Old Nottingham Schools

by Bill Carson 

Extract Taken from White’s Directory of Nottinghamshire 1853: 

The Free Grammar School

This is in Stoney Street, and is now a handsome building, having lately been enlarged and ornamented with a beautiful sone front, in the Gothic order, though it had been repaired in the years 1689, 1708 and 1792. It was founded in 1513 by Agnes Mellers, widow of Richard Mellers, bell founder, and was by her endowed with lands and tenements in the town and neighbourhood, left in trust to the corporation for the maintenance of a master and usher. Robert Mellers, the son of the foundress, bequeathed to it, in 1515, a close in Basford and a house in Bridlesmithgate, betwixt St Petergate and Pepper Street. His brother, Thomas Mellers, who died in 1535, endowed it with “all his lands, tenements and hereditaments, in the town and fields of Basford”, but all the property in Basford parish left by these brothers was sold by the corporation sometime betwixt the years 1702 and 1720 (together with those tenements in London, left by Mr John West), to defray the expenses of a lawsuit which they had instituted against Richard Johnson, who was then master of the school.

John Heskey, alderman, in 1558, left to this school the tithes of the Nottingham fields and
meadows, and also a house in Carlton Street, except 10s to be paid yearly out of the rent to the poor. John Parker, alderman, in 1693, left £160, with which a rent charge of £13 10s per annum was purchased at Harby, in Leicestershire, for the purpose of founding and supporting a library in the school, and for furnishing £3 apprentice fees for small boys, and £3 gifts to assist them after they had served their apprenticeship, in setting up in their respective trades. In 1828, £72 was received in arrears of this rent charge. Four small closes betwixt Trough Close and Free School Lane belong to the Grammar School, as do also all the houses in Broad Street, from Agnes Yard to Goosegate; and several others in St Petergate, and St Peter’s Square, most of which were left by the foundress. The gross yearly income arising from rents and tithes amounted, in 1828, to nearly £700, since when there is not much alteration; out of which are paid yearly salaries and gratuities amounting to £150 to the master, £110 to the usher, and £50 to the writing-master. The school is now divided into a classical school, in which English and other parts of a good education
are taught; and an English school, for which a fouth master is appointed, who received £110 a year, paid by quarterages charged on the pupils of the upper school. The Rev. William Butler M.A. is the head master, and has a good house adjoining the school, but is not allowed to take boarders. Mr Samuel Langwith is the usher, Mr Isaac Sparey the writing-master, and Mr Thomas Hewson the assistant.


The original 1512 charter approving the foundation of a free grammar school in Nottingham-Photo Credit: Nottingham High School .

The Blue Coat School

This was founded in 1706, but the present building, which stands at the foot of the High Pavement, was erected in 1723, on ground given by Mr Wm. Thorpe, a benevolent attorney. It contains a large school room, and a suite of apartments for the residence of the master, who has 100 guineas a year, and he is allowed six tons of coals annually for the use of the school. Two statues, in niches at the front of the building, represent a boy and a girl in their school costume. The charity educates and clothes sixty boys and twenty girls, till they arrive at fourteen yearsof age, when the former are put out apprentice, with a premium of five guineas each, and the latter have each two guineas for the purpose of clothing them for servitude. Mr and Mrs Cockayne are the teachers, and attend as well to the religious as to the moral instruction of the scholars. The charity, which is supported partly by annual subscriptions and collections at the parish churches, is endowed with property which produces upwards of £380 per annum. A new school is about to be erected, on Mansfield Road, for which ground has been purchased.

blue-coat-school (1)

Bluecoat School, Weekday Cross, c.1740- Photo Credit: http://www.nottshistory.org.uk.

The People’s College

This was founded in 1846, and is situated in College Street. It was erected by public subscription, and the sum of £1,000 was contributed by one inhabitant of the town, George Gill Esq., of the Park. The design of the projectors was to afford superior instruction for the working classes. The college is open to all persons, without regard to their religious or political tenets. Controversial reading and lectures are strictly avoided, but books of any religious or political kind may be introduced to the library, if approved by the directors. The building is of brick, and belongs to the Gothic order of architecture. It is divided into compartments, the chief room being towards the east. The central door is pointed, and flanked by diagnal buttresses, above which is a pointed window of three lights, with quatrefoil tracery, surmounted by a square pinnacle or spire of singular construction, which contributes a picturesque aspect to the edifice. The west compartment presents gables and square windows. There is a female, as well as a male department. Mr Jph. Bright is the second master, and Miss Ellen Kirkland the mistress.


The People’s College in 1846- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

The Unitarian Free School

This is situated behind the chapel on the High Pavement, and was founded in consequence of a division which took place in 1788, amongst the subscribers to the Blue Coat School. It is supported by annual contributions, for the education of forty boys and twenty girls of any religious denomination. Ten of the girls are also clothed. Mr John Taylor and Miss Ann Mitchell are the teachers.

R:  122 G:  255 B:  158 X:54188 Y:    0 S:    0 Z:   53 F:  122

The old High Pavement School, which was built in 1805, with the old Unitarian Church, now the Pitcher and Piano pub, behind. This was the first proper building of the school, with the girls on the upper floor and the boys on the lower- Photo Credit: Joe Earp/Nottingham Hidden History Team.

The School of Industry

This was founded by subscription in 1808, for the instruction of 150 poor girls in reading, writing and plain needlework. It now occupies part of St James’ Church Sunday School, which was erected in Rutland Street in 1824, and has another room occupied as an infant school. 

Trinity National School 

This is a neat brick building in North Church Street, erected in 1847 at a cost of £3,000, for boys, girls and infants. It has residences at each end, and one in the centre for teachers, and will accommodate 220 boys, 150 girls and 200 infants. Mr Richd. Thurlow is the master, C. Shepherd the mistress, and Ann Haslam the infant mistress. The master has five, and the mistress two pupil teachers.

St John’s National School

This is in London road, and is for boys, girls and infants. It is a handsome brick building, faced with stone, erected in 1843 at a cost of £2,500, and will accommodate 160 pupils of each sex, and the same number of infants. Luke Bland is the master, Sarah Ann Sylde the mistress, and Matilda Griffin the infant mistress, each of whom resides on the premises.

High Cross Street National School

This is a gigantic seminary, calculated for about 600 boys, on Dr Bell’s system. Mr Jph. Aldridge is the master.

Barkergate National School

This is a girls’ school, and is a spacious, neat building, erected in 1834. It consists of two storeys and cost £767, part of which was supplied by a grant from government. Sarah Addicott is the mistress.

The Lancasterian School

This is a boys’ school, and is a spacious building of one storey on Derby Road, erected in 1815. It is supported principally by the contributions of dissenters. Mr John Widdowson packer is the master.

The Ragged School

This useful institution occupies St Paul’s Infant School room, in Cur Lane, but will shortly be removed to new premises in Glasshouse Street, which will accommodate 300 children. Subscriptions are now being collected for this laudable purpose.

The British School

This is on Bath Street (removed from Leen Side). It is a neat building, erected in 1850, and will accommodate 200 boys and 150 girls. Mr Richard Stimson is the master, and Mary Jane Boot the mistress.

Catholic Schools

The boys’ school is a neat, brick building in Kent Street, opened in 1842. Patrick Kerman is the master. The girls’ school is situated on Derby Road, adjoining the Nunnery, and is under the superintendence of the Sisters of Mercy. There is also an Industrial Ragged and Infant School, in George Street, conducted by the Sisters of Mercy.

The Infant Schools

Besides the three already noted, viz. Trinity, St john’s and St James’, there are also infant schools on Canaan Street, Independent Hill and Chapel Yard, Cross Street.

Government School of Design

This is in Beck Lane, and was established April 1st 1843 for elementary instruction, instruction and design for manufactures, and in the history, principles and practice of ornamental art. A competent master, under the general superintendence of teh committee, is engaged to afford instruction in the various branches above enumerated. The director (Somerset House) exercises a general superintendence and control in every matter relating to the duties of all who are engaged in giving instruction in the School. The morning school is open from 9 to 12, the evening school from half-past six to nine, excepting Saturday, with other appointed vacations. Fees of admission are to be paid to the Secretary in advancem which are four shillings for the morning school, and two shillings for the evening. The morning students have permission to attend the evening school free of expense. Mr Thomas Clark is the present master.


The original school at the People’s Hall in Beck Lane (now Heathcote Street). moved to Plumptre House in Stoney Street in 1852 and to Commerce Square, off High Pavement in 1858. In 1863, a site was purchased in Waverley Street for the building of a new school- Photo Credit: http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk.

About nottinghamhiddenhistoryteam

Originally formed in 1965 to try to save or at least record before destruction the cave sites continually discovered during the major redevelopment of the City that took place in Nottingham in the 1960′s. Almost every day new sites were unearthed and destroyed before anyone was notified; last thing they wanted was someone telling them to stop what they were doing; TIME is MONEY. The word HIDDEN in the Team’s title is because a lot of what was being invisibly lost in the redevelopment was our early history in the caves, they are under most, if now all, of Nottingham. In the 80’s and 90’s the Team conducted with the help of Dr Robert Morrell and Syd Henley, research and work on Nottingham’s history, folklore and local archaeology. The Team published quarterly magazines on their findings. The Team lapsed for a few years after the death of Paul Nix who was the team leader for thirty plus years. The Team has reformed and is now back working on Nottingham local history. On this blog you will find a series of history, folklore and archaeological related articles and information. Most of the material published will be specifically related to Nottingham/shire local history.
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