Education in Kingsclere

Notes on early education in Kingsclere by Robert Legg

In 1554 John Norman, Vicar of Kingsclere, bequeathed 10 a year for ten years to pay a priest to "teach school" without fee to the scholars. It is possible that the school was founded by him. He was prior of the Augustinian priory of St Denys, Southampton, at the time of its dissolution, and in 1543 he was presented to the vicarage of Kingsclere by Anne of Cleves.

The school was held in the former chapel on the Litten.[The burial ground where the Health Centre now stands]. The history of the chapel is obscure, but it was probably a chantry chapel, possibly dedicated to St. Swithun. Finch said that the orientation of the building corresponded with that of the church, and that it was built of the same materials and was apparently not much later than the nave.

As at Newbury and Basingstoke such chapels were not infrequently used for educational purposes. The history of the Holy Ghost chapel at Basingstoke is well documented and, in the absence of other evidence, it may be conjectured that the Kingsclere chapel was dealt with in a similar manner. In 1545 an Act, 37 Hen. VII c.4 conveyed to the king the property of all "Colleges, chapels, chantries, hospitals, fraternities, brotherhoods, gilds, and stipendiary priests." Because of the king's death few transfers of property were made under that act, but when it was renewed by I Edw. VI. c. 14, "90 collegiate bodies, 110 hospitals, and 2,374 gilds, chantries and free chapels were suppressed to the profit of the Crown." In 1550 the confiscated possessions of the gild of the Holy Ghost at Basingstoke were sold, but in 1556, in a more favourable climate, the townsfolk petitioned Philip and Mary for a revival of the gild and the restoration of its endowments. A new charter of incorporation was granted, and in reviewing the fraternity it was stated that Henry VIII had given a licence for the celebration of divine service in the chapel and for the education of young men and boys of the town. The funds were to be used for providing a suitable priest who was to be responsible for the chapel services and for the education of the young.

That there would have been a gild in Kingsclere is not only statistically probable, but there are other indications. There was a Gyldabletithing in Kingsclere in which the only properly mentioned in the royal purveyance of 1575 was, 'The Inne called the Crowne in the occupacon of Nicholas Clapham, of errable land in the ffieldes xx ac.' It may be suspected that the Gildhouse, and such were notorious drinking dens, simply became an inn called the Crown. A name reflecting its new ownership. The possible existence of a gild here, opens up the question as to the date of the foundation of the school, but not trace has been found in the Public Record office.

On 31 January 1555 Thomas Boswelle compounded for the first fruits of the vicarage, and although there is no record of his induction, this puts beyond doubt that he was vicar of the parish. According to Dr Bull Thomas Bossewell, M.A., was licensed by the Bishop of Winchester to a clerical office in Kingsclere, probably as Master of the Free School, but there is no evident reason why Bossewell should not have been both vicar and schoolmaster.

The next reference to the free-school at Kingsclere is found in the will of Sir James Lancaster, a wealthy East Indian merchant who died in 1618. Among many bequests made in his will there is this entry,

Item. I devise appoint and declare that the said Wardens and Commonalty of the Said Mistery of Skinners shall out of the said Rents issues and profits yearly and in every yeare for ever pay for and towards the maintenance of a Schoolmaster which shall teach the Schollars in the Free Schoole of Kingsclere in the said County of Southampton the somme of twenty pounds of lawful money of England per Annum for ever.

The income was to be paid to Basingstoke Corporation which would then be responsible for the payment to the master at Kingsclere. Sir James also endowed a school in Basingstoke, with the injunction that pupils be taught "to read and write, but especially to learn the Catechism in the Principles of Religion", but there is no such provision with regard to the school at Kingsclere, and it would appear that the Kingsclere school was conducted as a grammar school.

The visitation return of 1725 offers a little more information In answer to the question:

What schools are there; how are they endowed; who are the master or mistress; in what condition are they as to the number of scholars, and who have the nomination of those masters or mistresses?

The curate, Thomas Bull, replied:

There is only one grammar-free school, of 20 p.a. founded by Sir James Lancaster Kt. The present master's name is Thomas Bull, who is also curate. The number of boys seldom exceeds 20. There has been great strife about the right of nomination, the vicar claiming a right to himself, and the churchwardens and chief of the parish a right to themselves. My predecessor was curate to the vicar, as well as master of the free school, into which place I succeeded without any dispute. There are 2 or 3 English schools besides in the town for reading and writing.

In 1628 the parish register records the burial of Alys Tuson "hurt at the Free School with a billet" This has been taken as suggesting that girls were also educated at the free-school but this by no means follows. A School for Girls and Infants was built by subscription in 1839.

In 1859 White's, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, it was stated that:

The Free School is an old building in Lyddon Meadow, which contains about an acre, and is used as a playground. A Small dwelling house was added to the school in 1820, but a new school and house are about to be erected. It is now attended by about 50 boys

The Boys' School (National) was built in 1861, and a class room for fifty infants was added in 1873.