Chapter 1: Gabriel Newton's Gift & the Early History

Len Green

Gabriel Newton’s Gift

In 1760, Gabriel Newton, Alderman of Leicester, decided to devote a large part of his considerable wealth to the education of poor children in certain towns and villages. To this end, he assigned much of his property to the Mayor, Bailiffs and Burgesses of Leicester, who agreed that they and their successors would, for ever, devote the rents and profits thereof to meeting his wishes regarding the places he chose to benefit. His intentions, together with a brief biographical note, are set out in Appendix 1. The Gentleman’s Magazine of November 1762, reporting Newton’s death on 26 October 1762 in his seventy-ninth year, gave the value of his effects as £14,000 and listed the places to benefit from his charity, with the numbers of children, as: Leicester 35; Ashby de la Zouch 25; Earl Shilton 20; Northampton, St Neots, Hertford, Huntingdon, Bedford and Buckingham 25 each. The annual sum to be paid to the Corporation of Hertford was £26, and the word ‘children’ appears to mean ‘boys’.

The boys to benefit were to be of poor and needy parents who were members of the established Church of England, and were to be between seven and fourteen years of age. They were to be allowed ‘annually, or once in fifteen months, or once in eighteen months, as the Trustees should think proper, a green coat, waistcoat and breeches of cloth not under twenty pence per yard; one shirt of flaxen cloth not under thirteen pence per yard with stockings, cap and other apparel’. The residue of the money was to be paid to ‘a proper master to teach them reading, writing and arithmetic and the singing of psalms and the toning of responses in and during divine service in such of the parish churches or chapels in the borough as the Trustees should think proper’.

The Early History of the Green Coat School

It is clear that, long before Gabriel Newton’s gift, there was a Charity School for boys in Hertford. At the back of the ‘Churchwardens’ Book All Saints’ & St John’s 1732-1746′ is recorded:-

‘A worthy Charitable Gentleman who Desires to be unknown Gave Two Hundred Pounds for ever to the Charity School in Fore Street in All Saints’ Parish in Hertford (of which ‘Mr Ralph Battell is the present Master) for the Cloathing and Teaching of poor Boys to Read Write and Cast Accounts and Learn the Church Catechism with which money is Bought South Sea Annuitys transferred to John Legg Esqr and Zacheus Haydon Gent Treasurer of the said School’.

The entry goes on to record similar gifts of fifty pounds from Lady Anne Grimstone, late of Marden, and total gifts of eighty pounds from a Mrs Skinner, Widow. No· dates are given, but as Lady Anne Grimstone died in 1711, the school must have existed in the early years of the eighteenth century, if not before. The entry is plainly prior to the collapse of the South Sea ‘Bubble’ in 1720 and if the Charity had bought early, it would have been comparatively unscathed by this. The Ralph Battell referred to is presumably the one (d.1743) who was Organist at All Saints at this period. Various members of the family also acted as Assistant Masters of the Grammar School.

It is probable that this school became the Green Coat School after Gabriel Newton’s gift. The record in the minutes of a balance of over £300 in 1765 would be accounted for by the Grimstone, Skinner and anonymous gifts and Lewis Turnor assumes this in his History of Hertford 1. A further legacy of £100 was received in 1765 from the executors of Alderman Butteris2.

At a meeting of the Trustees in 1764 it was agreed:

‘…that the Trustees of the Boys’ Charity School do take of Mrs Mary Smith the house where the Charity Boys are now taught for eleven years to commence from Lady Day next at Eight Pounds a year payable Half-yearly, the said Mrs Smith to keep the said House and School in repair and to pay fifteen shillings per annum in consideration of parish rates for the same during the said term, window duty excepted; a copy of this ordered to be delivered to Mrs Smith’.

This was signed by Mrs Smith in the presence of Edmund Rider, John Bebb, Richard Cutler and John Camp. The Churchwardens’ Book for this period records a Widow Smith having a house and school in Pegs Lane, and this could have been the site of the Green Coat School at this time. By 1765, the school was under the name of Daniel Haydon: it is tempting but unwarranted to suggest a link between him and the Zacheus Haydon previously referred to.

A minute of the same period records that the master, Jeremiah Holdings, was to receive a quarter’s pay of £5 in advance.

The annual payments from Leicester were received for two years. On the death of Gabriel Newton in 1762, his heir-at-law tried to set aside the deed of trust and filed a bill in Chancery against the Corporation of Leicester. The payments to Hertford were then suspended. The income from invested money seems to have been supplemented from two other sources. The first entry in the Minute Book in 1763 records:

‘Application having been made to the Rev. M. Fawkner to preach a sermon on the 31st day of July for the benefit of the Charity Boys and Girls of this town, he has accordingly consented to do the same’.

References are made in the minutes of later year to the Charity Sermon which was an annual event. But a main source of income seems to have been in the form of subscriptions from individuals who were then able to nominate boys for the school, and many entries record such nominations, such as:-

’12th March 1765. William Pamphilon, Son of William and Sarah Pamphilon (a proper Certificate of Baptism being produced) is admitted by Alderman Kirby in the room of Nathaniel Camp being dismissed this school for divers Misdemeanours and other complaints alleged against his parents’.

The majority of boys were not dismissed for misdemeanours, but were ‘time expired’ or removed by their parents, probably to become employed.

The legal disputes by claimants on Newton’s estate dragged on for many years, but in 1798 the Corporation of Leicester resumed payments to Hertford on receipt of a bond of indemnity from Hertford Corporation. Arrears of £416 were paid 3 , but in view of the bond of indemnity this, and subsequent payments, were invested, and only the interest used. However, in 1829, no further developments having occurred in the action against the Corporation of Leicester, Hertford Corporation decided it was safe to apply the annual payment from Leicester to the purposes of the school.

Provision of Clothing

A minute of August 10th, 1763, records arrangements made for the provision of the boys’ clothes:-

‘Ordered that Mrs Camp do provide Linnen Cloth sufficient for a shirt for each boy also cloth for their cloaths also a cap and two bands.

Ordered that Mr Thorp make each boy a pair of shoes.

Ordered that Mrs Colthrop provide a pair of leather breeches and a pair of leather gloves for each boy.’

There was some provision for boys leaving the school:-

‘4th July, 1768. Ordered that no part of the Green Cloaths shall ever be given to any boy on his leaving the school. But the Trustees may instead thereof give a coat of low price to any Boy who has gone through the school with credit and reputation.’

And a further entry, on 2 November 1772:-

‘0rdered that the Treasurer do pay Mrs Smith seven shillings to buy her son some Linnen for Shirts on Account of his going through the school with credit and reputation’.

The Building near All Saints’ Church

The 1831 Buckler drawing of the school building in Church Street

In 1812, on a piece of ground granted to the Trustees by Mr Moseley Gillman, a school was built to the north of All Saints’ Church. The cost of the building was met by donations from Hertford Corporation and some residents. Mr Benjamin Cherry, Town Clerk for many years, contributed £50, for which the Trustees’ great gratitude is minuted. The building was intend­ed to accommodate up to fifty boys. In 1817 the same Mr Cherry by his will left £300 to the Green Coat School for Boys (see Appendix 2). As there was also a small legacy to the Green Coat School for Girls, it is appropriate to mention that a Girls’ Charity School is referred to a number of times in the minutes of the Trustees of the Boys’ School, as on 7 August 1797:-

‘The Treasurer is desired to enquire of the Managers of the Girls’ Charity School what assistance. they require and he is authorised to advance them a sum, not exceeding twenty pounds, for which they will account to the Treasurer.’

The Girls’ School, not always referred to as ‘Green Coat’, shared in the collection at the Charity Sermon, and while not directly benefitting from Gabriel Newton’s bequest, did receive regular help from the Trustees of the Green Coat School for Boys.

A note on the Girls’ School is contained in Appendix 3.

Green Coat school Building in Church Street in 1989

In 1818, one small item of expenditure was added when it was ordered that the boys should have their hair cut quarterly, the expense to be defrayed by the Treasurer. The payment to the Master was increased steadily over the years, and in 1832 was raised from £44 to £52. An account of the annual income and expenditure of the school at this time is shown in Appendix 6.

During these early years, the management of the school seems to have followed no set pattern. In 1773, a list of sixteen governors is given: perhaps these were the men who had subscribed – there seems to have been no appointed board. The first minute book of the school ends in 1837.

Further Progress at the Green Coat School

The next minute book starts in 1839. The first item, dated 7 August, records that the various charities which were the responsibility of the Corporation of Hertford were to be administered by one set of Trustees. The charities concerned were the Green Coat School, Hale’s School and the Butteris Charity, which sent a boy from the borough to Christ’s Hospital. Twelve trustees were named, including the Vicar for the time being of the united parishes of All Saints’ and St John’s and Philip Longmore, Esq_., who was to be Treasurer 4. Thomas Green, the Master of the Green Coat School, was to act as Clerk to the Trustees. The legal costs of setting up this board were £94. 19s. 9d, In 1852, when vacancies on the Board were filled, the Rector for the time being of St Andrew’s Church was added; the legal costs were similar to those of the first appointments.

In August 1841, on a recommendation previously made by the Trustees, Mr Green went to the Central School at Westminster to receive instruction in the National Method of Education 5. The school holiday was extended by one week so that he could complete his course. Thomas Green seems to have had a good relationship with the Trustees and it was with great regret that they received notice of his resignation, due to ill health, on 23 August 1855. He continued at the school pending the appointment of a successor, but died on 5 October the same year. The boys were put temporarily under the charge of the Master of the Cowper School which had opened in 1841. In January 1856 John William Grove was appointed as Master of the Green Coat School at a salary of £60 per annum. He was to remain until 1869, by which time his salary had risen to £70. At the same time as Mr Grove was appointed, the Trustees ordered ‘that the boys pay a weekly sum of 1d each to accumulate to be returned to them when they leave school, for the purchase of clothing’.

Daniel Costeker’s Gift

In December 1860 the Trustees received a letter from Daniel Costeker, Esq., announcing his intention to provide a sum of money to invest, sufficient to provide an annual retun1 of £40, to keep the tomb of his mother and stepfather, and John William Benson, in All Saints’ Churchyard, in repair. The surplus was to be for the benefit of the Green Coat School, consisting partly of a sum to admit a number of boys to be known as ‘Bensonian Scholars’. This gift of £1,333. 6s. 8d was received in February 1862, and it was agreed that the number of boys admitted as Bensonian Scholars should be four. The first boys, Alexander Wareham, Frederick George Eames, Samuel Wacket and Samuel Clark:, were admitted in November 1862. A tablet was placed in All Saints’ Church to record the object of the gift and. Daniel Costeker generously met the cost of this, £100. When he died in 1865 he left a further £300 to the school, which was invested as was the first gift.

Due to the number of boys attending, the building opened in 1812 was no longer adequate, and action was taken by the Trustees:-

’13th August 1863. Resolved that application be made to the Managers of the Cowper Testimonial School 6 for the separate use of the room recently used by the girls, at a rental of £12 per annum, a year’s notice to quit on each side being given.’

The Green Coat School started in this room on 11 January 1864, but the office of ‘My Lords of the Privy Council’ declined to recognise two schools under independent management being carried on in buildings belonging to one of them. The visiting H.M.I. drew attention to this decision a number of times, and eventually the school moved back to the old building. The log book records

’25 June 1866. Came down to the old school yesterday (Sunday) having been away since 4th January 1864′.
H.M.I. carried out an inspection on 29 June, and remarked that ‘The old room to which the boys have just returned continues open to all the objections urged in former years’ 7

The New Building in London Road

The Trustees, after considering several sites, decided that a new school should be bui1t at the end of the Cowper School Garden. On 25 March 1867 tenders for the building of the new school and Master’s residence were considered: Ekins £774, Norris £809, Castle £896 and Andrews £815. The tender from Ekins was accepted, the work to be completed in four months from the signing of the contract. The school started in the new building on 27 January 1868.

In May 1868 the Trustees decided on some changes in the school uniform: the leather breeches were to be replaced by cotton corduroy trousers and the boys were to have Blucher boots0 instead of low shoes. The Master reported in the log book:-

‘4th September 1868. Took Ansell to the Mayor and P. Longmore Esq. that they might see the specimen suit of new clothes with the proposed alterations’.

In April 1869 Mr Grove resigned to take up a new post in London and Mr Andreas Loose of Alvechurch was appointed in his place at £70 per annum. Mr Lease’s stay was comparatively short as he resigned in 1873, to be replaced by Mr James Flack, who came from Feltham Reformatory School. His salary of £70 per annum was increased in 1877 to £80 and he remained at the school until it closed in 1894.


0. ‘Blucher Boots’ were calf-length boots of somewhat military appearance. They owed their name to the Prussian Field Marshal, Wellington’s co-victor at Waterloo, who was always depicted in similar footwear.

1. Lewis Turnor, History of the Ancient Town and Borough of Hertford (1830) Chapter X, s.3, p.341.

2. Alderman George Butteris was four times Mayor of Hertford, dying during his last term (1760-61). The residue of his personal estate was left to Christ’s Hospital.

3.It took twenty years to reach a settlement of Gabriel Newton’s personal estate and nearly twenty more to sort out the real estate. Leicester Corporation’s legal costs may well account for the apparent discrepancy between the £416 and what might have been expected.

4. Philip Longmore (1799 – 1879). He was Town Clerk of Hertford during the tumultuous elections of the 1830s, when he was christened ‘Surly Phil’ by the radical ‘Hertford & Ware Patriot’.

5. ‘National Method of Education’ ; Dr Andrew Bell (1753 – 1832) after attending St Andrews University, spent several years in America, then in 1787 went to India. He became Superintendent of the Madras Male Orphan Asylum, founded by the East India Company, where he was concerned with the education of half-caste children, the sons of military men. He started the ‘Madras’ system of education, which meant using selected pupils to teach others. On his return to England he tried out his system in some English schools. He later advocated a national system for education, using his ‘monitorial’ system, with the Established Church as the organising body, the schools to be under the direction of the parochial clergy. In 1811 was formed ‘The National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church throughout England and Wales’. Over 12, 000 National Schools were opened in Bell’s lifetime. A central school for training teachers was established in London.

By the middle of the nineteenth century it was appreciated that Bell had greatly exaggerated the claims for his system and its limitations were recognised. Nevertheless monitors continued to be used for some years as a cheap way of helping teachers In 1846 the pupil-teacher scheme was introduced.

6. The Cowper Testimonial School. A tablet on the school building reads

‘The Cowper Testimonial/ erected by general subscription/ in grateful commemoration of the name/ and Virtues of/ HENRY COWPER ESQ./ long known/ and affectionately honoured & revered/ in private/ as a rare example of beneficence & worth/ and in public/ as the generous patron & supporter/ of every good & charitable work/ MDCCCXLI’

Henry Cowper, who lived at Tewin Water, supplied the funds for the initial building and equipping of Hertford County Hospital in 1833, and his support for education included the endowment of schools at Tewin and Birch Green.

The Cowper Testimonial Building was in use for well over a hundred and twenty years, finally as an annexe to Hertford Secondary School (now Simon Balle). It was demolished in the late 1960s after the building of Sele School.

7. The Privy Council and Education. Before the establishment of the Board of Education in 1899, responsibility for education in England and Wales lay with the Education Committee of the Privy Council. This Committee established a system of examinations for teachers and intending teachers in 1846. The Committee was responsible for inspecting schools to ensure that standards were maintained.

This page was added on 23/02/2022.

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