Anyone who has read the Written into Lichfield History and Making your Mark posts, will know that Gareth Thomas has been exploring the Lichfield District Council Offices, and very kindly sharing the photos here on the blog. Gareth’s doing this because the buildings were once the Lichfield Grammar School, and generations of pupils, dating back to the 17th century have left their mark on the building.
Last time, we got as far as the attic doors, where someone called ‘Watkins’, carved his name in February 1714/5. Amongst the other graffiti is the name WHoll, and Roger Jones (Ziksby) put forward the idea that this could be William Holl the engraver, which certainly warrants further investigation. Back then the doors would have lead to the dormitories for the boarders at the school. Now thanks to Gareth, we get to have a look at what lies behind those potentially three hundred year old doors……
To us these are old timber beams, yet once they were brand new, and according to the Lichfield Conduit Lands archives, mostly donated in the form of individual trees!
Gareth has taken some photographs from the windows. Not only does this give an interesting perspective of the city, it also invites you to imagine what the boys would have seen looking out of this window, what’s changed and what’s the same.
In around 1813, Cowperthwaite Smith was appointed headmaster of the school with a salary of £170 per annum, plus rent free accomodation. At the time, board, lodging & tuition was being charged at between 40 and 50 guineas a year for each scholar. In 1828, according to the ‘Account of Public Charities in England and Wales’, there were 18 boarders, and around 30-40 students in total. It goes on to say that the only scholars receiving their education free at the school were the ‘six children of poor men born within the City’ (who were also given money for books, and slightly more curiously brooms, when the school was first endowed). The people of Lichfield were apparently not happy that their grammar school was no longer a free school.
By then end of Cowperthwaite Smith’s time as headmaster in the 1840s, no boys at all were coming to the school. Allegations were made in the Wolverhampton Chronicle that Lichfield Grammar School had been closed for six years due to the the misconduct of the master. It claimed he was violent towards the children in his care, and that ‘his treatment of two boys on two separate subjected his modes of punishment to investigation before the magistrates one boy having subsequently confined to his bed under surgical advice for a fortnight’.
The newpaper was sued for its attempt to injure Cowperthwaite’s ‘good name fame and credit’ as a schoolmaster and clergyman, and ‘to bring him into public scandal infamy and disgrace’ and ‘to hold him up to public contumely scorn and ridicule and to vex harass oppress impoverish and wholly ruin (him)’. I’m trying to piece together exactly what happened as best I can from the court cases that followed these allegations and I’m hoping that the original newspaper reports might be available. There’s also a vast amount of information at Lichfield Record Office that I’d like to look through, and I think it’s best not to speculate or comment further until I have read more on this.
I am also working on another post as Gareth’s investigations took him to another part of the building, where he made another fantastic discovery, including our oldest dated graffiti yet. In the meantime, Gareth, do you fancy going up that ladder in the attic?
(1) A Concise Description of the Endowed Grammar Schools of England and Wales, Nicholas Carlise 1818