records the school as a "gentlemen's boarding school".
The grammar schools taught the classic curriculum which was highly acclaimed from the time of the Renaissance, but by the beginning of the 19th century was thought to be too limited. This led to the decline in the grammar schools. Attendance dropped, sometimes to nil and in a few instances, left the master alone, but still collecting his endowment stipend!
1840 Grammar School Act:
In 1840 a Grammar School Act was passed which allowed other subjects to be taught and the master to charge fees. This led to the grammar schools regaining their popularity, most going on to flourish into the next century.
However, this was not the case in Hungerford!
1844 Edward Jelfs:
The Master in 1844 was Edward Jelfs (and previously James Jelfs).
1847 John Hives:
By 1847 John Hives, who had run his own school at 25 High Street since 1841, became Master of the Grammar School. At the time of the 1851 Census, John Hives was aged 45 years, and there were 14 pupils recorded in the census.
In 1866 the Grammar School was inspected by the Schools Inquiry Commission, under Mr. Pearson, and it was given a very bad report ! There were 46 boys at the school, nine being foundation scholars (learning Latin) and the other 35 being fee-paying pupils, some boarding and some as day pupils. There were 31 boarders, 6 fee paying day scholars, 9 foundation scholars (2 on Mr Capp's Charity, 4 on Mr Hamblin's and 3 on Mrs. Cummin's). However, John Hives had apparently sent most of the boys home on the day before the inspector was due! Examination of 8 boys - average age 12.5 years, at this school 3 years, 3 Rs not to standard of National School for age. He wrote "What could be expected in a school where not a single blackboard existed?"
Of the boys that were tested, none was of the expected standard; neither the Master, John Hives, nor his assistant had any teaching qualifications and "there was not even a blackboard in the premises!" As there were other better schools, including the National School (established 1814) offering elementary education in the town, the Free Grammar School in The Croft went into decline and closed in 1884.
In the 1871 census, John Hives was still schoolmaster, aged 61.
1880 (*9) John Hives senior died in March 1880.
1880 John Hives junior:
His son, John Hives junior, became schoolmaster, and ran the school until its closure in 1884, after 249 years.
1884 - the Grammar School closed:
The closure was due to Grammar School's poor standards and competition from Elementary schools in the town with higher standards. After the closure in 1884 The Trustees paid £20 a year to the National School for the education of the boys to receive additional instruction. The master's house and school-room were let at a rent of £15 per year.
The site was sold, and replaced by Church House (Croft Hall):
In 1898 the school building was sold for £400 to Sir William Pearce of Chilton Lodge, and the the proceeds were invested in the official trustees.
The charities were then grouped, under the title "Grammar School Exhibition Fund" (= Thomas Sheaff, 1635; John Hamblen, 1726; Elizabeth Cummins, 1735, with codicil, 1743; Edward Capps, 1782; and the funds, under the "Endowed Schools" Acts of 1869,1873 1874, and approved by His Majesty 1903 in Council, on 20.5.1903 were administered by one ex-officio and 7 representative Governors. Provision was made for a boy and a girl alternately to gain a Scholarship at a Secondary School tenable for 3 years with possible extension to 6, at the discretion of the Governors and Education Authority.
In May 1899 the "Old Grammar School had been razed to the ground, and with it one of the ancient land marks of the town has disappeared. It had however done its work, and had become very dilapidated and was of no practical use to the Trustees. It has been purchased by Sir William Pearce Bart, who most generously is going to erect Church Rooms on the site. The architect of the buildings is Mr Arthur Blomfield, son of Sir Arthur Blomfield, the eminent architect of Montagu Place, London, and the contractor for the work Messrs Wooldridge & Son of this town." Church House (now Croft Hall) has been used for the community since it was opened in 1900.
The Free Grammar School enjoyed the longest innings of all the Hungerford schools - nearly 250 years, from 1635 until 1884.
Key to abreviations used above:
*1 = Foundation Deed dated 29.9. 1635, re Hungerford's Free Grammar School at Berkshire Record Office
*2 = Mr. Norman Hidden's research on 9 Bridge Street (see file) I
*3 = Walter Money's "Historical Sketch of the Town of Hungerford" page 22, foot note, "j
*4 = Rev. W.H. Summer's "The Story of Hungerford" page 160/1 ie. This chapter by C. Camburn
*5 = Mr. Norman Hidden's research (?PRO)
*6 = Mrs. Barbara Croucher's "The Village in the Valley" page 188
*7 = Mr Jack Williams
*8 = Mr Norman Fox's article on Hungerford's Free Grammar School in the Newbury District Field Club, 1990, Vol 14, no. 1 (copies available Newbury Library)
*9 = Mrs Ann Long, from Isle of Wight – a descendant of John Hives.
CS = census returns
BD = Billings Directory
KD = Kelly Directory
PD = Pigot Directory
PO = Post Office Directory
SL = Slater Directory
UD = Universal British Directory
- Aspects of the Early History of Hungerford, Norman Hidden, HHA, 2009.
- HHA Archives - Free Grammar School: 1635 Establishment of the Free Grammar School, The Croft; General Digest of Charities, Berkshire, Jul 1868; Qualifications of the Master, Regulations and Management, 1893
- "Holy Cross Church, Ramsbury, Barbara Croucher, 2005.