George William Fisher.

Annals of Shrewsbury School online

. (page 6 of 56)
Online LibraryGeorge William FisherAnnals of Shrewsbury School → online text (page 6 of 56)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

appropriate it, not for their own private advantage, but in
order to redeem tolls, to pension " poor artificers," to build
almshouses, or to promote some other objects, interesting to
the burgesses, but of no advantage to the school. Some
such ideas, indeed, were afloat at Shrewsbury even before
the ordinances were framed, as is sufficiently shown by
Ashton's correspondence with the Bailiffs. So the College
of St. John was made the supreme guardian of the school
chest. It is interesting to know that Ashton, before the
grant of Elizabeth, which secured for him the right to frame
ordinances, was made, had not only seen how important
it was for the future interests of the school that he should
have this power, but had written to the Bailiffs urging
them to give it him of their own accord. The letter in
question, which exists among the town records, but escaped
the notice of Hotchkis and Blakeway, will be found in the


Thomas Lawrence, M.A., Head Master, 1571-1583.

THE name of Thomas Lawrence stands fifth in the
school list of 1562, where he is described as an " alien."
Blakeway says he was a native of Wem. 1 From Shrewsbury
Lawrence proceeded to Cambridge, where he graduated B.A.
in January 1 566-7, as a member of Clare Hall. Subsequently,
on March 2ist in the same year, he was elected a fellow of
St. John's College. There is no doubt that Thomas Wylton,
who was the second master in 1562, left Shrewsbury on July
23rd, 1568, the date of his departure being recorded by Ashton
in the school register. Now it is distinctly stated in the
" Indenture Tripartite," that Lawrence had filled the office of
"under master" in Ashton's time. He must, therefore,
have succeeded Wylton immediately ; for, in writing to the
Bailiffs on July Qth, 1583, he mentions that he had occupied
his " publicke charge " at Shrewsbury " almoste for the space
of full xv. years." 2 The time, in fact, that had elapsed
between the date of Wylton's departure and that of
Lawrence's letter was fifteen years all but fourteen days.
There is no evidence as to the exact time when Ashton re-
signed his head-mastership and was succeeded by Lawrence.
Blakeway, indeed, tells us that Ashton resigned in 1568,
having been requested by Walter, Earl of Essex, to superin-
tend his household at Chartley, in Staffordshire, during his
own absence in Ireland. 3 But it is certain that Walter, Lord
Devereux, was not Earl of Essex in 1568, and was not
absent, nor intending to be absent, in Ireland in that year.
He was not created Earl of Essex till 1572, and did not set

1 Blakeway MSS. * See Appendix. 3 Blakeway MSS.



sail for Ireland till 1573. And there is strong reason for
believing that Blakeway is equally incorrect in giving 1568
as the year of Ashton's resignation. Ashton was certainly
still at Shrewsbury on October 8th, 1568, when the Bailiffs
and burgesses agreed that all the tithes granted to them in
the Charter of Edward VI. should be made over to him and
his heirs in fee farm, "so well were they satisfied with him." 1
We hear of him again in April, 1569, when the bailiffs
voted 10 towards the maintenance of the Play at Whitsun-
tide, speaking of Ashton in such a way as to make it certain
that he had not yet left the place, and that he was intending
as usual to superintend the performance of the Play. 2 We
must bear in mind, too, that no mention of Lawrence as Head
Master occurs in the school register before 1571, and that in
the indenture of Elizabeth, which bears date May 23rd, 1571,
Ashton is spoken of as " now schoolmaster of the said
Grammar School." In the farewell letter which Lawrence
wrote to the bailiffs on July 9th, 1583, he speaks with natural
pride of having sent more than one hundred scholars to
Oxford and Cambridge in the past twelve years. Why should
he have limited himself to twelve years if he had been, as
Blakeway asserts, Head Master for fifteen years? We may
assume then as certain that Lawrence became Head Master
of Shrewsbury some time during the year I57I. 3 Whatever

1 The extract from the Corporation Orders is given in the Blakeway MSS.

2 1569, April. "Agreed y l there shall be given oute of the treasure of the
towne ye some of ,10 towards the mayntenance of the playe at Whitsontide over
and above such money as shall be levied by all the occupacons of the Towne or
any other that will give any money towards the same : and farther y f that Mr.
Ashton shall declare by his honestie that ther shall be wantinge of any money
rather than yt Mr. A. should therbye be a loser that then yt money wanting
shall likewis be discharged by ye towne." Blakeway MSS.

3 It is evident that Blakeway took the "publicke charge," of which Lawrence
speaks as having continued for nearly fifteen years, to refer to his head-mastership
only, and not to the whole time of his magisterial work at Shrewsbury. Counting
back fifteen years from 1583 he got 1568 as the year of Ashton's resignation.
Blakeway's mistake has unfortunately misled all writers who have dealt with the
history of Shrewsbury School since his time, though he was not the first person
to misunderstand Lawrence's expression, as is shown by the list of masters in
PHILLIPS'S History of Shrewsbury. It would even appear from their letter to St.
John's College that the Bailiffs to whom Lawrence wrote his farewell letter were
under the same misapprehension. (See Letters in Appendix.)


may have been the cause, there had been for the three or
four previous years a lamentable falling off in the number of
boys entering the school. In the years 1568, 1569, and 1570,
respectively, only 37, 22, and 33 names were placed on the
register. But things began to improve in the following year.
In the course of the eight months following May I5th, 1571,
there were 61 new entries ; and a school list of January i ith,
I57J, shows a total of 201 boys.

From that time until Lawrence's resignation in 1583
Shrewsbury School seems to have flourished greatly, and to
have enjoyed a widespread reputation, although its work was
seriously hindered for a long time by an outbreak of the
sweating sickness which visited the town in 1576, or perhaps
earlier. 1

Lawrence did not keep the registers, at any rate in the
early part of his time, with sufficient method and precision
to enable us to ascertain the annual number of entries
between 1571 and 1577. All that we can tell for certain is
that there were in all 169 boys entered between January,
I57i> an d the time when the school broke up on account of
"the plague." But after 1577, the year in which were pro-
mulgated the new ordinances which provided among other
things for an annual audit of accounts by the Bailiffs and
Head Master on November i6th, we are able to obtain from
the register the exact number of entries in each year; 152,
132, and 114 are the respective totals in three consecutive
years, beginning from November i6th, 1580. No complete

1 We find in the Taylor MS. a statement that in 1575 "the queene's m tic went
a pgresse towards Shrewsbery, but because of deathe within a IIII miles of the
same she cam no further tha Lychefilld and from thence went to Worcester." On
October 6th, 1575, before going to the election of new Bailiffs, an order was
issued by the Corporation that no infected person should resort to the Guildhall
during the making of officers, a plain proof that the disease was then in the town
or immediate neighbourhood. The plague was still raging in September, 1576.
Early in the month five persons of the name of Revell are recorded to have died
of it in the parish of St. Julian. The Fair on St. Matthew's day (September
22nd) was held at Kingsland, on account of the plague, and the sitting of the
County Court was transferred to Meole Brace for the same reason. (OWEN and
BLAKEWAY.) It is also mentioned in the Taylor MS. that Mr. Hawckswoorthe,
Curate of St. Chadde, and Mr. Roger Barnes, Curate of St. Alkemoonde, both
died of the plague some time in 1576.


school list of Lawrence's time, except that of January nth,
I57J, is in existence. But it so happens that, on May 2nd,
1581, the boys made a military display in honour of Sir
Henry Sidney in a field in the Abbey Foregate, called " The
Geye," and the compiler of the chronicle known as the Taylor
MS., who gives an account of it, incidentally mentions that
the number of boys present on the occasion from the four
schools was 360.

We shall not be far wrong then in assuming that the
average number of boys at Shrewsbury during the best part
of Lawrence's time was not far short of 400. It was in 1586,
we must remember, only three years after Lawrence resigned,
that Camden wrote of Shrewsbury as " the best filled school
of all England." The school numbers are one evidence of
its prosperity at this time, and another is the petition sent
by the Dean and Chapter of Hereford to Lord Burghley in
1582 asking for the endowment of a Grammar School at
Hereford, which might "serve as commodiously for the
training up of the youth of South Wales as Shrewsbury
doth for the youth of North Wales." 1 In the chronicler's
account of the Pageant at "the Geye" in 1581 mention is
made of four masters. An Accidence School " for young
beginners " had now been opened, of which Mr. Roger Kent
was the master. Mr. John Baker, M.A., had succeeded
Lawrence as second master. He may be identified with
certainty as the John Baker whose name occurs in the 3rd
class in the Shrewsbury school list of 1562, and who is
described there as an oppidan. 2 Now, in the same class,
and only two places below John Baker, we find the name
of Robert Wright. We know that Robert Wright graduated
in January, 157^; and if, as is but reasonable, we put John
Baker's degree about the same time, it is evident that he
cannot well have become second master earlier than 1571,

1 STRYPE'S Life of Whitgift.

z In 1583 the Bailiffs wished Mr. John Baker to be promoted to the head-
mastership, and, in a letter to St. John's College, mentioned that he possessed
the necessary qualifications. He must therefore have been educated at the
school, and the son of a burgess. (See Letter in Appendix.)


an incidental proof, and a strong one, that Lawrence did not
succeed to the head-mastership before iS/i. 1

Richard Atkys still taught in the third school. The
staff of masters as thus described continued unchanged in
Lawrence's time. The Head Master seems, though not in
Holy Orders, 2 to have been a man of strong religious
feelings. His letters have a religious tone, and Hotchkis
quotes a petition which he and his colleague, John Baker,
presented in the year 1579-80 to the Bailiffs of Shrewsbury,
that they might be allowed the use of " the Stone House "
on Sundays and holy days, in order that the boys and
themselves might assemble there for religious purposes. The
two masters represented that, although they were laymen,
they could read prayers there, and all the masters could be
present, and that they were too many for one church. 3

Before Lawrence ceased to be Head Master a chapel in St.
Mary's Church was " repaired and beautified " at the school-
cost, in order that the masters and scholars might assemble
there on Sundays, holy-days, and half-holidays for divine
service and religious instruction. 4

A curious incident, in which Lawrence and Atkys were
concerned, is related in Strype's Life of Whitgift, and the
story is worth repeating. On January I5th, 1578, Thomas
Lawrence and Richard Atkys appeared before Mr. George
Bromley, Recorder of Shrewsbury, at Eyton, near Wroxeter,
and "uttered their knowledge" of certain disorders com-
mitted by Lady Throgmorton and others in the house of Mr.
John Edwards, of Thirsk, in Denbighshire. Mass had been
said there by a priest from " beyond the seas," who had also
given to those who were present " pardon beads " and images

1 There is no trace of John Baker's name in Cole's List of Cambridge Graduates
in the Harleian MSS. A student of Christ Church, Oxford, of his names,
graduated B.A. in 1571 and M.A. in 1575. But he undoubtedly went to Christ
Church from Westminster. It is possible, though not probable, that the Shrews-
bury boy may have gone to Westminster some time between 1562 and 1568.

2 Lawrence was churchwarden of St. Mary's, Shrewsbury, in 1579.

3 See Hotchkis MSS. Ashton had previously rented the Stone House for some
unknown use. A house bearing this name still exists near St. Mary's Church.

4 See Hotchkis MSS. The letter from St. John's College, authorizing the
necessary expenditure, bears date September 24th, 1582.


of the "Agnus Dei." The "Chief Sayer of Mass" was a
Mr. Hughes, who was acting at the time as tutor in the
family of Sir John Throgmorton, Chief Justice of Chester.
It was alleged that Mrs. Edwards had been by night to
Holywell 1 on St. Winifred's Eve to hear Mass, and that
Mr. Hughes and other Roman priests had rechristened
children, and had buried people by night in order to avoid
the use of the Church of England service. 2

Whatever may have been their motive in laying this
information, the conduct of the two masters speaks more
for their zeal than their charity. But, in fairness to them,
we must bear in mind the close connection which existed
at this time between religion and politics. In 1570 Pope
Pius IV. had published a Bull, absolving the Queen's
subjects from their allegiance. Seminary priests and Jesuits
had at once poured into the kingdom, and, as was generally
believed, were not content with ministering to the religious
needs of those who adhered to Rome, but stirred up their
disciples against the Queen. Rumours of plots against the
life of Elizabeth filled the air. Under such circumstances
some excuse perhaps should be made for those who regarded,
as many Englishmen did at this time, every Roman priest
as a traitor, and every Papist as his tool. 3

1 The Chapel of St. Winifred, built over the sacred well, was close to the town
of Holywell, in Denbighshire.

2 The Recorder laid the matter before Bishop Whitgift who, in the absence
of Sir Henry Sidney, presided over the Court of the Marches of Wales, and the
Bishop having communicated with her Majesty's Council, a Commission of Oyer
and Terminer was sent down, (STRYPE'S Life of Whitgift. ) Blakeway gives the
story from Strype, but with several inaccuracies. (Blakeway MSS.)

3 An interesting example of the prevalence of fears and prejudices on this score
may be seen in the letters which Thomas Browne, a draper, of Shrewsbury,
whose name has been erroneously connected by historians with the discovery
of the Duke of Norfolk's share in treasonable conspiracy in 1571, wrote to Queen
Elizabeth early in 1575. Mr. Gerard, a leading member of the Council of the
Marches, had not taken a sufficiently serious view of a plot which Browne fancied
he had discovered in Shrewsbury, and the chief object of Browne's letters was to
draw her Majesty's attention to Mr. Gerard's inefficient discharge of his magis-
terial duties, as well as to the unsoundness of his religious views. Mr. Gerard
was made Lord Chancellor of Ireland shortly after this time. The letters are
preserved in the Lansdowne MSS. t ex. 17, in the British Museum, and copious


The liking Lawrence had for pageants, which seem to
have occupied as prominent a position in his time as
dramatic performances in the days of his predecessor, tends
rather to make it probable that his objections to Papists
and outlandish priests were more political than puritanical.
The most elaborate of these displays took place in May,
1581. Sir Henry Sidney had arrived in Shrewsbury the
previous month in order to celebrate the Feast of St. George
with special solemnity and splendour. The festivities com-
menced on April 22nd, St. George's Eve, and lasted about
a fortnight, during the whole of which time Sir Henry kept
open house at the Council House.

On St. George's Day the Lord President attended divine
service at St. Chad's Church, proceeding thither in state,
arrayed in his robes as a Knight of the Garter, and followed
by the Bailiffs and Aldermen in their scarlet gowns, together
with the members of the various trade companies of the
town "in their best liveries." 1 On May 1st the school-
masters took their part in the entertainment of Sir Henry.
After supper on that day they seem to have gone in
procession to the Council House, each at the head of a
deputation of boys belonging to his school, who bare with
them " a brave and costly bancket " of forty dishes. As each
group of ten boys went forward and presented its ten dishes,
the boys were introduced by a Skewer* in the following
lines :

( These are all of Larance lore
ce> '* \Acompt hys hart above hys store.

f These x are all of backer's bande
:er, 2. | Goode wyll not welthe now to be scande.

( Thesse x are all in Atkys chardge
Atkys, 3. | Rys gifts are small hys good wyll lardge

( Thesse x coom last and are the least
kennt, 4. | Yett kennt > s good wyll ys with the beast .

extracts are given by Owen and Blakeway. The whole subject, including
Browne's supposed connection with the Duke of Norfolk's affair, is discussed
in a paper in the Shropshire Archaeological Society's Transactions for 1893.

1 See Taylor MS.

z The Skewer was in old days the title given to an officer who set and removed
the dishes at a feast, and brought water for the hands of the guests.




And someone, in all probability the Head Master himself,
explained and apologised for the gift in the following
epigram :

" En mittunt librum libram non mittere possunt
Virgam non vaccam mittere quisque potest." 1

Then, on the next day, May 2nd, came the military display
which the boys made in "the Geye." 2

On May 8th Sir Henry took his departure, leaving
Shrewsbury by water. He embarked in his barge at the
foot of Castle Hill, under a salute of cannon and musketry,
and proceeded towards Atcham. About a quarter of a mile
off certain chosen scholars had been placed to make " there
lamentable oracons to Sir Henry, sorrowinge his depart-
ure." The boys were "apparelyd all in greene," and had
" greene wyllows uppon their heades " ; and so pitiful were
their lamentations, and so effectively spoken, that they
"made many bothe in the bardge uppon the water, as also
people upon land, to weepe, and my lorde hymselffe to
chandge countenance." Certainly, the character of the
" lamentable oracons," made, in turn apparently, by the
nymphs of the Isle, the Woods and the Hills, would
account, in some measure, for the change of countenance
which the chronicler, with an irony which was perhaps not
altogether unconscious, attributes to Sir Henry. He admits
that the "oracons" of " the nymphs" were "somewhat tedious,"
and gives only the concluding lines of the last nymph's
song :

1 See Taylor MS.

2 1581. ' ' The seconde daye of maye all the scollars of the said free scoole . . .
beinge in number ccclx. wthe theire mast before euy of them marchinge
bravely from the free scoole in battel order w*he theire generalls, captens,
droomes, troompets and Ensigns before them through the towne towards a lardge
filld callyd the Geye, beinge in the Abbey suburbes of Salop and there devydinge
theire bandes in iiij. parts met the sayde lord p'sident, beinge upon a lusty courser,
invyroninge hym aboute, and cam to hym, the generall openinge to hys lordship
hys purposse and assembly of hym and the reast, the he w'he the other captens
mad their oracons howe valiantly they would feight and defend the coontrey. At
w c he the saide lorde had greate pleasure and mutche reioysed, gyvynge greate
prayse to the sayde master for the eloquence thereof." Taylor MS.


" And wyll yo r honor needs depart
And must it needs be soe
Wold god we could lycke fishes swyme
That we might w% the goe
Or els would god this lytill He
Were stretched out so lardge
That we one foote might follow y e
And wayte upon thy bardge.
But seinge we cannot swyme
And Ilelands at an ennde
SafTe passage w t he a shorte returne
The myghtie god thee sende." 1

It seems to have been customary whenever Sir Henry
Sidney, or any other man of distinction, visited Shrewsbury
for two or more scholars, selected for the purpose, to address
him in a set oration. Doubtless the orator did not forget
to ask of " the man of honour " to make his " earnest request
and great entreatie" that the boys might have an extra
holiday that week. We find accounts in the Taylor MS.
of such orations having been made in 1573, 1578, 158?,
1581, I58, 1584, and 1585.

In 1578 Sir Henry Sidney, who was on his way from
Ireland 2 to London, brought with him "an Irish Earl, a
Lord and the Earl's Son," and certain other Irishmen, being
"enemies to the Queen's Majesty," whom he had taken
prisoners in a skirmish. As usual an oration "by one of
the free scoole " formed part of the reception arrangements.
The Irish Earl was undoubtedly the Earl of Clanricarde,
and Lord Mountgarret was probably another of the prisoners.

1 Taylor MS. Other songs and lamentations, sung on this occasion, have been
handed down to posterity by some Salopian who, perhaps, found them less tedious
than the chronicler. They are to be found in PHILLIPS'S History of Shrewsbury.

2 Sir Henry wrote from Chester on September i8th to the Queen and Cecil to
say he was detained there by illness, and had Lord Clanricarde with him. He had
long been anxious that the Earl should be put upon his trial, and had frequently
applied for instructions as to the manner, order, and process to be observed in
trying him, but had failed to get any answer. The special charge against him was
that of fomenting the Rebellion of June, 1576. Mountgarret was also alleged to
have been an "aider, succourer, and reliever of the said detected and proclaimed
rebellion." (See Letters from Sidney and the Irish Council in the Irish State Papers
and Sidney Papers. ) The account of Sir Henry Sidney's reception is, of course,
from the Taylor MS.


The Lord President had been detained nearly a fortnight
in Chester by illness. He arrived in Shrewsbury on Sep-
tember 3Oth. On the following day he was entertained
by the Bailiffs at a banquet in "the newe repayryd hall,"
to which he gave the name of " The Chamber of Concord " ;
and, on October 2nd, he went off towards London. Some-
times the chronicler gives the names of the boys who made
the orations on these occasions. On February I2th, 158?,
when Sir Henry arrived in Shrewsbury in order to hold a
Session of the Council of the Marches of Wales, the two
scholars who spoke were Robert Nedeham 1 and Edward
Bromley. 2 The former was the eldest son of Robert
Nedeham, Esq., of Shavington, Shropshire, and succeeded
to the family estates. He was Sheriff of Shropshire in
1607, and Knight of the Shire in the Parliaments of 1592
and 1 60 1, and in 1625 he was created Viscount Kilmorey
in the Peerage of Ireland, in which country, Blakeway
says, he had considerable commands during the reign of

Edward Bromley was the second son of Sir George
Bromley. He went to the Bar and became Recorder of
Shrewsbury, and ultimately a Baron of the Exchequer.
He was knighted at Whitehall in 1609.

Two years later, towards the close of March, 1583, Sir
Henry Sidney, driving in his wagon from Ludlow to
Shrewsbury, stopped by the conduit in the "Wyld Coppe
to listen to two excellent oracons" made by two scholars

1 Robert Nedeham entered school in I57i, and was admitted Student of the
Inner Temple in 1581. He was knighted in September, 1594, by Sir William
Russell, Lord Deputy of Ireland. General Lord Norreys, writing to Lord
Burghley on May I7th, 1596, calls him "a very young soldier." (Cal. State
Papers ^ Irish. ) But this can hardly be correct, as the Lord Deputy would not
have knighted him in 1594 unless he had then seen some service. Lodge, in his
Irish Peerage, confuses Sir Robert Nedeham with his father, and the same
confusion is noticeable in BLAKEWAY'S Sheriffs of Shropshire.

~ Edward Bromley was baptised at Worfield, Salop, October I5th, 1563. He
entered school in 1577, was admitted Student of the Inner Temple in 1580, and
was called to the Bar in 1590 ; Reader of the Inner Temple 1606 ; Recorder of
Much Wenlock 1607 ; Baron of the Exchequer 1610 ; died 1620. He was M.P.
for Bridgnorth in the Parliaments of 1586, 1588, 159!, 1597, 1601, and i6of.
(Foss's Lives of the Judges ; Taylor MS.; OWEN and BLAKEWAY, etc.)

Online LibraryGeorge William FisherAnnals of Shrewsbury School → online text (page 6 of 56)