An History of Birmingham Part 22


Ann Crowley bequeathed, by her last will, in 1733, six houses in Steelhouse-lane, amounting to eighteen pounds per annum, for the purpose of supporting a school, consisting of ten children. From an attachment to her own sex, she constituted over this infant colony of letters a female teacher: Perhaps we should have seen a female trust, had they been equally capable of defending the property. The income of the estate increasing, the children are now augmented to twelve.

By a subsequent clause in the devisor's will, twenty shillings a year, forever, issues out of two houses in the Lower Priory, to be disposed of at discretion of the trust.

The governors of this female charity are

Thomas Colmore, _bailiff_, Joseph Cartwright, Thomas Lee, John Francis, Samuel Colmore, William Russell, _esq_.

Josiah Rogers, Joseph Hornblower, John Rogers.


Joseph Scott, Esq; yet living, assigned, July 7, 1779, certain messuages and lands in and near Walmer-lane, in Birmingham, of the present rent of 40_l_. 18s. part of the said premises to be appropriated for the interment of protestant dissenters; part of the profits to be applied to the use of a religious society in Carr's lane, at the discretion of the trust; and the remainder, for the institution of a school to teach the mother tongue.

[Illustration: _Free School_.]

That part of the demise, designed for the reception of the dead, is about three acres, upon, which stands one messuage, now the Golden Fleece, joining Summer-lane on the west, and Walmer-lane on the east; the other, which hath Aston-street on the south, and Walmer-lane on the west, contains about four acres, upon which now stand ninety-one houses.

A building lease, in 1778, was granted of these last premises, for 120 years, at 30_l_. per annum; at the expiration of which, the rents will probably amount to twenty times the present income. The trust, to whose direction this charity is committed, are

Abel Humphrys, _bailiff_, John Allen, John Parteridge, William Aitkins, Joseph Rogers, Thomas Cock, John Berry, William Hutton, Thomas Cheek Lea, Durant Hidson, Samuel Tutin.


It is entertaining to contemplate the generations of fashion, which not only influences our dress and manner of living, but most of the common actions of life, and even the modes of thinking. Some of these fashions, not meeting with the taste of the day, are of short duration, and retreat out of life as soon as they are well brought in; others take a longer space; but whatever fashions predominate, though ever so absurd, they carry an imaginary beauty, which pleases the fancy, 'till they become ridiculous with age, are succeeded by others, when their very memory becomes disgusting.

Custom gives a sanction to fashion, and reconciles us even to its inconveniency. The fashion of this year is laughed at the next.

There are fashions of every date, from five hundred years, even to one day; of the first, was that of erecting religious houses; of the last, was that of destroying them.

Our ancestors, the Saxons, after their conversion to christianity, displayed their zeal in building churches: though the kingdom in a few centuries was amply supplied, yet that zeal was no way abated; it therefore exerted itself in the abbey.--When a man of fortune had nearly done with time, he began to peep into eternity through the windows of an abbey; or, if a villian had committed a piece of butchery, or had cheated the world for sixty years, there was no doubt but he could burrow his way to glory through the foundations of an abbey.

In 1383, the sixth of Richard the Second, before the religious fervor subsided that had erected Deritend-chapel, Thomas de Sheldon, John Coleshill, John Goldsmith, and William att Slowe, all of Birmingham, obtained a patent from the crown to erect a building upon the spot where the Free School now stands in New-street, to be called _The Gild of the Holy Cross_; to endow it with lands in Birmingham and Edgbaston, of the annual value of twenty marks, for the maintenance of two priests, who were to perform divine service to the honor of God, our blessed Lady his Mother, the Holy Cross, St. Thomas, and St. Catharine.

The fashion seemed to take with the inhabitants, many of whom wished to join the four happy men, who had obtained the patent for so pious a work; so that, in 1393, a second patent was procured by the bailiff and inhabitants of Birmingham, for confirming the gild, and making the addition of a brotherhood in honor of the Holy Cross, consisting of both sexes, with power to constitute a master and wardens, and also to erect a chantry of priests to celebrate divine service in the chapel of the gild, for the souls of the founders, and all the fraternity; for whose support there were given, by divers persons, eighteen messuages, three tofts, (pieces of ground) six acres of land, and forty shillings rent, lying in Birmingham and Edgbaston aforesaid.

But, in the 27th of Henry the Eighth, 1536, when it was the fashion of that day, to multiply destruction against the religious, and their habitations, the annual income of the gild was valued, by the King's random visitors, at the sum of 31_l_. 2s. 10d. out of which, three priests who sung mass, had 5_l_. 6s. 8d. each; an organist, 3_l_. 13s.

4d. the common midwife, 4s. the bell-man, 6s. 8d. with other salaries of inferior note.

These lands continued in the crown 'till 1552, the fifth of Edward the Sixth, when, at the humble suit of the inhabitants, they were assigned to

William Symmons, _gent_.

Richard Smallbrook, _bailiff of the town_, John Shilton, William Colmore, Henry Foxall, William Bogee, Thomas Cooper, Richard Swifte, Thomas Marshall, John Veysy, John King, John Wylles, William Paynton, William Aschrig, Robert Rastall, Thomas Snowden, John Eyliat, William Colmore, _jun_.

AND William Mychell,

all inhabitants of Birmingham, and their successors, to be chosen upon death or removal, by the appellation of the Bailiff and Governors of the Free Grammar School of King Edward the Sixth, for the instruction of children in grammar; to be held of the crown in common soccage, paying for ever twenty shillings per annum. Over this seminary of learning were to preside a master and usher, whose united income seems to have been only twenty pounds per annum. Both are of the clergy. The hall of the gild was used for a school-room. In the glass of the windows was painted the figure of Edmund Lord Ferrers; who, marrying, about 350 years ago, the heiress of the house of Birmingham, resided upon the manor, and seems to have been a benefactor to the gild, with his arms, empaling Belknap; and also, those of Stafford, of Grafton, of Birmingham, and Bryon.

The gild stood at that time at a distance from the town, surrounded with inclosures; the highway to Hales Owen, now New-street, running by the north. No house could be nearer than those in the High-street.

The first erection, wood and plaister, which had stood about 320 years, was taken down in 1707, to make way for the present flat building. In 1756, a set of urns were placed upon the parapet, which give relief to that stiff air, so hurtful to the view: at the same time, the front was _intended_ to have been decorated, by erecting half a dozen dreadful pillars, like so many over-grown giants marshalled in battalia, to guard the entrance, which the boys wish to shun; and, being sufficiently tarnished with Birmingham smoak, may become dangerous to pregnancy. Had the wings of this building fallen two or three yards back, and the line of the street been preserved by a light palisade, it would have risen in the scale of beauty, and removed the gloomy aspect of the area.

The tower is in a good taste, except being rather too narrow in the base, and is ornamented with a sleepy figure of the donor, Edward the Sixth, dressed in a royal mantle, with the ensigns of the Garter; holding a bible and sceptre.

The lands that support this foundation, and were in the reign of Henry the Eighth, valued at thirty-one pounds per annum, are now, by the advance of landed property, the reduction of money, and the increase of commerce, about 600_l_.

The present governors of this royal donation are

John Whateley, _bailiff_, _Rev_. Charles Newling, Abraham Spooner, _esq_; Thomas Russell, John Ash, _M.D._ Richard Rabone, Francis Goodall, Francis Parrott, _esq_; William Russell, _esq_; John Cope, _dead_, Thomas Hurd, Thomas Westley, Wm. John Banner, Thomas Salt, William Holden, Thomas Carless, John Ward, Edward Palmer, _esq_; Francis Coales, AND Robert Coales.

[Illustration: _Charity School_.]

Over this nursery of science presides a chief master, with an annual salary of one hundred and twenty pounds; a second master sixty; two ushers; a master in the art of writing, and another in that of drawing, at forty pounds each: a librarian, ten: seven exhibitioners at the University of Oxford, twenty-five pounds each. Also, eight inferior schools in various parts of the town, are constituted and fed by this grand reservoir, at fifteen pounds each, which begin the first rudiments of learning.


John Brooksby, 1685.

---- Tonkinson.

John Husted.

Edward Mainwaring, 1730.

John Wilkinson, 1746 Thomas Green, 1759.

William Brailsford, 1766.

Rev. Thomas Price, 1776.




There seems to be three clases of people, who demand the care of society; infancy, old age, and casual infirmity. When a man cannot assist himself, it is necessary he should be assisted. The first of these only is before us. The direction of youth seems one of the greatest concerns in moral life, and one that is the least understood: to form the generation to come, is of the last importance. If an ingenious master hath flogged the a b c into an innocent child, he thinks himself worthy of praise. A lad is too much terrified to march that path, which is marked out by the rod. If the way to learning abounds with punishment, he will quickly detest it; if we make his duty a task, we lay a stumbling-block before him that he cannot surmount.

We rarely know a tutor succeed in training up youth, who is a friend to harsh treatment.

Whence is it, that we so seldom find affection subsisting between master and scholar? From the moment they unite, to the end of their lives, disgust, like a cloud, rises in the mind, which reason herself can never dispel.

The boy may pass the precincts of childhood, and tread the stage of life upon an equality with every man in it, except his old school-master; the dread of him seldom wears off; the name of Busby founded with horror for half a century after he had laid down the rod. I have often been delighted when I have seen a school of boys break up; the joy that diffuses itself over every face and action, shews infant nature in her gayest form--the only care remaining is, to forget on one side of the walls what was taught on the other.

One would think, if _coming out_ gives so much satisfaction, there must be something very detestable _within_.

If the master thinks he has performed his task when he has taught the boy a few words, he as much mistakes his duty, as he does the road to learning: this is only the first stage of his journey. He has the man to form for society with ten thousand sentiments.

It is curious to enter one of these prisons of science, and observe the children not under the least government: the master without authority, the children without order; the master scolding, the children riotous.

Chapter end

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