The history of schools in Stony Stratford is much longer and more complicated than that of Wolverton, although it is interesting to note that they were all built on the Wolverton Manor, that is on the east side of the Watling Street.
Schools only emerged where there was a population centre, so there was no demand in the scattered village of Wolverton, which had in any case become depopulated by the land enclosures of the 16th century. In addition, there was no real recognition of the importance of schooling until the intellectual Humanist movement reached the shore of England in the early 16th century.
Stony Stratford’s first school (as far as we know) was founded by Michael Hipwell who set aside some of his land and property to found a Grammar School in his will of 1610. The Rose and Crown was to be let for a period of 99 years and at the end of this time the property was bequeathed to Trustees who were directed to use the capital and income to found a school:
“that the rents and profits may be applied to the maintenance of a schoolmaster from time to time for ever, to keep a Free Grammar School in the barn behind the said inn, which barn he appointed should be applied as the school house, and was then lately built by him, and a chimney, a loft, and a parlour on the one end thereof for the schoolmaster from time to time to dwell in, and the yard adjoining to the bam for the use of the schoolmaster for the time being : and he appointed that the said trustees should nominate the schoolmaster to hold the said free school from time to time as they should think good; and it is provided, that such scholars of the town, or any of the next town adjoining, as should be minded to learn either grammar, or to write, or to cypher, should be taught in the school, and be taught their principles in religion, or else the said gift to be void ; and that the trustees should remove the said schoolmaster, and put in another, if they should think good cause, or that the school master for the time being should not duly and orderly behave himself, and teach the scholars in the said school, as should be thought meet by the said trustees.”
One must assume that this school began to function as such after 1710.
By the 19th century the income from Michael Hipwell’s charity was insufficient for the operating costs of the school and the trustees decided to merge their interests with the new National School Society, which was a Church of England movement with access to state funds. This led to the foundation of St Giles School at Number 30 High Street, next door to the old Rose and Crown in the first decade of the 19th century. The school reigned supreme in Stony Stratford (apart from private schools which I will discuss in another post) for about 30 years to the increasing discontent of non-conformists.
The non-conformists were not entirely without support. There was a counter movement in the 19th Century to provide a school curriculum for Non-conformists and almost parallel with the National Schools another sort of school, with more-or-less the same funding arrangements, came into being as British Schools, sometimes known as “Lancastrian Schools” after their founder Joseph Lancaster. While these schools began to make their appearance in England after 1819, the first British School to come to Stony Stratford was built in 1844 at the very south end of the High Street at a cost of £750. You can still get a good view of it at the Corner of the High Street and the Wolverton Road. The curved corner is a nice thought and in more recent times this has been mirrored in a newer building on the opposite side of the street.
This school lasted for about 70 years and then was moved to a new building built by the Council on Russell Street in 1907. This building is still used as an Infants school. The old British School continued in use as a public hall.
In 1858 St Giles school was partly rebuilt and enlarged in the grounds at the back of the Rose and Crown properties at the instigation of the Reverend W T Sankey who spent his private income very liberally in Stony Stratford. And again in 1867, the generosity of another vicar, this time the Rev. William Pitt Trevelyan, at that time Vicar of Holy Trinity, built another school on the corner of the London Road. This one, designed by the architect Edwin Swinfen Harris, is now the Plough Inn, which you can see in the above photograph.
This school was another church school, designed for the expanding population at the “Wolverton End” which in time formed a new parish, known as Wolverton St Mary’s. At first it served Boys Girls and Infants, but in the 20th century there was some rationalisation with St Giles on the High Street – St Giles took the boys and the newer school was used for Girls and Infants only.
In 1936 a new school opened on King George’s Crescent, and the old schools closed and were converted to private use. The school designed by Swinfen Harris was occupied by The Plough Inn, which for many years had conducted its trade in a building next door. There is a certain symmetry in this. The Rose and Crown became a school and the school on the corner of the London Road became a pub!