Bourne Archive:  Old Grammar School                          

http://boar.org.uk/abiwxo2OGrammarS1.htm                                Latest edit 4 May 2011

©R.J.PENHEY 2006


The Bourne Archive


The Development of the Old Grammar School Building in Bourne Abbey Churchyard.


The following is an assessment of the development of the Old Grammar School building at Bourne, Lincolnshire. Published sources are used for the historical information which is viewed in the light of an archaeological reading of the relevant buildings. This second element requires the use of photographs to illustrate the points made, so the study is divided into three parts in the hope that each electronic page will be displayed with an acceptable speed and smoothness.

Related material can be found in the articles on the Browne Monument and the Abbey Church Chancel.


Part 1.

The core of what is known from historical research, of the story of the old building is laid out in A History of Bourne Grammar School, by J.D.Birkbeck, a booklet of 1986, marking the 350th anniversary of what is often taken as the school’s foundation. In reality, the event of 1636 seems to have been an endowment which set the school up for continuance rather than initiating it.  He found that a grammar school existed in Bourne in 1330 when the Lincoln cathedral chapter admitted Sir [sic] John, son of Edward Faber to be the master of it. This record was in Latin so it is not clear whether he called himself Faber or Smith (What it actually said was Edwardi Farbi, which translates as of Edward Smith). Either way, he was from Bourne. There was nothing to say that the school was then a new institution but next to nothing is known of it.   As this was well before the introduction of the rank of baronet, Sir John will have been a knight; well out of the usual line of schoolmasters.  It is hard to imagine that he did not delegate the job.

We have a clearer picture from the early seventeenth century. The school’s origin is frequently dated from the bequest of William Trollope, a member of the local gentry, in 1636. His grandfather had settled in Bourne, and William’s descendants were to be closely connected with the school right down to the twentieth century.  In his will, dated 16th November 1636, he provided an endowment of “Thirty pounds yearly to pay an honest, learned and godly schoolmaster for teaching the Youth and Scholars in the art and rudiment of Grammar in the Town of Bourn aforesaid, forever, which I desire to be a free Grammar School from time to time for ever, and that Licence may be obtained with Charter under the Great Seal for incorporating thereof and to be called the Free Grammar School of King Charles in the Town of Bourn in the County of Lincoln, of the foundation of William Trollope, gentleman”.  He also bequeathed a similar yearly sum (£33) for the men’s almshouses, the building now known as the Tudor Cottages, in South Street.  The two premises are close neighbours.  The present almshouse building dates only from the mid Eighteenth century but William had already built the school; as his will states, “I have to that end and purpose already built a Schoolhouse”. According to Moore (p.10), he founded it in the second year of the reign of Charles I, which would be 1626, a very few years after the Red Hall was built. The building style is consistent with this. Though Pevsner (p.480) gives a year of 1678 for the school building, he provides no clue as to where he found this date. Also, the style of the earlier parts would have seemed very old-fashioned by then. Other known references to 1678 come from later than 1964 and seem to be following Pevsner.

It has taken some time to work out what the archaeology of the building has to tell.  In 1909, J.J.Davies noted,

“The solid stone foundation, is clearly of far more ancient date than the brick superstructure.  It is quite possibly at least coeval with the monastic institution of which it formed an educational adjunct.  It is definitely within the precincts of the Augustinian Abbey.  It corresponds with the position of many ancient Grammar Schools as St. Albans, Grantham, &c., which were indubitably, in their origin, monastic or ecclesiastical.  Whether it offered a different training from that supplied to the students in the cloister, is an interesting problem.  Matthew Paris in his Monachi Sancti Albani, throws a little light upon the subject; but not enough to guide us clearly.  Quite possibly therefore the genial patriarch of our English Grammar, Robert de Brunne, taught there.”

Unfortunately, Davies was in this instance, bending both the archaeology and the history to make a coherent story.

His last surmise is not likely to be true as the practice of naming a person after a place, was useful only outside that place. Unless it reflected association with the ownership of a significant estate, it was normal to name people after their place of origin rather than of their residence.  Robert was the Robert who had come from Bourne, and was now in some other place.  Had he stayed in Bourne, most of the Roberts around him would have been from Bourne too, so the description would not have been useful in distinguishing between them.  Furthermore, Bourne Abbey was Arrouaisian, living by the Augustinian Rule.  Robert was a Gilbertine.  He spent time at The Gilbertine house of Six Hills (Lindsey) and in the Gilbertine house in Cambridge.  He entered the Gilbertine mother house, Sempringham in 1288 and will probably have been working there when he wrote his histories and guidance, though he did mentione the people of the not-very-distant Bourne.

This said, he was of the educated sort, who may well have attended the school at Bourne, if it had been established in his boyhood, which will have been in the 1270s.  This was a period when other sources tell us that much was beginning to happen in Bourne.  This was approaching the period during which South Street was laid out, moving the main road from Church Walk, alongside the churchyard.  The castle was being redeveloped as a residence rather than the fortress it had been.

Old chancel doorway.As to the medieval origin of the present building’s site, the very small and simple doorway in the south wall of the chancel is of a style which might conceivably place it towards the end of the monastery’s life.  At this period, the priestly access to the church will have been to and from the north side, the site of the claustral buildings.  However, this door would lie on the canons’ side of the pulpitum, the screen which separated them from the parish church. It seems likely that at this stage, the schoolmasters were clerics so that the purpose for the door would be access directly from the claustral accommodation on the north, via the chancel, to the school.  The school building’s site is in keeping with this, as it is with the need to get the boys, likely to do boyish things, in and out of the school without disturbing the canons’ way of life.  However, we have to ask whether they would have designed a short cut to run across the front of the high altar.  Any exit directly from the cloister to the churchyard is more likely to have been made around the outside of the church’s east end.

The doorway is small (the stick in the photograph is 36 inches 0.92m. long) and of very simple design, without the detail by which it might be dated closely.  At the other end of its stylistic date range and stylistically more convincing, it could be contemporary with Trollope’s school building. Although by 1636, it may have been just a little old-fashioned, similar work which appears to relate to a date stone of 1637, in the tower parapet, was being done on the stairway in the tower.  It is also in keeping with the doorway on the school building itself.  As we have seen from the will, this may in fact, date from a little earlier but within Trollope’s adult lifetime.  In the seventeenth century, the schoolmasters were vicars or curates of the Abbey Church and may have needed to juggle the offices conducted in the chancel with grammar-teaching duties.  A quick route between the two would be most useful.  The chancel door therefore, would not imply a date for the schoolroom before the 1620s or 30s – if the chancel had been in use during this period.

This ‘if’ is a significant one. The Abbey was dissolved in 1536, part of the first batch on Henry VIII’s list. A lease of the property was sold to Richard Cotton, a man from Hampshire. A value was given for what was almost certainly regarded as scrap metal, the bells and lead. In these circumstances, we may think it unlikely that the lead stayed on the roofs of the part of the abbey buildings which was not used as the parish church. On the face of it, the chancel will have been part of these abbey buildings, so not brought back into use until the early nineteenth century. In other words, in 1630, the wall in which we have hypothesized the insertion of the small doorway would have been part of a roofless ruin. Insofar as there was an altar, it would have been at the eastern end of the nave where the parish altar will have been all along. However, the Anglican Church had moved away from altars towards communion tables. The struggle of King Charles and his archbishop to re-introduce altars and the procedures which went with them was one of the irritants which put Lincolnshire into the opposing camp during the Civil War, as part of the Eastern Association.

This view, although reasonable, appears to be wrong. In his introduction to the edited Parish Register (p. viii), C.W.Foster reports that the chancel was in good order in 1602. Also, that the vicar, Edmund Lolley, was buried there in 1632. Clearly, despite the thread in Anglican thinking which drew attention away from an altar at the east end of a church towards a more centrally placed communion table, in Bourne, the chancel was still respected. Maybe it gave the parish two options; using the nave as the church, with its communion table and the chancel as a chapel, discreetly screened by its old, monastic pulpitum. The ruination seems to have begun not with the Dissolution but in December 1643. See Browne Memorial and Bourne Chancel.

In the 1920s, J.T.Swift (Bourne and People Associate with Bourne) dealt with the origins of the school, covering the selection of Sir John Smith continuing with the register of Bourne Church, “... among the burials, is the following entry: ‘May 23rd, 1629, Thomas Gibson, as worthy a schoolmaster as ever taught in Bourne.’  The old Grammar School which is still in existence was built by William Trollope of Bourne and Casewick, and he endowed it with £32 [sic] a year ....”.

 In his best known book, A History of Bourne, J.D.Birkbeck includes several more details.  We have seen John Smith in 1330 but after 1580 there are more known. In 1625, the vicar, Edmund Lolley was licensed by the bishop as the schoolmaster. See the Parish registers, Lincolnshire Record Society Vol. 7.


Part 2