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semblance of fairness. The resistance made by the school-
masters and their friends to the attempt made by the Bailiffs
to expel them from their lodgings by force is described as a
mutinous outrage and great misdemeanour on their part. In
one place the Bailiffs are described as trying to force their
way into the school-house, and in another as coming to sup-
press the mutinous outrage of which the masters were guilty
in resisting their attempt. The resistance offered by many of
the Shrewsbury citizens to the illegal action of the Bailiffs is
attributed, first, to the fact that " many women of the town "
had previously taken possession of the school-house and oc-
cupied it for four days and three nights, and subsequently
to a speech made by Gittins, who is stated to have put his
head out of a window in the school-house and cried out,
" Come in, burgesses," telling them that " he stood for their
rights." It is likewise asserted by the Commissioners that
" one of the bailiffs, trying to get into the school through one
of the masters' lodgings, had been likely to be spoiled or
killed by the casting of a piece of timber," and that this piece
of timber was thrown either by Gittins himself or else " by
his appointment." How trained lawyers or men of judicial
mind could have put their signatures to such a statement it
is difficult to understand. One witness may have said that
he saw Gittins throw the timber, and another that he heard
Gittins tell someone else to throw it. Both witnesses could
not be speaking the truth. Why should not both be lying ?
Anyway, the Bailiff in question Mr. Alderman Jones, no
doubt, that self-willed and dictatorial gentleman was neither
killed nor spoiled by the piece of timber ; and the repetition
of the story by the Commissioners shows an animus against
Gittins, and a disposition to accept confused and even con-
tradictory evidence on the side of his enemies, which renders
their whole report untrustworthy. 1 One definite charge

1 It is only by an inference that we can approximate to the date of the riot. It
cannot have taken place till after January 2oth, i6o, the day on which, "after
some pause and expectation of good to be done by Mr. Bailiffs, when no course
was taken by them for supplying of the school," the masters recommenced work.
Admittances are regularly recorded in the register from that day until February
24th. Then comes a blank till April 4th. Doubtless the riot took place in March.


against Gittins to the effect that, before the death of Mr.
John Baker, he had " carried himself negligently " in " the
third room," is adopted by the Commissioners. But, in the
absence of any evidence to justify the statement, Meighen's
emphatic testimony to his " skill and diligence," given at the
time of Mr. John Baker's death, is conclusive against the
gossiping tales of hostile outsiders six years later. 1 Finally,
the Commissioners report that they do not consider Gittins
" a fit person to teach or supply any room in the school," and
recommend that he should be removed from the second-
mastership, and that some worthy man should be elected in
his room. Of the charges against Jones and Harris, the
Bailiffs of 1610-1611, which formed the subject matter of
Meighen's Chancery suit, the Commissioners make short
work. They justify the Bailiffs in breaking open the school-
chest in order to take out 10 for the payment of Rowland
Jenks's expenses to Cambridge and back, on the ground that
Meighen had several times refused them the use of his key,
completely ignoring his plea that the message to Cambridge
about the election of a new third master need not have cost
anything. But Meighen had made the much more serious
charge that Jones and Harris had taken advantage of the
school-chest lying " open to their disposition " during the
rest of their year of office, after they had once forced his lock,
to take therefrom not only "divers deeds, evidences, and
accounts," but " divers sums of money," part of which they
had expended in prosecuting a suit against him and the
other masters. It is recorded in the school account-book by
the Bailiffs who succeeded Messrs. Jones and Harris that the
money which they had taken amounted to 30, and that
they had rendered no account whatever of the way in which

1 It is only fair to state that among the Corporation orders which have been
preserved is one belonging to the year 1607-1608, which directs some unnamed
master to be admonished for absence and neglect of duty, and that this order
may have been issued during the few weeks which elapsed between the admission
of the Bailiffs to office and the death of Mr. John Baker on November 27th.
But it seems far more likely that it was issued after Mr. Gittins's promotion had
been proposed with the view of damaging his claims. There is no proof, however,
that this order applied to Gittins at all.


it had been expended. 1 Jones and Harris made no attempt
to deny the fact that they had taken this money, and the
illegality of their act was manifest, for it was expressly pro-
vided in the ordinances that no sum exceeding 10 should
be taken out of the stock remanent without the consent of St.
John's College. 2 But preposterous as were the allegations
which they had made against the schoolmasters, the School
Bailiff, and Mr. Richard Higgons, and abortive as the suit
proved, the Commissioners held that Messrs. Jones and Harris
had "just cause of suit and exception" against Meighen and
the rest for " getting into their hands and custody great sums
of money, parcel of revenues appointed for the maintenance of
the school, and misemploying them contrary to the true intent
and meaning of the ordinances," and ignored the illegality of
the Bailiffs' conduct on the ground that the money was not
taken by them for " private gain or lucre." 2 After various
recommendations as to certain matters which have no direct
bearing on the Chancery suit, Meighen v. Jones and Harris,
the Commissioners proceed to recommend that " the reason-
able expenses " of the defendants in the suit should be paid.
The report is dated April loth, and on June 28th, 1613, the
Lord Chancellor issued his decree. It follows the lines of
the Commissioners' recommendations very closely. Gittins
was to vacate his place before Michaelmas, and a new master
was to be appointed by the college. Sir Edward Bromley is
directed to report on the question of the defendants' costs,
and the Lord Chancellor indicates that moderation would be
shown in this matter if Meighen should hereafter " conform
himself to a better temper in observance of the ordinances."
On September 4th, 1613, the Bailiffs 3 wrote to the master

1 The Bailiffs for the next year, 1612-1613, also notify the fact that Jones and
Harris had still rendered no account for the ^30 they had taken from the school-

3 The lawyers, consulted by the school authorities on March 2Oth, 1591, gave
it as their opinion that the consent of the college was not necessary for certain
expenses mentioned in the eighth ordinance. Now these expenses certainly in-
cluded law expenses ; but the words of the ordinance could not possibly apply to
such law expenses as those incurred by Jones and Harris in bringing their action
against the masters.

3 The Bailiffs for 1612-13 were Mr. Rowland Langleyand Mr. Rowland Jenks.


and seniors of St. John's College to inform them of the
nature of the decree in Chancery, and to ask them to elect a
master in the room of Gittins, recommending for the post
Andrew Studley, 1 M.A., an Oxford man, who had been doing
Meighen's work during some temporary absence of his, and
had the necessary qualification. A verbal reply was sent by
the messenger of the Bailiffs, Mr. John Garbet,' 2 that the
matter would be considered by the college when the master-
ship should become actually vacant.

On October 8th the Bailiffs were able to signify that this
was the case, and on October igth the college authorities
wrote to the effect that although they were limited by the
ordinances in their choice, the masters whom they elected
ought to be those "of whose conversation they had know-
ledge," and they pointed out the impossibility of this being
the case if the youth of Shrewsbury were sent elsewhere
than to St. John's. Having made this protest, however, they
went on to say that they had elected Studley. 3 The question
of costs in the Chancery suit was left in abeyance for three
years in accordance with the Chancellor's intimation that
their amount would depend in great measure on Meighen's
future behaviour.

But on Thursday, October 24th, 1616, a second decree was
issued, from which it appears that the total amount of the
defendants' costs in the suit amounted to 127 17 s. 4^., and
that Baron Bromley had recommended the payment of 100
out of the school-chest towards these costs. The Chancellor,
however, " wishing to favour the school," limited the amount
to be paid to 80. This sum accordingly appears in the
school accounts for 1616-1617 as having been paid to Messrs.
Jones and Harris in pursuance of the Lord Chancellor's

1 Andrew Studley was a son of Mr. Peter Studley, of Shrewsbury. He was
promoted from the Accidence School on December i6th, 1595, and was eighteen
years old when he matriculated at Hart Hall, Oxford, in 1604; B.A., 1609;
M.A., 1611.

2 It is a somewhat curious coincidence that Mr. John Garbet, who was one of
the two Bailiffs who originated all the trouble by refusing to take the appointed
oath in 1609, should have been the messenger on this occasion.

3 Hist, of St. John's College, vol. i. p. 476.


decree. 1 But in the same accounts there is entered another
payment of 127 i6s. yd. "pro aliis expens: necessariis ut
particular : ostent : Ballivis patet," which has a most sus-
picious appearance. The costs of Jones and Harris, as
reported by Baron Bromley, amounted to 127 i?s. ^d. ;
and the two amounts resemble each other so closely that it is
hardly possible to doubt that the Bailiffs for 1616-1617
handed over to Jones and Harris out of the school-chest the
total amount of their costs in the Chancery suit, as well as
the 80 which the Lord Chancellor had directed should be
paid them towards those costs. 2

In the year 1618-1619, when Mr. Arthur Kinaston and
Mr. John Garbet were Bailiffs, another very suspicious
payment was made, of which they make no mention
themselves, but which is recorded by their successors 3
with evident disapprobation. They state that more money
was taken out of the school-chest and "paid to Mr. Hughe
Harris to defend a suit against him and others commenced
by Mr. Ralph Gittins, late schoolmaster of the second
school, in the Chancery concerning the displacement, which
was taken out and paid by Mr. Bailiffs only last year." The
money in question amounted to 24 iSs. iod*

It must be borne in mind also that payments of two
separate sums of 10 are recorded to have been made in
1613-14 and 1614-15 to Mr. T. Moston for fees, charges, and
expenses in connection with the suit about the second school-
master's room. 5

1 The payment is entered as follows : "Solut : insuper Th: Jones et Hugoni
Harries gen : extra arcam Sch : prsedict : virtute ordinis Dom : Cane :
Angl : " etc.

2 The amount originally entered was ^126 3-r. qd., but these figures were sub-
sequently scratched out and ^127 161. 7</. was substituted.

3 Mr. George Wright and Mr. Richard Gibbons.

4 It is possible that Ralph Gittins may have commenced a new suit in Chancery
against Jones and Harris after his displacement in 1613. But if he took proceed-
ings against them at all it would probably have been for perjury, and such
proceedings would hardly have been taken in Chancery, and it seems far more
likely that the entry in question refers to the old Chancery suit of 1613.

5 It would appear that from first to last .252 14^. \id. was taken out of the
school-chest and paid to Jones and Harris, instead of the 80 allowed by the Lord


Mr. John Meighen must have been sorely frightened by
the unexpected results of his Chancery suit to submit tamely
to what seems to have been a disgraceful fraud upon the
school. Except on the occasion of the audit of November
1 6th, 1624, to which reference has already been made, when
business proceedings had to be postponed on account of the
" scruples " of the newly-appointed Bailiffs about " taking the
oath," no further differences between Meighen and the Corpo-
ration of Shrewsbury are recorded, though the absence of his
signature to various memoranda and items of expenditure to
be found in the school accounts indicates occasional dis-
approval on his part of the action of the Bailiffs. As a rule
his relations with the Bailiffs of the year seem to have been
amicable enough. He frequently acted as their " messenger "
to Cambridge on school business, and generally supported
the Bailiffs' view of matters in their somewhat frequent
differences with St. John's College. We find, indeed, the
college authorities complaining rather bitterly on August 3rd,
I623, 1 that Meighen "favours the town rather than the college."

Probably the appointment by the Chancery decree of 1631
of a fixed Court of Reference 2 for the interpretation of the
school ordinances did something to promote a better under-
standing between the Head Master and the Corporation of
Shrewsbury. The gradual diminution of bitterness of feeling
on religious matters, and the weakening of puritan influence
in the town, may also have had some effect in the same
direction. A striking proof of this amelioration, as well
as of the malicious untruthfulness of the charges formerly
made against Gittins, may be found in the fact that in 1631
he was restored to his old room as second master by the
Governing Body of St. John's College, on the strong re-
commendation of the Bailiffs, supported by the express
commendation of " the doctors and clergymen " of Shrews-
bury, and with the full approbation of the Bishop of Lichfield
and Coventry, 3 who testified to Gittins's " conformity in

Hist, of St. John's College, vol. i. p. 489.
* The Judges of Assize and the Recorder of Shrewsbury.
3 Dr. Morton was now the Bishop of the Diocese. He had succeeded Overall
in 1618.


religion and ability in teaching a school." 1 Various changes
had taken place in the magisterial staff since the deprivation
of Gittins in 1613. Andrew Studley and Ralph Jones do
not seem to have been efficient masters.

On October Qth, 1626, Bishop Morton, writing to the
Bailiffs, speaks of Shrewsbury School as having been " some-
time famous and of great request," but "now obscure and
unworthie in the reputation of all men," and ascribes its
decay "to the defalt and negligence of the inferior school-
masters." He directs the Bailiffs to send him five "of the
choicest of these scholars who are to be removed unto the
highest schoolmaster," that he may be able to judge as to the
" sufficiencie and insufficiencie of the undermasters." 2 Prob-
ably the Bishop's judgment was unfavourable, as Studley 3
and Jones both resigned in the following year.

On May 3ist, 1627, we find the Bailiffs writing to St.
John's College to ask that " special care " may be taken in
choosing new masters, as the school was now " to the general
grief of the town in very great decay." In a later letter from
the Bailiffs, written on October 2/th, 1627, the actual avoid-
ance is notified, and they add that " many boys are now sent
to distant schools," and that Meighen was alone left^ in the
highest school. The letter written in reply by the master and
seniors is interesting. They express their grief "at the

1 Reference is made to the Bishop's testimony in the college letter of April
2 1st, 1631. (Hist, of St. John's College, vol. i. p. 500.) The date of the Bailiffs'
letter of recommendation is March 24th, 163^.

2 See Hotchkis MSS. Studley and Jones were both admonished by the Bailiffs
in 1626 to use more diligence in teaching the scholars than heretofore.

3 Andrew Studley seems to have been in failing health. He died July 1 7th,
1628, and is buried in St. Alkmond's Church, where there is, or was, a monument
to his memory. (OwEN and BLAKEWAY'S Shrewsbury.']

4 Allusion is made in the Bailiffs' letter to Meighen's age, and by the expres-
sion "alone left in the highest school' 1 they may have meant that Meighen
wanted help in his school, and had none. But it is possible that their words
imply that boys did not now remain long enough at Shrewsbury to be promoted to
the highest school, and that consequently Meighen had no boys to teach. So far
as the register of admissions may be taken as a test of success the school would
appear to have been in a prosperous condition between 1613 and 1619. But the
numbers diminished after the latter year, and in 1626 fewer boys were admitted
than in any years since Meighen had become Head Master, except 1585, 1603,
and 1604.


present weakness and decaye of the school," but disclaim
with justice any responsibility for it, their former elections
having been " made of such only as were recommended by "
the Bailiffs. But now, they add, as "the remedy for the
disease" was left to them to find, they were determined
to show no favour to their own men, and had, after diligent
inquiry through the university, "made choice of the most
eminent and best deserving that could be persuaded to
accept of such preferment" James Brooke, M.A., 1 fellow
of Gonville and Caius College, and David Evans, B.A., of
Jesus College, were the gentlemen whom they had selected.
Of the former they say that his abilities were well known
unto them " by divers public exercises performed by him " in
the university " with credit," and that " his carriage had been
commended " to them by those who had " daily experience
thereof." David Evans they describe as " well commended "
to them, and " approved " by them " both for ability of learn-
ing and conversacon of life." 2 Bishop Morton subsequently
"examined and approved" the two new masters in "poynt
of literature," and expressed his hopes in a letter to the
Bailiffs that by their means the former beauty of the school
might be revived." 3 The infusion of new blood had its
effect ; and the number of admissions during the next year
rose to 137, a higher level than had been attained since 1593.
But Meighen was now far too old for his work ; 4 and Brooke's
resignation in March, 163^, was probably due to a feeling
that his labours were in great measure wasted. 5 He had

1 James Brooke was appointed second master on November I9th, 1627. He
was a son of Mr. William Brooke, of Norwich, merchant, and had been
educated in the Grammar School of that city for about four years under Mr.
Stonham. He was admitted Scholar of Gonville and Caius College on April
28th, 1617, aged seventeen. (College register.)

2 See Hist, of St. John's College, vol. i. pp. 493,494.

3 See Hotchkis MSS. and Blakeway MSS.

4 On March 24th, 163?, he had already "sequestered himself from teaching in
his place" (Hist, of St. Johris College^ vol. i. p. 500), though he seems
subsequently to have resumed work for a time.

5 The Bailiffs had known for some months that Brooke was dissatisfied and
thinking of leaving the school. On January 24th, 163^, they wrote to the college
that he was "absent and not likely to return," and asked permission to appoint


been disappointed too in not obtaining the office of catechist
when the Rev. John Foorde died in 1628. The Bishop
recommended him, and the Corporation approved ; but
Meighen seems to have objected to his appointment. 1
Ralph Gittins returned to his old post under somewhat
unfavourable circumstances. Hardly had he resumed work
when an outbreak of sickness in the town compelled the
migration of the school to the new country school-house
at Grinshill. This happened apparently soon after the
summer holidays, and the masters and boys were not able
to return to Shrewsbury for many months. 2 Of the school
doings during the stay at Grinshill we know nothing, except
that Meighen was prevented by sickness from attending the
November audit in the Exchequer, and that he was re-
presented there by Thomas Hayward, his son-in-law. 3

It is probable that when the Bailiffs pressed the college
so strongly to appoint Ralph Gittins once more to be second
master they had in view his future promotion to the higher
room. Early in 1632 Meighen permanently ceased to do
any teaching in school. 4 His work was taken at first by
temporary substitutes, and afterwards by Gittins. 5 But
Meighen retained in his own hands the general management
and supervision of the school. But two years' experience
convinced the leading members of the Corporation that this
system of divided responsibility did not work well. They

his successor. There is no doubt that they had Gittins in their minds at the time.
They had already written to the Lord Keeper in his behalf. (Hist, of St.
John's College, vol. i. p. 500.)

1 See Hotchkis MSS.

2 The plague was still raging in Shrewsbury in 1632. (OWEN and BLAKEWAY.)
8 See school register. It is noted in the school account-book that Meighen

borrowed a bell from St. Chad's to take to Grinshill.

4 In the case submitted by the Bailiffs in July, 1635, to the Judges of Assize
and the Recorder of Shrewsbury, it is stated that Meighen had then " ceased to
exercise the functions of his office for more than three years by reason of his great
age" (Add. MSS. Brit. Mus., 21,024), so he must probably have resumed work
again after he "sequestered himself from teaching" in 163?.

5 A student named Robert Benney, who was admitted at Gonville and Caius
College in 1634, is described in the college register as educated at Shrewsbury
School under Mr. Simmons, and there are three or four students entered at St.
John's College, Cambridge, in 1635, whose education is attributed to Mr. Gittins.


saw the inconvenience of giving " the charge of teaching " in
the highest room to the second master without also giving
him " the superintendence of the whole school," and also
felt that " the whole profits of the place " were not too much
for one who had to "govern, not only children, but men." 1
So, early in 163-!, negotiations were commenced with Meighen
for the resignation of his office, although it was not till
September, 1635, that an arrangement was effected, and that
he actually resigned. The Bailiffs of the year 1634-1635
had also come to the conclusion that it would not be ex-
pedient to promote Gittins to the head-mastership. Though
acknowledging that for aught they knew he might be " suffi-
cient for learning," they doubted his " discretion, judgment,
and other things necessary in a governor." 2 Some echoes
of the old " malicious aspersions " may still have been
audible in the town ; but it must be confessed that Gittins
had shown himself wanting in discretion in former years,
though under circumstances of great provocation ; and the
Bailiffs' letter to the college, in which they discuss the sub-
ject, is ably expressed and moderate in tone. It is not to
be wondered at, however, that, when he found he was not to
be Head Master, Gittins should have felt unwilling to remain
at the school in any lower position, and negotiations for his
immediate resignation were at once commenced between
him and the Bailiffs, 3 though no agreement was come to as
to the terms of resignation before July, 1638. One cause of
the delay no doubt was the claim made by the Corporation
after Meighen's resignation in September, 1635, to appoint
his successor, which led to somewhat prolonged legal pro-

1 See the Bailiffs' letter to the college, dated April 2ist, 1635, in the Hist,
of St. Johris College. The master and seniors had, on March Qth, suggested that
the second master might be promoted to chief place ; but they expressed their
willingness, if this could not be done, to try to find some able man to do the
work who would be content with ^"20 a year during Meighen's life. This letter
is among the town records .

2 See the Bailiffs' letter quoted above.

8 A later letter from the Bailiffs, of the date March i6th, 163?, speaks of
negotiations having taken place between Gittins and their predecessors. These
negotiations must have begun therefore some time between April 2ist, 1635, and
October ist of the same year.


Online LibraryGeorge William FisherAnnals of Shrewsbury School → online text (page 13 of 56)