Dewhurst School



Class 4, Dewhurst School, Cheshunt, Herts

Class 4, Dewhurst School, Cheshunt

Post card - no publisher - estimated c1910


     Dewhurst, Church Gate (boys), founded by Robert Dewhurst in 1640, for 20 boys, & endowed by him with 231 a. 2r. 14p. of land & about 630 in Consols; the gross income from this charity in 1889 was 376 18s. & the school has in addition 6 from Elderton's & 10 12s. from Britten's Charity; the school will hold 253 boys; average attendance, 200; Charles Samuel Cooper, master.

    This school is under the control of six managers; J. Crawter, Turner's Hill, correspondent.

Kelly's Hertfordshire Directory, 1908

Recollections of the school, with a picture of the original building before redevelopment in the 1980s can be found on Our Broxbourne.

The school continues as a Church of England Primary School

The seventeenth century saw the foundation of two local charity schools. Richard Hale founded his school at Hertford in 1617, and in 1640 Robert Dewhurst founded his free school for boys at Churchgate, Cheshunt. Robert Dewhurst was a lawyer, resident at the former Cheshunt Nunnery which had been purchased from Anthony Denny by his father, Barnard Dewhurst. Robert purchased land in Church gate from Robert Dacres of Cheshunt Great House and built the school there in 1640. He handed over its management to trustees in 1642, three years before his death in 1645. Twelve trustees were appointed, and two farms were purchased near Saffron Walden, the income from which was used to maintain the school.

The purpose of the school was set out in the trust deed as follows:

"The school to remain for ever for the benefit of poor children of the parish for the teaching of them there to read English, so that they may know God the better, and also to write and cast accounts so that they may be better able to be apprenticed to some honest trade or mystery."

The schoolmaster was to be paid 20 per annum, and Dewhurst rather shrewdly stipulated that the curate of the parish may not be master. Twenty nobles were to be given to each boy apprenticed, and he also left money in trust for providing bread and coals for the inmates of the almshouses in Turners Hill.

The earliest extant records of the school date from 1645 and consist of the account books and lists of boys put out apprentice. The first boys must have had only five years at the school. Trades represented in the early records of apprentices include merchant­ tailors, bakers, joiners, chandlers, weavers, cordwainers, shipwrights, and chiro-barber-surgeon.

The original building consisted of a house for the master and a school room 24 feet by 19 feet. Access from the house to the school­room was directly through a large double door in the hall of the house.

The extant minutes of the trustees date from 1706, and until 1779 they give a picture of a succession of boys learning the three Rs, being tested by the trustees and finally leaving the school as apprentices. Not that the school was without its troubles, but these were minor until 1778 when the trustees interviewed complaining parents who alleged brutality by the master. The complaints can be summarised as follows:

James Etheridge had died from a kick in his belly. William Sale had been kicked and beaten with sticks twisted together. John Brown had a slate pencil pushed up his nose which caused "a great bleeding". Joseph Burr had had his arm twisted and had "lost the use of it". Benjamin Parrish had been struck on the temple and had died on the following day.

William Ward, the master, was given notice to leave "at Michaelmas next", and this inadequate treatment is a comment on the cheapness with which the lives of the lower classes were held. There was, however, a tightening up of regulations and more careful supervision by the trustees.

One of the main difficulties in the following years was to find a suitable master to run the school. In 1811 the master absconded, being heavily in debt, and two years later the new master was discharged "for his general character of drunkeness, neglect of duty to the school, his having defrauded the Curate of a considerable sum of money in the collecting of the Easter Offering and likewise getting credit of people in trade". His successor was granted a higher salary of 80 per annum.

Cheshunt in Hertfordshire

Class 3, Dewhurst School, Cheshunt, Herts

Class 3, Dewhurst School, Cheshunt

Post card - no publisher - estimated c1910

Class 3, Dewhurst School, Cheshunt, 1926

Class 3, Dewhurst School, Cheshunt, 1926

The boy marked with an X is Charles Frederick Harris

Image kindly provided by Doreen Venables

The gentleman is Mr. W. Colemam Edwards - who was headmaster between 1924 and 1938.

There is a similar photograph, for Class 4 in Cheshunt's Past in Pictures, which also includes a picture of the school in 1919..


November 2012   Page created ted
December 2012   1927 picture added