1626: Savage Cuckfield headmaster sacked


One Cuckfield Grammar School schoolmaster was clearly a strong disciplinarian but on three occasions went too far which led to him being duly sacked, sadly we don't know the full story but it gives us an interesting snapshot of school life at the time:


On 29 May, 1626, Edward Francis, was admonished by way of a first warning by the rector of Balcombe and vicar of Cuckfield 'for his savage behaviour to the boys and errors in governing the school' (or in Latin: pro sevitia sua in pueros et erroribus in gubernando scholam).'' On 22 August he was a second time admonished. On 15 October 'a third admonition was given him, now he was ipso facto expelled (exclusui) and the school was pronounced void, and we the undersigned thought that we should proceed to a new election.'


The signatures of Thomas Vicars, vicar of Cuckfield, Daniel Routhe, rector of Balcombe, Richard

Chaloner and John Warden follow.


The same day James Sicklecroft, BA, was elected ''Schoolmaster of the Free Grammar School of Cuckfield' and signed a promise:


... that I will performe the office of a good schoolmaster, that is, that I will with such judgement and fittness teach the schollers grammar, that they shall be found ready and expert to answer questions in those authors which they read, according to the rules of grammer; and also I do promise all such diligence to attend the place that I will increase this present number that is left to the number of 20 schollers within the time of two yeares from my election, or els I will peaceably surrender my place and leave it in the hands of the overseers.

Sicklecroft presumably performed his promise and reached the prescribed intake of one score boys,

as ' Mr. Browne ' was admitted as schoolmaster on 13 July, 1637, indicating Sicklecroft stayed for ten years; Browne was followed at unknown dates by James Rouse and Samuel Creed.

In 1818 the Rev. Robert Prosser, of All Souls College, Oxford, still carried on the school as a grammar

school. He had about 45 boarders. He was ready to instruct in the classics any of the

parishioners’ children gratis who applied to him. He had sometimes received a few boys and taught

them English and accounts; but excepting these few he had never had any applications even for

such instruction, nor any at all for instruction in the 'classics'. An elementary school had been

founded by a vicar in 1716.


In 1846, by a scheme of the Court of Chancery, the endowment of the Grammar School,

which was to be conducted 4 after the form and usage of the Grammar School of Eton,’was

applied, to save the pockets of the vicar and the landowners and richer inhabitants, to the

'National ’ School.


The old school building still stands in the north-west corner of the churchyard. It is not

apparently the original one of the sixteenth century, but a later edition of the time of the indefatigable Thomas Vickers about 1626.


Source: The Victoria History of the County of Sussex Vol 2 pages 420/1


Contributed by Malcolm Davison.

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