The corporation of Shrewsbury: The free grammar school

Pages 43-45

The Manuscripts of Shrewsbury and Coventry Corporations [Etc] Fourth Report, Appendix: Part X. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1899.

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VIII.—Free Grammar School.

One box contains deeds and papers relating to the foundation and endowment of the School. Amongst these is an extremely interesting series of lists, on vellum, of benefactions to the library, giving not merely titles of books and names of donors, but a description of the binding of each volume. These lists extend from 1606 to 1634. The donors' names have been printed in local publications. And, on paper, there is a list of books chained in the library, dated 31 March, 1664; and also a tattered catalogue made in 1619 "provided to be reade openly in the Booth hall on the seaventeenth day of November yearely." One parcel of papers relates to a loan of 600l. made from the stock of the School kept in the exchequer of Shrewsbury to King Charles I. in 1642, by Richard Gibbons, mayor, Thomas Challinor, the Head Master, Robert Betton, senior alderman, and Richard Berrington, senior common-councilman. In 1650 an action was begun by the then Mayor and Aldermen against the lenders for recovery of the money. Betton and Berrington had both died before the suit began; of Gibbons it is said he "hath exiled himself almost ever since the suit began, and is now reported to be dead, but the plaintiffs know not"; so the actual defendants were said to be Challinor and Robert and Thomas Betton as executors to their father. Gibbons, however, did appear and plead. The case was still proceeding in 1671, but in 1673 was dismissed. There is a copy of the King's letter in acknowledgment of the loan, dated at Shrewsbury 11 Oct. 1642, in which he promises "that wee shall cause the same to be truely repayd to you whensoever you shall demand the same, and shall allwayes remember the loane of it as a very acceptable service unto us."

The following letters are of interest:—

1577, 15 May. Kerston.—Letter to the bailiffs (John Dawes and Richard Owen) from Thomas Asheton, the first Master. When he was trusted with the charge of their scholars, he, upon just consideration, forced with sickness, committed the same again, to be perfected, to worshipful, wise, learned, discreet personages, whose majesty and judgment might win to that matter more credit than it could ever have had by his own private doing; and perusing their travails therein, he finds it so substantially gone through that he has just cause to like and allow of the same: And he most earnestly wishes the bailiffs to consent to the same, that the thing with all speed may have perfection; and think that it was God's providence that made them commit the matter to a weak person at the first, whose purposed power should give strength to the same at the last. Leaves them to be guided by God's Spirit, that, all faction set apart, they may look with a single eye to their government, and, God's wrath pacified, may enjoy the fruits of blessed concord.—Endorsed, "I pray you good Baylifs, kepe this well and safe. It is of weight."

1577/8, 9 Jan. "From my howse at Hallon."—Letter to the bailiffs and aldermen from Sir George Bromley. Understands by his friend Mr. Assheton that they make some question whether, as provided by the ordinances of the School, they may apply part of the revenues to the purchasing of lands for scholarships and fellowships in the University. When he penned the ordinances, he had the sight of the letters patent both of Edw. VI. and of the Queen that now is, and it seemed that the directions in the ordinances might be well done without any danger of forfeiture or prejudice.

1579, 9 Apr. London.—Letter to the bailiffs and to Thomas Lawrence, schoolmaster, from John [Aylmer, Bishop of] London, Sir Owen Hopton and M. Lewis. Understanding by the bearer John Williams that he was admitted vicar of St. Mary's in Salop, but that they have displaced him, and are about to appoint another in his room, they are hereby required to have consideration of the poor man's cause and to restore him to his fermer service; and do not only a good and charitable deed to the poor man, his wife and family, but also do God service.

1583, 28 July, Shrewsbury.—Draft of a letter to the Master and Fellows of St. John's College, Cambridge, from the Bailiffs, announcing the resignation of Mr. Lawrence, the chief schoolmaster, who, having continued in that charge fifteen years, now finds himself so weakened in body that he is not able to continue. His care and diligence have been such that the School has not only yielded a great number of good scholars, but also is the special ornament of the town, and is left in such good order that all gentlemen of these parts are very desirous to have their children trained up in it, whereby the number of scholars daily increases. They send the bearer, Thomas Salter, gent., to urge a good and careful selection of a successor, according to the great trust committed to the College. And albeit Mr. Baker, the second master, a master of arts, ought to be preferred before any other, he utterly refuses to supply the room. Should friendship prevail to commend a young or more insufficient man than Mr. Baker, they cannot allow of the choice.

1591, 19 Oct. "From the Schoole."—Letter to the bailiffs from John Meyghen, about his desire to purchase the school orchard.

1608–9.—Petition from Humphrey Gardner, glover, that his son Thomas Gardner, master of arts of both Universities, who was brought up in the School, may be recommended for appointment as second master, in the room of John Baker, M.A., deceased.

1627, 1 Nov. St. John's [College, Cambridge]. — Letter to the bailiffs from Owen Guyn, Master of the College. Has received their letter by Mr. Benion, informing him that two of the schoolmasters' places are void by resignation. Although the University and College abound with many fitting for such places, yet as some mature deliberation will be required, he will propound the matter at the next meeting of the seniors.

1627, 19 Nov. St. John's in Cambr.—Letter to the bailiffs, signed by the Master Owen Guyn, Rob. Lany, W. Mealeson, Rob. Allot, Tho. Smith, Steph. Haxbye, John Pryse, and Hen. Downhale. They read with much grief of the present weakness and decay of the School, which would have been more grievous had it been by their default. But the elections having formerly been made of such only as were commended by the bailiffs themselves, the latter cannot in equity but clear them of this mishap. But since the remedy is now wholly referred to them, they have not insisted upon any of their own for favour, but have enquired diligently in the University, and have made choice of the most eminent and best deserving that could be persuaded to accept of such preferment. To the second place they have elected James Brooke, M.A., fellow of Gunvyle and Caius College, whose ability is well known to them; and to the third place, David Evans, B.A., of Jesus College, brought up in the School, approved both for ability of learning and conversation of life.

1627, 27 Nov. Lichfield Palace.—Letter to the bailiffs, &c. from Thomas [Morton, bishop of] Coven. and Lichf. approving of the nominations of Brookes and Evans by St John's College. "I have furthermore examined them in the poynt of literature, and in all these respects have received soe good satisfacc[i]on for proofe both of theire life and learning that I doe greatlie reioyce I may commend such two worthie instruments for institution of youth unto you; by whose meanes I hope the former bewtie of that Schoole, so much decayed, wilbe revyved, to the profitt of the schollers, and to the contentment of them that affect the good of the Schoole."

1629.—See under this year under the head of Miscellaneous Papers.

1674, 28 Aug.—Petition from John Okeley, baker, who "through his loyalty to his prince" is maimed and unable to gain a being for his children, for a scholarship and exhibition for his son, whom he has brought up to learning in the School.—Referred to the Council for consideration.

1688, Oct.—Draft of a letter from the Mayor, stating. in reply to a notice from St. John's College that they had elected Mr. Johnson to supply the vacancy, that he is a person neither approved by himself nor by the preceding Mayor Mr. Salter. They have advised with counsel concerning the present difference between the Corporation and the College, and are informed that the right of nomination and approbation of a schoolmaster is settled in the former, and that in refusing Mr. Johnson they have acted legally, and according to the power granted them; and therefore they are resolved to vindicate their right. The continuance of a good correspondence may easily be effected, if the College will recall their seal granted to Mr. Johnson, and approve of one of the two persons formerly nominated, viz. Mr. Mathews, who has been a schoolmaster for some years, or Mr. Tisedale.

1744.—See under the head of the Municipal Registers, supra.