Vol 13. The County of Hereford  Pages 95 - 100

This report covered charities throughout the whole country and includes this detailed account of the background and recent troubles of the Bosbury Grammar School. It is available to view at the Herefordshire Record Office, Hereford, on open shelves ref. 361.


The only account of the foundation of this school which was produced at the time of our Inquiry, was extracted from an information filed in the Court of Chancery as hereafter stated. From this document it appears, that Sir Rowland Morton, of the Grange, in the parish of Bosbury, being desirous to establish a free grammar school, for the education of the children of the parishioners and inhabitants of that parish, and to make a competent provision for a schoolmaster, did, by some deed or assurance in the law, duly executed by him some short time previous to the commencement of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, grant, convey, and assure to certain persons, being 13 in number, and their heirs, divers messuages, lands, tenements, and hereditaments, situated in the said parish of Bosbury, to hold the same, in trust, to apply the rents and profits thereof, or some stipend, salary, or annuity thereout, for the benefit of a schoolmaster, to be appointed by them, or the major part of them, to instruct such children as aforesaid in the Latin grammar, and otherwise; which said schoolmaster was to be a clergyman of the Church of England, who had taken the degree of Master of Arts at Oxford or Cambridge, or to be otherwise duly qualified in literature. And the trustees were directed, out of the rents and profits, the trust premises in the first place, to keep the houses and buildings thereon in good and sufficient repair, and to set and let the same for the best and most improved rents; and that, as such trustees should die, or refuse, or become incapable to act, the remaining trustees should have power to nominate and appoint others, and to convey the trust premises to them, upon the trusts and for the purposes aforesaid.

From the same document it further appears, that Queen Elizabeth, in or about the 8th year of her reign, by letters patent under the Great Seal, charged the manor of Wormbridge, in the county of Hereford, and divers lands, thereby granted to Sir Christopher Hatton, knight, and his heirs, with a perpetual yearly rent-charge, salary, or pension, of 8l. 4s. 2d., to be paid to the schoolmaster of the free grammar school of Bosbury, as an addition to the endowment of Sir Rowland Morton.

On what authority these particulars, concerning the endowment, were stated in the information we could not ascertain, and on reference to the Master’s report of 12th of April 1809, it appeared that the original foundation of the school was involved in considerable obscurity. In pursuance of an Order of the Court, whereby, among other things, it was referred to him to inquire into the nature of the foundation, and how the school was endowed, the Master reported that he found, by a return made by the Bishop of Hereford to two several writs or commissions issued from the Court of Exchequer, tested respectively the 12th and 14th June, 12th Elizabeth, directing him to make inquiry concerning the management of certain schools in his diocese, and, among others, of the school of Bosbury, that the said Bishop, in his said return, spoke of the school as a grammar school, and recommended the removal thereof to the city of Hereford. And he further found, that by an inquisition, under a commission of charitable uses, taken on the 29th October, 5th James I., it appeared that certain lands, tenements, and hereditaments, had been given for and towards the maintenance of a schoolmaster, to keep a school, in Bosbury, “for the teaching and instructing of children in virtue and learning, and so to remain from time to time, for ever, to the same uses.” And he further found, that in a certain roll in the Augmentation Office, entitled “Salaries of vicars, curates, and schoolmasters, in divers counties,” under the head of county of Hereford, there was the following entry relating to the school of Bosbury, viz., “In the declaration of the accompt of Gervas Blackwell, esq., receiver of the public revenues in the said county, which did lately belong to the King, Queen, and Prince, for the year ending at Michaelmas 1650, amongst other things is contained as follows, that is to say :— To the schoolmaster of the grammar school at Bosbury 8l. 4s. 2d., which is paid by virtue of a decree in the Court of Exchequer, made in Trinity Term, in the 6th year of the late King James, enrolled in my office and exemplified under the Seal of the Court.” And he further found that the decree so referred to was as follows, viz:— “Whereas it appears by a constat, under the hand of Mr. King, one of the auditors of this Court, that in the accompt of the Receiver-General of the county of Hereford there hath been allowed to the schoolmaster of Bosbury, for the time being, a yearly stipend of 8l. 4s. 2d. ever since the 2nd year of the late Queen Elizabeth, yet now, upon some scruple, because the warrant and first ground of the said allowance cannot be found, there hath been some stay of the said allowance, which, if it, should continue, might be to the great decay of that school, and for the hindrance of the good learning and education of all the youth that there are taught. The Court, therefore, not doubting, till apparent matter be showed to the contrary, but that so good and charitable an allowance for many years space continued, had, at the first, a right and just foundation, with like meaning, that to the benefit of these parts it should profitably continue, hath thought good to order and decree that the said allowance of 8l. 4s. 2d., paid to the said schoolmaster, as it hath been heretofore, shall be allowed in the said receiver’s accounts, as well for the Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lady last past, as also continually hereafter; and that this order shall be a sufficient warrant to all auditors, from time to time, in whose charge the accompt of the said county shall be, to give allowances in all receivers accompts accordingly, &c.” And upon consideration of these documents, and no other evidence having been laid before him with respect to the nature of the foundation, the Master was of opinion that the school was a free grammar school, but was unable to state more particularly the nature of the foundation thereof.

Concerning the endowment of the charity, the Master found, by a feoffment deposited in his office, (which appears to have been the earliest deed produced by the defendants,) bearing date the 13th January 1743, that William Brydges and William Nash granted and enfeoffed to certain persons, therein described, certain lands and tenements, by the description of all their lands, tenements, meadows, feedings, pastures, woods, underwoods, rents, reversions, services, and hereditaments whatsoever, with their appurtenances, lying and being in the parish of Bosbury, in the county of Hereford, which said premises had been theretofore in the gift of John Beard the elder, grandfather of James Beard, one of the grantees therein named, and of Richard Woodyatt, both then deceased. And that, by a schedule or declaration of trust annexed to the said feoffment, it was declared, that the rents, issues, and profits of the premises, should be employed for the maintenance of a schoolmaster, in bringing up in literature the youth of the said parish, to the honour of God and good of the commonwealth. And he found that the endowments consisted of the said rent-charge of 8l. 4s. 2d., and sundry small pieces or parcels of land, together with the school-house, and the buildings thereto belonging, with a garden and some other messuages, cottages, and lands, let to several tenants, at rents amounting in the whole to the annual sum of 58l. 3s. 6d.

In the year 1800, an information was filed in the Court of Chancery by His Majesty’s Attorney-General, at the relation of Robert Drew, and two others, against Benjamin Johnson, and others, who had been appointed trustees, under a deed bearing date the 7th day of February 1781. After reciting the particulars of the foundation, as stated in the previous part of this Report, it charged, that the defendants were the acting trustees of the charity estates, in whom the trust premises were vested, and that they had been for many years in receipt of the rents and profits of the trust estate: that in the year 1795, the Rev. John Williams was appointed schoolmaster, and resigned the mastership in 1798; and thereupon the trustees appointed one Joseph Thomas to be schoolmaster, who was not a clergyman of the Church of England, not a graduate in either of the Universities, nor duly qualified in classical learning; but, on the contrary, was an illiterate man, of disreputable character, of a turbulent disposition, and of immoral life and conversation: that he had been concerned in trading speculations, in which he had become insolvent, and had been twice declared a bankrupt; that, on such occasions, he had secreted part of his effects, and been guilty of other frauds and dishonest practices: that, after his nomination to the mastership, he had greatly neglected the duties of his office, and otherwise misbehaved himself therein: that the trustees had never interfered or made regulations for the management of the school, or insisted on the reformation of the abuses aforesaid: that they had suffered some of the houses and buildings belonging to the trust estate to fall down for want of proper repairs, and had let different parts thereof at insufficient rents, and actually occupied some part themselves without payment of rent: that they had appointed the said Joseph Thomas receiver of the rents, as well as schoolmaster, and allowed him to make agreements with the tenants, touching letting the estate, at his own pleasure; in which capacity he had made agreements for leases for 21 years, at inadequate rents, receiving sums of money, by way of premium, for such leases: that the said Joseph Thomas had committed waste by cutting young timber trees, which he sold, applying the produce to his own use; such waste being committed with the privity of the trustees: that the trustees had refused to remove the said Joseph Thomas, and to appoint a proper master, and to elect new trustees in the room of those who were dead, so as to make up the number of 13. Wherefore the information prayed that the trustees might be directed to convey the premises to new trustees; and that the trusts of the said estates might be carried into effect under the decree of the Court: that the said Joseph Thomas should be removed from the mastership, and his appointment thereto declared null and void: that the trustees should be directed to appoint a fit and proper person to be master of the said free grammar school: that an account might be taken of the rents and profits of the premises which had been received by the defendants, as trustees, or by the said Joseph Thomas, or by any other person in trust for them, from the time of the resignation of the said John Williams in 1798, or from such other time as the Court should direct: that an account also might be taken of the timber which had been cut as aforesaid, and of the value thereof and of the money received on account thereof: and that an account might, also be taken of all other waste and spoil, whether voluntary or permissive, done by the said defendants, or any of them: that they might be declared liable to answer for the same; that what should be found due from them, on the taking of such accounts, should be paid into Court; and that a receiver should be appointed to collect the rents under the authority of the Court.

The trustees, by their answer, declared that they were ignorant as to the foundation of the school, and of the grant of the rent-charge out of the manor of Wormbridge, by Queen Elizabeth, but stated, that by an ancient paper writing in their custody, dated 1652, it appeared that a stipend of 8l. 4s. 2d. was then payable to the schoolmaster out of the rectory of Wormbridge, but that in such paper the school was not called a grammar school, nor mentioned to have been established by Sir Rowland Morton. That they believed that the said annual payment had been from time immemorially made by the receiver of the fee-farm rents. They further stated, that they were feoffees of certain lands in the parish of Bosbury, in trust to apply the rents thereof for the support of the said free, school, whereof Joseph Thomas was then master, and believed that the trustees of such lands had always possessed the right of appointing such master, as well as such new trustees as might from time to time be requisite; but they did not believe that the number of them had been usually 13, or any limited number. That certain of the defendants, together with certain other persons, had been appointed trustees by Edward Brydges, Kemp Brydges, and John Turberville, the only surviving trustees at the time of the appointment, (7th and 8th February 1781, by deeds of lease and release.) And that they, by deeds of lease and release of 5th and 6th June 1799, conveyed the school estates to the use of themselves and of the other defendants, Francis Wilson, Thomas Cox, and William Reece. That in the year 1795, John Williams had been appointed schoolmaster, who was a layman, not having taken a degree in either of the universities, and that no objection was made on that account. That many of his predecessors were similarly situated; and that the defendants never heard, till the filing of the information, that the master ought to be either a clergyman or a graduate of any university. That, in 1798, the said John Williams resigned, and such of the defendants, as were then trustees, held a meeting to appoint a new master, and the said Joseph Thomas was duly appointed; that he was duly licensed by the bishop, and entered upon his duties. That he was not a clergyman nor a graduate at either of the universities, but the defendants believed him to be capable of teaching the rudiments of Latin, and such other learning as could be of any real use to the children of the parish of Bosbury, the proper objects of the charity. That when the defendants became feoffees, the houses and buildings on the school estate were mostly in a ruinous state, and much out of repair; but they denied that they became so after the date of their appointment. That the said Joseph Thomas was appointed agent for the trustees and receiver of the rents, but was not authorized to let the charity estates at his pleasure, or to make final agreements for that purpose; but that all agreements, by him made, were submitted to the trustees for their sanction. That they had no deed or writing in their possession showing who was the original founder of the school, or containing directions concerning the choice either of the master or of the trustees, or showing that the school was originally intended for a grammar school; and that if such deeds were in existence, the trustees knew not what had become of them.

The defendant, Joseph Thomas, put in a separate answer, admitting the fact that he had been a tradesman, and had become a bankrupt, but denying that he had secreted any part of his estate, or been guilty of any other fraud; admitting also that he had cut some pollards and other trees, growing on the charity estates, but that he had done so with the privity of the trustees, and for the purpose of effecting certain necessary repairs.

The cause coming on to be heard, the Lord Chancellor, by an order, dated 3rd February 1807, directed that it should be referred to the Master to inquire into the nature of the foundation, and the value of the endowment, and also for what time the defendant, Joseph Thomas, had ceased to perform the duty of schoolmaster, and who had since performed that duty; and the parties were directed to be examined, and to produce, upon oath, all deeds, papers, and writings in their custody to the Master.

On the 12th April 1509 the Master made the Report, a portion of which has been inserted in a previous part of this Report. Certain exceptions were taken by the defendants, which having been argued, the Lord Chancellor, by a decree, dated November 1812, ordered that it should be referred to the Master to take an account of the rents and profits of the charity estate that had been received by the defendants since February 1798, to inquire what part of such estate had been occupied by the trustees, during what time, and at what rent, and what was the actual value thereof, and further to inquire whether the fences had been removed or suffered to go to decay, whether any part of the estate had been underlet, and whether any of the houses or buildings had fallen down or been suffered to decay for want of needful repairs; and his lordship declared that the school was a free grammar school, and that the appointment of the defendant, Joseph Thomas, was not a good appointment, he not being properly qualified; and it was ordered that the trustees should appoint a new master properly qualified.

In pursuance of this order the Master made his Report on the 29th April 1822, and thereby found that the defendant. Joseph Thomas, had been appointed agent to the trustees, and had acted. as such agent from February 1798 to Lady-day 1805, and received rents during that time to the amount of 431l. 16s. 3d.; that defendant, William Reece, had received other rents to the amount of 100l. 18s. 10d., and had expended on the charity estates, or paid to the same Joseph Thomas, 115l. 1s. 9d., leaving a balance in his favour of 14l. 2s. 11d.; that the defendant, James Allcott, had received rents to the amount of 66l. 14s. 6d., and had disbursed the same; and the Master further found that Christopher Young had been appointed master on the 9th December 1807, and was appointed agent to the trustees, and so continued till July 1812, since which time no rent had been received; and it appeared that the said Joseph Thomas and Christopher Young had been allowed to retain to their own use all the rents after payment of the necessary expenses on account of repairs, &c.; and the Master further found that the defendant, William Turberville, had occupied a piece of pasture land at a rent of 1l. 11s. 6d., from 1798 to 1812, which was worth 2l. 5s.; that defendant, James Allcott, had occupied a small pasture orchard called South Field, from 1805 to 1812, at a rent of 2l. 2s., which was worth 2l. 5s., and also a piece of pasture land called Pumping Meadow, and another called Emma, from 1798 to 1812, at a rent of 3l. 10s. which was worth 41. 15s.; and another piece of pasture land, called Southfield Pleck or Ford Meadow, from 1798 to 1812, at a rent of 2l. 2s., which was worth 3l. 15s.; and he further found that a cottage, in Bosbury village, had been suffered to go to decay, and had been rebuilt by the tenant thereof who had been allowed to hold the same, with the garden, at a rent of 6s.; that the fences of the piece of land called Southfield Pleck, in the occupation of the defendant, James Allcott, had been destroyed soon after he gained possessions thereof, and had since continued open to his own land, and that other fences had seen destroyed during the time that the several pieces of land before mentioned had been in the occupation of the said James Allcott: and the Master further found that the evidence inspecting the underletting of the charity estates was very contradictory, but that, on the whole, it did not appear that any part of the same had been underlet; and he further found that a tenement called the school-house had, between the years 1798 and 1812, been in a dilapidated and ruinous state, but he did not feel justified in reporting that such dilapidation took place by the default or neglect of the trustees.

To this Report five exceptions were taken by the defendants, which being argued, the Court, by a decree, bearing date the 7th March 1823, ordered that such exceptions should be overruled, that the Master should tax the costs of the relators up to that present time, and of the defendants up to the hearing of the cause on the 11th November 1812, that such costs should be paid out of the charity estates, with liberty to the parties to lay proposals before the Master as to the mode of paying the same, and that the master should deliver to the defendants the deeds, books, papers, and writings, which they had deposited with him, and the parties were allowed to apply to the Court as there should be occasion.

The Master taxed the costs of the relators at the sum of 628l. 4s. 2d., and the costs of the defendants at 542l. 19s. 9d., making together 1171l. 3s. 11d. In the year 1827 a state of facts was submitted to the Court, by which it appeared that the rents of the charity estate amounted to about 130l. per annum, and it was proposed that a receiver should be appointed by the trustees, who should manage the affairs of the charity, till the bills of the respective solicitors should he discharged, with interest at the rate of 5l. per cent.

At the time of our Inquiry all the parties concerned in this suit were dead, with the exception of the Rev. Thomas Cox; (one of the defendants), who had removed into Devonshire, and with whom a communication had been opened with considerable difficulty. The result of this communication, however, was that a deed, bearing date the 30th April 1835, was executed, by which Mr. Cox conveyed the trust estate to the Rev. John Hanmer Underwood, vicar of Bosbury, Thomas Heywood, esq., of Hope-end, William Henry Brydges and James Holbrook of Ledbury, Robert Phelps of Bosbury, James Gregg and Timothy Spencer of Ledbury, and Robert Hartland, James Allcott, John Mutlow, George Shayle, Philip Stedman Sparksrnan, and Thomas Ricketts, all of Bosbury. Thus, after five years of incessant anxiety and exertion, the vicar secured the first advance towards a restoration of the charity. By the appointment of trustees a legal possession of the estate was created, whereby the tenants could be restrained from committing waste, and compelled to pay their rents.

During the 12 years preceding the date of our Inquiry there had been no master, and the trustees having either died or removed to a distance from Bosbury, the houses had gone to ruin, and the entire estate been neglected or mismanaged. In the year 1826, Mr. Elgie, a solicitor, residing at Worcester, was appointed collector of the rents, by Mr. Benjamin Johnson, one of the defendants in the suit, and continued in that situation till he was succeeded by Mr. Higgins of Ledbury in 1830. Mr. Elgie stated that he kept no regular book, but merely a separate account for each year, which he handed over to Mr. Johnson, together with the balance in hand, after deducting the amount of repairs and of his own charges. Mr. Johnson died before the year 1830, and it did not appear that any account had been rendered of the money stated by Mr. Elgie to have been paid over to him, and all attempts to procure such account had proved unsuccessful.

Mr. Higgins, a respectable solicitor in Ledbury, during, the two or three years that he acted as agent for the school estate, received rents, amounting altogether to 127l. 7s. 2d., but this sum was reduced to 91l. 4s. 8d. by repairs, and the expense of collection, &c. The balance was paid over to Mrs. Reece, the widow of one of the solicitors employed in the suit, and this, as far as we could learn, was the only sum that had ever been paid towards the liquidation of the costs. The amount of arrears due at Candlemas 1833 was 271l. 16s. At this time the Rev. Thomas Cox was the only surviving trustee, and as he was in an obscure part of Devonshire, where, from some cause or other, it was found impossible to communicate with him, the tenants refused to pay their rents, and Mr. Higgins was glad to rid himself of his unsatisfactory office.

The school estate consists of many small cottages and detached pieces of land scattered over the parish of Bosbury. Some of the cottages had been occupied by paupers, and treated as mere parish houses. The tenants, too, were for the most part so poor, that the new trustees were satisfied with procuring an attornment, and did not press for arrears of rent. With respect to the produce of the estate no information could be procured.

Mr. Elgie is the only person we could hear of who had been concerned in collecting the rents, and the full extent of his information has been stated before.

It appears that schoolmasters had occasionally been appointed, but for all purposes of practical utility, the school was extinguished by the proceedings in Chancery, and became a nuisance instead of a benefit to the parishioners.

The land consists altogether of little more than 30 acres statute measure, and the cottages are nine in number. There are 21 tenants, and the total amount of rent is about 90l. Mr. Phelps, a solicitor at Tewkesbury, acts as agent for the trustees. Some of the cottages are in a wretched state of repair, and a considerable outlay will be requisite before the charity can be revived. No effort will be spared to rescue it from its oppressive difficulties, and it is to be hoped that the vigorous exertions of the vicar and his parishioners will be crowned with success.

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