Arthur Francis Leach.

The schools of medieval England online

. (page 22 of 39)
Online LibraryArthur Francis LeachThe schools of medieval England → online text (page 22 of 39)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

inquiry by the chapter into the "ancient customs" of the
church, it was decided that the grammar schoolmaster was
bound to teach them gratis, but the succentor was not to


defraud him by admitting boys to the choir merely for the
sake of getting free education in the grammar school. What-
ever may have been the choristers' right in the matter, the
fact that the grammar schoolmaster at St. Paul's claimed and
received payment for them shows with absolute conclusiveness
that the grammar school was not a mere choir school, or
choir-boys' school.

One of the almoners, William of Tolleshunt, by will made
in 1329, gave a shilling to each senior and sixpence to each
junior of " the boys of the church whom I educated in the
almonry". He also gave his best Hugucio and Priscian
major and minor bound in one volume and Isidore "on Ethe-
mology" and all his grammar books but those which Ralph
his clerk had, and all his quarterns of sermons on the feast of
Holy Innocents which the boy-bishops preached in his time,
to remain in the Almonry for ever, to the usufruct of the
boys attending it, on condition that they should not be re-
moved or sold. He bequeathed also his books on the art of
dialectic, of which John of Stanground had the Old and New
Logic, with books on Natural History and other like books
on the same art, that these books might be used by boys fit
to become scholars, when they left the almonry, but under a
caution to restore them that they might not be lost. For the
use of the same boys he left his books on physic and also on
civil law, namely Institutes, Codex, Ancient Digest and
Authentics and other legal writings. He left also two marks
to provide the almonry boys with shoes, in return for
which they were to say, on getting up and going to bed, the
psalm De Profundis with the Lord's Prayer and Ave Maria
for the souls of the testator and friends.

This will shows that the almonry school was a distinct
foundation and intended only for the eight choir-boys in the
almonry. That these eight boys, afterwards increased to ten,
were the choir-boys, is shown by the fact that, in 1315,
Bishop Richard of Newport gave to this very William of
Tolleshunt, almoner, one of his executors, and to the Almoner
for the time being, a house near St. Paul's, " for the support
of one or two of the almonry boys for two years after they have
changed their voices".

Lincoln, probably at that time the next largest town to


London, was also the next to provide lodgings for its choristers,
in direct imitation of St. Paul's under the influence of Richard
of Gravesend, who came from St. Paul's to be Dean of Lincoln
in 1254, and bishop in 1258. In the first year of his deanery
he acquired the first separate endowment for the choristers, then
described, not by that name, but as "the 12 boys ministering
in Lincoln church, namely, candle and incense bearers (cero
ferariis et turribulariis} ". At that time, it is stated, the boys
of the choir of Lincoln lived on the alms of the canons, and
their admission, instruction, and discipline was in the hands of
the Precentor. In 1264 Richard of Gravesend ordained that
the twelve boys, of whom two were incense bearers, should
dwell in one house and live together in common under a
master, and appropriated certain revenues for their support.
He gave the dean and chapter the right of admitting them,
and placed their teaching and discipline in the hands of their
master, subject to the supervision of a canon, called Warden
(custos), appointed for the purpose. It was specially provided,
in words borrowed from St. Paul's, that whenever they went
for a walk or to play they were to go and come back under
the leadership of a grown-up person. At first the choristers
attended the City Grammar School for their ordinary education
and the song school to learn singing. But in 1351 the Pre-
centor, who had somehow recovered the right of appointing
the choristers, agreed with the chapter that he would also
present a fit pedagogue, and, after examination by the chapter,
appoint him to instruct the chorister boys in singing and
grammar. This appointment, which at first was only that of
a private tutor in grammar, developed later into a separate
grammar school or " choristers' college " in the close, in the
choristers' house now occupied by the organist, who, in the
course of centuries, managed to evict his fellow-lodgers and

At York there were seven choristers only, corresponding
with the original number of the canons. The first-known
notice of their being housed together is on 6 May, 1307, on
which day the chapter made an agreement with one Richard
of Craven, that he should maintain them in board and learn-
ing (mensa et erudicionibus] for 45. 8d. a week, or 8d. a week
each, charged on Brodsworth church. Whether there was


any fixed house for them is not clear. On 23 August, 1346,
Sir Stephen, a chaplain of one of the canons, was ordered to
take care of the choristers and that they should live with him.

At Salisbury it is not yet ascertained whether the chor-
isters previously enjoyed separate endowments and a house to
live in, before, on 6 May, 1314, Bishop Nicholas Longespee ob-
tained licence in mortmain from Edward II to appropriate the
rents of some new shops in the Fish Shambles to the chapter,
for the maintenance of fourteen chorister boys and a master
to teach them grammar. In 1322 Bishop Roger of Morteval
made statutes for their living together in a house in the close,
the rectory of Preshute being given for endowment. In 1448
the chapter got John Lane, M.A., who was teaching grammar
in the city of Winchester, to come to Salisbury to teach the
choristers and altarists. The grammar school thus established
in the close proved a serious rival to the ancient Glomery or
grammar school under the chancellor. In the seventeenth cen-
tury, during the commonwealth, the ancient payments to each
of them were continued by Parliament, but in the eighteenth
century the better-endowed though later and narrower school
survived, while the other perished, and the chapter had for-
gotten their own history to such an extent as to inform the
Cathedral Commission of 1854 that the only cathedral gram-
mar school was that of the choristers.

In the monasteries, almonry schools seem to have been
supported not by the general monastic funds, but by special
endowments given by the abbots or priors or by outsiders.
Thus, by deed of 16 February, 1319-20, at Canterbury, Prior
Henry of Eastry founded, probably out of a royal grant, a
chantry of six priests to pray for the soul of Edward I, with
the usual attendant clerks and choristers. It is implied that
they had to attend the Cathedral Grammar School by the pro-
vision that on feast days, when the schoolmaster does not lec-
ture, they are to attend all the canonical hours. Also it is
laid down that no scholar shall be admitted to the almonry
unless he knows how to read and sing, and is ten years old at
least, and has a decent surplice commensurate with the size of
his body.

Though the almonry boys were only fed on the broken
meats from the monks' table, yet being one was regarded as a


valuable form of scholarship, as is shown by a letter of Queen
Philippa to the prior in 1332, asking him to take Richard of
Bedingfield into the almonry " to be maintained like other
poor scholars of his estate ". The prior consents, hoping in
return that the Queen will prevent the King's purveyors from
seizing the provisions he had collected for his own use while
attending Parliament.

In 1364 we hear of the schoolmaster of the almonry being
appointed master of the public school of his native town of
Kingston-on-Thames. So by that time a separate school-
master, though probably only as a private tutor, had been pro-
vided for these almonry boys.

St. Alban's Abbey seems to have been the first monastery
to follow the example of Canterbury, an " Order of living of
the poor scholars in the Almonry " there, being made 4 April,
1 339' The scholars were to stay five years at most, " as that
time is sufficient for becoming proficient in grammaticals ".
They were to " shave an ample crown, as choristers ", and daily
say the seven psalms for the convent and its founders. The
sergeant, or servant of the almoner, to whom their care was
deputed, took oath to collect the broken meats of the monas-
tery and faithfully distribute them to the boys of the almonry
and to friars and other beggars, and to instruct the boys to
the best of his ability in morals and learning.

Almonry boys were soon after provided at Reading Abbey.
An extant account of the Almoner for 1345-6 contains items
of expenditure, " on the garments of 10 clerks, 363. 3d., on ad-
ditional food for the boys and others at table (ad mensam, i.e.
boarded in the Almonry), the schoolmaster, yearly, 33. 4d., a
bishop's mitre for the [boy] bishop on St. Nicholas' Day 55."
The small sum paid to the schoolmaster probably represents a
payment to the grammar schoolmaster of the town for teach-
ing these Almonry boys. It is obviously too small for a sepa-
rate schoolmaster in the abbey. In 1383-4 the schoolmaster's
pay had been raised to 95. pd. for three-quarters of a year.
The clerks or boys had been increased in number from ten to
eleven; their clothing cost 355. 8d. An item of 3s. 6d. for
extra food, for the boys and others serving the abbot, while
staying at the manor of Bere, illustrates the use of these boys
as pages. In 1462 the clerici are called throughout simply


" boys " ; twenty-four yards of cloth for them cost 343. 4d.,
and bread 33. 8d., presumably extra bread bought beyond the
leavings from the monks' table. Their expenses and those of
other servants (the phrase may be noticed as evidence of their
status) at Advent, Shrove Tuesday, and St. Nicholas' Day (6
Dec.), came to 33. 4d., while new cups and plates for them cost
7d., a new table-cloth, 2od., a new table for the Almonry hall,
35. 4d., candles for the boys in winter, 8d., and " the expenses
of 2 boys living wholly on the alms of the monastery 1 33. 4d."
This last item suggests that the other boys were not wholly
maintained by the abbey. The schoolmaster received 133. 4d.
The Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535 for Reading is missing, so
we do not know whether the Almonry boys were maintained
to the Dissolution, but there is no reason to doubt that they

At Durham, an almonry school appears first in 1350,
when a payment is made for the " Almonry bishop ", the boy-
bishop of the almonry boys. A master of the boys in the
almonry is first mentioned in 1352, and in 1372 he is first
called schoolmaster of the almonry and paid .1 143. 3d. for
his salary and gown.

It was only on special feasts the boys had anything to eat
but the broken meats from the monks' table ; 7s. was paid for
fresh meat for them for Advent, 1419, at Durham. They were
set to menial tasks. In 1448, one pennyworth of bread and
beer was given them for tossing hay, and in 1457, is. 5d. was
spent in beer for them for getting stones. The Elizabethan
" Rites of Durham " tells us how the broken meats for them
were handed out of the pantry window of the refectory, whence
the boys carried them to the almonry just outside the great gate.
When a monk died, the children of the almonry spent the
night by the corpse " sitting on their knees " and reading the
Psalter till 8 a.m. In 1535 these children were described as
thirty poor scholars studying the art of grammar in the school
of the same monastery, at a cost of 2 1 1 33. 4d. When the
priory was turned into a cathedral, which had to keep eighteen
King's scholars, the last master of the almonry school became
usher, or second master, of the cathedral grammar school, the
first head master being the master of the city grammar school.

The first payments for boys in the Almoner's accounts at


Westminster appear in an account roll for 1355 : " For the ex-
penses of 2 boys, 2s. " and " For clothing the boys in the Al-
monry, 305." Their numbers were increased from that time,
as in 1363 the cloth for their gowns alone cost 245. 5d. No
master for them appears till 1 367, when one gown was bought
for the " Master of the said boys ", which with his stipend came
to 26s. 8d. Two years afterwards there was paid " To the sub-
Almoner for boys of the Sub-almonry against St. Nicholas'
Day", the day of the boy-bishop's ceremony, "95. Cloth for
the boys of the Almonry, 463. 8d. ; for fur for the Boys' Master,
2s. and to the tailor for making the clothes of the boys of the
Almonry, 2s. ; for shearing the cloth, i6d. ; and in the stipend
of the Master of the boys this year, 133. 4d." In 1380, the
master is for the first time called a grammar master, when
there were twenty-eight boys. From 1388 onwards he is
called schoolmaster, and is paid " For teaching the boys by the
year according to agreement, 135. 4d." In 13943 new agree-
ment was made by which his salary was doubled, and at this
rate, i 6s. 8d., he was paid till 1479. He had board and
lodging as well. A school-house was provided, items for its
repair occurring in 1414, and a complete account for re-build-
ing in 1422. With four chambers and four chimneys, it cost
22 93. 9d.

The payments for cloth enable us to determine with toler-
able certainty the status of the almonry schoolmaster and the
size of his school. The five yards of cloth allowed him was
the same as the allowance to the usher at Winchester College,
three yards less than the head master's, and his fur cost i6d. or
i8d., while the head master's at Winchester cost 33. 4d. He
was sometimes a married man, and therefore not in holy orders.
The number of boys can be deduced from the amount of cloth.
Three or four pieces were bought, of twenty-four yards in the
piece, which at four yards a boy, would give eighteen to
twenty-four boys. This estimate from the almoner's account
is confirmed by other accounts. In 1373 the treasurer of
" Queen Eleanor's manors " paid to the boys' master and
thirteen boys 2s. 2d. ; and in 1385 to the master 6d., and to
each of twenty-eight boys 2d. ; while in the next year there
were twenty-two boys.

The master's salary was raised to 2 in 1479, and among


the " wages of servants " appears " Paid to William Cornysshe
for teaching the singing boys for half a year, 6s. 8d". A sing-
ing-master with a salary of 133. 46. regularly appears after this
down to the Dissolution. Soon afterwards, the entry of the
payment to the schoolmaster " for teaching the boys " is
changed, first, by the addition of the words " of the Almonry " ;
and from 1510 onwards by calling them "grammar boys".
During the reign of Henry VIII, the entry as to cloth for the
boys is enlarged by an extra sum of 303. paid " to the Under-
almoner for cloth for the singing-boys ". It seems, therefore,
that in later years the singing-boys and the song school were an
addition to, and not a selection from the ordinary almonry
boys and their grammar school.

At Bardney Abbey, in 1379, the bishop ordered the monks,
instead of wandering about the country, to observe their rule,
stay at home, and maintain six boys to learn grammar.

At Worcester Cathedral Priory two " boys of the chapel "
first appear in the accounts of the master or warden of the
Lady chapel in 1395. In 1432, 8d. was paid for cups and
bowls for " boys in the Almonry ". An organist, not a monk,
first appears in 1475. The chapel boys numbered four in 1480
and five in 1483. In 1486 in the Almonry accounts these
boys are first called scholars. In 1489-90 the organist "and
instructor of the boys of the Blessed Mary's chapel " received
an augmented salary of 8, and the amount spent for neces-
saries and cloth for the boys' gowns shows that they had been
increased in number to ten or twelve. But it is not till 1498
that a schoolmaster for them is mentioned, who on 1 7 October,
1501, received formal appointment by deed to teach the
" brethren and also the scholars of our Almonry the art of gram-
mar and logic indulgently, well and faithfully " at 2 1 35. 4d.
a year. In 1 504 he was promoted by the bishop to the master-
ship of the Worcester City Grammar School. He had no suc-
cessor in the Priory; the boys having only a singing- and
music-master thenceforward to the Dissolution. In 1535 the
poor scholars of the Almonry numbered fourteen, and were
given eighty gallons of beer, ninety-eight monks' loaves, and
nine yeoman's paste loaves every week.

At St. Mary's Abbey, York, the almonry school, in which
fifty boys boarded in a house called the conclave or chamber,


attending the cathedral or city grammar school (the terms are
convertible), is said, in 1535, to have been founded by William
Rufus. But we may put this down to false history. On its
dissolution, the same number was provided for in the hospital
annexed by Cardinal Pole to the cathedral school, but this
boarding-house was soon discontinued.

One of the latest of English monastic foundations, the
Coventry Charterhouse, or Carthusian monastery, begun about
1 382, was ten years later largely endowed by Richard II out
of alien priories for a Prior and twelve monks. One of these
priories was subject to a charge of sixty-five marks, or ^43
6s. 8d., a year in favour of the King's Hall, now part of Trinity
College, Cambridge. It is typical of the change of attitude to
the monastic ideal that on 21 May, 1399, the king released the
monks from this payment in consideration of their keeping in the
monastery twelve poor scholars between the ages of seven and
seventeen, to pray for his soul ; an assistance very soon required.
The monks profited a good deal by the change. For, in 1535,
when they claimed allowance for the "maintenance and ex-
hibition of 1 2 poor scholars in their house so ordained by the
foundation and ordinance of kings of England, their founders ",
they put the cost at only 30 a year ; more than a third less
than the charge for the King's Hall. The monks, of course,
did not teach these boys, or have anything to do with them,
as the Carthusian was the strictest of orders. The monks
lived in separate cells, and theoretically were cut off from all
intercourse, not only with the outside world, but with each
other, even at meal times ; their food being handed in to them
through a hatch contrived like a turnstile, so that they might
not even see the hand that fed them. The boys, therefore,
probably went, as at York, to the city grammar school for
their education.

This the Almonry boys certainly did at Sherborne Abbey,
Dorset, where out of the income of the property assigned to the
office of the Almoner, " alms " were " yearly distributed for the
maintenance (exhibidone) of three scholars in the grammar school
at Sherborne on the foundation of Alfric Thorncombe, 78s.", or
at the rate of 2 6s. a year each ; a valuable form of exhibi-
tion, since that of the scholars of Henry VIII's cathedral gram-
mar schools on a sumptuous scale was 2 133. 4d. Who


Alfric Thorncombe was or when he lived, in the absence of
chartularies and registers, has not been discovered.

At Thornton Abbey, Lincolnshire, there ought to have
been fourteen boys in the Almonry, but the bishop in 1424
had to order twelve at least to be admitted.

At Ixworth in Suffolk, according to the Valor Ecclesiasti-
cus, the Priory paid "in alms given for the keeping and teach-
ing of 6 boys according to the laudable and ancient custom
ordained by the seniors of the said priory" 10. The real
antiquity of the custom may be doubted. It cannot be earlier
than the fourteenth century.

On the other hand, fourteen poor scholars kept on alms in
the Almonry of Coventry Cathedral Priory at a cost in clothes,
food, and money paid by the sacrist of ,12 us. 4d. a year,
had a school of their own. This Almonry school seems to
have been first started in 1439, for, on 3 October of that
year the city ordered the Mayor and six of his council to go
to the Prior " wyllyng hym to occupye a skole of Gramer,
yffe he like to teche hys brederon and childerun off the aum-
bry". But this was not to prevent every man of the city
having free choice to set his child to school "to what techer
of gramer he liketh, as reson askyth". Evidently the citizens
were afraid of this new Almonry school competing with their
old city or Cathedral Grammar School, for which a new build-
ing had been provided in 1 303, and of the Prior exerting his
authority as ordinary to make the people send their children
also to this new school. Let him keep a school for his own
young monks and the charity chorister boys, if he liked, but
he was not to interfere with the children of the townsfolk.

A similar innovation, met with similar opposition by the
city, took place at Canterbury when the Abbey of St. Augus-
tine set up a separate school. The monks in a petition to the
Pope admitted that " in the city of Canterbury there exists by
ancient approved and hitherto observed custom a school
(scole in the plural) for instructing boys in grammar ", but, they
say, it is far from their monastery, and they desire to set up
another school within or near their own precinct for the poor
boys who are brought up on their alms, and for other scholars
in grammar, lay and wretched (miserabilibus but, query, whether
the word has not been misread) folk, wishing to be instructed.


They undertook 'to provide a master or rector the school-
master at Canterbury was nearly always called rector at a
proper salary and to build the school outside the city walls
the monastery itself was outside the walls, though only a
couple of hundred yards from the cathedral. They asked that
all scholars should be allowed to go to the school freely with-
out hindrance from the rector of the city school, or any one
else, notwithstanding the said custom or any other obstacle.
The Pope, ever ready to favour the monks, issued a bull, 28
December, 1431, authorizing this rival of the old school.
Whether the Almonry boys were the thirteen poor, on whom,
according to the Valor Ecclesiasticus 100 years later, ,19 135.
4d. a year was spent in daily doles at the monastery gate, and
whether the chaplain in the chapel of the Almonry, who re-
ceived 6 a year, was their master, does not specifically
appear, but it seems probable.

At the beginning of the fifteenth century we first hear of
an Almonry School at Norwich, in somewhat peculiar circum-
stances. In 1403 John Hancok, priest, was collated by the
bishop to the Grammar School of Norwich. According to F.
Blomefield, the eighteenth-century historian of Norwich, he
was succeeded by John Seguard, an excellent poet and rhetor-
ician, who was deprived for too freely reproving the monks
for writing filthy verses ; but Blomefield does not state his
authority for this. At all events, next year, John Hancok
was again collated to the school. Nine years later, in 1423,
he leased the grammar school for his life to John Rykkes,
rector of Wood Norton, at nine marks a year, Rykkes under-
taking to teach the boys, Hancok reserving a right to enter
the school at pleasure, and correct or reform in decent lan-
guage any deputy employed by Rykkes. Rykkes was to re-
pair the school and master's house, and might walk in a private
garden attached, which was otherwise to be solely for the use
of Hancok and his friends. Hancok reserved to himself the
right to teach in the Almonry school, of which he was also
master, any scholars dwelling within the precinct of the monas-
tery or its neighbouring dependency of St. Leonard's, and any
other boys of the city or country round sent by their friends,
not exceeding twelve : but he was not to tout for boys to the
damage of the Grammar School. The boys dwelling in the




precinct were the Almonry boys, and it seems probable that,
as at Coventry, this was the first attempt of the Prior and
monks to set up a school for them, and the appointment of
Hancok was an ingenious device for avoiding the opposition
encountered at Coventry and Canterbury in the interests of
the ancient Grammar School. In 1520, when Bishop Nikke or
Nix held a visitation of the monastery, the Sub-prior complained

Online LibraryArthur Francis LeachThe schools of medieval England → online text (page 22 of 39)