OLD PLYMOUTH . UK
www.oldplymouth.uk
 

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: July 11, 2017.
Webpage updated: July 11, 2017

        

EDUCATION IN OLD PLYMOUTH

GREY COAT SCHOOL

Variously known as the Grey School, the Grey and Yellow School and latterly the Grey Coat School, from the colour of the coats provided, this School took precedence over all the subscription schools in Plymouth. 

The gentlemen credited with founding the School were:  John Stucley, Esq.; Captain Stucley; Major-General Trelawney; Sir George Byng; James Young, Esq.; the Reverend Canon Gilbert (vicar of St Andrew's Church); Albert Manglesh, Esq.; Mr John Perry; B Avent, Esq.; Edward Colson, Esq.; William Cocke, Esq.; Reverend Mr Broughton; the Honourable Patte Byng; the Honourable William Chetwynd; Doctor Gennys; Mr Thomas Lymbeare; Mr T Johns; Mr Thomas Cocke; John Symkin, Esq.; Mr John Stevens; Mr Richard Parry; Mr S Brent; J Moorshead, Esq.; Mr J Webb; Mr H Retway; Mr W Strong; Mr Philip Collings; Mr Nathaniel White; Mr William Martin; Mr Benjamin Smithurst; Mr Thomas Lovell; Mr John Wake; Samuel Addes, Esq.; Jonas Morgan, Esq.; Mr John Fuge; Mr Jacob Austin; John Ellery, Esq.; Anthony Potter, Esq.; Mr John Herring; Mr Abraham Stevens; Mr George Howe; Mr George Rideout; J Calme, Esq.; Henry Hewes, Esq.; Robert Byng, Esq.; Mr William Yonge; Mr Michael Nicholls; Mr John Skelt; Mr Hoblyn; Mr Richardson; Mr Alexander Crew; Mr Richard Pott; and G Symkin, Esq.   Most of these people remained annual subscribers until their death.

Opened in Woolster Street, Plymouth, on April 12th 1714, the small number of children were both educated and clothed free of charge.  The boys were taught reading, writing and arithmetic, while the girls received instruction in reading, writing, sewing and knitting.  The clothing was issued every Whit Sunday and for the boys would consist of one grey coat, one pair of breeches, one pair of stockings, one pair of shoes, one cap, two shirts, and one pair of bands.  The girls were issued with a gown, a petticoat, a pair of shoes, a pair of stockings, two caps, a handkerchief, a white apron, a check apron, two shifts, and a cloak and bonnet for wet weather.

Both sexes received religious instruction and the governors, master and mistress would take them to either Saint Andrew's Church or Charles' Church during the week and they would be expected to attend one or the other twice on Sundays.

In 1784 the School received an unusual donation.  When the combined fleets of France and Spain threatened the security of Plymouth a subscription was evidently raised to help fortify the Town.  When the threat had been lifted, the residue of the money raised was distributed locally, including 174 to the Grey School.   Later, in 1818, the Grand Duke Michael gave the School 10 while in England on his Grand Tour.

Most of the legacies made to the School were for general purposes but a few were more specific.  Mrs Hannah Howe left 200 and Mrs Ellen Hernham left 179 18s for the apprenticing of the girls after they had left school.  Other sums, amounting to 342 17s 2d, was left for apprenticing boys in the same manner.  Mrs Mary Hudson also left 244 10s to be applied for the fitting out of boys or girls for apprenticeship or service.

During 1813 considerable effort was made to remove the School from 'a dirty situation and a miserable building' in Woolster Street to large and less confined premises elsewhere.  There were forty boys and ten girls attending the School at that time.  A number of gentlemen donated funds towards that objective, including Admiral the Earl of Saint Vincent; Admiral Sir C Pole, Bart., MP; the Reverend Doctor Hawker of Charles Church; the Reverend R Gandy, MA, vicar of Saint Andrew's Church; Sir B Bloomfield, KCB, MP; and the Mayor of Plymouth, Sir Diggory Forestt.  Other merchants of the Town added their support.

As a result, the School governors purchased two houses in Hampton Street from the vicar of Charles' Church for 450.   These they converted into residences for the master and mistress and the foundation stone was laid on July 12th 1814 for two schoolrooms for boys and girls on the adjacent site. The building, numbers 10 and 11 Hampton Street, was still in use in 1868, although by then surrounded by other houses.  The cost of the new building was 241 15s 4d for the masonry work and a further 280 for the carpentry.  A total of 1,178 18s 2d was expended on the project.

When Government grants were introduced, the trustees and committee took the opportunity to increase the size of the school and place it under a certified master.  Sadly the good financial status was short-lived as the Government later took away the amount received from endowments and this left the school with just 6 in grant in 1867.  Under the old arrangements the school would have received around 70 a year.

The School in Hampton Street was described by the Western Daily Mercury in 1868 as 'a neat building with a small court in front used as a playground'.  The boys' school occupied the ground floor and the girls the first floor.  Both rooms were 33 feet long and 26 feet wide and provided ample accommodation for the number of pupils attending.  This amounted to 75 boys and 65 girls in 1868.  Of these, 25 in each school were educated free of charge and provided with a grey suit every year.

Entry to the Schools was much the same as in others in the Town.   The parent made an application for the child to be entered, and if the entry was sanctioned by the committee the child had to wait until there was an appropriate vacancy.   Once it did, he or she was placed in the school with the other pupils and then waited their turn for a foundation.  Only misbehaviour or irregularity could prevent the pupil from being placed on a foundation, provided they stayed at the school.   This helped to ensure regularity of attendance and attention to discipline.   The children were expected to attend the Established Church with the School, which alternated each quarter between Saint Andrew's and Charles.

Of the 50 boys not on the foundation, the first class pays 4d per week, the second 3d and the third 2d.  The 40 girls not on the foundation pay 2d a week.  Those pupils on foundation received the same education as those who paid.

After three years at the school, the boys could leave and after producing their indentures of apprenticeship on Saint Matthias' Day, February 24th (the anniversary of the School) they would be given 2 10s and a Bible.  Boys who became errand boys did not receive this gift, however, as it was intended to be an incentive to be placed in a trade.  The girls, upon proving that they were in service or at work, would receive a Bible and, in lieu of the money, a complete outfit.  In 1867/68 six boys and three girls received these gifts from the charity.

The schools cost about 230 a year to run, out of which was paid the running expenses and the cost of the gifts detailed above.

By 1868 the variety of lessons had been increased to include reading, writing, arithmetic, algebra, Euclid, history, geography, and drawing in addition to the Scriptures according to the Church of England principles.  The boys were under the leadership of Mr J Rendle, certified master, and the girls under Miss G Frain, certified mistress.  The schools previously had the benefit of pupil teachers as assistants but the new rules meant this could no longer be afforded.

Mr William Henry Michell was the master in 1889 and Miss Georgina Frain, the mistress.

The School was enlarged in 1896 to accommodate 270 scholars.

Mr Michell was still in charge in 1902 but he had an assistant, Mr Ernest Walter Marsh.  The mistress was Mrs Emma Hardwell and she, too, had an assistant, Miss Hilda Madeleine Trist.  Miss Trist had to give up her post when she married Mr Marsh at Charles Church on August 3rd 1907.  In 1919 Mr Marsh took over as Headmaster.

In the meantime, on February 27th 1906 the Board of Education had written to the Plymouth Local Education Authority, who had now taken over the management of the School, stating that as the School was recognised as providing accommodation for older scholars only, no more infants should be admitted in future.

The annual Return sent to the Board of Education in November 1913 showed that in addition to the Head Master, there were two certified assistant teachers in the boys' school looking after an average attendance of 111 pupils and the same in the girls' department, looking after 106.

Mrs Iris M Walls was a teacher at the School for the majority of her 36 years in teaching and became Head Mistress in January 1943 following the retirement of Mr Marsh.  She resigned in February 1968.

The Grey Coat School survived the Plymouth Blitz but was closed on Wednesday July 19th 1972.  At the final assembly on that day, each of the seventy-three children were presented with a copy of the last School photograph, their final report and a bag of sweets.

Mr A R Blake, the last Head Master, had already left to become Head Master of the High Street Junior school and the closure of the School was left in the hands of Mr R Francis, as Acting Head.  The four remaining teachers were all found other posts within the City.  The Reverend Peter Camp was the chairman of the School Governors.