The priory of Christchurch: School

Pages 533-544

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 11. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1800.

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IT HAS ALREADY BEEN MENTIONED before, (fn. 1) that there was A FREE SCHOOL, situated near the convent garden of these precincts, of which the archbishop was the patron, so early as the year 1259, as appears by the records of the priory; (fn. 2) and there is mention again made of it in them so late as the year 1374; how long it continued afterwards, there is no mention, but most probably till the dissolution of the priory and the school house there, though applied to other purposes, is now in being, and has still the reputation of having been made use of as such. The present grammar school was founded by king Henry VIII. who, by the charter of foundation, which he granted in his 32d year to the dean and chapter of this church, made such school a part of it, to consist of a master, second master, and fifty scholars, whowere to eat at the common table, which the provision made by him for it, could not, however, long maintain. The stipend of these scholars was to be four pounds per annum, and they were to hold them for five years: (fn. 3)

But the school suffered not only in the suppression of the common table, but from the king's discharging the dean and chapter, afterwards in his 39th year, anno 1546, from the expending of 200l. per annum in the support of twenty-four students in Oxford and Cambridge, of which it may reasonably be supposed the scholars of it would have had the preference, which he did, intending, as he says, to found two colleges in those universities; at the same time he took from the dean and chapter on this account, among other estates, Canterbury college in Oxford.

Where the school was kept during the time that the almonry, now called the mint yard, remained in the hands of the crown, except it was in the stranger's hall, adjoining, I know not; but soon after the time of the dean and chapter's coming into the possession of it, the school seems to have been removed to its present situation.

The scholars educated at this school have been, in general, of the very best families of this part of the county; many of those educated at it have, from the learning they have imbibed here, been ornaments to the professions they have entered into. Numbers of these might be mentioned and particularized in this place, was there sufficient room for it; those of late years the public is sufficiently acquainted with; and I shall only mention one, Edward, lord Thurlow, late high chancellor of Great Britain. Of the former, I shall take notice only of the famous Dr. Harvey, whose extraordinary discovery of the circulation of the blood, has given new light to the study of medicine, and deservedly rendered his name immortal to posterity.

The masters who have presided over this school, have been men of great eminence, as clergymen and scholars; one of them I can mention of my own knowledge, and whoever knew him will join in this tribute of justice to his memory. I mean, the Rev. Dr. Osmund Beauvoir, late head master of it, first educated here and afterwards of St. John's college, in Cambridge; whose great abilities brought this school to the highest degree of estimation; who united the gentleman with the scholar, one whose eminent qualifications and courtesy of manners, gained him the esteem and praise of all who knew him, many of whom are still living to attest it, and regret the loss of him. (fn. 4)

There have been several benefactions made in favour of the scholars educated at this school, to assist them in their further education at the two universities. Archbishop Parker, in the year 1569, anno II Elizabeth, founded, out of the revenues of Eastbridge hospital, two scholarships, each of the yearly value of 3l. 6s. 8d. in Corpus Christi, alias Benet college, in Cambridge, during the space of two hundred years, for the maintenance of two scholars, natives of Kent, and educated in this school, to be nominated by the dean of Canterbury, and the master of the above hospital; they were to be called Canterbury scholars, and were to have all the benefits which any other scholars enjoyed in the college. Archbishop Whitgift, in his ordinances relating to the above hospital, (which were confirmed by act of parliament, anno 27 Elizabeth) renewed this foundation, which is now perpetual; but instead of the dean's, he made the archbishop's consent necessary to the appointment. (fn. 5)

Archbishop Parker likewise, by his will, dated in 1575, founded three more scholarships in the same college, of the yearly value of 3l. 6s. 8d. each, to be paid out of the rents of certain tenements in Westminster. One of which is appropriated to a native of the city of Canterbury, educated at Canterbury school, and assigned to them chambers in that college. (fn. 6) An exhibition, scholarship, and chamber, is now worth 15l, a year.

Robert Rose, of Bishopsborne, in 1618, gave twentysix acres of marsh land, in St. Mary's and Hope All Saints parishes, in Romney Marsh, for the assistance of four scholars, at either university, being such as were in the King's school, at Canterbury, (of which he had been usher); which exhibitions were to be of the yearly value of six pounds each, and to continue for seven years, if the scholar should remain so long there unpreferred to a living of 20l. per annum above the exhibitions; with other restrictions and rules, as mentioned in the deed of feoffment. (fn. 7)

William Heyman, gent. of Canterbury, in 1625, by indenture, vested twenty seven acres of marsh land in Warehorne, in this county, in certain feoffees, to apply five parts out of six of the rents of those premises upon two poor scholars only, to be placed in the King's school at Canterbury, to be nominated by his next heir and the majority of the feoffees; such scholars to be descended from the body of his grandfather, Peter Heyman, esq. or to be natives, or born of such as are natives of Sellinge. The scholar so to be chosen to be full eight years old, who should hold his exhibition for nine years, and if he should go to any college in Cambridge, to be continued for seven years from his leaving school; and if he should take orders in the first five years of the seven, the same to be continued to him for three years more, that is ten in the whole, at the university. (fn. 8)

Mr. Abraham Colfe, the founder of Lewisham school, among many other noble benefactions, gave seven exhibitions of 10l. per annum each, for scholars from that school at either university; in default of claimants from Lewisham school, then from the adjacent hundreds, and from members of the company of leather sellers, (who are patrons of the school, and possessed of the estates bequeathed by him). He directed these exhibitions to be filled up by scholars from the King's school in Canterbury, and from that in Christ's hospital in London, alternately. But the leather-sellers company have, for near these fifty years past, refused to admit the claim of either, and have totally sunk this 70l. per annum, alledging a failure in their estate. (fn. 9)

Henry Robinson, by will in 1643, gave certain messuages, &c. called Gore End, in Birchington and St. Nicholas, in Thanet, to St. John's college, in Cambridge, for the founding of two fellowships and two scholarships, for two fellows and two scholars, natives of the Isle of Thanet, or in default, of natives of the county of Kent, and brought up at the King's school in Canterbury. But it being found that the profit of the lands were not sufficient for such a maintenance, (fn. 10) it was ordered by a decree of the court of chancery, with consent of the college and the executors, dated November 26, 1652; that in future four scholarships should be established in that college for ever, instead of the same; and that the profits of the premises should, according to the direction of the donor in his will, be employed for ever, towards the maintenance of such four scholars only, each of whom is to be allowed by the college, in commons, 10l. a year.

George Thorpe, S. T. P. prebendary of Canterbury, gave by will in 1719 to Emanuel college, in Cambridge, certain messuages, &c. in Ash, near Sandwich, for the endowment of five exhibitions, to enable bachelors of arts to reside, until they take their master's degree; but should there be none such, others might be elected after two years, from their first residence in college; such exhibitioner not to be possessed of an estate of 40l. per annum, and his friends to certify their intention of keeping him in college, (unless better provided) until he should become master of arts, and to declare his inability thus to continue without some such assistance, and that he purposed to make divinity his study; a preference to be given to the sons of orthodox ministers of the church of England, and of the diocese of Canterbury, and such as had been brought up in the King's-school there.

These exhibitions are never less than 14l. and sometimes 20l. per annum, and may be held with scholarships or exhibitions of other foundations, of which more than forty belong to that college.

.… Brown, in 1736, founded two Greek scholarships in Emanuel college, which have generally amounted clear to eight pounds per annum, to be paid in proportion to residence, and the remainder to be applied to the general fund of the college. These are to be filled by the master and fellows, by scholars from the King's-school, in Canterbury; in default from thence, then from any other school in Kent; and in default from thence, then from any other school.

George Stanhope, S. T. P. dean of Canterbury, by a testamentary schedule, proved in 1728, devised 250l. in new South sea annuities, to found one exhibition of 10l. per annum, for one king's-scholar of the school in Christ-church, in Canterbury, to be nominated by the dean, and chosen by him, or the vicedean and chapter, for seven years, such scholar continuing in some college in Cambridge, but to cease at the Michaelmas after his commencing master of arts.

This principal sum of 250l. was transferred by the dean's executors to, and accepted by the dean and chapter of Canterbury; the reduction of interest having made an alteration in the annual value, and the exhibition having been vacant for some years, with this amount, and a contribution from the dean and chapter, the sum of fifty pounds more stock was purchased; so that the exhibition is now worth nine pounds per annum.

In 1712, a society was begun by some gentlemen, educated at this school. They agreed, with permis sion of the dean and chapter, to attend divine service at the cathedral, and hear a sermon preached by some clergyman, who had been bred up at the school, on a subject suitable to the occasion, on their anniversary in the ensuing year; which afterwards gained the name of the school feast.

This led to a contribution, or annual subscription from those gentlemen present at it, who caused their names to be entered in a book, as members of the society, whose number was increased by others, who chose from time to time to belong to it; most of whom, as encouragers of it, though occasionally absent, usually sent their contributions to it. Three stewards are appointed from among the members, yearly; those for the ensuing year being nominated by the old ones, to manage the business of the society. The contribution is, with the approbation of the members present, applied to the maintenance of such scholars as go from hence to either university, and stand in need of some assistance there; of which the usual number yearly is, three, four, and sometimes five scholars.

This annual collection amounts to about 50l. A fund has also been made from the occasional surplus, which is vested in the funds and amounts at present to 725l. stock; of the produce of which, one or more exhibitions have most usually been made to such scholars as have been educated at the school.

How THE SEVERAL BUILDINGS OF THE PRIORY, after the dissolution, were divided and distributed among the members of the new foundation, has been already described from the manuscript treatise, containing the orders of the chapter, made in 1546, for the allotment of them; the converting of the different buildings of the monastery into dwellings for this new society, and the new modelling of the whole precincts in a great measure into its present form, may be known from it. I shall therefore only further mention, that besides the improvements which have been from time to time made to the houses and buildings in it, there have been many purposely made, to adapt them for the residence of families; for it should be observed, that long after the new foundation, and even to the beginning of queen Elizabeth's reign, it was the custom for the members of the cathedral to inhabit with their families, wives and young children, in their several houses within the precincts of it, which produced much irregularity and scandal, and gave great offence, insomuch, that queen Elizabeth, in her 3d year, issued an injunction to archbishop Parker, to restrain and prohibit the same, under pain of their forfeiting all their ecclesiastical promotions; after this, the women and children were not permitted to reside within the precincts, but lodged, with their husbands and families, in different parts of the town, and these precincts were for some time afterwards inhabited by the members of the church only, as the colleges in the universities now are, and their apartments were used in the nature of college chambers, to which they resorted in the day time, to study and to attend their duties of the church, being constantly habited whilst there, according to their respective degrees, and then they returned again into the town to lodge with their families; (fn. 11) but this regulation has been long since dropped, and the injunction wholly disregarded, so that the members have for a long time past dwelt within the precincts, with their families and children indiscriminately, in like manner as before the issuing of it.

At present, the several houses within these precincts are, for the most part, large and handsome; many of them have been rebuilt, and others have had great improvements and additions made to them within memory, sufficiently convenient to accommodate the owners, who, in general, are men of large preferments, as well as good private fortunes, and when they are not resident here, let their houses to genteel families, who form a very respectable neighbourhood within these precincts, which are kept remarkably clean and neat, and being gravelled and well planted with rows of trees, make a most pleasant and desirable residence.

The precincts of the church are abundantly provided with excellent water, which is conducted into a large reservoir in the Green-court, and thence again by pipes to every habitation belonging to the members of the church within them. This water arises from two springs, near each other, at about half a mile distance from the precincts, at the upper end of the fields, called the North Holmes, where they empty themselves into the cisterns, under the cover of two water-houses.

This water, so highly necessary and beneficial to these precincts, appears to have been conducted hither for the use of the priory, from the early time of it; and there seems to have been every care and attention used by the convent, to continue their right to it, and the preservation of it, in passing through the several grounds of the different owners, till it reached the precincts of the monastery.

In the deed dated Nov. 24, anno 37 Henry VIII. the king discharged the dean and chapter from the expending of 200l. per annum, in the support of certain students in the two universities; and for the establishing of certain changes of manors and premises in lieu of it, he granted them, in consideration that their water, which used to be conveyed from his park to the convent, was of late spoiled by the deer coming and soiling in it, that they should have the pipe that conducted and conveyed the water from the above park, to the scite in the late St. Augustine's monastery, for ever, and the free liberty of conveying the water from the king's park there to the cathedral, at all times in future, without interruption and molestation, in as full and ample a manner as it had been heretofore conveyed to that monastery. (fn. 12)

That the priory was supplied with water from the North Holmes, in very early times, is plainly evident from the remains of the old aqueducts, which have been discovered, quite dry, when found by accident several years ago, in digging in the yard at the back part of the house at the north-east corner of Ruttington-lane, in Broad-street, being formed of a row of earthen pipes, which lay in a proper direction. The form of them was tapering, in length about twenty inches; the diameter of the bore at the bigger end five inches and an half, the lesser end fitted to enter such a bore, with a shoulder or collar rising about three-quarters of an inch, and about an inch from the end, to make the better joint and to prevent its leaking, which was still further provided against, by burying the whole in a thick bed of terras.

Whatever the age of this aqueduct might be, some remains of another, in all probability of still greater antiquity, were found in 1737, in digging Dr. Grey's grave, in the body of the cathedral; which being sunk deeper than usual, the workmen came to a pavement of the broad Roman bricks, and under it several earthen pipes, of a different construction from those just now described, each being made in two pieces, as if slit the long way, so that two were laid together to form a pipe; the length of them was about seventeen inches and a half each, the bore at the bigger end (for these were made tapering to enter one another like those found in Broad-street) full five inches, and the thickness about three quarters of an inch.

Edwyn, in his drawing already mentioned before, probably made between the years 1130 and 1174, though he carefully notices the method of providing water from rain, for the different parts of the monastery, yet he takes no notice whatever in it, of any supply from the springs in the North Holmes; but besides the above drawing, which is published, there is another in the same manuscript, which seems to have been the first rude sketch of that, which he afterwards finished; it appears from this, that his intention was to shew the different courses of the water collected from the roof of the church, and of that from the springs in the North Holmes, of which they had not long been in possession. These different water courses are distinguished on this first draft, by the colours yellow and red, that from the North Holmes being yellow. At the north-east corner of the print, there is a circle for the water-house; it is brought thence under a tower of St. Gregory's priory, through a field, a vineyard, an orchard and under the city wall into this priory. As the drawing from which the print is made, is coloured, it is to be wished, that the different water courses had been expressed by a difference in shading them, that these two aqueducts might have been distinguished one from another, and from the great sewer, which runs across what is now called the Greencourt. (fn. 13)


  • 1. See before.
  • 2. There is no notice taken of it in Edwyn's drawing, which was made between the years 1130 and 1174.
  • 3. These scholars are elected only at the November chapter, to supply such vacancies as may happen in the ensuing year, and must be between the ages of nine and fifteen. The stipend is now divided, the masters taking one half for their care and teaching, and the scholars being paid the other half towards buying their books, &c.
  • 4. Dr. Beauvoir died in 1789, and was buried in the south isle of the nave of the abbey church of Bath.
  • 5. See the account of Eastbridge hospital.
  • 6. See the will in Battely, appendix, pt. 2, No. xiv.a Mr. Gostling, from what authority I know not, says, one of these scholarships is appropriated to the county of Lincoln; and the other two for natives of Kent, educated at Canterbury school.
  • 7. A new deed of trust was made in 1797, by the then remaining trustees, on C. Robinson, esq. recorder of this city, Robert Legeyt and George Stringer, esqrs. when the following gentlemen were joined with the others, Rev. Dr. Cornwall, then dean of Canterbury, Drs. Lynch, Walesby, Luxmore, Weston and Welsit; Mr. Alderman Bristow, (the mayor) Aldermen Simmons, Bunce, Halford, and Royle; John Lade, John Monins, John Toke, Gilbert Knowler, Wm. Hammond, Wm. Hougham, jun. esqrs. and Mr. J. H. Stringer.
  • 8. The surviving feoffees are Sir Henry Pix Heyman, Sir Henry Oxenden, John Carter, esq. of Deal, and the Rev. Mr. John Nairne, of Kingston.
  • 9. This seems somewhat strange, says Mr. Gostling, considering that most of the estates in the neighbourhood of London have increased in value within that time; but how they are impowered to load one branch of Mr. Colfe's charity with the whole failure, does not appear, or that the schools of Christ's hospital or Canterbury, have not as just a right to share his liberality in the last place, as Lewisham in the first; especially as he assigned this reason, because his father was educated at Christ's hospital, and himself born at Canterbury. He certainly foresaw what has happened, that Lewisham school might not produce enough to fill all his exhibitions, and added two schools, which he judged might at all times supply its deficiency.
  • 10. The estate was then sunk down to 50l. per annum.
  • 11. See Weever, p. 184.
  • 12. Augmentation-office, deeds of purchase and exchange, Kent, Box E. 31.
  • 13. See Gostling's Walk, large edit. p. 118, 375, 400.