Archive centreWhitehaven
ReferenceYDS 60
TitleSt Bees Grammar School
Date1585-2015
Access conditionsSome records relating to individual pupils and staff are on restricted access under the Data Protection Act. Minutes of the St Beghian Society and certain records relating to property and estate are on restricted access, permission is required from the St Beghian Society to view these.
ContextSt Bees Grammar School, the creation of Edmund Grindal, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was born in the locality, was established by letters patent of Elizabeth I, 24 Apr 1583, and reconfirmed by letters patent of 15 Jun 1585, making further provisions for the governing body, and of 25 Jun 1604, granting crown lands in St Bees and Sandwith to further endow the school. Its aims were to teach scholars from Cumberland, Westmorland and neighbouring counties Latin and Greek and to provide for such scholars who wished to proceed thence to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. From the start it had close links with Queen's College, Oxford, the college established for scholars from Cumberland and Westmorland, as the Provost was to be one of the Governors of St Bees School, ex-officio, as was the Rector of Egremont. The Provost had powers to appoint the Master of the School, he being such scholar proficient in Latin and Greek grammar and poetry and being born in the counties of Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire or Yorkshire.
The long lease granted by the Governors to Sir James Lowther in 1742 to extract coal from the school's royalty at a minimal rent was investigated by the Parliamentary Charity Commission in 1819 and the Court of Chancery ruled in 1827 that the school be compensated properly. Consequently Chancery issued a scheme for the administration of these funds in 1842 and a major new building scheme began, with further alterations and extensions in the 1880s. A new chapel, laboratories and library were constructed in the 1900s and a new block incorporating an assembly hall and classrooms was opened in 1954.
The School came close to closure in the late 1930s due to a serious decline in school numbers and the loss of its coal income from the general financial crisis. Schemes were mooted for its possible amalgamation with Rossall School, Lancashire, or for the school to be sold to the Nuffield Trust for the Special Areas, or to be converted into a county secondary school. A large financial investment by the Old St Beghians' Society allowed the School to continue. In March 2015 the Governors announced that the School would close in July 2015, finances and student numbers having been seriously affected from the consequences of the financial crash of 2008 and competition from other public schools.
Related materialFurther material in solicitor's collection DBH/22.
Publication detailsSee 'The Headmaster, the Provost and the Earl: the affair of the St Bees School mineral lease, 1812-1817' by J M Todd, CWAAS Transactions, 1983.
Catalogue levelFonds
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