Rev. TUCK's School, Welwyn, Little Wymondley & Northaw, c1840-c1930




Little Wymondley


September, 2012

Paul Fitz-George (paul.macd @t of Dumfries asks: Is there anything you can tell me about a school that appears to have been run by John J Tuck, Curate of Ayott St Peter, at  Hertford Road, Welwyn. I am specifically interested in one of his pupils, George Fitz-George, who I believe is my ancestor and of whom we have very little data, which is proving a very great problem in proving our ancestral line. If you have anything you can tell me about the school and where their records of pupil's personal details may have been kept, I would be very much obliged.

Some more background about my family can be found here, on a site run by the genealogist Anthony Camp.

The records of small private schools rarely survive and often the only clear evidence for their existence are entries in the census (as with the school run by the Rev. John J. Tuck) and in trade directories (where it appears not to be listed - the entries simply recording the home of the Rev. Tuck). I can seen no evidence that any detailed records of the school run by the Rev. Tuck have survived - but schools changed hands and perhaps records survive if there is a continuous history (with an Old Boys association) linking it with a more recent school. More indirectly such small schools often recruited pupils by personal recommendation and pupils may well be related to each other, or to the head master, or come from the same areas and the same social class.

Because of your query I have gathered together some information about the Rev. Tuck, the school at Welwyn, the pupils in 1851, and the successor school at Little Wymondley and Northaw.

John Johnson Tuck (1810-1892)

John Johnson Tuck (1810-1892) was born at Beckenham, near Lingwood, Norfolk on 23rd June, 1810, the son of John Johnson Tuck Esq of Lingwood Lodge (and later of Witton near Blofield) and his wife Jenny Braham Holmes, daughter of Thomas Holmes of Hemesby (marriage August 1809). The father clearly had money and status, and was a magistrate - and his name appears frequently in local papers of the time.

The "schoolteacher" John went to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in 1829, became a deacon in 1833, and a priest in 1836. He appears to have been at several parishes in Norfolk before becoming Curate of Ayot St Peter.  The earliest reference I have found to him in Hertfordshire is the following announcement in The Morning Post (London), which also appeared in similar words in The  Essex Standard, The Ipswich Journal and The Standard (London).

On the 21st of September [1843], at East Dereham, by the Rev. William Girling, the Rev John Johnson Tuck of Welwyn, Hertfordshire. to Lucy, eldest daughter of Barry Girling, Esq, of East Dereham.

At the time the Rector of Ayot St Peter was the Rev. Edwin Prodgers, who lived at the Rectory at Ayot St Peter, and John may well have been his curate from 1843, living at Welwyn until late 1851 or early 1852, when he moved to Little Wymondley. At the time of the move he seems to have given up being responsible for a parish, and became a full time schoolmaster. He was still at Wymondley House, Little Wymondley, until 1882, but by 1886 a Rev. Frederic John Hall, M.A., was running a private boarding school for boys in Wymondley House and the Rev. Tuck was at 12 North Road, Hertford, where he was in 1890, but by 1891 he had moved to St Ibbs Bush, St Ippollitts. He died in 1892.

His children were yet another John Johnson Tuck (born 1845 at Welwyn), Alfred Johnson Tuck (1849, Welwyn), Horace Johnson Tuck (1850, Welwyn), Lucy Jane Tuck (1852, Little Wymondley), Edwin Johnson Tuck (1855, Little Wymondley), Francis Johnson Tuck (1856, Little Wymondley) and Margaret Emily Tuck (1859, Little Wymondley). At least two of his sons, John & Alfred (and two of his brothers) became priests.

The School at Welwyn

Prior to the Rev. Tuck there were four private schools listed in Pigot's Driectory in Welwyn in 1839, a preparatory school run by Thomas Fox, and three boarding schools run by Eliza Otway, William Otway and Misses Trash. The 1851 trade directory was drawn up on a different basis and lists Mrs Rachel Bowley (schoolmistress), Thomas Fox (schoolmaster) and the Rev. John Row (schoolmaster).  Rev. Tuck is not listed as a schoolmaster, but as curate of Ayot St Peter.

The 1841 census lists Thomas Fox as schoolmaster in Bedford Road, Welwyn - possibly with 4 resident pupils; William Otway as schoolmaster in the Old Rectory, with possibly 9 pupils, all boys between 8 and 15; Eliza Otway as schoolmistress at End House, East, with perhaps 10 or more female pupils between 10 and 14 plus 5 other children status uncertain.

The 1851 census shows Thomas Fox as schoolmaster in Fore Street, Welwyn, and one female boarder who might be a pupil; Thomas Row was a schoolmaster living in Mill Lane, Welwyn, with his father who was minister of the Bethel Chapel; Charlotte Bowley was a schoolmistress living at Hobbs Hill.

The location of "The Old Rectory" in the 1841 census is not known to me but it is possible that the Rev. Tuck actually took on the small existing school, run by William Otway, as well as the job of curate. His pupils at the time of the 1851 census were:

Name   Born   Born At   Family social status
BALLS, Robert H   1840   Stapleford, Cambridgeshire   Son of farmer?
BARNET, Rosewell   1842   Biggleswade, Bedfordshire   Esq, Stratton Park House
BYNG, Alfred U   1840   Rickling, Essex   Father in Navy in 1841
DAVIDS, John L   1836   Cowes, Hampshire   Son of Surgeon in 1841
FITZGEORGE, George   1844   London, Middlesex   ?
FITZROY, Henry W   1839   Kingstead, Norfolk   Son of Clergyman in 1841
HAMILTON, Francis   1841   East Indies   ?
KERSEY, Samuel P   1837   Westhardling, Norfolk   Son of Farmer? in 1841
SAULESSBURY, Charles T   1841   Offley, Hertfordshire   Son of Clergyman in 1841
TUCK, Edward T   1840   Cambridge, Cambridgeshire   possible relative
WITT, George A   1839   Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire   Father owns 800 acres in 1861
WITT, George P   1840   Farnham, Suffolk   Son of Farmer in 1841

Most of the pupils come from the broad East Anglia area from what we might call middle class families - possible via family contacts, a very common parents list for a small school of this kind. Unfortunately there is nothing to obviously link George FitzGeorge to any of the the other pupils.

The School at Little Wymondley, and Northaw

There is no evidence of a private school at Little Wymondley at the time of the 1851 census, or in the 1851 directory. However it appears that John Tuck had moved to Wymondly House by the end of 1852, possibly taking the school with him.  In 1861 he was listed as a "Clerk In Holy Orders without care of souls - Schoolmaster" and I am wondering whether the absence of any pupils was because the school was closed for Easter. There were 16 boys between 8 and 13 in 1871 and 15 with a similar age distribution in 1881.

By 1886 a Frederic John Hall was running a preparatory school at Wymondley House. In 1891 it had 28 boys - including Thomas Attlee (misspelt in FindMyPast transcription) whose brother Clement Attlee (later UK Prime Minister) also went to the school shortly afterwards. By 1901 the school had moved to Northaw Place, Northaw. I then note that by 1922 Northaw Place Preparatory School was under Cecil Esdaile Winter. Sometime around 1930 it closed down (or moved somewhere else) as in 1933 Northaw Place was occupied by Sir Philip H Devitt.

Even is the pupil records from circa 1850 had survived to 1930, which seems unlikely in the light of the changes in location and ownership, the possible paper trail goes cold at this point.

A Comment from Anthony Carter

Your correspondent refers to Anthony Camp's web site from which it is apparent that they are interested in the George Fitz George who married 16 January 1859. Clearly this cannot be the George FitzGeorge born 1844 found at school in Welwyn, who would have been too young to wed. The one at Welwyn fits very well with an officer of the Hussars found in a later census. There is more about him in Harts Army List as available on findmypast. He was on the Duke of Cambridge's staff. Indeed he is no doubt a son of the latter on whom there is a Wikipedia entry that shows his ancestry and explains the rather intricate question of his legitimacy. Thus I propose that the Duke's son may have been at Welwyn but your correspondent's ancestor was not. In which case Hertfordshire Genealogy is unlikely to throw further light on the matter.  Anthony

Hi Anthony - I concentrated on the Hertfordshire records and from what you say the date fits for George FitzGeorge, son of the Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, to be the young boy at the school. There was clearly something unusual about his presence at the school as he was by far the youngest boarder, and the only one born in London, - and a small rural school such as the one at Welwyn is just the kind of place where a Royal bastard (if you excuse the term) could be sent without drawing too much attention. However some of his fellow pupils might have known who he was - and if any of them left memoirs, etc., there is a chance there could be a surviving contemporary observation. There is also a possibility that one of Prince George's staff would have know John Johnson Tuck - perhaps being at Cambridge at the same time. However this is the type of situation where one could search for years and find nothing.

Anthony Carter added: The 2nd Duke of Cambridge and Mrs Fitzgeorge were buried at Kensal Green ostensibly because the Duke's mistress Mrs Beauclerk was buried there. One wonders therefore who was the George Fitz George buried at Kensal Green 4 April 1870 aged 30. Was he the result of yet another of the Duke's liaisons? Unlike the pupil at Welwyn he could have married in 1859 although not then of full age.

April 2015

Alison Lennox writes: I am reading the diary of Fanny Gosselin who built Blakesware near Wareside, where I live and in 1860 (or 61) she talks about going over to Wymondley to see her son Hellier who was at Mr Tucks school there at Wymondley HouseHellier Gosselin was later Mayor of Hertford 3 times and lived at Bengeo Hall.

Every little helps build up a picture of the school - and the fact that 12 year old Hellier was at home with his parents during the 1861 census supports the idea that the school was closed for Easter. I note that he was listed in Who's Who the 1918 entry reading as follows:

GOSSELIN-GRIMSHAWE, Hellier Robert Hadley, J.P.; b. 1849; 2nd s. of late Martin Hadley Gosselin, J.P. of Ware Priory, and Blakesware, Hertfordshire, and Frances, e. d. of late Admiral Sir John Marshall, K.C.H., C.B.; m. 1902, Mary Ambrose Louisa, e.d. of late Samuel Grimshawe of Errwood Hall. High Sherriff, Herts, 1906; assumed additional surname of Grimshawe by deed poll, 1902; Mrs. Gosselin-Grimshawe is joint owner, with her sister, the Hon. Mrs. Preston, of Errwood Hall. Address: Bengeo Hall, Hertford. Club: Junior Carlton.

With these small private schools it is always interesting to know if any of their pupils became famous or had famous parents - so I have added the following supplementary information - the census data almost certainly contains some spelling mistakes:

The Rev John Tuck was already at Welwyn by 1843 as the Ipswich Journal of 30th September 1843 reports: 21st Inst., the Rev. John Johnson Tuck, of Welwyn, Hertfordshire, to Lucy, eldest daughter of Barry Girling, Esq., of East Dereham. The marriage took place at East Dereham, Norfolk. Possibly he was already running the school at Welwyn at this date.

In 1871 he was at the Mansion House, Little Wymondley, with the following resident pupils: Eustace F Hill (13, London), Francis W Howe (12, London), Henry W Smith (12, Biddenham, Bedfordshire), Cecily E R Brise (12, Braintree, Essex), Valentine Edward Beldam (11, Royston, Hertfordshire), James C Holloway (11, Stanhoe, Norfolk), Philip Bridges (11, China), Archibald Howe (10, London), Augustus S Orlaben (10, Willington, Bedfordshire), Eustace Guinness (10, Ireland), Lionel Herbert (10, East Indies), James Ward Beldam (9, Royston, Hertfordshire), Gordon H Paske (9, East Indies), Herbert A French (9, Shrandeston, Suffolk), Gerald S Guinness (9, Ireland) and Arthur H Gilbert (8, Hemsby, Norfolk).

In 1881 he was at Wymondley House, Little Wymondley, with the following resident scholars: Oswald R. Mounsey (13. Sunbury, Middlesex), Arthur P. How (12, Sunbury, Middlesex), Francis C. French (12, Walingworth, Suffolk), Percy Clark (12, East Holthly, Sussex), George M. Graham (12, India), Charles G. Spencer (12, Wheatfield, Oxfordshire), Sydney How (11, Cobham. Surrey), Alexander C. Calvert (11, Maids Morton, Buckinghamshire), Herbert M.F. Rowe (10, London), Augustus F. Holman (10, East Hoathly, Sussex), Richard Noel Guinness (10, Ireland), William C. French (10, Worlingworth, Suffolk), Conwyn M. Jones (9, Beddington, Surrey), Randal H.W. Vickers (9, Cotham, Yorkshire) and Frederic L. Clarke (8, London).

If you can add to the information given above tell me.

September 2012   Page created
April 2015   Update
January 2018   John Tuck's mother's name corrected