Schools: Tottenham Grammar School

Page 314

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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Claims that Tottenham Grammar School was founded in 1456 by John Drayton, a London goldsmith, still await proof. (fn. 1) William Bedwell, Vicar of Tottenham and historian of the parish, (fn. 2) writing in 1631 mentioned an ancient endowment reputed to have been given for the maintenance of a school 'but it went not forward'; (fn. 3) nevertheless Sarah, Duchess of Somerset, (fn. 4) by her will drawn up in 1686 left £250 to extend an existing school-house, then occupied by the parish clerk, and a further £1,100 as endowment. The salary of the master was fixed provisionally at £40 and that of the usher at £10; they were to teach freely the children of all the inhabitants of Tottenham whose estates were valued at less than £20 a year. (fn. 5) The anniversary of the Duchess's death on 25 October 1692 is observed by the school as Founder's Day, and a wreath is laid on her tomb in Westminster Abbey. The provisions of the will were amplified by rules made in Chancery in 1710. From the estate the schoolmaster was to maintain the school-house, pay the usher, and keep the residue; he was to teach English, grammar rules, writing, arithmetic, and the catechism to children aged 7 to 14, freely to those who qualified and for a fee to others. The master was to apply himself wholly to the school and could not be the vicar or curate of Tottenham. (fn. 6) The master of the time, Daniel Ridley, had to face the competition of the Quaker, Richard Claridge, but the latter was convicted and fined for keeping a school without a licence. (fn. 7)

During the 18th century the school benefited from several legacies, (fn. 8) but by 1818 the building was dilapidated although 50 boys attended. (fn. 9) In 1840 the trustees pointed out that there was room for only 80 boys, but that the endowment would provide for twice that number; after an appeal for subscriptions the school was rebuilt to accommodate 120 boys. (fn. 10) The master from 1815 to 1857 was Lancaster Rickard, an old boy of the school and for 25 years clerk to Trinity Church. (fn. 11) In 1865 it was reported that nearby National and British schools had almost superseded the older foundation; there were only 42 boys present, and the master, assisted by his two young sons as monitors, gave a wholly inadequate education to five classes. (fn. 12) About 1872 there was a change of trustees, and four years later the charity was reorganized as a middle-class secondary school, and the surviving free scholars were transferred to one of the elementary schools. (fn. 13) During the headmastership of John Cohen (1881-1920) there were rapid developments; by 1906, when a new scheme associated the Middlesex County Council with the administration, numbers had risen to 200, and in 1910 a new school was erected for 300 pupils. (fn. 14) In 1933 entirely new buildings were opened by Sir William Prescott on a seven-acre site in White Hart Lane. In the closing weeks of the Second World War a German rocket fell near the school, killing two boys and causing much damage to the northwest side of the building. (fn. 15) In 1953 the school was granted voluntary aided status.


  • 1. H. G. S. Groves, Hist. Tottenham Grammar School, 2; W. J. Roe, Tottenham, Edmonton and Enfield Historical Notebook, 101-3.
  • 2. Hennessy, Novum Repertorium, notes lxxxiv, k. 245.
  • 3. W. Bedwell, Brief Description of Tottenham (1631), reprinted in W. J. Roe, Ancient Tottenham, 119.
  • 4. Complete Peerage, xii (1), 76.
  • 5. P.C.C. Ash 22.
  • 6. W. Robinson, Hist. and Antiquities of Tottenham (1818 edn.), 182-7.
  • 7. D.N.B. A school tradition claims William Baxter, nephew of the nonconformist divine and later head of Mercers' School, as master 1697-1705: R. R. Dyson, Hist. and Antiquities of Tottenham (1790), 86-89; D.N.B.; Groves, Tottenham G.S. 4.
  • 8. Robinson, Tottenham (1840 edn.), ii. 219.
  • 9. Ibid. (1818 edn.), 187-8.
  • 10. Ibid. (1840 edn.), ii. 232.
  • 11. Handbill at Bruce Castle; Groves, Tottenham G.S. 8.
  • 12. Schs. Enquiry Com. [3966-XI] H.C., pp. 41-42 (1867-8), xxviii (10); J. Thorne, Handbook of Environs of Lond. ii. 624.
  • 13. W. Thornbury, Old and New Lond. v. 561.
  • 14. Groves, Tottenham G.S. 6-7.
  • 15. D. R. Morgan, Scholastic Forge, 146-8.