ABERFORD AND TWO GREAT OXFORD COLLEGES
By M R Piper
These extracts are intended to form part of a book I’m attempting to write about the history of Aberford School. As my project will take some time I thought people might be interested in what I have discovered about some aspects of the early school.
Aberfordians know what an ancient place Aberford is – how this area was part of the Kingdom of Elmete, how the Romans marched across the little River Cock, how the Norman knights hunted here, how stagecoaches and drovers passed this way. Some older people who were born in the village may know there is a connection between Aberford School and Oriel College, Oxford but perhaps they don’t know that it goes right back to the very founding of Oriel College itself.
I doubt that even many older residents know that Aberford also has a connection to another Oxford College – Queens. This is via the Charitable Trust set up by Lady Elizabeth Hastings. First of all I shall deal with the connection to Oriel College.
Oriel College was founded by a man called Adam de Brome – he was an Almoner to King Edward II – a royal official. He carried out many varied tasks such as, in 1297 collecting food supplies in Dorset, in 1299 he was in charge of the assize of corn and wine. In 1305 he was auditing accounts of the papal tithes. Early in Edward II’s reign he was one of the Clerks of Chancery. He had also been ordained a priest in 1301 and held several religious posts in different parts of the country, including Rector of Handsworth, Yorkshire between 1313 and 1316.
De Brome was Rector of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford from 1320 to 1326 and, in 1324 he purchased two properties in Oxford and the avowson of a church in Aberford. Presumably he must have thought these purchases a good investment which would produce good income.
In this same year De Brome obtained a licence from the King to found a college of scholars and the Oxford properties and avowson were granted to the newly formed college.
The name Oriel came about through the college receiving, through royal grant, a large house known as La Oriole for it had an oriel window and stood on the site of what is now First Quad. Adam de Brome was the first Provost of Oriel College and St Mary the Virgin church is used by Oxford University for official functions to the present time, which gives the College a constitutional importance in Oxford. Adam de Brome died in 1332 and was buried in St Mary’s Church Oxford – he is depicted in a stained glass window in the hall of Oriel College.
The avowson of Aberford Church would have produced income for the College from rents etc from the land which formed the avowson. In addition, the position of Vicar of Aberford church was (and remains) in the gift of Oriel College – this has been suspended for the present time due to re-organisation of the Parish – it being joined with Micklefield.
For some centuries, whilst the education of some lucky young men was proceeding in Oxford, there was no education of ordinary people in Aberford or anywhere else. Income continued to flow to Oriel College from the avowson, maintaining that invisible thread which joined the two distant communities.
However, Aberford village was very fortunate in having some residents who created the first school at such an early date and who were prepared to create a dedicated building to house the children. Rev. David Dawson was the Vicar in 1716 and he was one of the group of men who worked to found a school. A letter was sent to Oriel College from some gentlemen living in Aberford concerning the provision of a school. This is reproduced here.
“To the Reverend Master and Fellows of Oriel College, Oxford
Whereas the Gentlemen, Freeholders and Inhabitants in and about the Parish of Aberford in the County of York, have by their liberal contributions, advanced a considerable sum of money to be paid yearly for and towards the setting up of a charity school in the Town of Aberford to teach poor children to read and write and instructing them in the Knowledge and Practice of the Christian (faith) as it is profest and taught in the Church of England.
Whereby nothing is left undone to ... the benefit of the Town of Aberford (wherein there is abundance of very poor ... Familys where parents are unable to pay for any learning for their children) but the want of a convenient school for the master and children.
And whereas, upon a meeting of the trustees... they found that the master and children could not assemble together with any tolerable case or convenience without creating a new building ... and through many of the .. contributors did again subscribe towards building a school house yet the money... is not sufficient to defray the charge of such a building ...
And whereas there is an ancient decayed Tythe Barn upon the Rectory in the Town of
The Farmer of the ... Rectory is willing that (the Tythe Barn)should be applied to the building of the school ... provided the Reverend Masters and Fellows agreed and consent to the same.
Therefore, we whose names are subscribed... do most humbly beseech that you would (instruct) your Tenant to take down the decayed barn and apply the materials towards building such a school... as ... will be, by the blessing of God, a lasting good... to the poor town of Aberford..
Signed by J Gascoigne Esq., J Plant, Tenant to ye Rectory, R Potter, Vicar of Aberford, G. Rhodes,
Consent must indeed have been given and the new school was erected using some of the materials of the old Tythe Barn but a great deal of new material was also used.
So this connection with
This transfer – at no cost – was to allow the school to be brought within the National Society (the Church body for running National Schools). Extracts from this Deed state:
“... said Archdeacon of
Turning now to our connection to
She was the daughter of Theophilus Hastings, 7th Earl of Huntingdon and her mother was the daughter of a very wealthy
Just before she died in 1739, Lady Elizabeth prepared a Trust Deed which was extremely detailed and stipulated how the income from the property held in trust was to be distributed – at this time Aberford school would have been in existence for just over 20 years. Within this Deed is a stipulation “the charity school at Aberford the yearly sum of £5.5s.0d to be paid to the Vicar for the time being”.
An extract from the Charities Commission Report of 1897 shows that Lady Elizabeth’s bequest to
“Lady Betty Hastings charity
In pursuance of her directions the sum of £10.10s.0d per year is paid by her trustees to the Master of the school at Aberford, appointed by the Vicar, to instruct the children of the poorer inhabitants in reading and writing and he teaches accordingly about 30 children as free scholars and with other children, paid for by their parents, in a room built by a subscription of the inhabitants.
At this time further research is required to see if this bequest continues to the present.
Lady Elizabeth had corresponded with Provost Smith of
Scholarships were to be awarded every 5 years. Originally for 5 poor scholars who were to receive £20p.a. to enable them to be maintained at
1 poor scholar each from the principal schools in
Some 330 boys had been helped with scholarships between 1764 and 1912. Many of them went on to have distinguished careers of various sorts – the majority in the fields of the Church and Education.
A striking picture is brought to mind when one reads about the young applicants being brought to Aberford to be tested by the clergymen and it would be interesting to find out if this indeed happened and how long the practice continued. Perhaps they stayed at the White Swan Inn for it was probably the principal
So there it is, our strong and ancient connection to two great Oxford Colleges. Has any ex Aberford school child ever gone to one of these Colleges ? I don’t know, but if anyone out there does then please let me know so I can include this information in the book I’m doing.
Sources I consulted are given here and my thanks to all of them:
Manuscript and notes (by unknown author ) loaned by Mr Young of
“Life and Work of Lady Elizabeth Hastings” by Rev C.E. Medhurst (