Londina Illustrata. Graphic and Historical Memorials of Monasteries, Churches, Chapels, Schools, Charitable Foundations, Palaces, Halls, Courts, Processions, Places of Early Amusement, and Modern Present Theatres, in the Cities and Suburbs of London and Westminster, Volume 2Wilkinson, Robert
Queen Elizabeth's Free Grammar School, Situated in Tooley Street, in the Parish of St. Olave, in the Borough of Southwark.
This noble institution was planned and erected a for the education of the poor as well as the rich, by the pious affection and good dispositions of the ancient inhabitants of the parish of St. Olave. The view here presented has been taken from the old Flemish burying-ground adjoining the premises belonging to the school.
This edifice (by no means ornamental) is very ancient. Formerly about this spot there stood a number of walnuttrees; and it is observed that this, as well as several other old buildings in the neighbourhood, are principally constructed with that kind of timber. A place called Walnut-tree Alley still remains.
Amongst the revered lists of parochial benefactors here alluded to, the names of William Humphreys, Vassal Webling, and Thomas Birt, stand most conspicuous.
With a true feeling for mental, as well as corporal want, they, in consecration as it were, of a part of their wealth to the honour of Him who enabled them to gain it, divided their kind bequests between a provision for the mind as well as the body, and judiciously determined that the Free and the charitable funds of this parish should share in their munificence.
May their memory be blessed, and this record of their well-directed liberality animate others to an imitation of their example!
The freehold lands belonging to this school are situated principally in the adjoining parish of St. John[*] (formerly all ), in the streets called Freeschool Steet, , , , &c. and are usually let by the Governors upon building leases; but though considerably improved of late, and will no doubt continue to improve, they produce no more than is sufficient for the support of an institution of this magnitude: besides, the Governors give yearly a certain sum to the poor of the parish both of St. Olave and St. John, and subscribe very liberally to the support of the Girls parochial Schools in the said parishes.
That this most noble institution should descend with improvements to futurity, the worthy inhabitants humbly supplicated the learned and renowned Princess Queen Elizabeth, that, under the royal authority, of the discreet inhabitants for the time being for ever, might be formed into body corporate, for the better management of it and its revenue.
With this petition the illustrious Elizabeth not only most graciously condescended to comply, but signalized her compliance with, among other liberties, privileges, powers and jurisdictions, the high distinction of permitting the school to bear her glorious name.
And in the charter renewed by Charles the , the Governors are authorized to maintain and educate scholars at the University, if any such shall be elected out of the School, until they have severally taken the degree of Bachelor of Arts; being brought up in the said School, and inhabitants of the said parish: which scholars are to be elected by the Governors for the time being, and their successors, or the major part of them, and to be allowed such maintenance towards their education in the University, as they the said Governors, and their successors, or the major part of them, shall see fit. The number of boys now educated is nearly , and all may, upon application, receive a small apprentice fee, upon this proviso, founded upon the strictest attention to their interest, that the masters to whom they are to be bound, be of a good character, of a competent trade, freemen of the city of London, and members of the Church of England.
Such liberality merits the fullest claim to the successive praises of posterity. This is a seminary, in which the sons of the rich and of the poor may meet together, and receive from the same lips the same instruction—a school in which genius, however depressed by domestic penury, may raise its befriended head, and not only be taught how to unfold its powers, but also have the path delineated, and be assisted to walk in it, till it can employ them to the public and its own advantage. But the education here bestowed is not confined to the learned professions, or to superior abilities. It extends its beneficial influence to all the occupations of human understanding. For although it has not pleased the Almighty Father of mankind to give to all men indiscriminately the same intellectual powers, equal capacities and comprehensions, proportioning in some measure perhaps the gifts of the mind to the several purposes and uses for which he intends the possessor; yet education, like the former and latter rain, can raise and quicken those seeds which would have lain dormant and inactive in the solid mass, and can give to every grain of ingenuity its own body. The anniversary of this institution is held yearly on the , the day on which the illustrious Princess came to the throne, when a sermon is preached on the occasion.[*]
On this day likewise clergymen of known respectability and learning are appointed to inspect into the progress of the scholars, and to report the result of their examination to the Court of Governors.
The fidelity with which the Masters acquit themselves, is owing principally to the great attention and most vigilant circumspection of the Governors in their appointment; and to this end, they never suffer any recommendation to operate upon their choice, but that of talent and fitness for the office.
Robert Tyler, Esq. of Dulwich, late clerk to the Court of Governors, left, after the death of his wife, a considerable legacy to the School, besides to each of the Masters.
The gentlemen who conduct this institution at the present period are the following:—
The Rev. James Blenkarne, A.M. of Emanuel College, Cambridge, Head Master.
The Rev. John Butler Sanders, A.M. late Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford, Master.
Mr. Clifford Elisha, Principal Writing Master.
Mr. Thomas Layton, Principal English Master.
Mr. J. Elisha, Writing Usher.
Mr. Joseph Hunter, English Usher.
Mr. Robert Barber, ditto.
H. C. Speck, Esq.
Several eminent Clergymen have received their education in this School, and have been sent to the University therefrom; the Governors at this time have only scholar on the foundation at College.
[*] In the year of our Lord 1735 this parish was divided, and the parish of St. John Horsleydown was by Act of Parliament taken from it; consequently the parish of St John receives an equal participation in the benefits of this Free Grammar School.
[*] The first sermon was preached by the Rev. James Evans, Rector of the parish, 17th November, 1791. At the request of the Governors, this Sermon was printed and circulated in the parish. It has been thought proper to make some extracts from the Sermon here alluded to. "But, after all, it appears that one important end of the institution of this School, expressly mentioned in its charter, is now almost totally unanswered, namely, the education of the children of the wealthier part of the parishioners. "No doubt, when this salutary provision was made, there was not those opportunities of education with which the present day so much abounds. But it is a great and singular happiness, that for the initiation of youth in learning, as well as religion, a national method by authority is provided by the establishment of various schools of this description in many parts of the kingdom; and that this our happiness might be more complete, it is sincerely to be wished, that it were the universal method throughout the realm, not only that science might be more thoroughly and regularly taught, but that religion might be more uniform among us; for, whatever respect may be due to the principles and abilities of many individuals, it is in general true that much mischief is done by education being so much in private hands as it is. "Nor can there be any hesitation in saying that the more our public schools are encouraged, the greater will be the benefit derived to the state, as there is no security that they, who, of their own accord, assume the office of instruction, will not mix their own caprices with the execution of it. What cause then is to be assigned, that the richer part of individuals refuse the education which is here offered to their children? "If it is an idle fear of bringing an imputation upon their worldly circumstances, such ideas ought to be opposed with a manly firmness, and not to seek at an expensive distance what may be gained at their own doors; having this advantage of retaining their children under their own roofs, of watching daily the improvements they make, and, above all, of being the guardians of their morals."
Title page of Vol. 2 reads: Theatrum illustrata. Graphic and historic memorials of ancient playhouses, modern theatres and other places of public amusement in the cities and suburbs of London & Westminster with scenic and incidental illustrations from the time of Shakspear to the present period.