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Rotherham Unofficial

An unofficial website about the town and borough of Rotherham

Medieval Rotherham

Rotherham Grammar School

For nearly five centuries Rotherham had a well-renowned Grammar School. It was originally founded by Archbishop Thomas Rotherham as the College of Jesus. For the history of the college from 1482 to 1547 please see Tudor History - The College Of Jesus. There are two things here; the foundation of the college or grammar school and the building in which it was situated. Before 1583 they had gone their separate ways.

The College of Jesus was dissolved in 1547 under the Act for Suppression of Chantries and Guilds, but the Grammar School was maintained by the Town. However the School was maintained and the Grammar Master, Thomas Snell was retained as Master of the Grammar School and his salary was paid by the Receiver of the Court of Augmentations until 1555 during the reign of Queen Mary. However the Exchequer managed to avoid paying the Grammar School Master's salary and the school was in great difficulties. Nothing was paid during the reign of Queen Mary but the Feoffees of Rotherham made up the salary for the time being. However in 1561 the Master, Thomas Snell, after repeated appeals for the payment of his unpaid stipend got payment by the Exchequer reinstated, although he didn't get his back pay. The Grammar School was re-established by Elizabeth I.

It seems as if the school was generally know as Rotherham Grammar School from about 1547 but the histories I have read are unclear. By 1583 the Grammar School was no longer operating from the College of Jesus buildings but was using a property described as a 'sorry house' meaning it was not in very good condition.

Grammar School Badge 1960s
Grammar School Badge 1960s

Through the influence of Robert Sanderson, an old boy of the school who became chaplain to Charles I, his kinsman Charles Hoole became headmaster of the Grammar School about 1633. Hoole was a prolific writer, especially on methods of teaching, and amongst his books was "A New Discovery of the Old Art of Teaching School" written for "The use and benefit of Rotherham School". The number of boys then attending the Grammar School amounted to thirty or forty, divided into nine forms some with only two or three scholars. The syllabus studied was largely Latin authors with Greek introduced in the sixth form and the beginnings of Hebrew in the ninth. Hoole reformed the school, introduced a translation of Lyly's "Latin Grammar", speechmaking and the earlier learning of Hebrew. Although there were no organised games school finished early on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the boys to play. Hoole retired after the Civil War broke out as his Royalist sympathies were out of tune with the Parliamentarian views of most of the town.

Tradition has it that during the Civil War a party of about thirty Grammar School boys including one Thomas Rose opposed the advance of the Royalist commander, the Earl of Newcastle, on 4 May 1643. A small artillery piece, the town's one cannon, was set up at the entrance to Chantry Bridge and fired upon the Royalist army.

After this time the town and the school must have been fairly prosperous. The records of St John's College, Cambridge shows that between 1650 and 1715 twenty-three of the undergraduates came from Rotherham Grammar School. This is only one college at one University.

A new Town Hall was built on Jesus Gate (Effingham Street area) to replace the old town hall in 1739. Rotherham Grammar School was situated on the ground floor. In 1827 a new building was erected on the church side of Old College Square to provide accommodation for the Grammar School as well as a library, reading rooms and a dispensary.

According to one account from the 1820s:-

"Here (Rotherham) is a Free Grammar School, founded in 1584, by Laurence Woodnett, and Anthony Collins, Esqrs. formerly of London. The School is open to the boys of the town indefinitely free of expense, for classics only."

You pay your money - you take your choice!

In 1857 by the Feoffees of Rotherham built a new school on Moorgate to house the Grammar School.

Rotherham Grammar School
The Grammar School
The Old Grammar School
The Old Grammar School

The Grammar School moved again in 1890 to the Congregational College further up Moorgate. By this time the boys who attended were either 'Boys with the Foundation' (i.e. they held a Scholarship from the Feoffees) or fee paying scholars.

In 1906 the Feoffees ceased to be Governors of the School and a new Board of Governors was set up for which the Corporation of Rotherham had secured the right to nominate the majority of members.

New accommodation and more teachers were provided and the number of pupils attending quickly rose and the maximum number attending of 220 was reached just after the First World War. In 1919 a private residence called "Woodhirst" next to the School was acquired and turned into a junior school for the younger boys aged 8 - 11 so they did not have to be taught with the older pupils.

I'm not sure when the school ceased to take fee paying pupils but by the time I remember all the boys there had passed the 11 plus examination. In the 1960s when the 11 plus was abolished the Grammar School became just a tier in the comprehensive system. From 1967 the establishment has been known as the Thomas Rotherham College which was originally a Sixth-form college but now provides a wide variety of courses.

The Feoffees of Rotherham appear to have been governors and major supporters of the school through the years. Despite its long history few records of Rotherham Grammar School remain.

Rotherham Grammar School Old Boys' Association
Website not linking November 2012 and I can't trace another.
Lol Middleton's Website

Page amended 2015

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