Early Bexhill Schools

Bexhill Free School – 1700s

According to the Overseer’s Accounts [ESRO – Ref PAR 240/30/1] the old parish of Bexhill had a small school, supported by the parish at a cost of £6 per annum plus about 10 shillings for “firing the Free School” – it would seem for heating.

In the accounts, in 1777 and 1781 it is specifically referred to as the “Free School” and in the years 1784 to 1788 the pupils were referred to as the “free scholars”. Only once, in April 1784, is the number of pupils given when they were referred to as “the 10 free scholars”. It seems likely that that number was maintained, more or less, through-out the life of the school.

The cost to the parish at that time was given as 3d a week for each child for a year of 48 weeks but the precise amount paid for schooling is difficult to say as the schoolmasters were also paid for other parish services and entries of payments to them do not always show details of their bills.

To demonstrate the difficulty in getting an idea of cost, the first schoolmaster, we know of, was a William Smith, who was also the Parish Clerk, for which he was paid £2 p.a. He was, often, paid 2s 6d “for a Knell and Grave” at pauper burials (the “Knell” was the sounding of the church bell and the grave was the digging of the grave). [ESRO PAR 240/30/1, PAR 240/30/2]

Whether due to old age or illness, in May 1770 the parish gave him 5s “to pay his Nurse” and, from April 1776, he gave up his parish duties.

A John Dann, then, became the schoolmaster, and. from April 1782, was paid an additional £1 a year for ‘Book keeping for Overseers’, and in 1784, 1785, 1786 (twice) and 1787 he was paid ‘for writing the Militia List’, at 2s a time.

Note. Every parish in England and Wales was obliged by the Government, to create lists of males, aged 18 to 45, and to hold a ballot to choose those who had to serve in the Militia. Two lists were created each year from 1758-1831 – the first was a list of all men eligible and the second a “militia enrolment list” naming all those chosen to serve).

From April 1789, the schooling was taken over by Evenden Cruttenden, aged 47, and in the years from 1796, his bills to the parish totalled considerably more than the £6 for schooling plus 10s. for firing – such as £13 2s 6d. It’s possible that he was paid for other services he provided, or, perhaps, for goods for the workhouse – then, again, perhaps more children attended the school. He died in 1824.

Barwick Boarding School – 1781

In 1779, Henry Barwick, the curate of Hastings, opened a school at Hastings, for 12 young gentlemen, to qualify them for business, the public schools, or university, at 20 guineas a year and with a 2 guineas entrance fee.

In 1781, now the curate of Bexhill, he started a private boys’ boarding school in Bexhill but things didn’t go that well for him as, in September of that year, he allowed several boys to go swimming against a strong tide and one was drowned – James Lord, the 14 year-old son of William Lord, the Rector of Northiam.

The burial register entry reads, “Drowned August 31 having been permitted by his schoolmaster, the Curate of Bexhill, with several other less boys to bathe in the sea on a flowing tide – they escaped”.

[From Bexhill and Northiam Parish Registers at ESRO]

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