The Blue Coat School

In 1711 a Charity School was opened "for teaching Poor Boys to Read and to instruct them in the Knowledge and Practice of the Christian Religion as professed and taught in the Church of England, and for Learning such other things as are suitable to their Condition and Capacity. The said School maintained by contribution of well-disposed persons to which the Corporation gave liberally towards it.

A site was found in the Church Yard on the east side of what was known as "The Minister's House". This belonged to the Corporation who gave the use of the premises rent-free. It was decided that thirty poor boys should be taken into the school and clothing provided; It was stipulated that the material for the clothes should be of "the Manufacture of this place, and that Thomas Tepper be desired to make Six pieces of Long Ells for the said Clothing, and to be died blew, and Thirty pair of Shoes and as many pair of Stockings be made ready."

In 1714 the subscribers to the Charity School unanimously agreed that a Charity School should be set up for teaching of girls to read, and say their Catechism, sew, knit etc., and that they said girls should be clothed all in blue and the first ten girls were admitted.

The schoolmaster had to take the school children to Church morning and afternoon each Sunday. Every school day had to start with morning prayer and end with evening prayer and each child was presented with a bible on leaving school.

The scholars were to attend the school from seven to eleven each morning and from one to five in the afternoon in the summer and from eight to eleven and from one to four in the winter.

The Minute book dated February 14th 1744 has the following entry  "Agreed that all the children of the said school, except those of the Workhouse, be newclothedstet before the 1st May next. Also that the children of the Workhouse be admitted to be taught in the said school after the said 1st May. Also that a book be provided for the several Inspectors local men appointed."

In 1755 it was decided that no child be admitted under the age of 8.

Sources of information

Minute Book held at North Devon Record Office  ref: B 366/3

Bawden Family Notebook original copy in South Molton Museum

In 1850 there were two schoolrooms. There was a house for the master and mistress who received £35 a year for teaching 36 boys and 15 girls. The children were provided with a set of blue clothes every year.

North Devon Journal 28th February 1878

"THE BLUE COAT SCHOOLS Twenty-three of the children of these schools, having passed a satisfactory examination in the three Rs before the Diocesan Inspector of Schools some time ago, were last week presented with the usual gift of clothing for their good conduct, industry, and regularity of attendance. The style of the clothing is more modern and useful than that which has been presented on former occasions. Instead of the swallow tail coats, vest, and breeches of the same material for the boys, it now consists of a monkey jacket and vest of blue serge, well lined with unbleached calico, with trousers made of green cord, similar to that worn by railway porters; and instead of the ugly old covering for the head, it is now a black cloth hat with peak. The girls also now have a dress and covering for the shoulders of the same material (blue serge), with a black straw hat trimmed with ribbon, instead of the usual calico nightcap. The children presented a very smart appearance, and were evidently very proud of themselves in their new clothes."

Whites Directory published 1878 (this entry was by this time out of date and probably refers to 1876/7)

"Bluecoat School Its present endowment consists of £25.15 new four per cent Stock. 2 schoolrooms, with a house for the master and mistress are provided by the Corporation. The Master and Mistress receive £35 per annum for teaching 36 boys and 15 girls who are clothed in blue once a year. Formerly the charity clothed and educated 45 boys and 20 girls".

In June 1877 the Blue Coat Schools, The National School and the Hugh Squier School amalgamated to become the South Molton United Schools. New school buildings were erected in North Street and officially opened by Lord Fortescue in 1880. (S. Bray)

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