The School

Hampton School, (formerly Hampton Grammar School) is an independent boys school with a history dating back to the sixteenth century, when it was founded at St. Mary’s Church in Hampton, Middlesex on the bank of the River Thames. It is now located on Hanworth Road in Hampton, between Hampton Community College (formerly Rectory School) and Lady Eleanor Holles School, within playing fields bounded by the Longford River.

Though there are no formal ties between the lodge and the school, many of the lodge members have connections with the school and the lodge sponsors the school’s Old Hamptonians’ Masonic Lodge Prize for Social Service.

History of the School

At the beginning of the sixteenth century no school was to be found in the Parish of Hampton, including Hampton Wick, or in any of the surrounding parishes. Kingston had had one long before, but nothing had been heard of it for many generations and its present Grammar School was founded as the result of a bequest by Robert Hammond in the same will of 7th. March 1556 as the one which founded Hampton School. When Henry VIII took over Hampton Court Palace there was a school for the boys of the Chapel Royal choir, but it had no connection with the parish. In any case the population of the latter in 1500 was only about four hundred.

The benefactions which founded the schools at Hampton and Kingston were two of many which bore witness to the greater educational awareness of the 16th. Century and caused a big expansion in schooling facilities, although the expansion was threatened to some extent by the changing religious policies of the governments of the middle part of the century. The death of Edward VI in 1553, after a reign of only six years marked by a strongly Protestant policy, was followed by Mary’s violent reversion to Catholicism and a return to the Roman obedience.

At Hampton the change led to the deprivation of the Edwardian Vicar, Robert Newman, in 1554, and his replacement by Richard Alcocke, the nominee of the Catholic Queen. But educationally Hampton lost nothing during Edward’s reign, which saw the closing of a number of schools up and down the country owing to the attack on the chantries in 1548. It lost nothing for the simple reason that it had no school to lose. From the change to Catholicism under Mary it may well have gained educationally, through the influence of the event on the benevolent intentions of Robert Hammond, founder of the school.

Hammond had been living in Hampton for some time previously to his death in April 1557, and all his life had had family connections with the parish. He had been a London brewer on a considerable scale and had played a leading part in the life of Kingston. The will was proved on June 15th., and on the assumption that they were ready to fall in with his plan, he left to the vicar, churchwardens and parishioners of Hampton a house and a little land as the endowment of a ‘free scoole’ to be kept in Hampton for ever. A small building ‘with seates in yt’ was to be erected in the churchyard and there the Vicar was to teach boys of the village for the modest remuneration of three pounds a year derived from the annual rental of a freehold building near the church, along with that from an acre of freehold land in Hampton common fields. (The building referred to was a private residence at the time, but later became the ‘Bell’ Inn, the land was behind the ‘Worlds End’ Inn.)

Seventeenth Century

These scanty funds were augmented under the terms of the will of Edmund Pigeon dated October 20th. 1657, with the bequest of his stables and land adjoining. The school appears to have still carried on a very precarious existence until Mr. John Jones, by a codicil to his will bearing the date March 26th. 1692, bequeathed the Rectorial Tithes and all the Glebe lands to the trustees, the income from which was to cover the salary of ‘an honest and capable schoolmaster’ to teach six poor children to read and write. However, the family of Robert Jones disputed the will and sold the property and it was not until 1696 that the matter was finally settled by arbitration of the Prerogative Court. In 1697 the executors of the will also conveyed to the school trustees a fourth part of Nando’s Coffee House in Fleet Street, to cover the salary of a schoolmaster to teach and instruct all poor children in Hampton in Latin, English and their Catechism.

Eighteenth Century

From 1726 onwards the Hampton Free School occupied the room adjoining the north side of the church. The master from 1791 to 1803 was the Rev. Richard Kilsha, who does not appear to have been very assiduous in his duties. His successor was elected according to custom by the vote of all parishioners paying scot and lot, the equivalent of the modern community charge payers. The election of a new schoolmaster was an event which caused as much interest locally as a Parliamentary election. Polling took place in the school room from 10 am to 3 pm., when the counting of votes started. On this occasion the successful candidate was the Rev. Samuel Hemming, who became well known as the founder of the Hemming Masonic Lodge.

Nineteenth Century

The Rev. Dr. Samuel Hemming was an ebullient man who was frequently in dispute with the School Trustees. At a meeting on 9th. July 1828 the Trustees went so far as to record their opinion that ‘the duties of the Master of the Free School of this Parish have for a long Series of Years past (and especially during the respective Masterships of the late Dr. Hemming and his immediate predecessor the Rev. Mr. Kilsha) been grossly abused and neglected in as much as the Tuition of the Scholars has been chiefly entrusted to Assistant Teachers who were engaged by the Masters at a low Salary, and who did not possess adequate ability to discharge the functions of their Office.’

The plan for rebuilding St. Mary’s church, referred to later, required the demolition of the old schoolroom. Although the Vestry resolved in 1828 to give the building of a new schoolroom priority over the building of a new church, no action was taken and when the fabric of the old church was pulled down in 1830, the school was homeless. Some consideration had already been given to a new site and it had been decided in principle that the new school should be in two parts, a Latin or Upper School and an English or Lower School with quarters for an under master, but there was a shortage of money and the only way in which sufficient funds could be raised was to allow the endowment income to accumulate for a few years. Although no new Master was appointed on the death of Dr. Hemming in 1828, some form of elementary education was carried on, though exactly where is not known, under Mr. George Bridges who was able to satisfy the Trustees that he could write and do arithmetic and was appointed acting Master at a salary of £1 5s. a week. Although the Trustees expressed themselves as highly satisfied with Mr. Bridges, they found with regret that, as a result of the neglect by Mr. Kilsha and Dr Hemming, the only children being sent to the school were those of persons in the lowest rank who could not afford to pay for their instruction elsewhere. Nevertheless, the Trustees would accept only the children of those who paid rates and resolved to dismiss boys who behaved disorderly or contumaciously.

Almost five years elapsed between the demolition of the old schoolroom and the building of the new school on the site of the present parish hall. The new building had a wing at the north end for the Latin School and another at the south end for the English School and in between was a two-storeyed apartment for the under Master. Mr. Bridges remained in charge until 1839 when it was decided to appoint a new Master. The election caused, if anything, greater excitement than any previous election of a Master, and was reported in The Times. The candidates were the Rev. H.R. Slade, curate of St. Mary’s since 1835, and the Rev. Robert Peel. The Election was conducted on unashamedly partisan lines and the candidates adopted symbolic colours, the Reds or Conservatives supporting Mr. Peel and the Blues or Radicals supporting Mr. Slade. On this occasion the polling hours were from 9 am until 6 pm and the Rev. Robert Peel was elected by 357 votes to his opponent’s 272.The division of the Grammar School into a Latin School and an English School did not prove as satisfactory as was expected. The middle class parents, on whom the Latin School largely depended, gradually withdrew their support, probably because the did not wish their sons to have too much contact with their social inferiors.

It seems clear too that Mr. Peel did not give the school his best attention as he grew older. By 1858 the numbers had fallen to such an extent that the Charity Commissioners ordered an enquiry, which in the event did not take place until 1864. In the intervening period Mr. Francis had been appointed Master of the English School and through his exertions had brought the number of scholars up to 120. The Surrey Comet reported the twice-yearly treats given to the school by Mr F.J. Kent the younger and it is probably significant that whereas Mr Peel’s name was not mentioned, fulsome praise was lavished on Mr Francis.

The Charity Commissioners’ new scheme was not announced until December 1866. Its main feature was the payment of 3d a week for each boy or 4d for two brothers. This caused great indignation and parishioners were not slow to point out that Hammond, Pigeon and John Jones had endowed the school so that it might be free. A committee of tradesmen was formed in March 1867 to fight the scheme and a formal protest was sent to the Charity Commissioners, who merely replied that the scheme had been established and it was not in their power to alter it. The committee replied with another protest, but it was to no avail and Mr. Francis (apparently acting for Mr Peel) had to say at the beginning of the summer term that he could not teach any boy who had not paid his weekly fee. Mr F.O. Martin of Rose Hill, provided tickets for 21 of the poorer boys, but they tore these up and there arose the bizarre situation of boys trying to force their way into school. It was only when the police arrived that they agreed to forego their lessons. Still the protesters did not give in and in February 1868 they applied to the Court of Chancery for an injunction to restrain the Trustees from applying the scheme. The protest had by now, however lost most of its steam; the injunction was refused; and the new scheme was quietly accepted.

Mr. Peel resigned late in 1866 or early in 1867, presumably on grounds of ill health for he died shortly afterwards, and a new Headmaster was appointed to the Latin School, which then had only nine pupils. This was the Rev. G.F. Heather, who put all his energy into building up the school. The numbers grew steadily and before long the Trustees obtained Jessamine House in Thames Street to provide a home for Mr. Heather and a few boarders. A second master was appointed and the curriculum was expanded to include French and German. The Grammar School had a Rugby football team by 1874 and the first athletic sports took place in 1875. There was now talk in earnest about building a new school and a site was chosen in the Upper Sunbury Road which had been allocated to the Vicar under the Enclosure Award in lieu of tithes. To raise money for the building it was decided to sell the vicarage meadow on the opposite side of the road, the income from which was John Jones’ bequest. There was a ready purchaser in the shape of the Grand Junction Water Company who paid £10,500 for the land. The sale of this charity land to raise money for building a school for the sons of gentlemen caused predictable indignation in certain quarters, but a public meeting welcomed the proposal.

The new school was intended to take 100 dayboys and 50 boarders and fees for dayboys whose parents had resided in Hampton for at least three years were to be not less than £8 and not more than £12 a year. The foundation stone was laid by Lord George Hamilton on 11th. October 1879 and the new school was ready for occupation the following July.

It must have been a great grief to Mr. Heather to have to witness a steady fall in the number of boys attending the new school whose future had seemed so bright. For various reasons there were no more than 39 boys in 1892 and as few as 28 by 1897. The Charity Commissioners ordered an enquiry and put forward a new scheme involving greater representation on the governing body by the Urban District and County Councils and a reduction in the number of co-opted governors, a foretaste of the Education Act of 1902. With the appointment of Mr. W.A. Roberts as Headmaster in 1897 the tide soon began to turn, however, and by 1906 the number of boys had risen to nearly 200.

The appointment of Mr Heather to the Grammar School and the success achieved by Mr Francis in building up the English School, saw the two schools growing apart. The introduction of a degree of compulsory education under Forster’s Act of 1871 caused a further increase in the size of the English School and it is difficult to see how the building was able to accommodate both schools in the 1870’s. Mr Francis retired in 1874 and was followed by Mr Henry Ripley, who achieved local distinction as organist and choirmaster and author of Hampton’s first published history. The removal of the Grammar School in 1880 gave Mr. Ripley a little more scope for teaching and he introduced an upper class to prepare boys for entry into commerce. By now there were 180 boys in the school. There was much rejoicing in 1891 when a Government grant made it no longer necessary to charge the hated weekly fee of 3d.

Twentieth Century

Mr Ripley resigned in July 1902 and was succeeded by Mr. W.A. Cooke who had to cope with ever increasing numbers and the provision of new buildings became essential. Initially some overflow accommodation was made available in the Navvies’ Mission in Station Road until the completion of Percy Road School in 1907. The old school building was then converted to make it suitable once again as a Parish Hall and it was used as such until the new hall was built.

Author: The late W. Bro. Alec Barclay


A Brief History of Hampton Grammar School 1557-1957.

The Free School of Robert Hammond in Hampton-on-Thames and other Hampton Charities during the 16th. and 17th. centuries.

The History of Hampton School from 1556 to 1700.

All by Bernard Garside M.A., B.Sc.(Econ.), F.R. Hist.S., Senior History Master, Hampton Grammar School.

Also Hampton in the Nineteenth Century by G.D. Heath, published 1972