Webpage created: June 27, 2017
Webpage updated: April 07, 2021
CORPORATION GRAMMAR SCHOOL
Mr C W Bracken in his "History of Plymouth" relates that: 'On July 14th 1561, there were assembled in the old Tudor Guildhall, the "Twelve and the Twenty-four" (i.e. the aldermen and the councillors), the Mayor, John Elliott, presiding.'
A resolution that was passed that day said that: 'One Thomas Brooke should supply the office of a Schoolmaster within this town so long as he shall decently behave himself, and for an annual stipend of £10 to be paid quarterly he shall freely teach all the children native and inhabitant within the town, and that for his lodging he shall have the chambers over the almshouse chapel, and the said chapel for his schoolhouse, and that he shall teach no other but grammar and writing.' Thus was Plymouth's grammar school established in the old chapel adjoining the almshouses in Catherine Street. The grammar referred to in those days was, of course, Latin grammar and it was sometimes referred to as the Latin School.
Subscriptions promised that day ranged from 20 shillings from William Symons to a humble groat (four old pence, or just under 2p in today's money) from Richard Henscott. The aldermen promised a total of £4 8s, the councillors, £4 18s, the townspeople, £6 6s 4d, and the Mayor, 13s 4d. The daily wage of a carpenter at that time, according to C W Bracken, was 1 shilling while an agricultural labourer earned about 5d.
This account of the foundation of the School suggests that the claim that this evolved from a previous Chantry School is unlikely.
In 1572 HM Queen Elizabeth issued Letters Patent to assist with the financial running of the School. Money usually paid out of the pension of the vicarage of Saint Andrew's and the advowson of Saint Andrew's Church were to be paid instead to the Mayor and Corporation on the understanding 'that they and their successors should support a Free Grammar School to continue forever for the education and instruction of boys and youths in grammatical knowledge.'
The syllabus of the time would have covered a little more than mere Latin grammar. Arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy would have been taught, and possibly Greek.
That such an education was successful can be gleaned from the fact that in 1583-84 a scholar was given 6 shillings and 8 pence by the Corporation to enable him to attend the University of Oxford. Such a gift was repeated in 1602-03, 1634-35 (on that occasion to a German Jew) and again in 1661.
In 1658 new premises for the school were erected in the quadrangle of the Hospital of the Orphans' Aid, in Catherine Street, right opposite the western end of Saint Andrew's Church. It was built by Mr Samuel Northcote at a cost of £420 7s 5d but it was rented to the Corporation for £25 per year. The Mayor, William Allen, appointed one Nathaniel Conduit from Ilminster in Somerset as the master at a salary of £40 per year. He got an additional £10 for an usher. Forty boys were to be taught free of charge but he could earn extra income from any additional boys he admitted. It should be noted that only boys were given the benefits of an education. Two sons of poor Freemen of the Borough could be elected by the Corporation 'to receive a classical education free of expense'.
The School remained in Catherine Street for two centuries, the only change being a change of name sometime around 1822/23 to the Corporation Grammar School in order to distinguish it from a newly formed private venture called the Plymouth Subscription Classical and Mathematical School, which quickly acquired the title of the New Grammar School.
In the case of the Corporation Grammar School, its lease from the Orphans' Aid Trustees was due to expire and on June 7th 1861 notice was given that the School house, play ground, garden, offices and appurtenances amounting to some 14,109 square yards of land, along with properties at numbers 3, 4 and 5 Westwell Street were to be sold by private contract for £2,500. The whole area was about to be redeveloped by the building of a new Guildhall.
The school had already moved out, in 1858, to premises in Alfred Street, up by the Hoe, where it continued as basically a private school with a commitment to teach the Corporation's foundation scholars.
Shortly afterwards, in 1866, Mr William Harpley resigned from the post of headmaster and the School was amalgamated with the Classical and Mathematical School and moved into their premises in Princess square. Then in 1885 it moved to number 42 Park Street when it amalgamated with the Park Grammar School run by Mr J Kinton Bond BA, BSc, Lond. He lived at number 13 The Crescent, where he also housed the boarders.
Like a private school today, the annual cost was not cheap. Pupils under ten years of age paid six Guineas (£6 6s) and those over that age, seven Guineas (£7 7s). Boarders under the age of twelve paid 36 Guineas (37 16s) and those over twelve paid 40 Guineas (£42). French, German, Latin or Greek lessons cost an additional two Guineas (£2 2s), as did Drawing. Drilling -- as in marching -- cost just one Guinea extra. 'Each pupil is expected to take one Extra Subject at least', insisted the prospectus. Standard lessons included English Grammar and Composition, History, Geography, Book-keeping, Arithmetic, Algebra, Euclid, Trigonometry, Mechanics, Natural Science, and Religious Knowledge.
Upon Mr Bond's death on December 31st 1908, the School passed into the control of the Plymouth Local Education Authority.
Plans were already being studied by the Council to move the Municipal Secondary School from the Technical College in Tavistock Road into the former North Road Board School. The opportunity seems to have been taken to move the 55 boys of the Corporation Grammar School into the building first, in the September of 1909, followed by the boys and girls of the secondary school in the December. The new School took the "senior" name of Corporation Grammar School and Mr C W Bracken BA Lond., became its head master from then until January 1929.
Plymouth City Council declared the premises 'unsuitable for educational use' and on Wednesday July 21st 1937 the final assembly took place in the School Hall, in the presence of many parents and Old Boys. After Mr Frank Sandon MA, the head master, had made his farewell speech, he was presented with a clock by Margaret Byrne and Sidney Rogers, the last Senior Prefects, on behalf of the scholars.
The Corporation Grammar School officially closed on Tuesday August 31st 1937, after all the formalities had been completed. The pupils were dispersed to other secondary schools in the City.