Education, c. 1154 – 1976

Education, c. 1154 – 1976

Comparatively little is known about the education of Hampshire children in the Middle Ages, but it is a fair assumption that there were always a number of town boys who were taught to read, write and calculate. It would be difficult otherwise to explain how the com­mercial life of the county flourished as it did, and by the 15th century even carters carrying their goods across Hampshire were able to write instructions for each other and for local officials. Nor was it unusual for benefit of clergy, which implies some measure of literacy, to be pled in the Courts. Village boys were taught to read and write, if they had some kind local patron or parish priest, and there must be hundreds of unrecorded examples of medieval children taught at home in a household where one literate parent realised the advantage of handing on a skill to his child. Simple reading can be taught on a slate with a piece of Hampshire chalk, or in sand: books are desirable, but not essential. Most wills were nuncupatory, communicated verbally on a death bed to the parish priest; there were few books, and few letters to write unless you were a highly successful merchant, and even then you could employ a clerk. Literacy was not necessarily a sign of status, and when the Accord of Winchester was signed in 1072—that great agreement which gave Canterbury precedence over York—William I and his Queen could only make their marks.

Map 12 Hampshire Industries c. 1815
Map 12 Hampshire Industries c. 1815

In 1295 a diocesan synod held in Winchester required all rectors,. vicars and parish priests to make certain that the boys of their parishes were taught the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Hail Mary, how to sign themselves with the Cross, to read the Psalter, and how, to sing; those boys would be suitable candidates for Holy Orders, though even then the standard was low. Most Hampshire priests were not university men, but peasants or artisans who had got by heart the Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Holy Sacraments, as a minimum. A proportion of those who were ordained were allowed leave of absence to go to a university to study, even after their appointments to benefices, and the Winchester episcopal registers abound with examples of this kind of educational remedy long before William of Wykeham founded his great school. The prospect for girls was not so hopeful, and very few girls in medieval Hampshire were taught to read or write unless they came from gentle families, and then perhaps only a few. The nuns of St. Mary’s Abbey and those in Romsey and Wherwell did some teaching of their young lady boarders, who were not all intended for convent life, and in the later Middle Ages the monks of Hyde Abbey had a kind of preparatory school for boys. Cases of individual instruction apart, the Hampshire monasteries did not play a major part in the education of laymen. Cathedrals of the old foundation, like Salisbury, usually maintained a schoolmaster to teach boys who were not going into the Church. In Hampshire, by contrast, the monks of the great Benedictine churches taught only their novices. At the Cathedral the Almoner supplied these young men with presents, including their knife money, and there were seven youths in the Novices school in 1387, nine in 1459, none in 1485 or 1516: the promising young monks who went on to Gloucester Hall at Oxford were partly maintained from money supplied by the Priory Horderer, and there is more evidence to be found in the account rolls of other obedientiaries. It should not be thought, however, that all monks were literate. As late as 1387 Wykeham was complaining about illiteracy in St. Swithun’s, and in 1497 a lay schoolmaster was appointed to ‘inform the monks in grammar’. Apart from the novices there were usually a small group of boys whose job it was to sing, varying in number between four and 10 ‘boys of the Chapel’, taught to sing and read, but not usually given any instruction in grammar or in Latin.

The foundation of Winchester College by William of Wykeham has proved to have educational results far beyond anything the founder might have imagined. ‘St. Mary College near Winchester’ was intended by the bishop to increase a steady supply of educated churchmen, most of whom would have continued their studies at his other foundation of New College, Oxford. High standards of attainment were required for entrance and are still required from any boy elected as one of the 70 scholars; commoner boys, too, were envisaged from the very begin­nings in 1382, and the county was singularly fortunate in having such generous provision for its other children. Mr. T. Kirby’s lists of Winchester Scholars (published in 1888), include boys from Kingsclere, Andover, Wickham, Romsey, Winchester, Stockbridge, Selborne, Airesford, and Alton in’ 1393, and Compton, Twyford, Overton, Winchester Soke in 1394. The college must have played an important part in the development of the idea of ‘Hampshire’.

Hampshire boys who were not intending to become monks or priests were fortunate if they could come to Winchester, for the city had a very fine High Grammar School, traditionally said to have been the Place of instruction of Anglo-Saxon kings. It was certainly in existence by the reign of Henry II, when its headmaster, Jordan Phantosme, obtained a prohibiton from the Pope forbidding his rival, John Joichel, from teaching in the city. Thirteen poor scholars from this school were given a free midday meal each day in St. Cross hospital, with three quarts of beer per boy, and the boys were, taught in a school­house on the western side of what is now Symonds Street, at the corner of Little Minster Lane. In 1544 this property was leased to the first Dean’s mother, Alicia Tytheridge, but it was perhaps because the school was disused when Peter Symonds made his will in 1586 that he provided for the education of local poor boys, who were to live in his hospital. In the early 17th century a college usher, John Imber, was prevented from keeping a town school on the grounds that city boys were being taught in college. Individuals, like Lancelot Kirby the elder, kept private writing schools, and a well-known local doctor, William Over, founded (by will) the Winchester Free School in 1701. The most famous private school in Hampshire in the 18th century was -probably that kept by Reynell Cotton, in Hyde Street, Winchester, where the pupils included the future Dean Gamier and future Prime Minister Canning, and where Cotton’s successor, his son-in-law ‘Bob’ Richards, disciplined his boys by taking them to public hangings.

Other Hampshire towns were more fortunate after the Reformation, and the county soon had a number of excellent grammar schools, where teaching was based on the classics, where discipline was strict, and where instruction was confined to boys. William Capon left money to found such a school in Southampton in 1554 (King Edward VI); its most famous pupil in the 17th century was Isaac Watts, whose father kept a private school in the town. At Andover, a ‘fre schole’ was founded by a Wykehamist in 1571, John Hanson, whose bequest required that the schoolmaster should be a graduate. Alton had had a chantry school in 1472, founded by John Champfleur, but it had disappeared and was replaced by a successful Grammar School, Eggars, founded in 1638. Capon’s school in Southampton had been preceded by a chantry foundation, also the case at Odiham. The Chantries Act of 1547 ended all these chantry schools and left gaps which could only be filled by private benefactors. Robert May founded a grammar school at Odiham in 1694, and at Bishop’s Waltham, Bishop Morley, who purchased a fee farm rent worth £51 a year from the Crown in 1671 (derived from the site of the former Mottisfont Priory), used the income for various good purposes, including Morley College for Widowed Matrons in Winchester, and the paying of a schoolmaster in Bishop’s Waltham. Some later charitable gifts increased this stipend, and like many other schools of its kind it inevitably became the responsibility of the incumbent of the parish, whose deputy taught the poor whilst he himself instructed a few fee-paying pupils who lived in- the parsonage. This was happening at Bishop’s Waltham in 1811, and had happened in the household of Jane Austen’s father at Steventon. Lymington, Ringwood and Airesford also had well-known grammar schools, but the most ancient of the local schools was that called the Holy Ghost school at Basingstoke, a name which survived the Reformation and was changed to Queen Mary’s in 1886 (apparently for fear of sounding .too Papist). Founded originally in c. 1524, it could probably claim to be the second oldest grammar school in the county; it has recently been reorganised. Portsmouth’s school was a late foundation (1752); Airesford was older, but at its best in the 18th century; Christchurch had Richard Warner amongst its pupils.

All these schools offered an education based on the classics, not just the three Rs, and they provided education for middle-class boys. The school at Petersfield, founded under the will of Richard Churcher (1722), a successfut East India merchant, and still known as Churcher’s College, is a good example of how the commercial prosperity of inter­ested Hampshire men encouraged them to think of boys who were likely to follow their founders’ example.. Here there was to be a lay headmaster (very unusual) whose pupils were to learn navigation and mathematics, with the object of becoming apprentices on ships sailing for the East Indies. Though an Act of Parliament in 1744 changed the scheme, and there were further changes in 1835 and 1876, Churcher’s still remains an independent endowed school. Another school, founded at Southampton in 1752 under the will of Richard Taunton, a successful privateer, was primarily intended ‘to fit children for the sea’; this has been reorganised under recent legislation.

The number of village ‘primary’ schools founded after the Reforma­tion was not very large, though there are interesting examples at Broughton (1601, for ‘reading, writing and casting’), Dummer (1610), and Kingsclere (1618), two small schools started during the Protec­torate, Penton (1651) and Cliddesden (1656), and a village school began at Lyndhurst in 1668. In the next century, private enterprise and charity added to the number of village schools all over Hampshire, but there were some considerable gaps; the great period of foundation of what were soon to be called elementary schools belongs to the early 19th century, when the efforts of the two Societies, the National (Anglican) and the British and Foreign (Dissenters), gave Hampshire something like a nearly complete system of schools in towns and villages alike. The Education Act of 1870 filled the gaps by-providing ‘board schools’, run by the State.

In the late 19th century many of the old grammar schools were considerably altered, and the Act of 1901 enabled the County Council to take a leading part in the establishment of state-aided girls’ schools in Winchester, Gosport and Bournemouth. The Winchester Girls’ High School, now St. Swithun’s, had already been set up by a. group of private subscribers in 1884, and by that time there were opportunities for girls in the new State-provided elementary schools, although the provision of professional teacher-training in colleges was still restricted to male students for many years to come. The training of teachers was considered to be a rightful concern of the diocese, and the foundation of the Diocesan Training College (King Alfred’s College) in Winchester in 1862 was a very important year in the history of education in Hampshire.

The training college had begun very modestly in 1838, with five students in 27/28 St. Swithun Street, Winchester, the object being to provide teachers who were ‘humble, industrious, and instructive’. It was and is an Anglican foundation, one of 27 such colleges founded by the Church of England, and after having various homes was established on its present site in 1862, in a fine building designed by the Cathedral architect, John Colson, on the western side of Winchester. There have been many additions to this site in recent years, particularly as a result of the shortage of teachers after the Second WorldWar. Expansion on a large scale began in 1958; the old two-year course was changed to three years, and women students were admitted.

Ten years later there were about 750 students in King Alfred’s. The recent decline in the number of teaching posts available has produced problems, and there have been suggestions of amalgamation, even closure, happily averted; King Alfred’s is still training teachers, and also offers a B.A. course in History and English.

‘K.A.C.’ is older. than Hampshire’s own university at Southampton, which owes its foundation to the educational philosophy of a local man, Henry Robinson Hartley. He left a generous endowment in 1850, intended to encourage learning and culture in his native city, and though there was a long law suit, enough was left to found the Hartley Institute in Southampton in 1862. It became the Hartley University College in 1902, Southampton University College in 1914, and the University of Southampton in 1962, with a huge increase in the number of students and the kind of courses offered, and a great variety of new buildings of differing architectural styles. The term ‘red-brick university’ certainly no longer applies to Southampton.

The Diocesan Training College and the Hartley were successful. So, too, were the large number of Mechanics’ Institutes founded after 1835, to instruct the working-class man in his spare time, providing reading rooms and libraries for those who could not buy books; they were the predecessors of today’s Workers’ Educational Association.

Most Hampshire children are now educated by the State, but this brief account of the development of education in the county would be incomplete if some mention were not made of the many educational opportunities provided by private enterprise. The 19th and 20th centuries abound with private schools and colleges of every possible variety. Some have achieved international fame, like Bedales, near Petersfield, the first co-educational boarding school. Others, like Queenswood College at East Tytherley, whose president was Robert Owen, the pioneer of the co-operative movement, proved short-lived. A series of major changes in Winchester College broadened the curriculum there, and sciences and mathematics (slowly) became important subjects; other schools were founded to cater for children whose parents wished them to be well-educated, but who could not afford to send them to boarding schools. Trafalgar House, in Win­chester, seems to have been an excellent school of this kind, lasting from c. 1805 to 1918, and its boys provided guards of honour for visiting minor royalties. There were commercial schools of many varying sizes: Mr. Mason’s Commercial School. in Winchester (Canon Street) was only very modest; Mr. Walker’s College in Portsmouth was larger and numbered amongst its early pupils the future Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Private schools with good standards had to be prepared to be ‘recognised’; that is approved by the State Inspectorate, and the State grammar schools founded under the Act of 1902 charged a small fee, though not to those children who had passed the eleven-plus.

The abolition of school fees in State schools and the raising of the school leaving age have produced many educational changes in Hampshire. Population growths have produced problems too; estimated populations growths, not fulfilled, have produced other difficulties. Changes in government policy have worried some parents and pleased others, and the decision to end grammar schools and selection at ‘eleven plus’ or at any other age, remains controversial. Hampshire County Council have in fact implemented central government decisions without delay, and comprehensive schools have come into existence all over the county, though Churchers’ College at Petersfield and King Edward VI school at Southampton have retained their independence as aided boys’ grammar schools. More than half the County Council’s annual budget is spent on education, but there are still many needs un-met; there is always a shortage of residential homes for the mentally handicapped, and attempts to provide nursery education had been restricted by the present need for national economies, though some nursery classes have been provided in areas of great social need. There have been tremendous strides in the development of Polytechnics and Colleges of Technology in all the great centres of population, and the long-established Winchester School of Art has been rebuilt and now serves the whole country. John Pound of Portsmouth, the poor cobbler Officers’ quarters, Victoria Barracks, Portsmouth who died in 1839, and who taught his young neighbours to read and write, is a long distance in time from the recent visit of the Hampshire County Youth Orchestra to the United States of America.

One aspect of education to which it seems fitting to draw attention in any account of Hampshire’s history is the development of a wide­spread interest in local history and the growth of differing kinds of educational establishments which helped that interest. The Mechanics’ Institutes, from their very beginning in 1835 were always interested in the county’s history, and instructed their members by buying books, printing pamphlets, and arranging lectures. The first Public Library Act of 1850 made it possible for local authorities to provide libraries and museums. The Hampshire Museum, founded in 1847, and under the inspired direction of Henry Moody, was eventually taken over by the Winchester Council and opened oia 10 November 1851 as a museum and a library in the (converted) governor’s house of the old county gaol in Jewry Street. It was the first of a series of buildings, constructed for other purposes, re-used to house collec­tions of inestimable educational value. The number includes the Portsmouth Museum and Record Office in the complex of the Clarence Barracks there, and the Hampshire County Record Office splendidly housed in a large redundant Victorian church.

The foundation of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society by T. W. Shore (1840-1905) with three like mbided spirits, in March 1885, was another example of how Hampshire people were becoming interested in Hampshire history. The Hampshire Record Society, active by 1888, was the result of the activities of such local scholars as Dean Kitchin, and the outstanding F. J. Baigent, and of the scholarly collaboration of other editors from the Bodleian Library and the British Museum.. Pride in Hampshire’s history permeated every corner of society, culminating in the great national pageant of Hamp­shire’s story re-enacted at Wolvesey in 1908, an educational project if ever there was one, and for an iiternational purpose, the restoration of Winchester Cathedral.