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that there was an ancient collegiate church of secular canons,
called St. Frideswide's, of pre-Conquest origin, which, of course,
had its school, and which in 1122 was converted into a priory
of regular canons. Another collegiate church called St.
George's was founded in 1074 in the castle by the constable,
Robert d'Oilli. This was not converted into, but annexed to
an abbey of regular canons founded at Oseney just outside
Oxford, in 1 1 29. An early sixteenth century copy of its
statutes is preserved in a Bodleian MS. They show that
it consisted of twelve secular priests and as many scholars.
Their oath on admission included a promise not to climb over
the castle walls at night or procure any one to do so, and to
report to the warden, who was a canon of Oseney, all who did.
After taking the oath and inscribing his name on the register,
the scholar gave a feast to his master and fellow-scholars at a
cost of is. 6d. The scholars maintained a light at the high
altar of St. George's called the Scholars' Light. They were
fined a farthing for swearing and a halfpenny if they shirked
services on feast days. The small amount of the fine shows
that the statutes were of great antiquity, dating from times
when a penny a day was substantial pay. It is therefore
practically certain that the College of St. George's, being in the
castle and outside the city, maintained its school as well as St.
Frideswide's, just as at Paris the suburban college of Ste.
Genevieve maintained its school as well as the central Cathedral
church of Notre Dame. At Paris, the rivalry of these two
schools and the fact that the master, driven out by the Chan-


cellor of Notre Dame for theological heterodoxy, found shelter
in the other, was one of the main contributing causes to the
development of the University, which ultimately shook itself
free to a large extent of the Chancellor.

We can but guess that when Theobald of Etampes dubbed
himself Master of Oxford in a letter to Thurstan, Archbishop
of York, in answer to a question, he was the Master of the
School of St. Frideswide's, which, St. George's being outside
Oxford, would be par excellence the school of Oxford. The
question was whether monks could legally impropriate churches
and tithes. Theobald answered by an exposition of the canon
law, citing from Jerome, Ambrose, and Pope Gregory the same
passages which afterwards appeared in the first part of the
Corpus Juris Canonici, the Decree as edited by Gratian, to
show that monks being dead to the world had no right to the
possessions of the clergy, or clerks, which had been given to
them for doing duty for the world. A monastery, he says,
is a place and prison of the damned, monks having damned
themselves here to avoid eternal damnation hereafter. If
monks have been allowed to become clerks and bishops, that
was not by ecclesiastical law but by a privilege, by special dis-
pensation "for want of clerks". A monk, answering this,
derides the "want of clerks". He asks whether there is
want of clerks at Rome, Milan, Paris, Rouen, Bayeux, York,
London, Salisbury, Lincoln? "Are there not monasteries
inhabited by clerks at Milan, Turin, Lyons, Rome, Rouen,
London, Salisbury, Lincoln, York?" meaning apparently
the cathedrals called minsters at those places a mere juggle
with words, though it is an ambiguity which has misled
historians from that time to this. Lastly he exclaims, " want
of clerks when everywhere in the world are liberal masters,
who are also called clerks? You even, a nobody, are you
not said to teach (regere) 60 or 100 clerks, more or less, in the
guise of a master, to whom you have made yourself a grasping
word-monger, wickedly deceiving them as you are yourself
deceived ? For, to say nothing of other parts of the empire,
are there not throughout France and Germany, Normandy
and England, not only in cities and walled towns, but even
in villages as many learned schoolmasters as there are tax-
gatherers and magistrates ? where then is your want of clerks ? "


Nothing could more strikingly prove the ubiquity of schools
than this passage ; while its grudging testimony to the success
of Theobald himself as a teacher of classes of 60 to 100 is a
convincing proof that the Oxford school was flourishing.
One swallow does not make a summer, but it is a proof that
summer is nigh. After all, the number of schools which went to
make a University was not very large. A bull of Innocent III
in 1207 fixed the maximum number of masters in theology
(D.D.'s) at Paris at eight, including the members of the
chapter of Notre Dame. So if Oxford boasted four doctors,
whose names have come down to us, in as many different
faculties between 1 120 and 1 1 50, she was not very far behind.
The rise of the University schools had great influence on
the schools everywhere else. It caused a distinction to be
drawn between the theological school, the law school and
the schools of other faculties, and the grammar school, whereas
hitherto all the sciences were, or might i be, taught in one
school. Incidentally it differentiated the Chancellor of the
cathedral and collegiate churches from the schoolmaster, and
tended to limit the local schools generally to grammar and
elementary logic and rhetoric. It also seems to have raised
the question of free schools. Between 1170 and 1173 Pope
Alexander III wrote to the French bishops to rebuke the
practice of those who "assume the name and dignity of
Schoolmaster in the churches " refusing to give ecclesias-
tical licence to teach without payment of fees, and orders them
to extirpate it at once. He ordered the schoolmasters that
whenever fit and well-bred men wished to teach grammar
schools (studio, litterarum) they should allow them to do so
without any charge, lest learning, which ought to be given
gratis to all, should seem to have a price set on its head. A
writer of the early thirteenth century asserts positively that
this was aimed at the Chancellor of Paris, who used to exact a
mark, 133. 4d., a huge sum for those days, as a fee. At the
Lateran Council of 1179 this provision was made general.
The decree of Pope Eugenius of 826 had ordered all bishops
to provide schools. These schools were now to be made free,
at least for the poor. In order that the poor, who cannot
be helped by their parents' means, may not be deprived
of the opportunity of learning and becoming proficient, in every


cathedral, a competent benefice was directed to be bestowed
on a master to teach gratis the clerks of the church and poor
scholars. For licence to teach nothing was to be charged.
Innocent III at the next Lateran Council in 1215 com-
plained that this decree was not observed, so it was repeated
with an extension. In all churches of sufficient means a
master was to be established to teach the clerks of the
church gratis in the faculty of grammar and other things, while
every metropolitan church was to have a theologian, endowed
with a prebend, to instruct priests and others in holy writ. If
the maintenance of two masters proved too onerous, the
grammar master might be provided for in some other church
in the diocese. This decree made statutory what had appar-
ently already become customary. At St. Paul's, " Master Ralph
the theologian," signed deeds in 1183. In 1205 the school-
master, become Chancellor, took over the theological teaching.

A majority, however, of the cathedrals, especially in the
south of England, remained in the hands of the monks, and in
these there were no secular canons and schoolmaster or chan-
cellor to whom the bishop could entrust the government and
teaching of the schools. In these cases, Canterbury, Win-
chester, Rochester, Worcester, Norwich, the bishop retained
the schools under his immediate control and himself appointed
the master. At Winchester, for example, we find Henry of
Blois, Bishop of Winchester, appealed from in the case, to
adopt modern terminology, of Phantom v. Jekyll, reported in
John of Salisbury's Letters.

The plaintiff, Jordanus Fantasma in Latin, and in Anglo-
Norman Jordan Fantosme, " the Ghost," was afterwards the
author of a poem on the war between Henry II and his son in
1 174. The case seems to have been heard some time between
1154 and 1158, when John of Salisbury was acting as Official
Principal of the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Can-

" The case of master Jordan Fantosme, and master John
Joichel, clerks of the lord bishop of Winchester, has been
carried before me. Having heard the case and inspected the
documents, we inhibited the said John against teaching school
in the same city against Jordan's will." The parties alleged
mutual breach of faith, and Joichel appealed to the Pope ; but


John of Salisbury, while reserving this question, says that he
" being clear on the right of master Jordan to the school, after
consulting the bishops of Chichester, Hereford and Worcester,
charged the lord of Winchester not to suffer the said Jordan
to be further vexed by the said John on the matter of the
school, on pain of excommunication. A few days afterwards
however the parties came before us again, Jordan alleging
that John had usurped the school again and incurred excom-
munication. He denied it and was prepared to swear that he
had desisted from the mastership after the injunction." Jordan
was ready to produce witnesses, but the other " refused a day "
on the ground that he was " starting for Rome ". " Pray ",
says the harassed judge to the Pope, " by the help of the Lord
put an end to their litigation ".

The school over which Jordan and Jekyll quarrelled in 1155
was in Minster Street, outside the precinct, though on land
belonging to the cathedral monastery. In a grant to the Priory
of St. Denis at Southampton some land in Minster Street is
described as being " between the house which was Jordan
Fantasma's and the house of Aimer the squire", and in
another deed as being held at a rent of 2s. in lieu of all
services to Mr. John Judicialis, the Joichel or Jekyll of the
trial. This house must have been the school house which
in 1367 is described as being "where the school is now held".
In 1392 an assessment for the maintenance of the city walls
was paid for it in the name of the " High School " (alta scola\
called in 1450 and 1483 "le scole-hows" and in 1544 the
"High Schole House".

There is evidence at Durham towards the end of the
twelfth century of the existence of the cathedral school owing
to its receiving a kind of exhibition endowment, probably
copied from one which Winchester School already enjoyed.
It was of a kind which proved to be the embryo from which
the collegiate system of Oxford and Cambridge, of Winchester
and Eton, was evolved.

At Winchester, about a mile out of the town, in or about
the year 1130, bishop Henry of Blois had founded the
Hospital of St. Cross (Holyrood as the similar place was
called at Edinburgh) for the infirm poor. Besides the 13
brethren lodged and boarded in the hospital, 100 poor from


the city were every day entertained in a hall built by the
Hospital gate, called the Hundred-menne-hall, at a dinner
cooked by the Hundred-men-coke, the pottage or porridge of
which it largely consisted being ladled out of the "Hundred-
men-pot " by the " Hundred-men-ladel ". Besides " sufficient
pottage " the dinner consisted of a loaf of coarse bread weigh-
ing 5 marks, 3 quarts of weak beer, a herring and two
pilchards, or, if not a fish day, two eggs and a farthing's
worth of cheese. The poor men were allowed to take away
the relics of their portion with them. Among the 100
men were 13 poor scholars of the city school "sent there
by the Master of the High Grammar School of the city of
Winchester ". There are no extant documents to show that
this substantial exhibition of a good meal a day for thirteen
of the High School boys was provided for in the original
charter, but it was stated by witnesses in 1373 to have been
so and to have prevailed at all events beyond the memory
of witnesses who carried it back to 1313. Further, Simon of
Farlington in Hampshire, close to Winchester, who was Arch-
deacon of Durham, gave the manor of Kyhou (Kyo) to the
Almoner of Durham Cathedral Priory in 1180 "for the
maintenance of 3 scholars of Durham School, whom the
master shall choose by way of charity and send with a platter
or tally with the images of the Virgin and St. Cuthbert on it,
to the Almoner, who shall provide them with food, drink, and
lodging in the Almonry ". There can hardly be a doubt that
this Hampshire man knew St. Cross and deliberately imitated
what he had seen well done there, on a smaller scale as became
an archdeacon compared with a bishop, in connexion with
Durham Grammar School, which has flourished continuously
to this day.

It is a remarkable thing that the two earliest exhibition
foundations known in France also owed their origin to Eng-
lishmen, the first of them in the same year, 1180, when Jocius
or Jossy of London, on his way home from a pilgrimage to
Palestine, founded what was later called the Eighteen College
(College de Dix-huif). Finding that St. Mary's Hospital at Paris
by ancient custom provided for payment a room for poor clerks
attending the schools to live in, he converted this into an en-
dowment by buying the room for 52, on condition that the


Governors of the hospital should always find eighteen beds
for as many scholars-clerks and give them I2s. a month for
maintenance, in return for which they were to carry the cross
in the burial processions before the bodies of those who died in
the hospital. Seven years later this was imitated in the Hospital
of St. Thomas the Martyr (Becket) at the Louvre, which became
the House of the Poor Scholars of the Louvre. The College of
St. Honor6 grew from a similar provision by a Bishop of Paris
at St. Honor6's. Others followed, and later these Houses of
Poor Scholars attached to hospitals blossomed into independent

A still earlier instance of a hospital affording exhibitions to
scholars was said to be found at St. Katharine's Hospital by
the Tower of London, founded by Queen Matilda, the wife of
King Stephen, and reported to be for a master, three brothers
chaplains, three sisters and six poor scholars. But the scholars
were not part of the original foundation in 1147, which con-
sisted of a grant of a newly built hospital to the Priory of Holy
Trinity as governors with the endowment of a mill and 20
rent to maintain thirteen poor. The six scholars were not
introduced till 1277. Then Queen Eleanor, the dowager of
Henry III, who had wrested the hospital from the priory,
added considerable endowments with three priests and twenty-
four poor, among whom were to be " 6 poor scholars who
should assist the chaplains in the church in aid of divine
service when they can conveniently take holiday from their
studies (cum hit pro suo studio commode potuerint vacare) so
that they may by their merits and diligent help be more
bountifully considered in the alms of the Hospital ".

But it may be said that all these schools of the eleventh and
twelfth centuries, and indeed up to the sixteenth century, were
no schools of any moment, and gave no education fit to be
called a liberal education. Mr. Bass Mullinger, the historian of
Cambridge University, wrote in Social England in 1895 :
" We hear but little concerning schoolboy life in medieval
times, but that little is generally unfavourable. . . . The
average attainments were limited to reading and writing, to
which in the cathedral schools there were added chanting and
an elementary knowledge of Latin." Sir Richard Jebb made,
in the Cambridge Modern History in 1902, the amazing state-


ment that the " schools of the monasteries and those attached
to the cathedrals, alone tempered the reign of ignorance. The
level of the monastic schools was the higher. In the cathedral
schools the training was usually restricted to such rudiments of
knowledge as were indispensable for the secular clergy, viz.
reading, writing, arithmetic and elementary music." The Rev.
T. A. Walker, M.A., LL.D., Fellow of Peterhouse, in the
Cambridge History of English Literature in 1908, repeats the
same idea : " The early education of the generality of English
youths in the Middle Ages was found in a school attached to
some cathedral or convent. In the old grammar schools,
reading, writing and elementary Latin constituted, with sing-
ing, the subjects of instruction. The ' litel clergeon, seven
yeer of age ', of The Prioress's Tale learned in school ' to
singen and to rede, as smale children doon in hir childhede '.
He had his primer. A schoolfellow translated and expounded
for the enquiring child the Alma redemptoris from the anti-
phoner of an older class. The prioress, doubtless, here indi-
cates the teaching of the conventual schools of her day."

This is really lamentable. The whole of the schools of the
Middle Ages, that is, from 450 to 1550, are judged and con-
demned by the standard of a small song-school described in a
fifteenth century work of fiction. The smallest attention to
what Chaucer wrote makes it perfectly clear that the "litel
schole " on the borders of the Jewry, which, though said to be
" in Asie ", is manifestly drawn from London or Lincoln, was
not a grammar school, but a song, or elementary school.
There were "children an heep"

That lered in that sco!6 yer by yere
Such maner doctrine as men used there,
This is to say, to synge and to rede,
As smale childer doon in her childhede.

The " litel clergeon ", dericulus, seven years old, sat " in the
scole at his prymer", i.e. learning his ABC, learning to spell
and read, and heard his elders singing the Alma redemptoris.
He asks the elder to " expounden this song in his langage,
and preyde him to construe it ". The elder boy says he has
"heard " that it meant to invoke the aid of Our Lady, but he
could not tell him any more.


I can no more expounde in this matere ;
I lern& song, I can but smal grammere,

which means that he learnt singing, but no grammar, and
simply learnt the music and the words, without understanding
them, as the little clergeon himself then proceeded to do,

"... til he coude it by rote
And then he sang it wel and bold61y
Fro word to word, according with the note."

How can these misrepresentations be repeated by one
writer after another, when the smallest consideration must
show their impossible absurdity ? For if the schools were
nothing but choristers' schools to teach psalm-singing, where
did people like John of Salisbury or Alexander Neckham, get
the education which enabled them to write the books which
still remain to show us, not only their skill in writing Latin
prose and Latin verse, their literary powers, their ability and
wit, but their knowledge, both of the Scriptures, and of
classical authors, especially in philosophy. It may be said
they got them, not at school, but at the university. But a
university, that is a school of the higher faculties for grown-up
or growing men, could not flourish if it was fed only by
schools in which boys had learnt nothing more than to stumble
through a few psalms.

We need not, however, press the general argument. It is
enough to quote one single passage descriptive of the schools
in the capital of England, in print in English for at least 300
years in one of the best known and most quoted of Eliza-
bethan books, John Stow's Survey of London, published in
1596, which alone should have saved Mr. Mullinger and his
congeners from the absurdities current on this subject. This
is the famous Description of London with which William Fitz-
stephen, cleric and judge, prefaces his biography of his former
master, Thomas a Becket.

" In London ", says Fitzstephen, " the three principal
churches have famous schools privileged and of ancient
dignity, though sometimes through personal favour to some
one noted as a philosopher more schools are allowed. On
feast days the Masters celebrate assemblies at the churches,
arrayed in festive garb. The scholars hold disputations, some


argumentatively, others by way of question and answer.
These roll out enthymemes, those use the forms of perfect syl-
logisms. Some dispute merely for show, as they do at collec-
tions ; others for the truth which is the grace of perfection.
The sophists and those in training in sophistry are pro-
nounced happy because of the mass and volume of their
words ; others play upon words. Those learning rhetoric
with rhetorical speeches speak to the point with a view to per-
suasion, being careful to observe the precepts of their art, and
to leave out nothing that belongs to it."

So much for the elder scholars. Their feats in logic and
rhetoric have been thought to show that the schools of
London at this time were really a teaching university, eight
centuries in advance of our new one. The mention of " col-
lections ", the term still in use at Oxford for the college exa-
minations at the end of term, might be supposed to point the
same way. The medieval school term ended, as church
services end now, with a collection, for the benefit of the pre-
siding genius, the schoolmaster. School fees, like barristers'
fees, were honoraria and supposed to be voluntary offerings,
and collections came to be a sort of Speech Day, at which the
pupils showed off their accomplishments ; and they, or their
parents, bestowed their bounty on the master.

Rhetoric and logic, however, were not then university
subjects, but school subjects, and were begun at a much
earlier age than now. With grammar, rhetoric and logic
formed the trivium, which was the domain of the grammar
school, while the quadrivium and theology became the
domain of the university. A London university might,
however, well have been developed from these three schools,
as one had just been developed at Paris from the two schools of
the Cathedral of Notre Dame and collegiate Church of Ste.
Genevieve. If London had been the political capital only, as
Paris was, and the courts of law had settled there and not
outside it at Westminster, and if it had not been the chief
port and commercial emporium of the country, its schools
might have run the same course as those of Paris, and Oxford
would never have been the seat of a university. As it was,
commerce proved more lucrative and attractive than learning.
Though the mention of philosophy shows that there were


scholars of the University age and type at the London schools
in 1 1 1 8, they were probably in the minority. The stress laid
on rhetoric suggests that the elder scholars were no older than
the boys in the top forms of St. Paul's School now.

At all events, besides the votaries of philosophy and
logic, there were the younger pupils, those under fourteen,
who only, in the strict language of the time, were called
" boys ", whose studies were purely grammatical. They " hold
contests in verse, or pose each other on the principles of
grammar or the rules of preterites and supines. Others in
epigrams, rhymes and metres use the old street eloquence,
with Fescennine licence scourging their schoolfellows, without
mentioning names ; hurling abusive epithets and scoffs at
them : with Socratic salt girding at the failings of their
fellows, or perhaps of their elders ; and in bold dithyrambics
biting them with the tooth of Theon." " The audience ready
to laugh with crinkled noses redouble their shrill guffaws."
The last words are a quotation from Persius by this twelfth-
century author who, according to the theory we are demolish-
ing, had only learnt at a choir-school to stumble through the
Psalms. But the whole passage is a satire on that sort of
notion of our ancient schools. It demonstrates, in a way the
more effective that it is incidental, and not written for the
purpose of telling us what the schools did, that they were
giving precisely the same kind of classical education as the
great public schools gave in the sixteenth to the nineteenth
centuries, and perhaps even more effectively.

Nor were athletics and games neglected in these schools.
Every year on Shrove Tuesday, the Carnival, "to begin with
the boys' games, for we were all boys once", says the learned
judge, " all the boys in the schools bring their game cocks to

Online LibraryArthur Francis LeachThe schools of medieval England → online text (page 14 of 39)