EGS History

The History of Eye Grammar School

Shown below is a history of Eye Grammar School from the 16th Century up until the school was closed in 1965. The period up to the introduction of the 1944 Education Act is fully covered in detail by an extract from Clive Paine's 1993 book 'The History of Eye'. In giving his permission for the reproduction of his work, Mr Paine asked that his valuable assistant in producing the book, Mrs Jan Perry is acknowledged.

The History of Eye is available by post from Mrs Perry at 37 Castle Street, Eye at a cost of £5.75 + p&p. and we hope to have it available to buy at the reunion in 2007. The book is also usually available for purchase at Eye Library, Maynards, the chemist and the newsagents shop.

However, the period from 1944 to 1965 is covered only in passing by Clive Paine's book.  Therefore,  If you have a written history of the school or part history for the period 1944 - 1965, please contact  David Chapman on 01291 628178 or at

                        The Grammar School and Guildhall

The origins of the Grammar School date from c.1495, although there are references to a school in the 1450s. In 1488 John Fisk bequeathed £53 6s 8d to the Guilds of St Mary and St Peter in Eye, to purchase land to maintain a Guild or Chantry Priest in Eye. The land had to be purchased within four years of his death, which occurred in 1491, or the bequest would be void.

Sometime between 1530 and 1532 Thomas Golding, vicar of Eye 1489 -1529, then vicar of Barrowby in Lincolnshire, recalled the events surrounding the purchase of the land, in a letter to the Prior, which is worth quoting at length. '. . . we coulde not finde none in no place that was mete for us. I thank Almighty God for it that it was my fortune that I desired John Fanner to breake his fast withe me in the vicaridge the daye before New Year in Christmas, and as we satte by the fyer we comonyd [commented] howe that the towne should lose this service the whiche should be greate rebuke on to all the towne. Then the holy goste putte him in minde ... "I will selle you (15 acres at Cranley) . . . for 9 score marks" (180 marks or £120) ... I went into the pulpet the next daye and shewed unto all the parishe that we were like to lose the service . . . "How saye", now said I unto them, "if I have bought a ground for you so that ye may stond in the church yard and see it," and I showed them how I had made a bargaine with John Fanner, and showed them the daies of payment . . . "and if it be a bargaine, because it for the common wele, speake all Una Voce [one voice] and seye ye this was a godly hearing"; every man, woman and child said yea, yea . . .' Money was raised from donations and bequests to the 'priest's service', and the land purchased by the feoffees or trustees in 1495.

The feoffees of the land immediately widened John Fisk's original intention, in order that the chantry priest should also be the master of the town school. In 1495 Thomas Golding went to John Cornwallis of Ling Hall in Brome, and obtained '. . . a grant or licence that no Grammar school should be kept within seven miles, and that they might teach all the seven sciences'. These were grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, music, geometry and astronomy.

                                                         Domestic economy class

The establishment of the chantry priest, and the grant of the licence in 1495, marks the foundation of Eye Grammar School, which was to continue for 470 years until 1965. Because the chantry priest was also the schoolmaster, the school was held in the Guiidhall next to the church. A yard, adjoining the churchyard, was given by John Upson, for the good of his soul, c.1488. The yard may have formed part of the Guildhall property as the names 'Guildhall' and 'Upson's tenement' are often used for the building.

In the same letter of 1530-32 quoted above, Thomas Golding protested that the feoffment was under threat of being lost '. . . my mischevos men (who) will break John Fisk's will, and all sowles to be unprayed for', and appealed to the Prior in order that '. . . the sowles shall not be deceyved'. As a result of this protest to the Prior, a new feoffment was drawn up in 1533.

Thomas Blow, one of the Bailiffs, in 1535 '. . . 'did cut in sunder' the 1495 licence, and made measure of it for a tailor'. However, the Chantry Certificate of 1548 shows that the 'scoole hath contynued tyil Michaelmas 1547', but was now without a master, as one could not be found.'

As Chantries had been abolished in 1547, the next master to be appointed was a layman, Robert Shene, who was also parish clerk. An unknown commentator on the events of the Reformation in Eye, writing in the reign of Queen Mary, noted '. . . whan thes layeman had the service than goddes service began to decay in the chirche, and the scholars were not so dilygently applyed and taughte, neyther in nurture or in lernyng of vertu and good maners'.

                                                        Bee-keeping class

In the Autumn of 1556 the Bishop of Norwich ordered Sir William Cordell of Long Melford, and Sir Edward Waldegrave of Bures to investigate the Bailiffs of Eye for '. . . abusyng of the Town Land'. After examining the relevant deeds and papers. Sir William decided that the '. . . chief intent and purpose' had been for a chantry priest, but also that there was another meaning in the intention of the donors, '. . . that the same preste shud be a Scolemaster and lernyd in latyn tunng, to teache and trayne up the yowught of the towne in good lernyng and vertu'. The Bailiffs agreed to return to having a priest as the Schoolmaster in the future. In 1566, however, they changed the qualification to that of '. . . a learned man - apt to teach a Grammar School'. Over the next 400 years, clergymen occupied the position of schoolmaster for less than 80 years.

The 1566 Borough Constitutions included regulations for the school. The pupils were to '. . . learn the grammar and latin tongue' and had to be able to read Latin and English before they were admitted. The schoolmaster was to receive £10 a year, and had also to maintain the church choir when required, and present a comedy or tragedy performed by the scholars once a year. He also had to ensure that the scholars attended church once on Sundays and holy days. In 1650 the master and scholars were described as '....having antiently satt on the north side of the chauncel'

A bequest by Francis Kent of Oxborough in Norfolk, in 1593, extended the educational provision to 'elementary' as well as 'secondary' levels. Kent's bequest comprised a house and 26 acres of land in Bedfield and Worlingworth, the income from which was to maintain an Usher, or second master, at Eye Grammar School. He was to teach grammar and writing to the children of Eye, Horham, Athelington and Bedfield, who were to '. . . learn Grammar until such time as they shall have learned to say by harte all the English Rules in the Queene's Grammar, and can reasonably construe the Latin Rules, and also to wright'.

The first Usher, William Lambert, was appointed in 1599. The Bailiffs and Burgesses drew up rules for the Usher in 1600. He was to behave himself as '. . . underteacher and inferior to the mayster'; to be under the direction of the master as to the method of teaching, and the school hours; and to be able to write Secretary and Roman hands; and to teach writing and casting of accounts'.

In 1614 Edward Mallows bequeathed £200 to help maintain two or three scholars from Eye at Cambridge University.

In the mid-17th century the salary of the Master was £16 and that of the Usher £12 a year. The school was described as 'very low' in 1672, when the position of master and Usher were united '. . . until the school shall increase', which it did in 1675.

Thomas Brown, who had been Master since before 1650 until 1672, subsequently opened a private school in the district. In 1675 he was invited to return as Master and to 'bring his boarders with him, which it is hoped may bee a good means to restore the schoole, which is nowe decayed and near to nothing'. Under Brown, the school seems to have been kept as a private, rather than a public school, although Brown received the salary for being Master and Usher.

In 1681 James Harvey of Eye, one of the feoffees of the school charities, protested to the other feoffees that '. . . for some yeares past there hath bin no publique school kept for the said towne nor cither Scholemaster or Usher . . . for the publique benefitt of the said towne according to the originall foundation of the said Schole and the intent of the guifts for manitenace there . . .'. The outcome of the protest is unknown, but it seems Brown or his pupils left, as in 1692 the school was '. . . not so great but that one man might well discharge both the places of Master and Usher'. The salary was then £36 a year, being £20 as Master and £16 as Usher. The united office continued from 1692-1876 with an average salary of £18 a year. The School had an 'English Schoolmaster' 1738-88, indicating that only English was being taught, which was contrary both to the foundation and the Borough Constitutions.

In 1822 the school seems to have been put on a new footing when Rev. John Knevett was appointed Master at £20 a year. He was to teach 20 boys to read, to write the common rules of arithmetic, to catechise and accompany the boys to church on Fridays and Sundays. The 20 boys were to be educated free, except for books, pens, ink and fuel. He was allowed to take a further 20 fee-paying boys and 4 boarders for his own profit. The Chaiity Commissioners Report of 1830 shows that Knevett had 20 free scholars and 18-20 fee-paying day boys, who were taught the 3 Rs, Geography and Land Surveying. There were also 7 boarders who with a few of the day scholars, were also taught Latin in a separate class.

By the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835, the management of the town charities was removed from the Corporation, and placed in the hands of municipal charity trustees. However, the foundation charity had become part of the Corporation income since 1692. The Corporation paid for repairs and maintenance to the Guildhall, and the schoolmaster was paid for from Kent's charity. The Corporation refused to make any contribution towards the school from 1840 until 1876, and the income was therefore limited to Kent's charity, which amounted to £37 a year.

                                                                                           EGS c1960

A report was made for the Schools Inquiry Commission in 1867. There were then 23 free and 7 fee-paying scholars at £3 a year who were all the sons of tradesmen and farmers. There were no boarders, but there had been 15 in the 1840s. Part of the Guildhall was the master's residence, and the schoolroom with its '. . . low ceiling and insufficient means of ventilation, was quite filled by the 30 boys present'. The boys were divided into two classes, and were tested by the Commission's Inspector. He found that pupils in the senior class could only work simple rules of arithmetic; their spelling was only average for a village school; there was little progress in history or geography; not one pupil could parse a simple sentence; and none had learnt Latin. The lower class was '. . . exceedingly backward and ignorant', and apart from simple arithmetic and erratic spelling '. . . it cannot be said that they know anything'. The Inspector, Mr Richmond, noted that there was no discontent in Eye about the state of the school, which was now no more than an elementary school. He found it was never visited nor examined except by the master, and that the parents seemed to 'care little about their sons' education. '. . . If it is to be redeemed to real usefulness, the first impulse must come from without, for the attitude of the borough is one of perfect quiescence'.

The Endowed Schools Act of 1868 provided the impulse with the prospect of a new scheme for the administrations of the school's endowments. The resignation of Rev. Charles Notley, master from 1837 in 1874, and the appointment of Sir Edward Clarence Kerrison as Chairman of the trustees gave a further impetus to the school.

Lady Caroline Kerrison paid for the restoration of the Guildhall by the architect James Colling in 1875. The building was stripped down to the frame and the interior redesigned. The Guildhall became the residence of the Master and 15-20 boarders, and a new schoolroom was built on the adjoining site. The Kerrisons paid £1,170 of the total cost of £1,450, and their coat of arms was carved on the sill of the middle oriel window on the south side, and those of Eye on the west gable window of the Guildhall.

In 1876, a new scheme for the school's endowments combined the foundation charity, Kent's and Mallow's gifts into a single trust. The school now became fee paying, and boys were admitted at 8 years after an examination, and left at 15 years of age. Boys from Eye, Horham, Athelington and Bedfield were to have precedence over all other applicants. The curriculum was brought up to date and included the 3 Rs, Geography, History, Land Surveying, Latin, a European Language, Natural Science, Drawing and Vocal Music. Further additions to the school accommodation included a new wing to the school house in 1876, a dining hall in 1882, and the acquisition of the adjoining house by 1885 when there were 40 day and 30 boarding pupils.

A new scheme for the school was agreed in 1909 when the East Suffolk County Council took control of the school, as a County Secondary School for girls as well as boys. The age range was now from 8 to 18 years, and 25% of the senior pupils were to have free scholarships awarded, by the County Council, to pupils sitting an examination aged 11-13 years. In 1910, there were 20 boarders and 44 day pupils, with a staff of a Headmaster, three Assistants and one part-time Assistant.

In 1911 most of the school buildings, except the Guildhall, were demolished, and new premises built, with accommodation for 100 pupils, at the cost of £4,000. The buildings were designed by Joseph Webb, Education Surveyor to East Suffolk County Council, and were opened in December 1911. The building, which was altered and extended after 1974, still has the Arms of Eye, flanked by the Tudor emblems of a Garter and Rose on the front. The facilities included 5 classrooms, dining hall, dormitories, library, bathrooms, sanitorium and a chemistry laboratory. Manual instruction was given in woodwork and gardening for boys, and cookery and laundry for girls. The first girls entered the school in 1912, and by 1914 there were 8 girl and 17 boy boarders, 43 girl and 35 boy day pupils, and a staff comprising the Headmaster and seven Assistants.

Between 1916 and 1925 the land belonging to Kent's and Mallow's charities was sold, and the funds used to purchase new playing fields. The school prospectus of c. 1930 lists the subjects as English, French, Mathematics, Surveying, Physics, Chemistry, Botany, Nature Study, History, Geography, Vocal Music, Dancing and Physical Training which included Old English Folk Dancing. In addition there were Agricultural Science, Experimental Gardening, Beekeeping and Woodwork for boys; and Hygiene, First Aid and Housewifery for girls.

The school ceased to be fee paying after the 1944 Education Act, the pupils now having to pass the 11+ examination. In 1965, against much local opposition, the school was closed and the pupils were transferred to Diss and Stowmarket. The last Headmaster was Mr Eric Crinean who had been in office since 1937.

The buildings subsequently became St Peter and St Paul, Church of England VoluntaryAided Primary School.