In November 1868 the Schools Inquiry Commission published the Special Reports of Assistant Commissioners to both Houses of Parliament. The Assistant Commissioner for the South West Division was Mr. C.H. Stanton and it is his report on the Dorchester Free Grammar School which follows. Whilst not mentioned by name the Headmaster at this time was the Rev. Thomas Ratsey Maskew.
MR. STANTON’S REPORT
The foundation of the Free School at Dorchester dates from 1579. By indenture of bargain and sale, the founder during his lifetime conveyed certain lands to feoffees, “for the necessary instruction and education of children of all degrees in good discipline, for the increase of learning and learned men, loyalty to the Queen, and obedience to her laws, and especially that the vulgar sort might be the rather reduced from ignorance and barbarism to a more singular excellency in manners, learning, and virtue; and for the maintenance of one learned man to be master, and one other to be usher; to be appointed, ami upon good discretion to be disappointed and displaced, by the trustees.” The founder in his deed of gift reserved to himself and his assigns power during his lifetime to alter the constitution of the school, and make orders for the direction of the schoolmaster, which, after his death, were to be obeyed and performed without any alteration for ever thereafter.
The present master has been at the school 20 years, and came on an understanding with the feoffees, of which there does not seem to be any written memorandum in the minute book, that Latin and Greek should be taught gratuitously to the sous of the residents in Dorchester, but that he might charge each hoy 5/. for what are called the elements of an English education, and 51. in addition for mathematics, which latter are now actually taught to about half the school. His predecessor absolutely refused to teach anything but Greek and Latin. The house is old and small, the timbers in places showing’signs’of decay. The schoolroom and the dormitories above were expressly built, and are well adapted, for their purpose; a room hired from the adjoining almshouse can also be made available for boarders; apart from the exigencies of the master’s family, there is sleeping accommodation for about 20. A moderately sized playy-ground adjoins, but it did not seem to be much used as a recreation ground for the boys. A library of books, chiefly classical, belongs to the school, lately augmented by a handsome copy of the Delphin edition of the classics. They were not of a character suited for a boys’ library, who do not read S. Chrysostom or Bononii Annales; and they were stowed away in presses and chests like lumber. The master has one assistant, whom he appoints •and pays himself. The only vestige of the existence of an usher in the school, according to the directions of the foundation deed, consists in the fact of the house adjoining the school being still called the ” usher’s house,” and still fomung part of the school property.
The school at present numbers 23 boys, of whom 8 are boarders. The day boys are a mixture of some of the resident gentry and upper tradesmen of the town. Classics are the leading subject in the school work. The translation of some of the upper boys from Homer and the Odes of Horace was good, and that of the whole creditable; the arithmetic and geography were more indifferent, but the writing from dictation was good.
The trustees are 10 in number, 5 being chosen from the inhabitants of the town, and 5 from those of the county.
The inhabitants subscribe 10/. a year to provide prizes for classics, French, English, mathematics, and English literature; and the trustees out of their own pockets every year award to the boy who, after examination by an examiner appointed by themselves, comes out first, 40/., to be received by him as soon as he is 16, or leaves the school, and 10Z. to the boy who comes out second. Some of the boys learnt French, which was an extra, for which a prize is annually given.
Three exhibitions to the universities were attached to this school. Two of about 10/. each at St. John’s College, Cambridge, founded by Dr. Go\ver, master of the college, for the sons of clergymen educated at Dorchester, or St. Paul’s School, “London; and one founded by John Hill, 1657. The head master is not aware that Dr. Gowcr’s exhibition has been claimed by a Dorchester boy during his tenure of office; and the head master of St. Paul’s is not sure that any Pauline has ever enjoyed it. Upon this state of things the 19 & 20 Viet. c. 88 supervened, thereby in consequence of the exhibitions not having been claimed on any one of the three occasions of vacancy next before the passing of the Act (July 1856) by any student from either of the said schools, the college, in pursuance of the power vested in them by the Act, by ordinance made March 3, 1857, and duly sanctioned by the Queen, declared the exhibitions open, or otherwise converted them; and the schools accordingly appear to have lost all right of preference. Hill’s exhibition has also miscarried. The founder directed 100/. in 1657 to be laid out in land, to be vested in the corporation, the rent whereof was to go to the maintenance of a poor scholar, son of honest parents, inhabitants of Dorchester, educated in the Free School there, ” at one of the universities of this nation.” In case there was no fit candidate for two years it was to be paid to some poor heir of the founder. The 100Z. never was so invested; but it seems that occasionally 51. a year has been paid by the corporation to a duly qualified candidate, which is all that now remains of the exhibition. During the last 30 years it has only been twice applied for, and was last held about nine years ago by a native of Dorchester.
The school has seen more flourishing days. During the present master’s time there have been 42 boys. It discharges but a small part of the educational requiremeuts of Dorchester and the neighbourhood, no less than three other schools carrying on- their work by its side. About two years ago the Dorset County School, intended principally for the farming class, was established here, and numbers already upwards of 70 boarders, no day boys being admitted. Two other schools, one presided over by an Oxford graduate, and another, which makes French its specialite, are in some degree rivals to the old foundation. The feoffees evinced a laudable desire to extend the usefulness of the school, and professed great willingness to adopt any well matured suggestion for their action. The master aims at keeping the school as one intended for an upper class, for those going to the public schools and universities, and the public service, his terms for boarders being somewhat above middle class charges. He has been successful with several of his pupils in the public examinations. He also takes private pupils above 16 years of age, and specially prepares them for the universities or other examinations.
The income from the property is derived partly by quit rents, partly by fines on renewal of lives. The property is let on three lives, with a fine on renewal. This is the form of dealing sanctioned by the deed of the founder. The property has increased and is likely to increase in value, and the trustees, when the opportunity occurs, would be glad to alter this objectionable tenure. It might be better to refuse to renew the lives as they fall in, or if this were not legally possible, for the trustees to receive the fines, and guarantee a fixed income to the master, who at present receives them himself. The amount of fine to be received is fixed by the feoffees, subject to the approval of the Charity Commissioners. On every occasion of a renewal a detailed valuation is obtained from a surveyor of their own nomination, which accompanies their application for a warrant from the Charity Board.
UNDER SCHOOL, DORCHESTER
Besides the Grammar School at Dorchester is a school in Trinity parish founded by the inhabitants themselves by subscription in 1623, as a subordinate school to the Free School, “to train up boys and prepare them for the said Free School.” It has long since ceased to discharge this function. The present master, whose years must be trembling on the verge of threescore years and ten, has been in office 30 years, and lives in a cottage adjoining the churchyard, to which the school now is attached. He receives 60/. a year, and has his cottage rent free, but has to keep it in repair himself. This sum is made up from various charities, for which he gives gratuitous instruction to 30 boys. I did not see them, as it was their holiday time, but I am assured they are of the poorest. They are never examined or inspected. The children are said to go to the school only for the sake of receiving certain clothes and apprentice premiums which the charity supplies. The schoolroom is paved with stone, and even when I saw it in June was damp; in the winter the floor is thickly strewed with sawdust to absorb the wet; the cottage itself is a ruin, the daylight came through the roof, and much of it is unfit for human habitation. I believe the trustees are desirous of selling the site, investing the proceeds, and applying the increased income to some other educational purpose; and reluctance to press hardly on the declining years of the old man who is now the recipient of the endowment has hitherto made them hold their hands. There is some intention now of pensioning him. The rector wished to apply the fund, if the school were broken up, to the National School, which is obviously tlie proper place for the class of boys who now attend the “Under School;” and this appropriation may, perhaps, best answer the intention of the original foundation. Unquestionably the National School is a fitter training place for the Grammar School than the actually existing “Under School.”