A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1990.
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Woodstock had an early free grammar school, two small charity schools, and by the early 19th century several dame schools; it was a popular place for boarding schools, of which some took day pupils. The rector, although a keen educationist frustrated in his plans for a National school, observed in 1815 that 'a religious and useful education is not neglected' and in 1831 that 'scarcely any residents lacked the means of education'. (fn. 85) Continued failure to respond to national reforms, however, provoked a comment in 1838 that the town was almost uniquely lacking in educational provision for the poor. (fn. 86) The opening of an infants' school in 1840 and, belatedly, of a National school in 1854 made up in part for continuing problems with the financially inadequate grammar school.
Martin Cave, curate of Woodstock and former chantry priest, probably taught a school, for in 1571 he bequeathed his flockbed in an unidentified schoolhouse chamber. (fn. 87) By will of 1585 Richard Cornwell, a London skinner born in Woodstock, left £ 300 to provide and support a grammar school and a master, who was to be a good preacher. (fn. 88) In 1587 Cornwell's relict Mary Dolman gave money to trustees to buy property in Oxford Street (now nos. 8-12), (fn. 89) and the school probably opened soon afterwards. In 1599 the corporation, having acquired a licence to hold lands in mortmain partly for the use of the school, (fn. 90) took over the Oxford Street houses and a rent charge of £8 a year from Childrey (Berks.), which the Dolman family had given to the trustees in 1598 in final settlement of Cornwell's gift. (fn. 91) A sum of £50 given earlier by the Dolmans directly to the corporation continued to be lent out at interest for the master's benefit until taken in hand in 1640. (fn. 92) Thomas Fletcher (d. 1617), cousin of Richard Cornwell, by will left £ 4 a year for the school out of a larger charity payable by the Skinners' Company of London. (fn. 93) Other early endowments seem to have been lost, notably a rent charge of 10s. given in 1593 by Roger Norwood, (fn. 94) and a loan of £ 100 given to the corporation in 1588 by Dr. John Case, a native of Woodstock and fellow of St. John's College, Oxford, who transferred the loan from the college on the understanding that fellows would supply the mastership of the new school. By 1590, however, Case had recovered the money and there was no further traceable connexion between school and college, although in the 1590s the corporation made donations to the college library. (fn. 95)
The earliest grammar school may have been on the site of no. 10 Oxford Street, where a former schoolhouse was rebuilt by the corporation as a private house c. 1602, incorporating part of no. 12 Oxford Street which was occupied by Anthony Noble, curate and possibly schoolmaster. (fn. 96) It was probably then that the school was moved to a former chantry chapel on the north side of the church, where it remained until the mid 19th century. The corporation repaired the schoolroom regularly, and in 1632 enlarged an attached chamber to provide living quarters for the master. (fn. 97) The schoolroom seems to have been rebuilt in the later 17th century. (fn. 98) From 1802 a study within it was rented by the parish as a vestry for 6d. a year. (fn. 99)
The grammar school estate was administered as part of the corporate property. In the early 17th century the master lived rent-free in one of the houses and the chamberlains supplemented his rent income to provide a salary of £10, raised in 1613 to £14; the master complained, however, in 1627 that there had been prolonged shortfalls on his salary and that the Childrey rent had been withheld. (fn. 1) Later the school estate was let at low reserved rents on long leases, with substantial renewal fines. In the early 19th century the school's regular annual income of c. £20, made up of rent (c. £8 10s.) and payments from Childrey and the Skinners' Company, was less than the schoolmasters' salary, which was set with regard to revenue from renewal fines; there was no separate school fund. (fn. 2) Rackrenting introduced in the mid 19th century raised annual income to over £65 by the 1860s, even though one house was by then occupied as the school. (fn. 3)
The corporation appointed and dismissed masters, insisting that they should be resident even when, as in the later 17th century, they were incumbents of neighbouring parishes. (fn. 4) Masters were expected to be ordained, (fn. 5) and several combined the post with that of curate of Woodstock. (fn. 6) Many were prominent in the town's life, and a few were distinguished: Simon Jeames (1608-32) seems to have been a lawyer serving regularly as attorney in the town's courts; (fn. 7) Thomas Widdowes (1646-53) wrote a grammar and the anti-parliamentarian tract, The Just Devil of Woodstock; (fn. 8) Dr. Francis Gregory (1654-64) was a noted teacher who, with his Woodstock pupils, wrote a book of verses welcoming the Restoration; (fn. 9) and Dr. William Mavor (1789-1810), also rector and mayor, was a prolific writer of educational books and the 'first great promoter of the catechetical method of instruction in all branches of human, as well as of divine knowledge'. (fn. 10) Less satisfactory masters included Mr. Dubois, said in 1738 to be treating the post as a sinecure, (fn. 11) and the Revd. James Reading, whose turbulent career (1743-89) was marked by charges of neglect, dismissal and reinstatement after allegations of 'lewd acts' with his female pupils, resignation, and re-election. (fn. 12) In 1815 the schoolmaster was dismissed for cruelty and the school was closed for three years. (fn. 13)
The schoolmaster's salary, which remained at £20 from the 1640s until reduced to £16 in the later 18th century, (fn. 14) was augmented by pupils' fees. In the 17th century freemen's children were educated freely, but in 1684 it was ordered that non-resident freemen should pay the same fees as foreigners. (fn. 15) In 1677 it was agreed that visitors to the school declaring a 'play day' (holiday) should pay 2s. 6d. or 5s. according to rank, which should be spent on books. (fn. 16) In 1744 the master was allowed to charge freemen's sons £1 a year, increased in 1789 to £1 8s. (fn. 17) In 1811 the master's salary was raised to £30 and in 1825 freemen's children paid £3 a year for reading, writing, arithmetic, and the classics, while other pupils usually paid 4 gn. (fn. 18) In 1839 lack of funds obliged the corporation to offer the master only £18 a year, with permission to charge higher fees, but it was hoped to reintroduce free tuition for some Woodstock boys when income increased through rack-renting. (fn. 19) By the 1860s the master lived rent-free with a salary of £65, and pupils' fees were 4 gn. (fn. 20)
Probably from the outset the school was used by children from outside the town, and masters, with the approval of the corporation, frequently took boarders in their own houses. The scholars contributing to Francis Gregory's verses in 1660 were almost all sons of neighbouring gentry and clergy, probably lodged in one of Gregory's large houses in Park Street. (fn. 21) William Mavor combined his mastership with the running of a boarding school in Old Woodstock. (fn. 22) In 1816 the duke of Marlborough offered to buy for the corporation a large house in Oxford Street (nos. 44-6) as a master's residence suitable for boarders; the Revd. Samuel Jackson (1817-19) opened a short-lived boarding school there, but the duke died before completing the purchase and his successor's trustees, although buying the house in 1821, recovered it from the corporation. (fn. 23)
Although girls were evidently taught in the school in the mid 18th century the pupils in 1825 comprised 20 or 30 boys, chiefly sons of the 'most respectable' townsmen. (fn. 24) After a temporary closure of the grammar school through lack of funds in 1841-5 and the dismissal of an unsatisfactory master in 1849 (fn. 25) the corporation attempted a revival by taking over no. 12 Oxford Street as a master's house and school c. 1850. The house, long sub-let as a girls' private school, was restored with dilapidations money from the former lessee, (fn. 26) but was described in 1866 as quite unsuitable for a grammar school, having no boarding accommodation and a small, ill ventilated schoolroom; 15 boys, mostly from outside the town, were given a semi-classical education. (fn. 27) The former schoolroom in the church was sold to the parish and demolished in 1878. (fn. 28)
In 1876 a leading townsman declared that the school had never been 'any use' for 35 years. Failure to improve its administration was blamed on lack of funds, (fn. 29) and a brief revival under the mastership of Thomas Brown (1876-80), who increased the roll to c. 35 probably by transferring pupils from his private school at Begbroke, was curtailed by a dispute over his ordination. (fn. 30) The last master, the Revd. James Bell, was appointed in 1880, and the school was probably closed by 1901 when the Charity Commissioners sanctioned Bell's retirement and ordered the school's income to be accumulated; (fn. 31) Bell continued to run a private school in the house until c. 1909. (fn. 32) Under a Scheme of 1915 the endowment formed part of the Woodstock Exhibition Foundation, providing bursaries for higher education. (fn. 33)
Alderman Benjamin Johnson, by will proved 1715, gave £50 to the corporation for the education of five sons or daughters of freemen, and £20 to provide them with blue coats every two years. (fn. 34) In the 18th century and early 19th the chamberlains regularly paid a teacher £2 10s. a year, (fn. 35) and in 1825 it was said that the late Mrs. Pryse, probably Margaret Pryse of Woodstock House (d. 1798), had doubled that salary and paid for the children's clothes. (fn. 36) The charity lapsed on the retirement of a schoolmistress in 1820 but was renewed in 1829 when four freemen's daughters were nominated and a mistress paid £5 a year, and the interest on 10 gn. was assigned from freemen's admission fees. (fn. 37) For a time in the 1830s and 1840s the Johnson charity pupils may have been taught with those of Cocks's charity, (fn. 38) but a separate mistress was appointed in 1847. (fn. 39) The school survived in 1857 but soon afterwards the endowment was transferred to the National school; in 1906 it was detached from other Municipal charities to form the Alderman Johnson Educational Foundation, and under a Scheme of 1915 was included in the Woodstock Exhibition Foundation. (fn. 40)
Sir Robert Cocks (d. 1736), rector of Bladon, devoted £800 won in a state lottery in 1719 to the benefit of the poor during his lifetime, and in 1738 his heirs, in fulfilment of his wishes, bought land in Arncott yielding £36 a year of which £17 was to be spent on teaching and clothing 8 children, £10 on apprenticing, and c. £8 on bread and doles; the children were to attend church for prayers and for an annual sermon on 10 February paid for out of the charity. (fn. 41) By 1818 the income had risen to £92, but the charity was in debt largely because of an increase in the number of pupils to 12 boys and 12 girls, taught separately by a master and mistress who in 1825 were each paid 12 gn. From 1818 free clothing was limited to caps and bonnets until the debt was paid off. The school took children aged 6-14 for six years. (fn. 42) In 1833 only 8 boys and 8 girls were supported by Johnson's and Cocks's charities. (fn. 43) Union in the 1840s with the ailing grammar school was prevented, (fn. 44) and schoolmasters continued to be appointed until the school was merged with the new National school some time after 1854. (fn. 45) In 1867 the endowment was supporting 16 boys and 16 girls. In 1871 it was yielding £75 of which £66 18s. was spent on education. The charity was regulated by Schemes of 1900 and 1909, under which only £27 a year from the income of £60 was devoted to the Cocks's Educational Fund. The land was sold in 1946 when the invested income produced c £50 for educational purposes. (fn. 46)
A Sunday school established in 1787, supported by an annual sermon and voluntary subscriptions, taught reading, writing, and religious knowledge to boys and girls in the schoolroom next to the church and in teachers' houses. (fn. 47) Attendance was c. 100 in 1802 and 62 in 1808; by 1833 the annual sermon was yielding only £15, insufficient to pay the teachers, (fn. 48) but the roll remained between 70 and 80 until the mid 19th century. (fn. 49) By 1808 there were 6 dame schools with 176 pupils, supported by weekly payments, but at 4 of the schools only reading was taught; in 1815 there were 5 dame schools and day pupils were also taken at a girls' boarding school. (fn. 50) By the 1830s there were 110-20 pupils at schools other than the charity and boarding schools, mostly paid for by parents. (fn. 51) A Baptist Sunday school established in 1822 had 86 pupils in 1833 and an Independent Sunday school, which broke away from the Baptist school c. 1831, had over 190 pupils, many from outside the town. (fn. 52) By 1851 the two nonconformist Sunday schools were the Baptist and a Wesleyan school with average afternoon attendances of 66 and 30. (fn. 53) In 1859 the Methodist Sunday school was said to have 150 pupils and the Church Sunday school only c. 50. (fn. 54)
There was a succession of boarding schools at Manor Farm, Old Woodstock: a girls' school established there from 1763 was followed by Charles Turner's school for boys from 1774 (fn. 55) and William Mavor's Woodstock Academy from 1782 until the early 19th century. (fn. 56) From 1787 Mrs. Talbot ran a girls' school at Fletcher's House, closed by 1794. (fn. 57) Another girls' boarding school taking day pupils in the early 19th century (fn. 58) has not been identified, but the 20 girl boarders mentioned in 1833 were probably at Mary Turner's school, at no. 12 Oxford Street from 1829 until the mid 1840s. (fn. 59) There was a girls' boarding school at Hope House in 1846 and until 1850. (fn. 60) Hensington House was a boarding school in the late 19th century and early 20th. (fn. 61)
Joseph Bowles, rector 1840-7, raised subscriptions and negotiated land for a National school, but quarrels with the duke seem to have prevented further progress. (fn. 62) An infant school, however, was started c. 1840 under the patronage of the duke and duchess, and in 1853 there were c. 70 pupils supported by pence and subscriptions; (fn. 63) the schoolroom, a 'neat stone building', was the former parochial workhouse on Oxford Street, the site of the later Olivet chapel. (fn. 64)
Plans for a National school (fn. 65) were revived c. 1853 and a new school, designed by S. S. Teulon on a site provided by the duke, was opened in 1854. (fn. 66) Three certificated teachers taught 80 boys, 50 girls, and 85 infants in three strictly segregated sections of the school; pupils paid 6d. or less weekly. (fn. 67) The pupils and endowments of Cocks's and Johnson's schools were transferred to the new school before 1863. (fn. 68) The school was enlarged with the help of a government grant before 1874, and in 1876 average attendance was 209; voluntary contributions and school pence yielded c. £180 and the endowment £32. (fn. 69) By 1890 the income was similar, augmented by a grant of £172. (fn. 70) From 1924 the separate arrangements of boys' and girls' schools was abandoned and the school was run as a mixed school. In 1938 average attendance was 192. The school was reorganized as an infant and junior school in 1940. In 1968 a Church primary school was built in Shipton Road, Hensington, but the old school remained in use until 1985; the roll was 219 in 1983. (fn. 71) In 1940 seniors were transferred to a newly built Church secondary school in Shipton Road; it acquired controlled status in 1951 and was renamed Marlborough Secondary Modern school in 1953. In 1961, after an enlargement of the catchment area, numbers rose to 228. The school became comprehensive in 1964, in 1973 numbers increased to over 430 and in 1983 the roll was 823. (fn. 72)
In 1873 Benjamin Disraeli visited the duchess of Marlborough's school of industry, established before 1871 at no. 22 Park Street; in 1871 and 1881 there were about a dozen boarders, mostly local girls aged 13-16, training for domestic service. (fn. 73) The school may have been closed by 1890, when its former matron was operating a laundry on the site; the brick range behind no. 22 Park Street, remembered as a laundry and later used as a glove factory, may have been built as a schoolroom. (fn. 74)
A Roman Catholic elementary school was opened in 1934 next to St. Hugh's church in Hensington Road with 43 pupils; it was staffed from the convent of Notre Dame, Oxford. The school was closed in 1945 and the building used as a church hall. (fn. 75)
John Enders by will of 1839 left £3 a year for the education of poor children in Bladon and Woodstock, but no evidence has been found of its application to Woodstock. (fn. 76)