George William Fisher.

Annals of Shrewsbury School online

. (page 14 of 56)
Online LibraryGeorge William FisherAnnals of Shrewsbury School → online text (page 14 of 56)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


ceedings. But there seems to have been an unwillingness
on the part of the Bailiffs to offer Gittins fair terms. The
Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, in an urgent letter which
he wrote to the Bailiffs on the subject, some time subsequent
to November i6th, 1637, speaks of their having "long de-
murred upon the business." He reminds the Bailiffs that
the "worthye gentleman" had been "long deprived of his
place, whereby hee loste much," and proposes that, in
addition to the pension of .15 a year allowed by the
ordinances, Gittins should receive a donation of 60, ex-
pressing his belief that the offer would be " thanckefullye "
accepted. 1

It is not always possible to ascertain when the unreason-
ableness which was so frequently displayed by the Bailiffs in
school matters was due to their own self-will, or to pressure
put upon them by the majority of the Corporation. 2 The
Bailiffs of 1637-1638, at any rate, Mr. Richard Llewellyn
and Mr. John Wightwick, do not seem to have lost much
time, after they received the Bishop's letter, in asking for the
college consent to the terms suggested by his lordship. 3 The
formal document, in which the master and seniors of St.
John's College give permission to the Bailiffs to take from
the stock remanent a sum of 60, to be given to "Ralph
Gittins, gentleman, as a reward and gratuitye for his former
paynes, care, and service" in the school, is dated March 22nd,
i63f, 8 and Gittins's actual resignation was made on July i6th,
1 638.* After he had once learned the objections entertained
by the Bailiffs in 1635 to his further promotion, Ralph
Gittins does not appear to have made any attempt to press
his claims, acknowledging that his imperfect sight and hearing

1 Dr. Robert Wright, who had succeeded Bishop Morton in 1632. His letter
will be found in the Appendix.

2 One of the Bailiffs of 1636-1637, Mr. Simon Weston, wrote privately during
his year of office to the master of St. John's College, saying that he had had
"no hand nor heart" in recent controversies, and that he was ready to join the
college in redressing anything that had been unjustly done. (Hist, of St. Johns
College, vol. i.)

3 The document is given in the school account-book.

4 See school account-book. The deed of resignation is duly witnessed by the
Bailiffs and others.



DIFFERENCES WITH BAILIFFS 131

were positive disqualifications. 1 There is a note too in the
register of benefactors to the school library, which seems
to indicate that his memory also was beginning to fail him
during the latter part of his stay at Shrewsbury. 2 Gittins
retired to Middle, a village in Shropshire, where his father
had settled some years before, having bought a lease of the
Eagle Tavern Farm from the Earl of Derby. But he did
not forget the school where he had laboured so long; and,
both in 1638 and in 1643, we find mention made of books
which he presented to the library. He seems to have been
a warm-hearted, able, but impulsive man, who, if he made
some enemies, certainly made many friends, and managed to
live down much of the animosity which prevailed for a time
against him among some of the inhabitants of Shrewsbury. 3
We may hope that in his retirement in the country he found
that peace and tranquillity which were denied him during so
many years of his Shrewsbury life.

Ralph Gittins died at Middle, and lies buried at the upper
end of the south aisle in the parish church. Gough, the
historian of Middle, has preserved a mocking epitaph, which
he made on Sir John Bridgman, Lord President of the
Marches, who is said to have been unduly severe in the
discharge of his duties, often imprisoning persons in the
Porter's Lodge of the Council House at Shrewsbury for
trifling faults.

" Jam jacet argilla pons Lunae conditus ilia :

' Sirrah Satan ' Dominus dixit ' hoc aufer onus ' ;
Here lies Sir John Bridgman, clad in this clay ;
God said to the devil : Sir, take him away."

1 See Hotchkis MSS.

2 During the interregnum between Meighen's resignation in September, 1635,
and the legal appointment of a successor, two persons had given sums of IDS.
each to Gittins for the library. But he had forgotten their names.

3 Some of this animosity still lingered in Shrewsbury, even in 1635. Hotchkis
has preserved the Corporation brief in the Chancery suit about the right of
appointing the Head Master, which commenced in that year, and in it we find
all the old stories against poor Gittins reproduced.



CHAPTER VI.

Thomas Chaloner, Head Master, 1636-1645.

DURING the closing years of Meighen's reign many
circumstances combined, as we have seen, to make
the state of affairs at Shrewsbury School very unsatisfactory.
Although in 1632, and even earlier, Meighen had ceased to
be able to discharge the ordinary duties of his office, no steps
appear to have been taken to induce him to resign before
1634; and his resignation was not completed till September,
1635. Some months previously the leading members of the
Corporation of Shrewsbury, who had originally entertained
the notion of promoting Mr. Gittins, the second master, to
the highest room, not only changed their intentions on this
point, but made up their minds to endeavour to wrest from
St. John's College the right of appointing Meighen's suc-
cessor. Forgetful of the widespread reputation which
Shrewsbury School had so long enjoyed, and which it
owed mainly to the excellent choice of Head Masters made
by the college, the Bailiffs of 1634-35, Messrs. Charles Benyon
and Thomas Hayes, distinctly announced to the master and
seniors of St. John's College that, when the time came for
the appointment of Meighen's successor, they intended to
have "the chiefest stroke therein," and expressed their hope
at the same time that the college would give their "direct
assent" to this method of proceeding. 1 The duties con-
nected with the Cambridge "commencement" and other
urgent business which occupied the full attention of the
master, who happened to be Vice-Chancellor that year,
caused considerable delay before any reply could be made

1 Hist, of St. John's College , vol. i. The date of the letter is April 2 1st, 1635.

132



THOMAS CHALONER 133

by the college authorities. But on June 3rd, 1635, Mr.
William Bodurda, one of the fellows, wrote a letter to Mr.
Richard Meighen, the London publisher, evidently with the
view of its contents being communicated to Mr. Charles
Benyon, one of the Bailiffs, who was then in London. 1 Mr.
Bodurda, who wrote in behalf of the master of the college,
stated that he was at the time very busy, but had not for-
gotten Shrewsbury, and that he hoped shortly to select as
Head Master "a man of extraordinary worth and parts."
But he was anxious to know whether the Bailiffs proposed
that the new Head Master should have the same income as
his predecessor. If otherwise, Mr. Bodurda added, the sort
of man they wished to appoint would not be able to accept
the post. The school finances were in a flourishing condition
at the time, and probably Mr. Richard Meighen was able to
give satisfactory assurances as to the Bailiffs' intentions in
the matter. For, on August 3rd, 1635, an official letter was
sent by the master and seniors to Shrewsbury to say that
they would choose " some able and experienced man " as
soon as the place was actually void. On September 2nd
the Bailiffs sent formal notice of Meighen's resignation,
Messrs. Mackworth and Mytton, who were the bearers of
their letter, being empowered by the Corporation of Shrews-
bury to enter into negotiations with the college on the subject
of a new Head Master. 2 In this first letter the Bailiffs
merely expressed their hope that the master and seniors of
St. John's would elect a good man. But on the following
day a second letter was despatched, urgently recommending
for the post a gentleman named Poole, 3 a native of Shrews-

1 There is no doubt that the letter found its way into Mr. Benyon 's hands and
ultimately to Shrewsbury, where it is preserved among the town records. It is
mentioned in the letter that Mr. Benyon was in London, and that Mr. Richard
Meighen could ascertain from him, if necessary, what the master wished to know.

2 Hist, of St. John's College, vol. i.

3 Richard Poole was admitted at Shrewsbury School July 26th, 1602, paying the
burgess entrance fee. He matriculated at Gloucester Hall, Oxford, January 4th>
161^, as "paup. schol." of Shrewsbury, aged 16; B.A., January, i6i|; M.A.,
1618; Vicar of St. Chad's, Shrewsbury, March 29th, 1637, apparently resigning
the Rectory of Hanwood on his appointment. Subsequently he obtained the
Vicarage of Meole Brace, which he seems to have held with St. Chad's. Some-



134 SHREWSBURY SCHOOL

bury and the son of a burgess, who had been, " ever since the
time he could read English, brought up " in the school, until
he went to Oxford, and who was " very well approved ... for
his life, conversation, religion, and instruction of youth/' and
had "given abundant testimony of his industry, sufficiency,
and abilities of teaching scholars." The Bailiffs added that
they had been pressed to urge Mr. Poole's claims by " some
especial persons of ardent affection and zeal for the good
of the school," and that, in order to enable him to make
acquaintance with the college authorities, they had com-
missioned him to convey their letter to Cambridge. 1 But
the master and seniors had made up their minds that they
would not submit to the dictation of the Bailiffs, and on
September loth they proceeded to elect Mr. William
Evans, M.A. 2

With this appointment the Bailiffs refused to agree,
alleging that Mr. Evans was a Master of Arts of but one
year's standing, and only about twenty-three years of age,
and therefore unfit " to govern scholars or ancient masters."
The college thereupon nominated Mr. John More, who was
a Master of Arts of fifteen years' standing, 3 but does not
appear to have been educated at Shrewsbury School. In
the meantime Mr. John Jones and Mr. John Proude, the
newly-elected Bailiffs, took a bold course and called a public
meeting, at which Mr. John Harding, 4 a Cambridge Master
of Arts of twelve years' standing, was selected as a suitable
candidate for the post. According to the Bailiffs' account of

time during the year 1616-17 he took Meighen's work temporarily, for which he
was paid 5 i$s. 4^. (School account-book.) In 1641 Mr. Poole was a benefactor
to the school library, and two years later he died. He was buried at St. Chad's,
March 7th, 164^.

1 Hist, of St. John's College, vol. i.

2 Hotchkis gives Mr. Evans's Christian name as William. Boys of this name
were entered at Shrewsbury School in 1618 and 1622, and both were sons of
burgesses.

3 See Hotchkis MSS.

4 A boy named John Harding was promoted from the Accidence School on
December I4th, 1618, paying the burgess entrance fee. But it is manifestly
impossible that he can have been a Master of Arts of twelve years' standing
in 1635. It is plain, therefore, that the Bailiffs' second candidate was not
statutably qualified for the post.



THOMAS CHALONER 135

the matter the choice made at the public meeting was
" approved by all the justices of the county." They further
describe him as one who had been extolled by the Bishop as
an able man, and who was not only " free from any faction,"
but also " conformable to the Church government." On
November 24th the Bishop wrote to the masters and seniors
of St. John's, advising them to agree to Mr. Harding's
appointment, in order "to avoid contention," and assuring
them that many persons "of sound judgment" had testified
to his "learning, judgment, method, government, and
honesty." 1 But the Bailiffs were determined to have their
own way, and did not even wait to see the effect of the
Bishop's letter to St. John's College. Before it was written,
in fact as early as November 2Oth, 2 they had installed John
Harding in the Head Master's room. Legal proceedings
were at once taken by the college to establish its right to
"elect and send" masters to Shrewsbury School, and their
claim was ultimately upheld by the Courts of Law. The
litigation proved somewhat expensive to the Corporation,
their bill of costs amounting to no less than ^3OO. 3 John
Harding seems to have remained, de facto, for six months
Head Master, for we find in the school account-book, under
the year 1635-36, entries of the stipends of Head Master and
catechist for that period as paid to him. 4 It is probable that
the case was decided against the Corporation early in May,
and that Harding left Shrewsbury almost immediately after-
wards, for the " gentleman whom the town placed in charge
of the school " had been " long absent " when the Bailiffs
of 1636-37 wrote to St. John's College in the early part of

1 Hotchkis is the chief authority for the statements in the text.

* John Harding's signature is found in the school account-book as early as
November 24th. By May I4th, 1636, he had ceased to sign the accounts, and
had evidently taken his departure. Hotchkis says that the town put Harding
into the Head Master's place on November 2oth. He describes him as John
Harding of Ribley, M.A.

3 See Blakeway MSS.

4 A student from Shrewsbury, admitted at St. John's College, Cambridge, on
March 1st, 163!, is described in the college register as having been educated
for three months under Mr. Harding.



136 SHREWSBURY SCHOOL

February, 163^. l But the Shrewsbury Corporation seems to
have been always very hard to persuade that it was in the
wrong, and at least six months elapsed after Mr. Harding
left Shrewsbury before the Bailiffs for the year were allowed
to write a conciliatory letter to the college, lamenting the
former differences, and suggesting that, if both authorities
had the credit of the school in view, it would not matter
which of them were " thought the principal actor," and asking
the master and seniors to " finde out and commend a man
in all respects fitte for the Head Place." Yet even in this
letter the Bailiffs did not hesitate to reassert the right of
the town under the terms of the foundation to appoint the
schoolmasters. Perhaps this was insisted on by some of the
more self-willed members of the Corporation. Mr. Weston's
private letter shows that, at any rate, there were members
of that body who had no sympathy with the baseless and
extravagant claims put forward by the late Bailiffs and
many of their predecessors. Mr. Weston declares distinctly
that he had " neither hand nor heart in the former
controversies " between the college and his predecessors, and
expresses a hope that they may be forgotten. He adds that
the long interregnum had been " to the great prejudice both
of the town and country," and implores the college, "for
God's sake, for its own credit, and for the prosperity of the
ancient school entrusted" to its charge, to use expedition
in sending to Shrewsbury "an able, honest, and discreet man "
to fill the vacant head-mastership. In the meantime David
Evans, the third master, seems to have been carrying on the
school in the best way he could.

St. John's College admission-book shows us that at some
time previous to the appointment of Meighen's successor he
was acting as Head Master, 2 and this can only have been

1 The Bailiffs were Thomas Nicholls and Simon Weston. Their letter is
undated, as is also a private letter of Mr. Weston's sent to the college by
the same bearer ; but, as the writer of this second letter mentions that "a third
part of his glass" was "already run," we can approximate very closely to the
date of the letters. (See Hist, of St. Johns College, vol. i.)

2 Ezra Price, admitted at St. John's College, September i8th, 1646, is
described as educated under Evans and Chaloner.



THOMAS CHALONER 137

after Harding took his departure from Shrewsbury in 1636.
The Corporation accounts for this year, 1636-37, mention the
payment of 170 us. lod. to St. John's College for "their
charge expended in questioning of y e town for placing Mr.
Harding cheife Scholemaister, according to y e Lord Referees
Order." But a letter from the Bailiffs, dated March i6th,
1 63^, thanking the college authorities for making "an allow-
ance of their charges in the late suits," shows that they dealt
liberally with the Corporation in only requiring the payment
of a portion of their costs. 1

Now that the dispute was at last happily settled the
college lost no time in making choice of a new Head
Master. 2 The gentleman selected for the post was Thomas
Chaloner, M.A., of Jesus College, Cambridge. Blakeway says
that he was born at Llansilin, a Denbighshire village on the
borders of Shropshire, and this may very likely have been
the case. But it is certain that his father was residing in
Shropshire when Thomas Chaloner was entered at Shrewsbury
School on November I7th, i6i4; 3 and, when admitted a
scholar of Jesus College on October 2Oth, 1620, he was
described in the college register as of Shropshire.

George Chaloner, who was placed in the second school at
Shrewsbury on July I4th, 1617, also paid a Shropshire
admission fee, and was probably a brother of the future
Head Master. It is possible that the Rev. Jonas Chaloner, 4
who was appointed Rector of Much Wenlock in 1613 and
Vicar of Condover some time in 1615, was the father of
these boys.

1 Hotchkis mentions a decree of the Star Chamber, issued on November I5th,
^37, which appears to imply that the Corporation had withdrawn its claim to
appoint Meighen's successor without any absolute decision in the Courts of Law,
and had agreed to pay the college costs.

3 The letter of Dr. William Beale, Master of St. John's College, to the Bailiffs,
announcing that the college had selected Mr. Chaloner, is given in full in the
school account-book. It is dated February i;th, 163!-. (See Appendix.)

3 This is shown by his entrance fee.

4 Jonas Chaloner matriculated at St. Mary Hall, Oxford, in 1538, as pleb. fil.
of Staffordshire, aged seventeen. He graduated B.A. (Christ Church) in 1588,
and M.A. in 1591 ; Rector of Byfield, Northamptonshire, 1597 ; Rector of Much
Wenlock, 1613; Vicar of Condover, 1615. (FOSTER.)



138 SHREWSBURY SCHOOL

As Thomas Chaloner was at once placed in the highest
school when entered at Shrewsbury, we may assume him to
have been at the time at least fourteen years old. On July
5th, 1617, he entered at Jesus College, Cambridge, as a
quadrantarius or pensioner, graduating as B.A, in 1620 and
as M.A. in 1624. He seems to have engaged at once after
taking his degree in educational work, 1 so that his scholastic
experience had already been considerable when he became
Head Master of Shrewsbury.

Chaloner's first entry in the school register is dated March
5th, 163^. He seems to have made at once a favourable
impression on the townspeople. The Bailiffs, on March i6th,
thank the college warmly for sending " so able and every
way qualified a schoolmaster," and express their readiness
to arrange with the college for the increase of his stipend. 2

Chaloner's success as Head Master amply justified the
encomiums of the Bailiffs. Before nine months had elapsed
he had already entered 128 new boys, and in each of the
three following years more than 100 names were placed on
the school register. But the prosperity of Shrewsbury
School could not remain for long unaffected by the troubles
which were now coming slowly but steadily over the land,
and the register soon begins to show a serious diminution
in the number of entries. 3 Writing in November, 1642,
Chaloner says, with some pathos, " Let my successor blame
civill war . . . that academies mourn and are desolate, that
colonyes of the muses are desolate, and the number of Shrews-
bury Schoole for this two yeares is so small." Two months
before these words were written King Charles had arrived in
Shrewsbury on the invitation of the Corporation. 4 Civil war

1 Writing towards the close of 1658, Chaloner states that he had then been
engaged in teaching boys for seven histra^ or thirty-five years. This would make
his school work to have begun in 1623, or thirteen years before he was appointed
to Shrewsbury. The Head Master of Geddington School shortly before 1634 was
named Chaloner, and may have been the Salopian.

2 See Hist, of St. Johns College, vol. i.

3 Seventy-eight boys were admitted between November I7th, 1640, and
November I7th, 1641, and seventy-nine in the following year.

4 Charles I. reached Shrewsbury on September 2oth, 1642. Hyde had kept up
a correspondence with a "Canon of a Collegiate Church in Shrewsbury," "a



THOMAS CHALONER 139

was then inevitable. The King's standard had been set up
at Nottingham on August 25th, 1 and small detachments of
the rival forces had already met in trifling skirmishes. The
inhabitants of Shrewsbury received the King with enthusi-
astic loyalty, and the schoolmasters seem to have undertaken
their fair share of the hospitality which the King's visit
demanded from all loyal Salopians. Charles I. himself took
up his abode at the Council House, in the immediate
neighbourhood of the school ; but Lord Keeper Littleton, 2
Viscount Grandison, Archbishop Williams, Lord Cholmeley,
and Sir Richard Dyot were all entertained by Chaloner, while
Lord Grey of Ruthin, and a brother of Lord North, were the
guests of David Evans, the second master, who had been
promoted to that office on July i6th, 1638.

The sojourn of the royal party at Shrewsbury was not
prolonged beyond October I2th, and from September 23rd
to September 2/th it was interrupted by a visit to Chester.
While the King was at Shrewsbury the gentlemen and free-
holders of the county were summoned to meet him, and he
made an appeal to them for assistance in men and money.
Sir Richard Newport, who was created Baron Newport of
High Ercall during the King's visit, gave ^6000 towards the
support of the royal cause, 3 and Sir Thomas Lyster, of Row-
ton, also contributed a purse of gold. 4 The school-chest

dexterous and discreet person," who had been at Nottingham, and an
experimental visit of his own had convinced him that the town was "well
resolved." The Mayor, Mr. Richard Gibbons, Hyde describes as "an old
humorous fellow." (CLARENDON'S History of the Rebellion.} A draft of a
speech prepared for the Mayor to deliver on the King's arrival has been printed
in the Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society.

1 See CLARENDON'S History of the Rebellion. The King sent a commission
from Nottingham to Mr. Francis Ottley, dated September 4th, to raise 200 men
and take them into Shrewsbury. (OwEN and BLAKEWAY. )

2 See school register.

3 Sir Richard Newport is described by Clarendon as " a gentleman of very good
extraction." He also says that the suggestion to make him a peer came first
from his son, Francis Newport, M.P., who stated that his father would, under
such circumstances, be inclined to present a good sum of money to the King.
The King, Clarendon adds, disliked the proposal, but after his return from
Chester, being satisfied of the merit and ability of Sir Richard and the promise
shown by his two sons, consented. (Rebellion, vol. iii. p. 257.)

4 See OWEN and BLAKEWAY.



SHREWSBURY SCHOOL

happened to be well filled at this time. The annual audit
of 1640 had shown a balance of nearly 800, and there is no
note of any considerable expenditure during the next year. 1
Dr. Matthew Babbington appears to have made known to
Lord Falkland the flourishing condition of the school
finances, and the result was that 600 was advanced as
a loan to the King, who formally promised, under his sign
and seal, to repay the same on demand. A sum of 47 IDS.
was at the same time lent to the town. 2 The King's
acknowledgment of the loan made to him is dated October
nth, i642, 3 the day before he left Shrewsbury, and it is
probable that he knew nothing about it till then. As the
name of Mr. John Studley, who was the Mayor of Shrewsbury
in the year 1642-43, is not mentioned in connection with the
loan, it is evident that it must have been made in September,
soon after the King's arrival, and before the municipal
elections for the year (which took place annually on the
Friday after St. Michael's Day) had been held. Four years
later, towards the close of the year 1646, when the town was
completely under puritan domination, a bill was filed in
Chancery by the Corporation against Richard Gibbons, the
Mayor of 1641-42 ; Thomas Chaloner, the late Head Master;
and Thomas Betton and Robert Betton, 4 the sons and

1 In his account of this audit Chaloner mentions that a brick wall, which had
been built at the back of his house, fell down after two days, and had to be



Online LibraryGeorge William FisherAnnals of Shrewsbury School → online text (page 14 of 56)