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1906: The story of Cuckfield School

Updated: Dec 28, 2022

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 10 July 1906


In the current issue of the Cuckfield Parish Magazine the following article appears, which will be read with interest by many without the confines of the parish;—

“Up to the beginning of the 16th century the education of the children of England was provided by the monasteries. In the reign of Henry VII., when the nobles had been well nigh destroyed in the Wars of the Roses, the trading and manufacturing classes rose to positions of wealth and influence. We find men of these classes who had made fortunes in business founding Free Grammar Schools, not only in the towns where they had made their fortunes but also the places of their birth and early education.

Such a one seems to have been Edmund Flower, a merchant-tailor of London, of whose history nothing has been ascertained, but who was probably a native of Cuckfield, as he gives special directions in his will that he is to be brought there and buried in the Church. He tells us in his will, dated 1520, that ‘for certain years, at his own cost, he had caused a Free Grammar School to be maintained in Cuckfield for the erudition and learning of poor scholars,’ and that it might be continued after his death, he leaves some lands in Westerham to the Fraternity or Brotherhood of our Lady at Cuckfield, in order to provide the salary of the Master, who was to be a Priest.

The yearly value of this endowment was £6 10s. In 1528 the Rector of Balcombe, William Spicer, perceiving that this amount was not sufficient, bought of Thomas Mitchell, of Crabbets, the manor of Redstow, in Reigate, of the yearly value of £5, to add to the endowment, and made a condition that children from Balcombe should receive the benefits of the School, and that the Rector of Balcombe and the Vicar of Cuckfield (then Ninian Burrell) should be Trustees.

Cuckfield Old School c2017

These lands, after some alterations, were exchanged for small rent charges amounting to £28 8s., which are still paid every year. The teaching was to be ‘after the Form used in the Grammar School at Eaton, near Windsor,’ and the hours to be from 6am. or 7 a.m. in winter to 6 p.m. or 5 p.m.

Where the original School was built is not known; the present building - our Girls’ and Infants’ Schoolrooms was erected, as. appears by the style of architecture, at the beginning the 17th century, during the time of an energetic Vicar, Thomas Vicars. It continued as the Free Grammar School until 1844, when it was stated that ‘it is not worthy of the name of School House, consisting of little more than four bare walls, and so damp as to be prejudicial to the health of the children.’

Application was made to the Court of Chancery, and in March, 1844, an order was made changing the School to a National School, the Master to be not a clergyman, but a Churchman, Latin and Greek not to be taught, nor reference made to the Eton form, but the Catechism to be taught.

The Rev. Walter Kelly, afterwards Vicar of Hove and Preston, was the last clerical master, and his place was taken one who is still remembered with affectionate respect, Mr. Thomas Norris.

Subscriptions were raised to put the rooms in order and furnish them on plans furnished from the Privy Council Office. The cost of this work, with ‘legal expenses,’ was £515. In 1854 two cottages were bought by Mr. Maberly from C. Juniper, ‘at the Church gate,’ for £100, and the site used for enlarging the Schoolrooms and building the Master’s residence.

In 1872 Mr. Maberly bought for some ‘tenements called Floods, adjoining the Free School buildings.' and conveyed them to the Vicar and Churchwardens ‘for a School to be conducted according to the principles the National Society’.

On this site our present Boys’ School was built, a cost of £1,000. In 1888 the cottages in Church Street were bought for £620, to provide the Girls’ playground. In 1901, £200 was spent erecting new Class-rooms, and in 1904 £140 in improving the ‘Lobbies,’ &c. There was an Elementary School built somewhere—but where ?--in 1821, at a cost of £200, as appears from a correspondence between Mr. Plimley and the National Society, resulting in a grant of £50 from the Society.”

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