My Grandfather was very impressed by our families ability to leave a trace in the records, despite being worthy but ordinary folk. This was largely due to family members being literate. In looking for the reasons for this, he discovered that there was a school established in Wrangle that had provided education to many generations of our family. This paper was published as a result of his research into the history of the school. It was published in The Lincolnshire Historian Vol 2 No 10, 1963. The Lincolnshire Historian is the organ of The Lincolnshire Local History Society.
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By F. WEST
In 1555 the Rev. Thomas Allenson left his house at Joy Hill in the parish of Wrangle, Holland, Lincolnshire, as a Bedehouse for the poor of Wrangle and Leake, accommodation being provided for one poor man and one poor woman from each parish. A fifth member of the Bedehouse (and usually referred to as one of 'the five poor people') was to be a schoolmaster. The establishment was endowed with 30 acres of land in Leake and 21 acres 3 roods in Wrangle, and the field names are still the same after 400 years. The bedepeople had for their use the grounds of the house, called the Pingle, and the Bedehouse 'two-acres' for their cows. Probably bearing in mind the rule of Leviticus 19 vv. 9 & 10, whatever could be gained from the sale of the 'aftergrass' of the Pingle and two-acres, did not pass into the general account but was distributed equally to the five members. Winter fodder was also provided by the endowment for the Bedehouse cows which had the usual grazing rights on the Common. The parish members each had two small apartments, one of which had a fireplace, but there was no free supply of fuel. The provisions of the will supplied each of the three men with 6d. a week and each of the two women with 5d. These amounts were unchanged until 20th May, 1705, when "Mr. William Erskine Vicar of Wrangle, did by his last will dated the 26th of April 1705 give 9 acres of pasture adjoyning to the 6 acres of pasture belonging to the Beadhouse nigh a Common called the Seadikes for and towards the augmenting of the weekly pay of 2s.4d. given by Tho. Allenson, Vicar of Wrangle to 5 poor people, members of the Beadhouse." As a result of this bequest, each member henceforward received a shilling a week.
We have no record of the earliest administration of the Bedehouse, but fortunately, the accounts of the Bursars (the incumbents of Wrangle and Leake) for the period 1671 to 1747 have been preserved in the Parish Chest of Wrangle, and as the Bursar used one end of his book for accounts and the other end for notes of various kinds, we are able to reconstruct some idea of the life of the school and the schoolmaster.
The school was a single room with one door opening on to the road and another to the schoolmaster's 'house.' At first it was reed-thatched, earth-walled and brick floored, with one window and a firegrate. Later, the earth walls were replaced by brick. The furniture consisted of two oak tables with benches round them, the second table being purchased in 1695. At no time was any provision made for books, writing materials or apparatus of any kind.
The schoolmaster's house consisted of two rooms on the ground floor, a sleeping room and a parlour, with two chambers or store rooms above, one over his sleeping room and part of the school, the other over the entry and dairy. The custom of sleeping upstairs had not yet become generally established. There was a little garden attached to the 'house', which, in effect, appears to have been a wing of the main building. Until 1725, when it was replaced by a new building, there was "an old Hovell near adjoyning to the dwelling house of the schoolmaster" which served as a bakehouse for the five members. The feoffees were very proud of the, new building and the whole five of them signed a minute in which they did,
The salary of the schoolmaster was derived from various sources. As a member of the Bedehouse, he was entitled to the same privileges as the other poor people - in kind, free accommodation and the milk of the Bedehouse cows; and in cash, sixpence .a week (raised in 1705 to a Fhilling), five shillings at Christmas to buy a gown or overcoat, and a share, amounting to a maximum of about five shillings for the proceeds of the 'aftergrass.' As schoolmaster, he also received half the proceeds of the rents after deduction of the charges on the land. As the 'two-acres' was not let, he received a further 9s. to represent half the presumed rental. From 1730 onwards he received a further 5s. "for a years interest of 5£ given by W. Clay late deceased for the only benefit of the Schoolmaster for the time being for ever." The main part of his salary varied therefore according to the amount received in rents for the Bedehouse lands, the charges to be deducted, and to some extent, the method of accounting adopted by the Bursar, as some counted the dikereeves' assessment as a charge and others did not. The amount received in rents before the Erskine gift varied from £19 -13 - 0 in 1674 to £26 - 4 - 0 from 1698 to 1703. After that gift, the variation was from £28 - 6 - 0 in 1711 to £36 - 14 - 0 in 1717 and several subsequent years. In 1672 we come across: "Item allowed to the schoolmaster for incouragement 00.04.00. " In 1674 he received 10/- and in 1678 15/-. Thereafter, with exceptions noted later, he received something from this source every year. It is worthy of remark that it was a national event - the Glorious Revolution of 1688 - which first sadly reduced the schoolmaster's salary. In that year the Bursar was called upon to pay a tax of 18/8 and a subsidy of 12/-, while in 1690 he had to pay a further tax of 40/-. Even trifling Militia items, which had lapsed after 1675, when 4d. was paid for "Drums & Colours," were re-imposed in 1689 and 1690 when further sums of 4d. were paid, this time under the heading of "Drums & Trumpets." The year before this crisis, the schoolmaster had received £2 - 15 - 6" "for encouragement"; the next year he had to feel encouraged with a gift of 5/34. Unfortunately for him, rents were also falling off at this time. His salary, which had reached a peak of £11 - 4 - 5 1/2 in 1682, was reduced to £7 - 6 - 6 3/4 in 1690.
No call for further taxation seems to have been made to meet the costs of the continental wars of the period or of the rebellions of 1715 and 1745. However, a crisis much nearer home affected him seriously, as it did all those living around the East and West Fens. Between 1722 and 1734, the amount received in rents fell from £36 - 14 - 0 to £31 - 6 - 6, and the schoolmaster's share from £10 - 15 - 0 to £8 - 4 -7 1/2. The cause was the flooding of the fens. In 1734 the Court of Sewers at Boston had received a petition from Wrangle, Leake, Leverton, Benington, Butterwick, Freiston, Fishtoft, Boston East, Skirbeck and Sibsey alleging that the new gote in the Witham was in danger of being lost and that Maud Foster's Gowt was ineffective. The jury found that the Witham was silted up and ordered the repair of Maud Foster's Gowt and the construction of another gote near by. To pay for the work, 17,383 acres were taxed at 2/6 an acre in 1735, at 2/- an acre in 1736, and for the final settlement of accounts, at 2d. an acre in 1738. Altogether, the Bursar was called upon to pay £13 - 15 - 2 1/4, and the only means of paying was to put a moratorium on the items for 'encouragement.' From 1733 to 1735 no payments were made, though the Bursar made up handsomely in 1736 with a payment of £5. However, there was a sharp contrast between the salary of £17 - 12 - 2 1/2 in 1722 and that of £11 - 15 - 7 1/2 in 1734. At this time an unskilled labourer earned a shilling a day and a carpenter or bricklayer two shillings. Of course, the schoolmasters were both countrymen and handymen, and throughout the accounts we find payments to them for selling posts and deals, carrying fencing, erecting and mending fences, "rigging part of the schoolhouse and other Jobs done to the house," mowing, going to Boston to buy or exchange the Bedehouse cow, planting and fencing young willow trees, repairing the chimney, "dikeing, mowing and Saming," and repairing the house, as well as the more scholarly work of transcribing the Allenson and Erskine wills. These items refer only to what was done at the Bedehouse. It may well be that they also found other employers.
The managers of the school - the feoffees of the Bedehouse - were the incumbents of the two parishes together with their churchwardens. Effective control was, however, in the hands of the "Bursar for the time being." The general plan was that the vicars of Wrangle and Leake should hold the office in alternate years, and except for periods following the death of one or other, the plan was adhered to; thus we find the Rev. William Erskine and the Rev. Jacob Conington alternating over a long period from 1674 to 1705 (no nonjurors here !) and after a brief interval, the Rev. Jacob Conington alternates with the Rev. Richard Baily. After the death of the Rev. Jacob Conington in 1718, the pattern was disturbed as at Leake there were curates supplying the vacancy until the Rev. Skynner Baily was installed as vicar, and the alternating pattern was not completely restored until 1735.
The Bursar received a yearly salary of 10/- and he had a lot to do for his money. He had to find tenants for the land and collect the earnests or 'entering pennies' and later the rents, at first yearly but quarterly later on ; to pay cullier rent at Leake and out rent at Wrangle to the Lords of the Manor; to pay the dikereeve, the constable and the collector for the Court of Sewers; to attend to the Biking, gripping and ditching of the Bedehouse lands; to see that the bedepeople had cows which were in milk, which involved arranging a lot of buying and selling at Boston market; to hire labour for the mowing, laming and leading of the hay in the Bedehouse two acres and Pingle; to provide winter fodder for the Bedehouse cows; to attend to the fabric of the Bedehouse and its outbuildings; to supervise the moral, physical and spiritual wellbeing of the bedepeople; to prepare accounts for audit at the Candlemas meeting of the feoffees; and finally, to supervise the work of the schoolmaster. The only other privilege the vicars of the two parishes seem to have enjoyed was that of themselves becoming tenants of Bedehouse lands, for all of them were farmers or graziers, though an examination of the accounts shows that they rented most in times of inundation when some of the fields found no tenant at all. The accounts give an impression, despite occasional trivial errors in casting, of a high sense of duty and fidelity to the task committed to them. They had slender resources to work with and they appear to have planned ahead with their programme of repairs and maintenance and to have laid out their funds to the best advantage.
We have notes upon eight of the schoolmasters, covering the whole period. George Goodrick "was elected and admitted into the Bedehouse to execute the office of a schoolmaster the Feb. 4th 1661." He had held the office for ten years when the present account book begins. He served for 35 years, when on May 1st, 1696, he was "deprived of the said office by reason of several infirmities attending old age utterly disabling him from doeing his duty any longer there." In his stead came Robert Simpson of Freiston, of whom we know nothing except that he taught in the school for the next twelve years. It is only when we come to the appointment of John Richardson on August 12th, 1708 that we learn the conditions of appointment, which are worth recording:-
Upon taking up his office, John Richardson found another condition in force, though, as he survived only a year, it did not affect him.
On 20th October, 1709, John Thornley of Wainfleet All Saints was appointed upon almost precisely the same conditions, except that the reference to "Market, tavern or Alehouse" was omitted. We learn little about John Thornley except that he made and fenced "his little garden" that he was a useful odd job man and that he had the disagreable duty of reading an expulsion order to one of the bedemen.
Henry Pinchbeck, who had stolen the wood for fuel, did not, in fact, pay the penalty. He was too ill to be removed from the Bedehouse and died there three months later.
John Thornley was succeeded in office on 24th June, 1717 by William Spelkes, "late a teacher of children at Trusthorpe in the County of Lincoln, but indeed an Inhabitant last legally settled in Mumby Chappel in the County aforesd ", who also was required to sign a contractual undertaking upon appointment, the conditions being considerably more onerous as may be seen from the later part. -
The full strength of feoffees witnessed the signature. It would appear that the Parish Clerk had a hand in drawing up this document and that the settlement provisions of the Poor Relief Act of 1662 were beginning to trouble the Churchwardens, particularly those of Wrangle, in whose parish he would reside. In course of time he might become legally settled in Wrangle, and if, at the end, he became a pauper, Wrangle would have to support him. The settlement certificate from Mumby Chapel would be valid only until he had established legal settlement in Wrangle. The school and Bedehouse were for the joint benefit of Leake and Wrangle and it seemed only right that they should share the risk. After witnessing the signature of William Spelkes, the same vicars and wardens signed the following --
They need not have worried. Although during the first year he received the unusually large sum of £3 - 7 - 1 "for encouragement," bringing his total salary to £16 - 1 - 5 1/2, which was more than twice as much as George Goodrick had received in 1673, William Spelkes looked at the schoolmaster's house nd would not live in it. The meeting of the feoffees at the next Candlemas meeting produced the following --
It appears that he did not wait for his second and third admonitions, but walked out. It may be that his action stirred the feoffees, as the next year's accounts include the following --
It is quite clear that there was much to be done at the Bedehouse and perhaps Mr. Spelkes did his successor a good turn by refusing to take up residence in the school house. After his departure, the figure of Mr. Joseph Roebuck flits across the page, the only reference to him being the following --
Mr. William Langhorne (he always adds the final 'e' which everyone else who writes about him omits) was a man of resource, initiative and determination. The submission bond is not recorded, but it is clear that he also took a look at his house and decided to change all that. In his very first year we find
Item Given the Schoolmaster towards the building his new room 02. 15. 001/2
and the following year --
Item Given the Schoolmaster in further Consideration of his Charge in Building his new Room & by way of Encouragement 05. 04. 10
In the following three years he received items of £3 - 6 -1, £3 - 16 - 01, and £2 "for encouragement."
We can imagine him leaving his schoolroom to attend to his new room and returning in a fury to quell the inevitable riot and doing it only too thoroughly. He may have calmed down for a time after this rebuke, but he was a man of restless energy. The accounts show him renting and grazing land for several years, dealing in hay, repairing fences and the house, providing meals for workmen at the Bedehouse and travelling to Lincoln to transcribe the two wills - and, of course, we have a record only of what he did for the Bursar. But all was not well. The children were not being well taught but were being severely punished. The grumblings of individual parents led to concerted action in the two parishes until we have the following. --
Unfortunately, the petition itself has not survived. The previous year Mr. Langthorne had received 0 - 2 - 72 over and above his salary "towards Repair of his House & other necessaries. " This year he received nothing and he appears to have turned sour. He spread malicious rumours that the Rev. Richard Baily, who had been Bursar continuously for 14 years while there was no incumbent at Leake, had been pocketing the funds of the Bedehouse. In 1731, the Rev. Skynner Baily, nephew of the Rev. Richard Baily, after serving as curate, became the vicar of Leake and the ugly rumours had reached his ears. Unfortunately for Mr. Langhorne, he had not mended his ways as a schoolmaster and at the following Candlemas meeting the feoffees met at full strength to deal with him. It is clear that Mr. Langhorne maintained his charge against the Rev. Richard Baily, and that the other five feoffees were put to the trouble of enquiring into the matter. In the findings given below, the word 'defence' has been substituted for 'examination' in the third line from the end. All five signed the Memorandum, including a member of the present writer's family.
It is clear that William Langhorne's 'Submission' did not include the terms of John Thornley's document of 1709, containing the penalties 'Expulsion, Deprivation or other pecuniary punishment at the discretion of the Burser,' but the milder wording of the William Spelkes document of 1717, in which he made a promise 'to quit possession of the said Bedehouse and relinquish all further right to any profits thereof upon the request or command of the Burser thereof.' However, the effect was the same and William Langhorne had to go. His resignation is preserved and in his firm, bold signature may be detected a note of defiance.
It will be noted that there is an interval of eleven months between the third and final admonition and the resignation and that by now there was a new team of churchwardens. William Langhorne clearly made his terms before tendering his resignation. Although he had received various items towards the cost of his new room, he was himself out of pocket, and it is clear that he refused to resign unless this money was made good. It is equally clear that the feoffees refused to pay him anything and the unsatisfactory situation dragged on. A solution was finally reached agreable to both parties. William Langhorne would get his money, but the feoffees would not pay it - it would come from the salary of his successor who would enjoy the convenience of the new room. It is clear from the handwriting as well as the spelling of Mr. Langhorne's name that what he signed was a prepared statement. There was a candidate waiting for the post and at the next Candlemas meeting we find the following --
The candidate for the vacancy was John Allenson who was still in office when the accounts come to an end in 1747. At the same time as the agreement given above two entries were written, one his 'Submission,' in terms very similar to those already given, and the other his agreement with the compromise effected between William Langhorne and the feoffees --
William Langhorne had bargained shrewdly. In addition to this sum from his successor he had received a payment cash down from the Bursar, which could hardly have been paid willingly--
Item Given Mr. Langhorne upon his resignation of the School and Beadhouse 4 0 0
He remained in the district, occasionally even doing work for the Bedehouse, and finally received his money in full
At this stage, William Langhorne passes from the story.
John Allenson, in his 'Submission' described himself as 'late a teacher of Children at Conisby in the County of Lincoln but indeed an Inhabitant legally settled at Skipton in the County of York.' He was, of course, required to obtain a certificate from the officers of Skipton and there was one important modification in his agreement. He was not required to deputise for the Parish Clerk whenever the latter was absent or chose to be absent. On this occasion the words 'as Party and Party may agree' were inserted. This was a considerable concession.
For ten years all seems to go well with John Allenson. There is no news of the school, but he is clearly part of the community, buying the cows for the Bedehouse, conducting small deals in hay and thorns, taking a hand at mowing and dikeing and sometimes earning quite large sums for goods or services of which we know nothing. The first mention of receipts in these accounts comes in 1688, but always until 1712 we know what has been bought or what work has been done. By the time Mr. Allenson becomes the schoolmaster, the account book yields less and less information, so that when we find, in 1744 'Paid Mr. Allenson by Bill and Rect. -- £4 - 7 - 10', we can only say that whatever it was, it was the equivalent of four months' salary. His tenure of office was not without its blemish. The parents of Wrangle and Leake appear to have laid some store by education and the treatment of their children, wanting them to learn and not to be too much knocked about; and what happened in the village school soon became common knowledge. John Allenson overstepped the mark of what could be tolerated and we find the following entry --
The accounts end four years later and there are no further entries relating to the school. It would appear that John Allenson was more diplomatic than his predecessor as he continued to be in favour - it is, in fact, the year after his rebuke that he received the large sum already mentioned.
It is well nigh impossible from the evidence of the account book to assess the success of the school or the esteem in which it was held locally. The Rev. William Erskine was Vicar of Wrangle from 1674 until 1704 and was Bursar of the Bedehouse for half that time. He thought highly enough of the institution to endow it still further. William Clay, who was Churchwarden of Leake in 1676-77, and almost certainly a former pupil, lived to a ripe old age, as it was 50 years later when he left his £5, the interest of which was to go to the schoolmaster. He must have known all the schoolmasters except John Allenson. One other slight indication comes in 1743, the year of Allenson's admonition, when a collection was made towards the cost of repairs to the school to a total of £9 - 0 - 11. A sum of £4 - 15 - 6 was raised, F,4 coming in small items from the parishioners of Wrangle and Leake and 15/6 from the local gentry. The Lords of the two Manors did not contribute - in fact, they are not recorded as having done anything for the Bedehouse throughout the 77 years. They are mentioned in the accounts only as recipients of cullier and out rents. It appears to have been essentially a school of the ordinary villager, with four of the six managers small farmers, probably former pupils, and likely to have children at the school.
As for the pupils, we can judge from the number of times that the glazier has to be called in and the number of times that the fences of the schoolmaster and the Bedehouse have to be mended that they were worthy ancestors of the present generation of schoolchildren. There is, perhaps, one pointer to the success of the school. This was an area of the small peasant farmer, and it is likely that most of those who received any formal education at all, received it at the Bedehouse school. Both parishes had the custom of changing their churchwardens every two or three years, and apart from the Wilbys and the relations of the clergy who served as churchwardens, all were graziers, yeomen, husbandmen, carpenters and the like, legally settled in the parishes. The names of more than 120 of them are recorded in these accounts. Of this number, all except 28 could write. Of these, 20 had to make their mark prior to 1700, and thereafter only 8. As attendance at school was entirely voluntary, that is a very good record. Six generations of the writer's family were educated at this school, the last of them leaving in the middle of the 19th century. Except for the earliest of them, there is evidence that all were literate, and doubtless there are many other families with a similar record. Wrangle and Leake had every reason to be grateful to the Rev. Thomas Allenson.
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