Until the new Park School was built in 1910, Barnstaple Grammar school was housed in the tiny 14th Century St Anne’s Chapel in the centre of town. In the late 1980s the building was refurbished, and many bits and pieces were found under the brass grilles of the heating system.
As well as pen nibs, slate pencils, sweetie bags and hazelnut shells, there were also some screwed up pieces of paper. Some of these seem to be “lines” copied out by misbehaving pupils. Whether this was a punishment for bad behaviour, an effort to learn important facts or simply handwriting practice we don’t know!
In its earliest days, pupils provided a useful source of income for the parish priest, who undertook to educate a small number of boys up to the age of 14 in preparation for university at Oxford or Cambridge, where they would train to be priests themselves. Living with the priest, the boys’ education focused on the Latin Grammar that was essential for them to read the Bible and interpret it to their future parishioners as well as rhetoric and logic.
By the 18th century there was much greater demand for education, and the grammar schools had evolved to include many other subjects, competing with private academies. These “lines” were probably written in the late 19th century and remind us of two important moments in British History! I wonder if the boys that wrote them remembered them, or found them useful in later life?