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Guidelines for running the school

Cuckfield School in the early 1900s (colourised)

A detailed agreement was written in November 1528 to guide trustees on managing the school in future. It is held at the West Sussex County Archive in Chichester. It went as follows:


(1) That the Trustees, with the Warders of the Fraternity of Our Lady in Cuckfield, and the vicar of Cuckfield and the rector of Balcombe, and with three or four of the most honest and substantial inhabitants of Cuckfield chosen by the said vicar and rector, shall administer the lands of the school and pay the schoolmaster £10 yearly from the profit.

(2) That the said vicar, rector, and wardens, with three or four of the most honest and substantial inhabitants of Cuckfield, shall appoint a new schoolmaster when necessary being a secular priest and a graduate "of sufficient cunning and of good conversation", and having a benefice with non-residence so that he may always attend the school and that the master shall take his oath of office upon the Holy Evangelist, that he shall keep the ordinances of this indenture, before the said vicar or rector or before the curate of Cuckfield, whoever be present.

(3) That the schoolmaster shall hold his office for life subject to good behaviour and shall teach grammar after the usage of the Grammar School at Eaton next Windsor, and shall keep those hours of learning as near as he can, attending at the school between 25 March and 29 September from 6 am to 6 pm, and the rest of the year from 7 am to 5pm.

(4) That the schoolmaster shall have 16 days' continuous leave of absence every year, subject to the permission of the school managers and so long as he find a deputy; and that he shall also find a deputy if he fall sick.

(5) That the schoolmaster shall say at least three Masses every week, of the Holy Ghost, of the Holy Trinity and of the name of John; and that at every Mass, before he washes his hands he shall say 'c' and shall pray especially by name for the souls of William Spicer and of his father, mother and friends, and also for all the benefactors of the school and for all Christian souls; and that he shall find at his own cost bread, wine and wax for these Masses.

(6) That the schoolmaster shall give 6 months' notice before quitting his office.

(7) That the scholars shall say 'De profundis' every day before leaving the schoolhouse and shall pray for all the souls and benefactors aforesaid. [ De profundis refers to Psalm 130 literally meaning 'out of the depths']

(8) That the schoolmaster shall not be compelled to perform any of the duties of the vicar of Cuckfield.

(9) And if the scholars be kept from the school by the plague, that the schoolmaster shall take them elsewhere so long as it be within ten miles of Cuckfield.

(10) That the managers of the school shall pay the schoolmaster 10s. upon Easter Monday every year, for a solemn obit for the aforesaid souls in the form of 'dirydge by note' on the night of Easter Monday and of a 'Mass of Requiem by note' upon Easter Tuesday; and that during the said Requiem Mass, and before he washes his hands, the schoolmaster shall read aloud these ordinances from a copy of this indenture, and immediately afterwards say 'De profundis' for the souls aforesaid; and that he shall distribute 3s. at his discretion to the priests, clerks and sextons present, 4d. to be offered at the Masses said or sung at the said obit, 3s 4d. to the poor and 12d to the scholars that be present, and 2s. 4d. to himself.

(11) That the schoolmaster shall take orders concerning the government of the school from none save the vicar of Cuckfield or the rector of Balcombe.

(12) And if despite three warnings the schoolmaster continues to misbehave, that he shall be dismissed and a new man appointed.

(13) And if a schoolmaster resigns, that the said vicar and rector shall install an able man until a new schoolmaster can be appointed and pay him as they think fit; but, if the school lacks any master at all for three months, that then the school income shall be distributed amongst the poor of Balcombe at the discretion of the rector of Balcombe.

(14) And if the Fraternity of our Lady be dissolved, that then the said vicar and parson and three or four persons of Cuckfield shall choose the schoolmaster; but if they fail to do so within six months of a vacancy, that then the Master and Fellows of St. Catherine's Hall shall be permitted by the Trustees to receive the school income and use it to provide an exhibition for the education of a young man who shall pray for the souls aforesaid.

(15) And if 20s. of the school income be unspent, that the parson of Balcombe shall choose and pay a scholar to see good order in the school and to say 'De profundis' for the souls of William Spicer and of John and Joan his parents, daily

(16) And if the Trustees be reduced to three, that these shall appoint sixteen or eighteen discreet and honest persons of Cuckfield, Balcombe, Slaugham, Bolney, Ardingly and Lindfield as new Trustees.

(c) Covenant to have a strong chest made with three locks and three keys, of which the vicar of Cuckfield, the Wardens and parishioners of Cuckfield and the rector of Balcombe shall each hold one key; and that the chest shall remain in Cuckfield church to contain the deeds of all the lands given by Edmund Flower and William Spicer

Recites that Edmund Flower, late citizen and merchant tailor of London, left lands worth £6 10s yearly to maintain a Free Grammar School in Cuckfield under the oversight of the Fraternity of Our Lady and of the most discreet parishioners; and that he willed that the schoolmaster be a graduate, and a priest and 'able to teach grammar'; and that the said endowment is not sufficient for the purpose.


Source: West Sussex Record Office

Cuckfield Free Grammar School, later Cuckfield "Church" or "National" School


Contributed by Malcolm Davison.

Visit Cuckfield Museum, follow the link for details https://cuckfieldmuseum.org.

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