1500 to 1599 - The OldWinburnians

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The History of the School

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Before 1500                                                     

Events and Headmasters  1500 to 1599

By Graham Powell




Lady Margaret sets up a Chantry at the Minster to say Masses for their souls in perpetuity.The Beaufort connection is celebrated in the “Beaufort Window” on the south side of the Chancel, where her chantry was situated. It was crafted by Thomas Willemot and installed in the 1850's during the restoration of the Minster.


She adds a provision to her will that the Chantry Priest should teach Grammar freely to all who come thereto. At that time, Grammar meant Latin Grammar – this is what was to be taught freely. The Mass was said or sung in Latin. Therefore it fell to the churches to educate a small number of boys in Latin to keep up the liturgy. The Minster had been set up as a College of 4 Secular Canons, whose duties included teaching. College meant that the priests, whilst not being monks, lived together in the same accomodation. The school was adjacent to the Priests House.


Lady Margaret died, not many weeks after her son. She lived to witness the coronation of Henry VIII.


A note in the accounts of Henry Hornby, Dean of Wimborne Minster, an executor of her estate, shows a payment of £5 half-yearly stipend to Sir William Cokkes, Master of the Free Grammar School. This is not recorded elsewhere. It might be an interim arrangement set up as a result of the 1506 provision.


Sir Richard Hodgekynnes scholar from Eton, admitted King's College, Cambs, 1479, is appointed Chantry Priest and 1st  Master. “Sir” simply means that he was a graduate. “the aforesaid Richard shall freely and diligently teach the knowledge of Grammer in a certain house opposite the chamber or mansion of the Sacrist towards the East”. Tithes on properties belonging to the estate of Lady Margaret are assigned for the payment of the Grammar School's expenses.


Edward Laborne, also spelt Laybourne, appointed Master. In 1534 his stipend was £9.10.0d.


Symond Smith MA


Abolition of Chantries by King Edward VI, monies confiscated by the Exchequer. Provision of £10.2.11d p.a. made for the continuation of the school.


Mr Willcher appointed headmaster. (possibly Wittcher) There is a 1547 record shewing him paid £3.6.8d expenses for going to London with Christopher Macham and John Foster ( £7.18.9d expenses), both Governors, to deal with the Commissioners, presumably obtaining the grant above-mentioned. He already occupied the post of Prebend or Canon in the Minster and may well have been the Usher ( assistant master ) at the time.


Thomas Myles appointed Master. He occupied the 2nd stall of Prebendaries in the Minster.


“The schoolhouse being decayed and not sufficient, the Governors new built it, school house more spacious, the house more commodious for the Head and family but also for the scholars who lived with him”, including the necessary furniture, all for £200, “paid by the Governors aided by the Parish.” This work was completed under the care of Thomas Hanham Esq and was commemorated by a painted glass window at the north end of the chamber with the inscription: - hoc perfecit opus sua cura Thomas Hanham – ut quae fortunae.


Solicited by the parishioners of Wimborne Minster, James Blount, Lord Mountjoy of Canford Magna applies to Queen Elizabeth for a patent to re-instate the legacy of Lady Margaret. The Queen reconfirms the provisions of the Lady's Will on condition that from then on, it be known as Queen Elizabeth's Free Grammar School in Wimborne Minster. It stipulates that Grammar be taught in the manner of Winchester and Eton Colleges. In return for this, the Parish has to pay £40 a year to the Queen's exchequer. It prescribes that 12 from the more worthy citizens of the town shall be chosen and henceforth be known as the Governors of the Free Grammar School of Queen Elizabeth in the town of Wimborne. They will choose a suitable Master and an Usher to carry out the aims of the Patent. This board governed the Minster as well as the school, and Minster churchwardens and sidesmen had disciplinary powers over the congregation. The Governors chose and paid the clergy who occupied the stalls of the College of 4 secular Canons, their clerks, their singing men, and the organist, the Master of the School and the Usher. They collected the tithes which had been awarded for the upkeep of the Corporation.


Mr John Waltere, Prebend, holder of the 3rd stall, had a pension of £6.13.4d. Governors' minute: “The Schoolmaster Mr Walters should give better attendance to the schollars and keep them in better order in Church as in the streate.” In fact, they gave him notice to be out by Ladye Daye next, “and in his absence a Ticket to be left with his wife for the same warninge”. In the same year it is recorded that Thomas Hanham Esq was among those who entertained Sir Francis Drake to dinner in the City to celebrate his successful return from the circumnavigation of the world.


Giles Lawrence


Mary Longman presents Giles Lawrence in Court for immoral living within the jursidiction of Wimborne Minster. Also that his brother lay in his place and taught the scholars instead of him. Lawrence counter claims that the Governors are incompetent, resulting in a Commission being set up to examine the running of the school. The Minster was also the seat of a Court of the Royal Peculiar which had local jurisdiction over Wills and Title Deeds and other property matters, as well as misdemeanors and non-attendance at Church. The Court records are a valuable testimony to the life of Wimborne over several centuries


Robert Welsteed. Possibly matriculated at Magdalen College, Oxford 1585. In 1593 Symon Welsted is listed as a Governor, could have been related.


John Geare. Matric. Magdalen 1583, MA Queens 1594. “John Geare is retayned by the gov'nors for the scholemaster...yf the scollers shall exceede the nomber of Fyftie that then forthwith it shalbe lawful for the said John Geare to take unto him an usher of his owne choise..” However, Sir Walter Raleigh and Secretary Cecil had other ideas. They advised Sherborne School to make John Geare an offer he couldn't refuse. He agreed and went, taking some of the scholars from Wimborne, to take up residence there in 1601, an event which is recorded in the Annals of Sherborne School.


“a Note of all such implements as the Corporation hath p'vided into the Schoole howse.
In the Schoole:

A seate for the schoolemr
Two desks for the schollers in the hall:
A table boord the frame of old was thear a forme
a side boord a benche
an Ambry with ii lockes (= a cupboard )
Fower shelfes

in the kitchin:

a longe bench round about
a doore locke
a longe shelf

in schoolmaster's chamber:

a bedsteed and table boord
a bench
a forme

In the studie:

eight shelfes two deskes and a writing table.

At the stairhead:

a save-gard of boordes
and a benche
a table-boorde

in the greate chamber ................................one shelf and

in the middle chamber
................................ii little shelfes.”

This inventory, to the value of £7.7.8d, was signed by John Grant , schoolmaster, who is not mentioned elsewhere. Presumably he took over at short notice.

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