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Exeter folk and friends in their own words - << Previous storyNext story >>

James Cossins - remembers the old Grammar School


The inhabitants of Exeter are witnessing the demolition of another of its ancient buildings, the Grammar School at the top of High-Street, which commenced on the 7th January, 1830. One portion of the site, the "Mayor's Chapel," is intended for the Post Office. Previous to the Municipal Act 1835 it was the custom of the Mayor, during his term of office, to go in state from the Guildhall several times in the year to attend the morning service, his chaplain doing duty; at other times the Rv Master conducted the service. Some of the trustees attended, having certain seats reserved for them. The chapel being small, it could only accommodate a limited number. The Grammar School boarder occupied the gallery, the blue coat boys sitting up and down the aisle. These did duty as choristers; I think the number was twenty-three. the boarders numbered about seventy, day boys about sixty. the schoolroom was not then as now; it was above the present one, approached by a wide, old fashioned staircase on the lower side under the archway. At that time the attendance was thrice a day, including an early morning sitting from seven to nine o'clock. The under part was rented by clothiers, and was a "depot" for West of England cloth–opened occasionally, but always on fair days. On the decline of the latter, it ceased to be used for that purpose. Mr Phylbert Roberts then took if for furniture broker's repository. There being two entrances, occasionally Mr. Ronchetti exhibited some extraordinary curiosities there. The last occupiers were Messrs Ridgeway and Hall, tea merchants. Many years since the ceiling was removed, and it now makes a very lofty school-room. Over the archway entrance was a small room in which refectory boys, or those who disobeyed the rules of the school, were locked in. On one occasion a boy tried to escape, demolishing the glass, &c., which created quite a consternation in the High-Street. From that time I believe the practice was abolished. The yard behind the school also contained buildings which were used by clothiers, whose customers came from almost every part of the county, especially on fair days. Behind were the Blue Coat School house and the residence of the master Mr. Pickett, who, on fine summer evenings was seen taking his "Blue Brigade" the various country walks in the neighbourhood. The Grammar School boarders also did the same under the superintendence of Mr. Bennett.

I believe I am correct in stating that Dr. Shapter was the means of having the lighted clock erected in the turret which is now being removed.

James Cossins wrote a regular column for Trewman's Exeter Flying Post. Many of these memories were compiled into his book Reminiscences of Exeter 50 Years Since, published in 1878. This piece, not in the book, first appeared in the Flying Post on 12th January 1880.

St John Hospital SchoolThe old Grammar School, or St John's Hospital School was demolished for the Post Office in 1880.

 

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