The borough of Tewkesbury: Schools

Pages 165-167

A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1968.

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The history of the grammar school from 1535 to 1867 has been outlined in an earlier volume. (fn. 1) In addition, it is to be noted that at least one of the three schoolmasters recorded in Tewkesbury in 1572 (fn. 2) may be presumed to have taught the free school; that a new school-house was built in 1576, (fn. 3) and its repair undertaken by the churchwardens in 1600; (fn. 4) that towards the end of the 16th century the governors of the free school were using a round seal, 2½ in. in diameter, with a device of a schoolmaster and his pupil and the legend sigillum gubern atorum revencionis libre schole in teukesburie in roman capitals; (fn. 5) that of the schoolmasters whose appointments are recorded in the late 17th century and early 18th, when the school was described as the free school, the public school, or the public grammar school of Tewkesbury, John Matthews, appointed in 1685, (fn. 6) had objections under seven heads drawn up against him; (fn. 7) that under William Prosser, master 1802–45, (fn. 8) whose severity was excessive, the number of pupils was reduced far below the 16 allowed on the foundation, (fn. 9) and in 1828 was down to one; (fn. 10) and that in 1849 the school was said not to have been held for several years. (fn. 11) In 1868 additional places at £5 a year each were provided for eight boys. The head master had moved the school from his house in High Street (fn. 12) to one in Church Street by 1889. (fn. 13) In 1903 the county council took over the grammar school and combined it with a private boarding school which it then bought from Joseph E. Priestley, who had held his school in the Abbey House since 1870 or earlier (fn. 14) and remained as head master of the grammar school until 1917. (fn. 15) Science and art classes, held in the Oldbury in the nineties, were also merged with the grammar school. (fn. 16) A new grammar school was built in 1906, (fn. 17) a two-story building of red brick and stone opposite the abbey church. A new constitution was drawn up in 1909, (fn. 18) and the school was recognized in 1910 by the Board of Education as a public secondary school. In 1939 there were c. 120 boys. (fn. 19) The school moved to the house called Southwick Park, (fn. 20) a mile south of the town, in 1952; (fn. 21) the former grammar school building became the local branch library and registrar's office.

In 1910 the grammar school was put under the same board of governors as Tewkesbury High School for Girls. That school had been founded in 1882 by the vicar, Hemming Robeson, as a Church of England day and boarding school. In 1910 it became an undenominational, 'voluntary controlled' school, for day-girls. In 1953 there were 170 girls. (fn. 22) In 1964 the school remained in its original building (to which additions had been made), a three-story house of brick with a parapeted roof.

The nonconformist academy of Samuel Jones did not stay long in Tewkesbury, but won a reputation for the oriental learning of its tutor and the distinction of its pupils in later life. Jones, who had been ejected in 1662, (fn. 23) moved his school in 1712 from Gloucester to the house in High Street called Tudor House in the 20th century, (fn. 24) where he succeeded a Presbyterian, James Werner (fn. 25) or Warner, who had kept a small school there. Jones was probably an Independent, (fn. 26) but his sympathies appear to have been wide: in 1718 some of his pupils, 'very solid and sober in their behaviour,' were noticed at the Friends' meeting. (fn. 27) His pupils at Tewkesbury included Thomas Secker, later Archbishop of Canterbury, who wrote in a letter an account of the school when it was still at Gloucester, and Samuel Butler, later Bishop of Durham, as well as several who achieved eminence as nonconformists, among them Samuel Chandler, Andrew Gifford, Jeremiah Jones, and Daniel Scott. (fn. 28) In 1714 Jones's house was the object of attacks by the mob. On his death in 1719 the school moved to Nailsworth. (fn. 29)

Dorothy Capell (d. 1721), widow of Henry, Lord Capell, (fn. 30) gave by her will an estate in Kent, from the proceeds of which one-twelfth share was for the charity school at Tewkesbury. (fn. 31) That was presumably the school recorded in 1712 as being supported by subscription and having 40 boys most of whom were entirely, and all partly, clothed at the expense of the M.P.s for the borough. (fn. 32) It was called the Blue Coat school, and to it Elizabeth Dowdeswell (d. 1723) by will gave £40, which was perhaps never paid, and Thomas Merrit by will dated 1724 gave an annuity of 50s. (fn. 33) In 1818 the endowments paid for a master to teach four boys; (fn. 34) later the endowments were said to be for 20 boys, (fn. 35) but by 1828, and probably earlier, the Blue Coat school had become amalgamated with the National school, though the boys benefiting from the Blue Coat endowment were distinguished, probably by clothing, from the rest. (fn. 36) The distinction may have disappeared soon afterwards, for later reference to it has not been found.

The National day school was founded in 1813, and its new building, on the site of the former borough gaol, was finished in 1817. By 1830 it had been united with the Church Sunday school, (fn. 37) begun in 1788 and held in a gallery in the north transept of the abbey church; (fn. 38) in 1833 there were 138 boys and 62 girls, with another 23 children who went on Sundays only. (fn. 39) The building, originally a singlestory building of ashlar with a large Gothic doorway and tall windows with mullions, transoms, and dripmoulds, was enlarged in 1842–3 by the addition of a second story (fn. 40) with a hipped roof behind a parapet with cornice and gargoyles. By 1847, however, the number of children was down to 170, (fn. 41) presumably the result of the opening of the Trinity Infants' School. The National school was divided into boys' and girls' departments by 1850; the income then was mainly from local subscriptions and collections. (fn. 42) By 1885, when it was called the Abbey National School to distinguish it from the Trinity National School, it had mixed and infants' departments with a combined attendance of 292, but by 1897 was in three departments with a slightly higher attendance. (fn. 43) A new building for the boys' department was opened in 1911 in Oldbury Road, (fn. 44) a single-story brick building. The building was later enlarged and the school reorganized by amalgamation with the Trinity National School in 1919: (fn. 45) the old National school by the abbey church ceased to be used as a school, all the junior boys and girls went to the former boys' department, and all the infants to the former Trinity National School. In 1964, as the Church of England Junior School, the school had a combined attendance of 309, in junior mixed and infants' departments. (fn. 46)

In the early 19th century the Baptists, Independents, and Methodists each had a Sunday school; (fn. 47) the Baptist school was opened in 1809, (fn. 48) and the Methodist school was opened in 1815 and moved to a new room in 1839. (fn. 49) In 1833 the three school had respectively 200, 135, and 230 pupils, and the first two owned lending libraries. (fn. 50) A British school was built in 1812 (fn. 51) and opened in 1813 on a site at the far end of Barton Street, on the north side, given by a Quaker; in it a Quaker Sunday school was held. (fn. 52) In 1833 there were 190 pupils, (fn. 53) and although enlarged in 1825 or soon after the building, one story and of brick, still comprised only one room in 1848, when the school's income came from subscriptions, school pence, and endowments. (fn. 54) The school had an attendance of 100 in 1885, (fn. 55) which had increased to 215 by 1897 when there was also a separate infants' British school, a single-story brick building of 1889 on the opposite side of Barton Street, with 115 children. (fn. 56)

The British schools became council schools under the Act of 1902, and the buildings were conveyed to the county council in 1907. (fn. 57) The Tewkesbury Junior Council School retained the distinction between the junior mixed department, with an attendance of 196, and the infants' department with an attendance of 133. (fn. 58) By 1937 the total attendance was respectively 121 and 158. (fn. 59) In 1964 the Tewkesbury Junior County Primary School had an attendance of 116 boys and girls. (fn. 60)

In 1906 the county council opened a new mixed senior school in Chance Street, (fn. 61) which had an attendance of 170 in 1910, (fn. 62) and 162 in 1937. (fn. 63) In 1961 the girls, numbering c. 250, were moved to new buildings, the Elmbury County Secondary School for Girls, on the Ashchurch road just outside the borough boundary. (fn. 64) The Tewkesbury Secondary School for Boys, which it was intended should also be moved to new buildings near the girls' school, was left with c. 300 boys (fn. 65) in the old buildings in Chance Street, a single-story brick building with temporary buildings behind.

The Trinity Infants' School was built in 1839. It included a Sunday school for older children but was large enough only for the girls, and the boys who attended on Sundays were taught in the former theatre until a new schoolroom was built in 1843. (fn. 66) By 1846 the school was divided into three: an infants' day school, in union with the National Society, with 170 children, a Sunday school with 120 boys, and a Sunday school with 170 girls. (fn. 67) By 1885 it was a mixed school, called Trinity National School, with 325 children. (fn. 68) In 1896 the two-story brick building near Holy Trinity church, on the north side of Trinity School Walk, was augmented by a single-story brick building on the south side of the walk. (fn. 69) In 1906 there was a mixed department with an attendance of 186, and an infants' department with an attendance of 136. (fn. 70) The school, which was reorganized in two departments, girls' and infants', in 1918, (fn. 71) became in 1919 the infants' department of the Church of England school that was formed by amalgamation with the Abbey National School, as described above.

Tewkesbury Queen Margaret County Primary School, a one-story brick and timber building in Prior's Park, was opened in 1956 and had an attendance of 250 in 1964. (fn. 72)

In the 19th century there were several private schools in the town. In 1833 two boarding schools and 12 private day schools were recorded; of the day schools, which averaged 20 children each, five had started since 1818. (fn. 73) In 1852 there were 10 private schools, of which four took boarders, (fn. 74) and in 1870 there were five. (fn. 75)


  • 1. V.C.H. Glos. ii. 435–6.
  • 2. Hockaday Abs. xliv, 1572 visit. f. 18.
  • 3. Bennett, Tewkes. 306.
  • 4. Glos. R.O., P 329/CW 2/1, p. 132.
  • 5. B.M. Seals CL. 63.
  • 6. Hockaday Abs. ccclxxi, 1662, 1666, 1667, 1670, 1671, 1674, 1677, 1685, 1707, 1710; two successive vicars were master in the mid-18th century: see list in Tewkes. Yearly Reg. ii. 440.
  • 7. Glos. R.O., D 747.
  • 8. Hockaday Abs. ccclxxi, 1802; Tewkes. Yearly Reg. ii. 196.
  • 9. E.g. 1st Rep. Mun. Corp. H.C. 116, App. I, p. 127 (1835), xxiii.
  • 10. 21st Rep. Com. Char. 196.
  • 11. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. ii. 440.
  • 12. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1870), 653, 655.
  • 13. Ibid. (1889), 918.
  • 14. Ibid. (1870), 656.
  • 15. Ibid. (1939), 347.
  • 16. Ibid. (1894), 319; (1906), 330.
  • 17. Inscr. on bldg.
  • 18. Bd. of Educ. Scheme, 1910 (Glos. Colln. RF 302.8).
  • 19. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1939), 347.
  • 20. See p. 122.
  • 21. Ex inf. County Education Office.
  • 22. Bd. of Educ. Scheme, 1910; Glos. Countryside, viii. 71.
  • 23. Calamy Revised, ed. Matthews 515.
  • 24. See p. 131.
  • 25. H. McLachlan, Eng. Educ. under the Test Acts (1931), 126–7.
  • 26. D.N.B.
  • 27. Jnl. of Thos. Story (Newcastle, 1747), 605.
  • 28. D.N.B. (under their several names); Tewkes. Yearly Reg. ii. 416–18, 441–6.
  • 29. McLachlan, Eng. Educ. under the Test Acts, 127, 130.
  • 30. Complete Peerage, iii. 6.
  • 31. 21st Rep. Com. Char. 205.
  • 32. Glos. N. & Q. i. 294.
  • 33. 21st Rep. Com. Char. 205.
  • 34. Educ. of Poor Digest, 314.
  • 35. Educ. Enquiry Abstract, 328–9.
  • 36. 21st Rep. Com. Char. 205.
  • 37. Bennett, Tewkes. 226–7.
  • 38. Glos. R.O., P 329/CW 2/2, f. 316v.
  • 39. Educ. Enquiry Abstract, 328.
  • 40. Inscr. on bldg.; Tewkes. Yearly Reg. ii. 119.
  • 41. Church School Inquiry, 1846–7, 16–17.
  • 42. Ed. 7/35/318.
  • 43. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1885), 598; (1897), 326.
  • 44. Ed. 7/35/318.
  • 45. Bd. of Educ. List 21, 1922 (H.M.S.O.), 107.
  • 46. Ex inf. County Education Office.
  • 47. Educ. of Poor Digest, 314.
  • 48. Glouc. Jnl. 30 Mar. 1867.
  • 49. Wesleyan Methodism in the Tewkesbury Circuit, 3.
  • 50. Educ. Enquiry Abstract, 329.
  • 51. Ed. 7/35/316.
  • 52. Bennett, Tewkes. 226–7.
  • 53. Educ. Enquiry Abstract, 328.
  • 54. Ed. 7/35/316.
  • 55. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1885), 598.
  • 56. Ibid. (1897), 327.
  • 57. Mins. of Glos. County Council, xviii. 96.
  • 58. Bd. of Educ. List 21, 1908 (H.M.S.O.), 148.
  • 59. Ibid. 1938, 130.
  • 60. Ex inf. County Education Office.
  • 61. Ed. 7/35/317.
  • 62. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1910), 334.
  • 63. Bd. of Educ. List 21, 1938 (H.M.S.O.), 130.
  • 64. See p. 187.
  • 65. Tewkes. Register and Gazette, 11 Nov. 1960; 13 Jan. 1961.
  • 66. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. i. 425; ii. 143. The statement that Trinity School was built in 1813, in e.g. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1897), 326, may derive from confusion with the other National school. Holy Trinity church was consecrated only in 1837, and the school was not mentioned in Educ. Enquiry Abstract (1833). The building is dated 1839.
  • 67. Church School Inquiry, 1846–7, 16–17.
  • 68. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1885), 598.
  • 69. Ibid. (1897), 326.
  • 70. Bd. of Educ. List 21, 1908 (H.M.S.O.), 148.
  • 71. Ibid. 1919, 108.
  • 72. Ex inf. County Education Office.
  • 73. Educ. Enquiry Abstract, 328.
  • 74. Slater's Dir. Glos. (1852–3), 166.
  • 75. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1870), 653.