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The Old Parish School

The earliest school was originally held at the Church House in Vicarage Lane and overseen by the vicar and churchwardens. This foundation pre-dated Pynsent's Free School by a number of years and was existing as early as 1597. It closed in 1858 on the death of the then master, Mr George Flood (24 June 1858).

From the Clergy online database we find the names of three parish schoolmasters as follows:
  John Mole (1610)
  John Bawdon (04 March 1622) also acted as curate
  Peter Grigge (commenced 30 May 1629)

In 1658 Mr. William Pollexfen was appointed as master to commence from 1 February 1659 and would receive £13 6s 8d for his first year. He was to teach six poor men's children of the parish and in return he would also 'keep the schoolroom and chamber adjoining in convenient repair'. He was provided with two chambers for his own occupation but if he was not satisfied with them then the parish would pay 20 shillings towards the rent of a chamber 'he shall procure himself of his own liking'. (The Pollexfen family were seated at Kitley House, Yealmpton until c1710). The Poll Tax Return dated 1 October 1660 confirms Mr William Pollexfen, schoolmaster and his wife were residing in Chudleigh.

From Mary Jones' History of Chudleigh (1875):

"Att a meeting of the pishioners of Chudleigh & seaven men the first day of October, 1658.
"They, takeing into consideracon the great want of an able and paynfull schoolemaster in this pish, have this day agreed wth one mr William Pollexfen to come to keepe schoole here in Chudleigh the First Munday in the month of February next, and for and towards his encouragemt therein have prmised to give him thirteene pounds six shillings and eight pence for the first yeare, and to repayre the schoolehouse and chamber adjoyninge in convenyent manner. And likewise to procure the two chamberes the clerke enjoyes to be fitted for him. But if these two shall not be thought by the sayd mr Pollexfen to be convenyent for his case, then the pishioneres to give twenty shillings to him towards the rent of a chamber he shall procure for himselfe to his owne likeinge. The said mr Pollexfen on his pte promiseth to be very carefull and diligent in teaching those schollars shall be sent to him, and will for the consideracon aforesaid teach and instruct during this yeare in the best manner he can six poore mens children of this pish, such as the seaven men appoynted for the managemt of the affaires of this pish, or any 5 of them shall in writing under their hands nominate and appoynt.
(Signed by)
Andrew Cholwiche,
James Rennell,
Humphry Pinsent,
Bennett Ball,
Richard Ball,
John Langley,
John Wolcombe,
Christopher Hellyer,
John Chaplin,
Humphry Shapter."

In the year 1660 we find the following entry:

"Humfry Shapter is likewise ordered to pay unto Mr Pollexfen schoolmaster three & forty shillings for teaching poore schollers from Lamas last unto this prsent Michaelmas now following."

It is perhaps an interesting connection that the Pollexfens came from Yealmpton at which there were a family by the name of Woolcombe that had married into the Pollexfen family, was this how Mr Pollexfen was encouraged to come to Chudleigh?

Rev. Richard Eastchurch, Rector of Manaton, but originally of the Lawell Eastchurch family, in his will dated 14 March 1692 provided an annual sum to the church wardens of £4 12s 6d, half of which was to provide bibles and 'other good books' by the minister and the remainder to be paid 'to such person or persons as should diligently teach four poor children to read the scriptures'. This income was out of his estate at Chattishole (Cats Hole, long since a ruin near Farley Mill). Additional funds from the parish increased the master's annual salary to £10. At a subsequent time the number of poor children eligible increased to nine.

Just under one hundred years later in 1781 the master of the parish school was Mr. Henry Hooper. He was also separately a teacher of private pupils in what then was known as the Academy. As for the parish school he put forward a petition to the vicar and churchwardens requesting that he be able to carry out his teaching duties from his home rather than at the church house. His request was granted and from that point the future masters also taught the parish children from their homes in addition to their private pupils.

In 1783 Mr. William Bond, originally of Kenton, was the next master of the parish school and at about the same time he was also appointed as vestry clerk. As was by then the norm he taught nine boys at his home that had been selected by the vicar and churchwardens. He too had the privilege of admitting boarders privately. In 1798 parish records show that Mr Bond was paid his salary and a bill for books totalling 14s 2d. Mr. Bond was also a member of the relief committee following the fire of 1807. Although he taught the boys at his own home he still had use of the church house but it appears that he only used the accommodation there as a lumber store.

The Exeter Flying Post newspaper covered his appointment in 1783 and almost every year from then on appeared at least one advertisement per year for his academy or boarding school as it was variously termed. What seems to be apparent from these items is that he admitted boarders in his own home which was described as 'roomy' and sometimes a large playground was mentioned. He seems to have moved a few times in the early 1800s and to what was later called Swanston House by 1806/07.

A National School had been established in about 1813 at the workhouse and this, co-inciding with Mr Bond's failing health meant that his pupil numbers were latterly seldom complete. By 1822 he was still receiving a small sum from the parish but by then he was teaching on average no more than two children. Again from the newspapers it appears he continued to run a classical boarding school for fee payers and alongside this taught the small number of parish children receiving a payment from the parish for this work. He was seventy years of age in 1827 and there is a note suggesting that he resigned in that year. He died in 1829.

The vicar and churchwardens next appointed Chudleigh man Mr. George Flood, who was thirty-six years old in 1827. In addition he took on the role of vestry clerk. From his time the school averaged nine pupils and continued to be selected by the vicar and churchwardens. From about 1845 however he no longer received any payment from the churchwardens (apart from his vestry clerk salary) the parish children then attending the National School. However, as Mr Bond before him he also operated a boarding school from his home and this venture was known as The Commercial School, the children were taught reading writing and arithmetic. The day and boarding pupils were taught at his home, which was latterly Upton House and today 42 Fore Street.

At the house on census day 1841 was his wife Mary, four pupils who were boarding and his own three children. A contemporary directory also listed a Sarah Flood, mistress of the day pupils. He continued as master until a 'lingering illness' forced his retirement shortly before his death in June 1858 aged 67 years. He was buried in the churchyard and his gravestone records that he was 'Master of the Commercial School for upwards of 30 years'. The death of Mr George Flood signalled the end of his Commercial School and the old parish school.

The original benefaction of Rev. Richard Eastchurch had, from about 1845, been applied for the benefit of the pupils at the National School and much later half was paid to Devon County Council and the remaining half divided between the Sunday Schools in the town. The arrangements today are within the remit of the Chudleigh United Charities.

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