Aberford People

Friday, June 22, 2007



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 Aberford belonging to Oriel College in Oxford which has been useless to the Farmer of the Tythe for a great many years by reason of another Barn being built upon the said Rectory....

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, S Duffield and J Cox.”

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 Oriel College continued down through the centuries. Indeed, as late as 1914, when the school and land were conveyed to the Archdeacon of York, the signatories to the conveyance were the Archbishop of York, Cosmo Gordon, the Vicar of Aberford, Reverend Shepheard-Walwyn and the conveyance states that it is with the consent of the Provost and Fellows of Oriel College whose seal is affixed (presumably to show proof of their assent).

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:

All that plot of land situated at Aberford .. containing by admeasurement One thousand four hundred square yards ... also all that messuage, or School, with the outbuilding and conveniences thereto adjoining and belonging erected on the said plot ...to hold the same unto and to the use of the said Archdeacon of York and his successors for ever ... upon trust ... used as and for a School for the education of children or adults or children only of the labouring, manufacturing and other poorer classes in the Parish of Aberford aforesaid and for no other purpose such school to be always in union with and conducted upon the principles ... of the Incorporated National Society for promoting the education of the Poor in the principles of the Established Church ....

“... said Archdeacon of York....may consent .. at the request of the National Society...grant or convey for educational purposes but not otherwise to any body, corporation or bodies corporate or person ... the estate or interest herby vested in them or any smaller interest in the said School ...

Oriel College have no property holdings left in the village today – although they had up to 1932 - but our link to this great College goes back indeed to its very foundation and is reflected today in the name of one of the cottages in School Lane which used to be for the Headmaster.

Turning now to our connection to Queens College. This is through Lady Elizabeth Hastings.

She was the daughter of Theophilus Hastings, 7th Earl of Huntingdon and her mother was the daughter of a very wealthy East India merchant with vast estates including the Manor of Ledstone which was bought from the son of Lord Strafford. She lived in various places in her early life but did not marry and settled at Ledstone. She was a very pious and charitable lady and gave away a fortune during her lifetime to very many good causes .

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 Aberford School had grown -

“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 Queens College, Oxford and she went on to fund some Scholarships there – again she stipulated in great detail how the scholars should be chosen and this involved Aberford. The terms are given here.

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 Oxford. By 1914 the Scholarships had risen to 20 scholars each receiving £100p.a. Full details are given by Lady Elizabeth as to how the scholars are to be tested and chosen.

1 poor scholar each from the principal schools in Leeds, Wakefield, Bradford, Beverley, Skipton, Sedborough, Ripon and Sherborne – from Westmorland St Bees and from Cumberland Penrith. These scholars are to be brought to the best Inn in Aberford (Abbeford or Abbeforth) to be tested by 7 Vicars from named Parishes – they must do a translation into Latin of part of an oration by Tulley, 2/3 verses in Latin testament into Greek. In the afternoon 2 subjects – practical divinity out of Church catechism – each boy give his thoughts in Latin on 8/12 lines, distinguished sentence of a classic author – each boy to give two distichs of verse.

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 Inn. When did this practice cease ? Does the bequest still apply ? At the time of writing I am still in contact with the Queens College Archivist.

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:

Oriel College website and Copy Deeds provided by Oriel College Archivist

Manuscript and notes (by unknown author ) loaned by Mr Young of Aberford School

“Life and Work of Lady Elizabeth Hastings” by Rev C.E. Medhurst (Leeds Library)