Headteachers lived life free of rent worry

Stamfordham school
Stamfordham school

Nicholas Carlisle’s Concise Description of the Endowed Schools of England and Wales, 1818, has information on eight schools in Northumberland: Allendale, Alnwick, Haydon Bridge, Hexham, Morpeth, Newcastle, Rothbury and Stamfordham.

He got his information, partly from parliamentary reports, etc, but mostly by sending a letter and questionnaire to the headmasters of every grammar school in England and Wales. Some of the questions related to salary and emoluments, and there seems to have been no embarrassment on their part in giving this information, often in exact detail.

The respondent for Morpeth was presumably the headmaster, the Rev James Harrison, MA, formerly Scholar of Catherine Hall, Cambridge. The usher, the Rev Thomas Fallowfield, was also a Cambridge MA.

School was held in the upstairs room at the west end of Morpeth Chantry, the headmaster’s class at one end and the usher’s at the other. Both, according to Kennedy’s Story of Morpeth Grammar School, were excellent teachers.

The endowment, all in land and buildings, produced about £240 a year. There were 12 boys ‘upon the foundation’, and 50 who paid fees. The maximum permitted charge was 40/- p.a.

The master received two-thirds of the rents from the endowment, and the usher one third, and the ‘net emolument’ from fee-paying scholars was divided in the same proportion. The total income, therefore, was about £340, the headmaster getting about £220 and the usher £110.

For comparison, the Rev George Atkin, Presbyterian minister in Morpeth from 1807 to 1828, had an income of just under £180 per year, which a contemporary thought ‘amply sufficient to keep the minister pretty comfortable’. If, as is likely, his house was rent-free, his total emolument was about £200 per year.

The stipend of another Presbyterian minister, the Rev Marcus Dods of Belford, ‘never rose above £90 a year, and there were seven of us to feed and clothe and educate’. (Marcia Dods, Early Letters of Marcus Dods, D.D.) The family lived frugally, albeit in a large house with a very large garden. Mr Dods took boarding pupils, whom he educated with his own sons. He also wrote books and was editor of The Christian Instructor.

The remuneration of our schoolmasters was, however, a little more complicated than I have suggested so far.

Mr Harrison himself occupied a large three storey house, now the Conservative Club, rent-free. Not only was this a valuable perquisite, but it enabled him to take boarders. He charged £26 p.a. for boys under 14 and £32 for those over. Any extra tuition he gave the boarders, however, was free of charge.

Secondly, the statutes of 1811 allowed only the Catechism, Latin, Greek and English grammar to be taught in school, and the rudiments of Hebrew if required. But out of school hours, the masters were allowed to teach writing, arithmetic, the use of globes, mathematics, and ‘any branches of useful or elegant Education, the parents or friends of the boys paying for such separate instruction’.

Finally, under a voluntary arrangement not envisaged in the statutes, Mr Harrison had two extra rooms fitted out. He employed three assistant masters, probably all part-time, one to teach French, one mathematics, and one the younger pupils. It appears from a later but similar arrangement, that their salaries were met by the master and usher, in the usual proportions.

Mr Harrison and Mr Fallowfield’s incomes might seem very modest for graduate teachers, but in fact the usher was better off than many headmasters in Northumberland, and the headmaster better off than all of them.

The Free Grammar School, this is the usual expression in Carlisle’s Concise Description, at Allendale was founded in 1700 under the will of Christopher Wilkinson, yeoman, of Chapel House. The master had to be ‘of good life and conversation’ and licensed by the bishop. The salary of the headmaster, Mr John Hewitson, was £55 10s. p.a., plus the ‘quarter-pence’, viz., reading, 1/- a quarter, reading and writing 2/-, and reading, writing, arithmetic and the Classics 3/-. He did not take pupils.

At Alnwick in 1649, Algernon, Earl of Northumberland, granted the school 1d. for every boll of corn or grain sold in Alnwick market. It formerly raised £30 p.a., but now only £6. The salary of the master, the Rev William Procter, was only £20 p.a., the difference being made up by the Chamberlains and the Four-and-twenty. He had, however, ‘a neat House, and Garden’, and took boarders.

The school at Haydon Bridge was founded in 1685 by John Shaftoe, Clerk. The endowment originally produced £80 p.a., but now, in striking contrast to most other endowments, £730 p.a.

Boys were taught grammar, classical learning, writing, arithmetic, geography, navigation, mathematics, and ‘such other branches of Literature and Education’ as the trustees should think proper and necessary.

They were evidently exemplary trustees. In 1785 they obtained an Act of Parliament for the better government of the school, the headmaster’s salary being fixed at not less than £100, nor more than £150.

They also built a ‘School-house and School proper for the Education of Girls and the habitation of a School-Mistress’. The girls learnt reading, writing, arithmetic, knitting, working, and ‘such other parts of female education’ as the trustees should think proper and necessary.

The headmaster, Mr Tatham, had in addition to his £150, ‘an excellent large House capable of accommodating several Boarders’.

Although the grammar school at Hexham was established by Letters Patent of Queen Elizabeth in 1598, it apparently never had any original endowment. The salary of the master, the Rev Thomas Scurr, was £21 17s. 2¾d., with a dwelling-house and garden worth ten to fifteen pounds. The quarter-pence, 5/- admission and 7/6 per quarter, were his only other emoluments. He did not take pupils.

The RGS at Newcastle was founded by Thomas Horsley, who was mayor in 1525 and 1533. It became Royal under Queen Elizabeth in 1600. The headmaster, the Rev Edward Moises, MA, received a salary of £120 p.a. Neither he nor the usher took boarders.

I find it remarkable that, Newcastle being both bigger and richer than Morpeth, his salary was only half of Mr Harrison’s. Thomlinson’s at Rothbury was founded by the Rev John Thomlinson in 1720. His endowment produced £20 p.a., £14 for the master and £6 for the usher. The income had never changed, and was now quite inadequate so the trustees had converted the school into a National Seminary. They added a further £30 from other of Dr Thomlinson’s charities, making £50 in all, and the school was now free only to the poor.

The school at Stamfordham was founded by Sir Thomas Widdrington of Cheeseburn Grange. The endowment was in land and produced £10 p.a., but had risen in value to £220 p.a. Only English was taught now. The appointment of the master was in the gift of the Shaftoe family of Whitworth, County Durham. The master, Walter Scott, MD, received the entire £220, together with a house.

Stamfordham was thus the only place where the salary and perquisites compared with those of Mr Harrison at Morpeth.