Grantham Civic Society column: Grammar School was built around 1500
The Song of a School Boy at Christmas is dated around 1500, and is partly English and partly Latin.
The document is kept in the British Library in London. The song is clearly written by younger boys, because the pupils could not write it all in Latin, and some of their spelling of the Latin words are incorrect.
Before the end of term we carry our staffs,
To break the heads of the ushers;
If the master asks us why we have to go,
We answer briefly, it is not for you to know.
O noble doctor, now we beg to tell you,
We intend to go whether you like it or not,
To close the school, I tell you straight.
As this feast is for having fun,
We accept this day to take our leave.
After the Christmas festival, we shall quake,
When we return to do Latin.
Therefore we ask you heartily and fully,
That we can break up from school today.
Boys would usually attend the school between the ages of 8 and 14, when they would either become apprenticed, or attend Cambridge or Oxford universities. The pupils would get a month off for Christmas. Some of the boys were from Grantham, and so their education was free, but the ones living further away had to pay to attend the school.
The Grammar School building and headmaster’s house, were thought to have been built around 1500, although the school was not re-endowed until 1528, by Bishop Fox. These pupils may have been educated in the church building itself, since the earliest reference to the school was in 1327, when it may have been a song school associated with the church.
In the 1530s, the education system in the country suffered following the dissolution of the monastries and the chantries. Many schools had close links to ecclesiastical establishments, including chantries requiring the priests to instruct local boys in Latin and the Classics.
During the reign of Edward VI in 1548, land confiscated from chantries was given to schools to enable them to receive an income to pay for a master, and to fund the running of the school. The total value of the Grantham Chantries was £14 3s 4d per year and the tax that had to be paid to the crown was 16s 8d.
It was the Letters Patent of 1552, which gave it the title of The Free Grammar School of King Edward VI. The advertisment for a master stated that ‘One fit honest skilful and learned person and well instructed and skilled in Latin and Greek literature’, was needed to teach the boys, at a salary of £12 per annum.