A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 1, Physique, Archaeology, Domesday, Ecclesiastical Organization, the Jews, Religious Houses, Education of Working Classes To 1870, Private Education From Sixteenth Century. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1969.
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HABERDASHERS' ASKE'S SCHOOLS
In 1689 Robert Aske left £20,000 and the residue of his estate, about another £10,000, to the Haberdashers' Company to build a hospital or almshouse for twenty poor men of the Company and to maintain, clothe, and educate twenty sons of poor freemen. In 1690 the charity was incorporated by Act of Parliament and the money invested in 21 acres in Hoxton and 1,500 acres in Kent, yielding in 1696 an annual income of £765. (fn. 1) The hospital, designed by Robert Hooke, the natural philosopher, was erected on a site between Pitfield Street and Charles Square in Hoxton and opened in 1695; it had a colonnade 340 feet long, with the chapel and school in the middle. (fn. 2) The Revd. Thomas Wright, the first chaplain, was master of Bunhill School (Finsbury) and consequently unable to teach Aske's boys; therefore in 1697 John Pridie was appointed chaplain and was to teach English, the catechism, and the rudiments of grammar, at a salary of £40 with house and board. The children were to be admitted between the ages of nine and twelve and were to leave at fifteen; to ensure their withdrawal security was to be taken from the parents or friends of each child. Six months later Pridie received permission to take private pupils, which enabled him to engage an assistant at no cost to the governors. (fn. 3)
In 1701 new statutes were drawn up which excluded brothers and deformed or diseased children, enforced the wearing of caps and gowns, required the dismissal of any boy lucky enough to receive a legacy of £100 or more, and provided for the appointment of an assistant to teach writing and arithmetic. (fn. 4) By 1714, however, the charity had run into financial difficulties, and the writing master was dismissed and the number of pupils reduced to eight. In 1733 school equipment seemed to consist only of half a dozen books, a master's desk, and two desks and forms for the boys. (fn. 5) In 1738 the Court of Assistants decided that the circumstances of the Company justified the restoration of the school, and the vacant places were advertised; one candidate was later rejected for inability to read. Shortly after, the wearing of caps and gowns was abolished, and Latin was removed from the curriculum. (fn. 6) Two years later Mr. Dove, the writing master, was found to be teaching his own pupils with those of the foundation and was ordered to desist; soon after this he was reported to have supplemented his salary of £30 by accepting a place in the Victualling Office, and was accordingly dismissed. His successor advertised his official house to let immediately after his appointment, which was therefore cancelled. Finally in September 1741 George Purdy was appointed at a salary of £15 and meals with the almsmen; he was to be supervised by the chaplain and was to teach no other children without permission. He must have given reasonable satisfaction, for he was re-elected annually until his death in 1760, but even so he got into trouble for occupying the wrong apartments, and his son, for reasons not stated, was forbidden to enter the hospital on any account whatsoever. (fn. 7)
Edward Rayne, the next schoolmaster, was not allowed to take boarders, although Purdy had apparently done so, but he was permitted to take up to twenty day pupils. In 1763, by reason of the great improvement of the children in learning and behaviour and by reason of his own exemplary conduct, his salary was raised to £20, his coal allowance was doubled to a whole cauldron, and his candle allowance increased from 39 to 52 a year; but two years later he was ordered to hand over his key to the outer gate to the chaplain every evening, and by 1766 he was judged incapable of performing his duties. (fn. 8) His successor, Christopher Podd, received a five-guinea gratuity for the behaviour of the boys nearly every year until 1776, although he himself was reprimanded for 'keeping bad hours', and was also informed that he would have to pay for broken windows himself unless he found the culprits. (fn. 9) Thomas Gatherwood, master from 1777 to 1787, was followed by Nathaniel Gatherwood, who resigned in 1794. (fn. 10) In 1778 it was ordered that eleven boys' beds were to be cleaned of bugs at a cost not exceeding 30s. and that an additional 5s. was to be allowed for the nurse's bed; such disinfestation was to be repeated annually. (fn. 11) William Webb, the next master, received gratuities of £20 in 1818 and 1819, and finally in 1820, after just over a quarter of a century's service at Aske's, he was appointed master of Haberdashers' Trotman's school in Bunhill Row. The schoolmaster's salary was still £15, compared with £50 for the chaplain, £16 for the matron, £12 for the nurse, and £8 each for two maidservants; clothing for 20 boys cost £120, books, slates, pens, and ink cost £12, and four committee dinners with wine £77. (fn. 12) In 1818 the Charity Commissioners reported that the buildings were too large for the endowment, were in bad repair, and had never been completed; through errors in book-keeping the charity appeared to be £7,000 in debt to the Company, but actually there should have been a credit balance of £900. The twenty foundationers were all sons of freemen and were taught reading, writing, arithmetic, and the catechism. (fn. 13)
In 1825 new buildings designed by D. R. Roper were erected on the site of the original hospital. The schoolmaster, George Hamilton (1820-30), was himself a liveryman of the Company and had been educated at the school; his salary was increased to £52 and although he was forbidden to take private pupils he was allowed a further £25 in lieu. The stock of books was increased, regular examinations were conducted, and prizes provided. The moving spirit in this reformation was Benjamin Hawes, Master of the Company 1833-4, whose 'indefatigable exertions' were commemorated by an inscription at the new hospital. (fn. 14) Hamilton, who earlier had incurred displeasure by contemplating matrimony, was apparently not regarded as equal to the increased responsibilities and dignities of his office and in 1830 he was not re-elected, although he received an annuity of £30 and a favourable testimonial to Farnham National School. (fn. 15)
In the early days of the foundation the chaplain had also been schoolmaster with a writing master to assist him, but by 1745 the chaplain had only to visit the school once a month to inquire into the conduct and behaviour of the master and the boys and the manner of their education. (fn. 16) In 1830 the chaplain was dismissed for scandalous conduct with a servant girl, the school was temporarily closed, and in the next month Hamilton was not re-elected schoolmaster. This enabled the Company early in 1831 to elect the Revd. J. L. Turner to the combined offices of chaplain and schoolmaster at a salary of £700, from which he had to provide an usher, domestic staff, books, stationery, food, and all necessaries except clothing for the twenty foundationers, and also to keep the chaplain's house in repair. He was also responsible for the chapel services four or five times a week and for the conduct of the almsmen, and he had to find two sureties of £200. He was to take no private pupils or other preferment and he was to teach grammar, Latin, geography, mathematics, and accounts with the assistance of the usher for writing and arithmetic. A year later Turner produced accounts to show that he had spent £748; the committee was satisfied that the boys were much better educated and maintained than under the former system and raised his salary to £800 with liberty to take evening lectureships. (fn. 17)
During this period half-yearly examinations were conducted by the Revd. Thomas Grose, and members of the Court regularly visited the hospital to inspect all matters connected with it. On one of these occasions Benjamin Hawes recorded his surprise and disquiet at the softness of the boys' beds, but he also pointed out the need for healthful out-of-school activities, possibly with prizes. Later it was also suggested that each boy should have a bed to himself. (fn. 18) In the 1840's various complaints began to be made against Turner and in 1849 Dr. F. W. Mortimer, headmaster of the City of London School, commented unfavourably on some of the textbooks in use and doubted the wisdom of teaching Latin, for which he recommended the substitution of French. It appeared that in practice the boys were taught by the usher with occasional visits by the chaplain. By 1852 it was agreed that the management of the school was attended by great irregularities and improprieties and that the welfare of the boys demanded a complete revision. Turner was to be chaplain only at a salary of £150 with a house, a new schoolmaster was to be elected at a salary of £100 with a house, the French and drawing master and the matron were each to receive £30, the age limit was to be raised from 14 to 15, and the maintenance of the boys was to revert to the foundation. (fn. 19) Mr. Carterfield became schoolmaster and for a year or two gave every satisfaction, but in 1858 Grose echoed Mortimer's complaints about the Latin, suggested that French was more useful, and that geometry, trigonometry, mechanics, and natural philosophy should be added to the curriculum. To this Carterfield replied that Grose's examinations distorted the syllabus and that they were not fairly conducted. In 1864 the visitors noticed a great deal of dissatisfaction among the older boys, and later in the year Carterfield resigned and the chaplain, the Revd. A. Jones, applied for and was given the headmastership. (fn. 20)
In 1866 the clergy and inhabitants of Hoxton petitioned that the school might be opened to the sons of parishioners. Under pressure the Company agreed to open the school to the sons of its own tenants, but soon after this negotiations were begun with the Endowed Schools Commission for an entirely new scheme. (fn. 21) The remaining foundationers were transferred to another boarding-school, the chaplain, schoolmaster, matron, and almsmen were pensioned, £5,000 was spent on additions and alterations to the Hoxton buildings, and two schools were created, one for 300 boys and the other for 300 girls. At the same time two similar schools were opened at Hatcham. (fn. 22) In 1883 the age limit was raised to 18 and in 1898 the boys' school was removed to West Hampstead and the girls' to Acton. (fn. 23) In 1961 the boys' school moved to Aldenham (Herts.). In 1964 there were 400 boys in the Junior School and 680 in the Senior School, including 75 boarders.