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1521: Cuckfield school is a leader in writing skills

'How you ought to hold your penne'

Herbert Schultz in a book exploring the teaching of handwriting identifies several schools that lead the way with this including the Cuckfield grammar school. He initially mentions three that taught writing skills in the Elizabethan times including: Acaster, Rolleston (but as early as1520) and Rotherham. He continues:

There are other indications that instruction in writing was continuing during the first half of the sixteenth century in more schools than the three just mentioned. The admission requirements of certain schools founded or refounded at the time stipulate that applicants are not to be admitted without some ability in reading and writing.

John Colet’s statutes for St. Paul’s, made in 1518, demand of the entrant ‘that he can rede and wryte competently ellis let hym not be admitted in no wyse.’ The articles of admission to be observed by the parents state: ‘If your chylde can rede and wryte latyn and englisshe sufficiently, soo that he may be able to rede and wryte his owrn lessons, that he shall be admytted into the schole for a scholer.’

There was some association between St. Paul’s, the schools at Manchester, Cuckfield, and London (Merchant Tailors’), and Wolsey’s Ipswich school, where the second form was directed to write the “Roman hand”; and it is quite possible that the similarities extended to entrance requirements.

Edward Cocker, The tutor to writing ad arithmetick (London, 1664).


The Teaching of Handwriting in Tudor and Stuart Times, by Herbert C Schulz, Huntington Library Quarterly Vol. 6, No. 4 (Aug., 1943), pp. 381-425 (45 pages) Pub: University of Pennsylvania Press. Link from

Images from 'Learning to write the alphabet', by Heather Wolfe, 13 May 2013 from the Folger Shakespeare Library website

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.



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