Alleyne's Grammar School, Stevenage


Hertfordshire Countryside




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:

"For the board (potura) of William son of Sir Richard le Rous, being in the School (scolis) at Stevenage (' Stich') from St. Marks to Michaelmas Day, 22 weeks and 3 days, 18s. 8d., that is say, 10d. per week. For 3 yards of blue cloth bought for a tunic and a hood for the use of same, 3s. 9d., making the same with a pair of sleeves (manucarum) of the robe of the same, 8d., 2 caps 3s. 8d., for shirts 2s., for a pair of linen cloths 12d, for a pair of stockings (caligarum), and two pairs of shoes (sotularium) 20d."

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" :

Master Alien his orders of his Grammar Scholes in Stevenage, Stone and Uttoxeter.

My dearly beloved children whom I love in Christ and tender you as myself I desire and charge you upon paine of punishment to observe and keepe my orders appointed to be kept in these scholes.

I will that all the children within the townes of Stevenage, Stone and Uttoxeter and within two or three miles compasse, which have learned the books of the eight parts of speech in Englishe and very perfectly can say the declensions and can give anie persons in the verbe parte and have afterwards learned the concords of grammar, commonly called the English Rules, shall be admitted to this schoole.

Item. I will that my schoolmasters may take all manner of children without the compass of two or three miles to his own profit.

Item. I will that all the schollers of these my schooles shall come into the schoole before seaven of the clock in the morning from Michaelmasse till our Lady-day in Lent; And from our Ladie Day in Lent until Michaelmasse again they shall come into the schoole before six of the clock in the morning. sub poena virgae.

Item. My schollers shall goe to dinner at eleaven of the clock and come into the schoole againe before one be strucken: sub poena vilgae. And they shall goe home at five of the clock at afternoone.

Item. I will that in the morning they shall say a Miserere psalme kneeling, a Pater noster, and a Credo in Deum: et hoc orationem: Domine sancte Pater omnipotens etc. At one of the clock, before they begin lessons, all the schollers kneeling shall say the ten commandments of Almightie god in Latine, etc, as they did in the morning.

Item. At five of the clock before they depart out of the schoole they shall say the Psalme of Deus misereatur giving thanks for their founder as in the morning: sub poena virgae.

Item. Their communication shalbe in Latine in all places amongst themselves as well in the streets and their playes as in the schoole. sub poena virgae.

Item. I will that if anie of my schollers use swearing or anie unhonest games or evill company of men or women or wenches to the hinderance of his learning, he shall be expulsed forth of my school except he amend on good admonition given to him and to his friends of his faults by my schoolmaster.

Item. I will that all my schollers shall behave themselves gently to all kinde of persons of every degree; sub poena virgae.

Item. I will that all my schollers shall love and reverence my schoolmaster and gently receive punishment of him for their faults. sub poena virgae.

Item. I will that all my schollers at their first entrance into my schoole shall give two pence apiece to a poor scholler appointed by the master to keepe the schoole cleane and to provide rods.

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.

  The Avenue, Stevenage

Valentine 58990 JV

Also uncoloured in X.L. Series Real Photo Cards - posted 1915


The Foundation

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.