Early History of Alleyne's Grammar School
by Geoffrey A. Gibbons
Hertfordshire Countryside, Summer 1951, page 26
EARLIEST records of the existence of schools in this country indicate that they owed their existence to the Church, being in nearly every case attached to a cathedral or abbey. In our own county the oldest school is undoubtedly that founded at the Abbey of St. Alban and now known as St. Albans Grammar School. It is probable that a school existed there in the ninth century, and there is evidence that the Abbot Richard was the master in the year 1100.
Berkhamsted School was founded about 1523 and Hertford Grammar School in 1617.
Alleyne's Grammar School, Stevenage, was founded in the year 1558 by the Reverend Thomas Alleyne, who was at that time Rector of Stevenage. There is evidence, however, that there was a school ("scolis") in the town in 1312. In support of this is an item in the account submitted at Michaelmas of that year by the bailiff of Stevenage to the .. lords of the manor, the Abbot and Convent of Westminster." It read:
It is worthy of note that very few of the Tudor schools, till late in the days of Elizabeth, were founded where none had previously existed, and it may be inferred with considerable probability that the origin of AlIeyne's as a seat of learning dates back at least to the early fourteenth century.
The Reverend Thomas Alleyne, in his will of May 24, 1558, gave" lands, etc., in Leicester, Hertford, Kent, Stafford and the City of London amounting to the clear yearly value of fourscore pounds or thereabouts" to the Master, Fellows and Scholars of Trinity College, Cambridge, to their only proper use and behoof (profit, benefit) to the intent that with part of the profits they should find and maintain three free grammar schools at Uttoxeter, Stone and Stevenage, and should pay to each schoolmaster of the three schools £13/6/8 for his stipend ....
This stipend, which would appear to be ludicrous by present-day standards, com pares with a yearly payment of £20 to the master of St. Albans School, and the two figures appear to encompass the range of the salaries of most of the schoolmasters of those days.
We may well turn now to some of the statutes made by the founder of Alleyne's for the government of the three schools at Stevenage, Stone and Uttoxeter. I shudder to think what would be the reactions of present-day scholars if those in authority were to attempt to enforce, sub poena virgae, some of the statutes applicable to their sixteenth-century predecessors! Here, in abridged form, are some of the " Statutes" :
The founder indeed appears to have regarded the rod as the school's one foundation and a panacea for all the ills of the scholars.
Alleyne's stands at the west end of the Avenue, a delightful half-mile, tree-lined walk which connects the fine Norman parish church o[ St. Nicholas with the Great North Road at a point where it leaves the town. The school appears to have been held originally in an ancient chapel which was pulled down about 1572. In 1562, however, it was transferred to a school or chapel erected on Brotherhood lands - in fact, its present site.
Between the "industry" of the school buildings and the "recreation" of the playing fields lies the "Berry Mead," which, in his will of July 29, 1596, was given by one Edmund Nodes to the "Free School," a gift amplified by a grandson, John Nodes, in 1629. Future research will undoubtedly reveal the means by which what is now the Bury Mead has become public property, administered by Stevenage Urban District Council.