St Mannelier's Grammar School

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This article by Philip Ahier was first published in the 1952 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

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In 1477 Jean Hue, Curé of St Saviour, reported to Sir Richard Harliston, the Governor, that there were no good schools in the Island and no suitable premises.

Land offered

He offered two vergees, two perches of land adjoining the Chapel of St Mannelier in his parish and promised to build a house for the Master, who would have the field as endowment. His duties would be to keep the school in repair, to teach the pupils free, and to say a mass weekly for Hue's parents. This plan was approved by the Dean of Jersey, and in 1480 by the Bishop of Coutances, who granted an indulgence to all who would help in this work.

In 1486 two Jerseymen who had prospered in England, Jean Neel, tutor to the Prince of Wales, and Vincent Tehy, who later became Mayor of Southampton, not only established a similar school, St Anastase, for the western parishes, but added considerably to the endowment of St Mannelier. Their grant was confirmed by Henry VII on 15 November, and this document laid down that the boys were to be instructed in grammar (which in those days always meant Latin grammar) and that the headmaster was to be appointed by the Dean and Rectors.

This Patent was registered by the Bailiff and Jurats, but with an interpolated line giving the Seigneur of Trinity also a voice in the appointment of the Master. The school was apparently not yet built, for the deed speaks of their desire to "found and establish two schools".

First Regent

Of the Head Masters (who were known as Regents), the first recorded name is that of Jean Denys, who is mentioned in 1550. He was followed by Jean Mauger and then by Thomas Bertram. But by this time complaints about the efficiency of the School had begun.

In the instructions given to Elizabeth's Royal Commissioners in I562 we read that the "two schools founded for the advancement of learning, by negligence and misorder follow not the good intent of the founders, and little profit of learning groweth off them."

The Queen suggested that the schools might be removed to a more convenient site and that new rules for their government should be drawn up. But nothing seems to have been done.

In 1591 the Acts of the States declared that the schools were so completely diverted from the aims of the founders that there emerged little or no fruit from them. The suggestion was made that the schools should be united into one college in St Helier.

Don Baudains

In 1596 Laurens Baudains offered to build such a college. A house was actually taken, and three headmasters in succession appointed; but it was such a failure that Baudains switched his gift into a Trust for sending students to a iniversity, the Don Baudains, which still operates.

In 1602 the States reported:

"The Schoolhouse of St Mannelier is in a ruinous and demolished state and the late Regent has died indigent and poverty-stricken."

They decided that the endowments should be used for rebuilding. When it was reopened in 1606 they issued instructions:

"That the school be visited in order to test the capacity of the masters to teach and of the children to learn, and how many of the pupils are worthy of continuing their studies for the maintenance of the Island's prosperity."

Priest's seduction

We hear little more of the school till 1665, when Marie de Carteret, Dame of Trinity, appointed Vincent Queron, Regent, a Roman priest, who had seduced his maid-servant and fled from France to escape the consequences. He married the girl in Jersey, but, when the baby was born a few weeks after the wedding, he was hauled before the Ecclesiastical Court and ordered to make public confession of his sin in St Saviour's Church; it was stated, however, that he could not be dismissed as no successor could be found. But finding the position intolerable, he resigned.

A successor was found, but it was reported that the roof and walls were in danger of falling. Repairs were carried out, and the Ecclesiastical Court decided that there should be a regular quarterly inspection of the School. This led for a time to improvement in its efficiency. But in 1680 Charles de Carteret, Seigneur of Trinity, appointed Edouard de la Cloche, a young cousin of his own, who was already Registrar of Contracts, Registrar of Wills, Greffier of the Ecclesiastical Court, and Captain of a Company of the Militia.

"His insufficiency, his negligence, and his many other occupations," writes Falle, the contemporary historian of Jersey, "so dissipated the School that it was in a manner quite shut up to the great prejudice of the public."

Inspection

After de la Cloche had been Regent for 11 years the Dean and Clergy decided to pay a visit of inspection. "It appeared," said Falle, "that he had intruded into the school without a title, had wholly neglected it, and in the end ruined it. He was turned out and the school declared vacant."

Meanwhile Falle had secured a copy of the Patent of 1486, and with three other Rectors challenged the right of the Seigneur of Trinity to have any say in the appointment. The case went before the Royal Court, and then before the Privy Council, which eventually decided that "the election of Masters is to be by the Letters Patent of Henry VII and not otherwise."

Huguenot refugee

Jacques Tapin, a Huguenot refugee, now became Regent, and under his headship the school enjoyed a brief spell of prosperity. But in 1703 the school and Tapin's house were both burned to the ground. The States undertook the rebuilding by the help of a collection in the parishes. When the clergy visited it in 1705, they found that it had been well built and the windows glazed, but that there were no desks or tables either for the master or pupils.

The new Regent, Philippe Mauger, was ordered to use for his lessons Lely's Latin Grammar, the famous text-book which for 150 years was in use in all the best schools in England; and a little later he was threatened with prosecution for using a more old-fashioned book. At two visitations, Mauger and his usher were both censured for lack of attention to their pupils, "who are few in number", and in 1712 he was sacked, "not being deemed satisfactory".

Buildings repaired

In the following year the States raised a fund for ransoming some Jersey sailors who had been captured by Moorish pirates. So much was subscribed that a balance remained over, and this was spent on repairing the school buildings. There is a gap in the Rolls of the Ecclesiastical Court from 1716 to 1732 ; but Pierre Joubaire, one of the Regents, has left his ecclesiastical autobiography in a manuscript now in the Museum Library:

"Having been ordained deacon and priest by the Archbishop of Tours, I came to the island in 1713, where I dwelt 18 months. Then Mr Le Breton, Commissary of the Dean of Jersey, received me as a clergyman on the strength of a certificate from the prior of the order in which I had become a priest. This certificate was sent to the Bishop of Winchester, who sent a commission to receive me as a priest, if my credentials were found good. The Dean's Commissary extended to me the hand of fellowship, and I took the oath on 21 February 1730."

He resigned in 1732, and is the only Regent on record to have received the thanks of the Ecclesiastical Court for what he had done for the school,

Philippe Mattingley

The Court next appointed Philippe Mattingley, after carefully investigating his knowledge of Latin and Greek, and under his care the school seems to have done moderately well; but the Visitation of I757 discovered that the premises were "partly fallen down, partly in ruins, partly in a dangerous condition". A tablet over the south door with the date I758 shows that something was done.

He was succeeded by Francis Valpy in I761, under whom the numbers increased so rapidly that two years later he had to be given an assistant. Two pupils of his were Richard Valpy, who became the famous Headmaster of Reading, and Thomas Syvret, later the orator and leader of the ultra-democrats in the island. Francis Valpy took Holy Orders, and resigned in 1771 on being appointed Rector of St. Clement.

Philippe Ahier

The next Regent only held office for a few months, before his health broke down, and Thomas Syvret, the ex-pupil, became Regent; but he too entered the Ministry and resigned on becoming Rector of St John. Then Philippe Ahier, who had twice before taken temporary charge of the school, once when Syvret went to Oxford to prepare for ordination, and once during the illness of Syvret's predecessor, was appointed Regent and held the post for 52 years.

In his early years John Wesley paid a visit to St Mannelier and wrote in his Journal:

"It is a free school designed to train up children for the university, exceedingly finely situated in a quiet recess surrounded by tall woods."

At first Ahier did well, even attracting some pupils from England. He had on his staff a French master, who made a sensation by sending up a balloon from school premises, and an ex-Rugby master who had come to the island for his health. But he stayed at his post too long. By I825 not a single boy was learning either Latin or English (French was still the language of the island). By 1830 the number of pupils had dropped to six.

Ahier died in I832 at the age of 80, and the Ecclesiastical Court now made a real effort to revive the School. Clement Le Hardy, a graduate of Oxford and Paris, was appointed Regent. The States made a grant of £500 to repair the buildings, and in 1835 William Inglis in The Channel Islands wrote:

"Since the appointment of the present master the number of pupils has increased to about 40, but the establishment still languishes."

In I841 Le Hardy reported that in his first eight years, 247 pupils had passed through his hands, an average of 31. In 1851 he told the Commissioners that in the last eight years he had had 96; so the decline had been rapid. He resigned in 1848 to become Rector of St Peter. The last Regent was R P Mallet, an Oxford scholar. Jurat W L de Gruchy, one of his pupils, wrote in later years:

"I have only most pleasant recollections of my schooltime at St Mannelier and intense gratitude for the careful and thorough way in which we were taught. There were two under-masters, one a Scotch University graduate, the other a very competent Jerseyman. We were excellently lodged and fed, and were free to wander about the countryside."

Mallet taught him Italian, and inspired him with a life-long love for Dante. There was included in the curriculum what must have been rare in those days, a course in Natural Science.

Closure

But the opening of Victoria College killed St Mannelier. The last pupil left in 1863. Today its endowments provide bursaries to send boys to its victorious rival. The old schoolroom is now a tomato-box store. Sic transit gloria mundi!

Regents

  • 1550-1558 John Denys
  • 1558-1559 Jehan Mauger
  • 1559-1565 Thomas Bertram
  • 1576-1581 Helier Dumaresq
  • 1581-1587 Helier Le Breton
  • 1592-1601 Richard Myddelton
  • 1601-1661 Jean Pallot
  • 1661-1665 Philippe Poingdestre
  • 1665-1667 Vincent Queron
  • 1667-1676 Joshua Pallot
  • 1676-1678 Richard de Carteret
  • 1678-1680 Richard Le Caumais
  • 1680-1692 Edward de la Cloche
  • 1692-1693 ierre de Hautpays
  • 1693-1703 Jacques Tapin
  • 1703-1712 Philippe Mauger
  • 1712-1725 James Watt
  • 1725-1732 Pierre Joubaire
  • 1732-1761 Philippe Mattingley
  • 1771-1772 John Norman
  • 1772-1779 Thomas Syvret
  • 1779-1832 Philippe Ahier
  • 1832-1848 Clement Le Hardy
  • 1848-1863 Robert Philip Mallet
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