This article came from the Chronicle published April 1986.  Pages 86-87


The Yeovil Charity School (Part 1 of 3)

Other Parts: Part 2 of 3 & Part 3 of 3

Author: L.C. Hayward


Although the school in the Chantry founded in the reign of Elizabeth I still existed, the Rev. Martin Strong, Vicar of Yeovil 1690-1721, took the lead in starting “a school for teaching and clothing 20 very poor boys” in 1707. Thirty nine subscribers (among them well known names like Phelips, Prowse, Harbin, Freke, Boucher, Cox and Old) raised £37. 3. 0. and drew up rules for the conduct of the school:

“1. That a Treasurer and Six Trustees be chosen yearly for the Charity School.
 2. That the Master shall have Sixteen pounds per annum, for teaching 20 poor Boys paid to him Quarterly.
 3. That the boys be chosen by the Majority of the Subscribers and that Each Boy be riot under the Age of six or above the Age of eight years.
 4. That the Treasurer and Trustees meet at the School-House the last Friday in every month, and the subscribers tile last Tuesday in every quarter.
 5. That the Boys be taught to work as soon as may be.
 6. That this school be govern’d by the Printed Rules and Orders for the Charity Schools in London”.

In the following year the Chantry was conveyed in Trust to Edward Phelips and others “for use of the parishioners of Yeovil for a school house”. A gallery was built in the Church for the master and boys, and Martin Strong, who acted as treasurer, records the cost of the work:

Pd   the carpenter’s wages £2.  2.  10.
  the plaisterer for work, hair and lime 11.   5.
  J. Churchouse for Timber £1.   0.   6.
  Wm. Rowe for Timber £4.  11.   0.
  John Helyar for nails and sprigs 13.   2.
  for drink for the Plaisterer  6.

Income to maintain the school came initially from annual subscriptions, not always regularly paid, and from Legacies such as £100. from William Phelips of Preston Plucknett in 1714, £40. from Martin Strong himself in 1721, and £140. from Mr. Penny in 1723. By the will of Edward Boucher, the rents and profits on land called Beer’s Close were devoted to clothing, educating and apprenticing 4 poor boys, the remainder to augmenting the master’s salary. A similar legacy from Jane Nowes in 1719 applied to boys from the parish of Preston Plucknett, and from Alvington in the parish of Brympton where her husband was born. The accounts, though ill-kept and not audited from 1735 to 1752, show that the Charity School was still flourishing at the end of the century.

The records unfortunately reveal little information about the actual work of the school. The boys regularly attended church services and in an oil painting still preserved in Yeovil Museum (now CHAC) can be seen walking in procession from the Chantry into St. John’s Church. The purchase of copies of the Book of Common Prayer, “The Whole Duty of Man” and “A Vindication of the Church of England” point to an Anglican religious education, and indeed Nowes scholars had to be children of Anglican parents, a restrict on that did not apply to any other pupils. About £l. was spent each year on paper, inkhorns, ink and quills, and frequent payments were made for glazing the windows. The accounts for 1711 mention that Richard Hull ‘ran away” and for 1713 that Andrew Hammond was expelled.

Clothing, was at first purchased in London: 20 pairs of stockings cost 13/4, 20 pairs of shoes £1.16. 0. and 20 shirts £1.10. 0., the carriage from London being 1/-. Later, they were made locally: in 1755 William Marsh charged £1. 12. 0. for making the shoes and Jonothan Pitt £1. 4. 0. for making coats.

We know the names of the masters. Francis Atherton 1707-1715, William Arden 1715-1720, Charles Chaffey 1720-1721, Lawrence Hayward 1721-1748 (his widow received a small pension after her husband’s death), John King 1748-1754 and John Boucher Hodges 1754-1803. The master’s salary, paid quarterly, stayed at £16. per annum for a century, but to it were added rents from Beer’s Close and Coppid Hill. In a sermon preached at the opening of the school and printed in 1709, the Rev. Martin Strong remarked “To the honour of the small town of Yeovil, ’tis the first in all this part of the world to have set up a Charity School of this nature”. At the head of his first account he wrote in Latin “May God bless this enterprise . . . thus from his heart prays Martin Strong, vicar”.

Other Parts: Part 2 of 3 & Part 3 of 3

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