Guest Column: Back to school in Tudor times

Queen Elizabeth's High School was originally a Tudor grammar school
Queen Elizabeth's High School was originally a Tudor grammar school

It is almost time for the children to return to school but what was life like at a Tudor school?

In Tudor times there was no organised system of state education for everyone.

Tudor schools were available to boys of the upper and middle classes.

The education of Tudor girls was based on non-academic subjects and their lessons were of a totally practical nature.

Tudor girls would not have attended school or received any formal type of education.

Boys between the ages of five and seven attended petty schools and from the ages of seven to 14 they attended grammar schools.

School days were very long, often from seven in the morning until five or even six at night.

Pupils worked from Monday to Saturday with a half-day on Sunday and no more than three two-week holidays throughout the year.

Something to remind your children about when they are moaning that there six-week summer break was not long enough.

In Henry VIII’s reign, the leading schools in the City of London were St Anthony’s and St Paul’s.

These were both fee-paying grammar schools for rich boys.

They were called grammar schools because they taught Latin grammar.

The boys would also learn other subjects such as mathematics, geography and literature.

Henry’s son, Edward VI, founded Christ’s Hospital as a school for orphaned boys and girls.

Later, rich parents asked that their children be allowed to go there too.

During Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, there were several new schools founded by wealthy City merchants such as the Merchant Taylors’ School.

Don’t forget, Gainsborough’s own Queen Elizabeth’s High School is a grammar school set up in the Tudor period.

The School formally originates in 1589, when Queen Elizabeth I granted a charter to Sir Robert Somerscale to establish Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School for boys, with the express purpose of providing an education in the Classics and Divinity for the sons of the emerging middle class in the town.

It is said that several of the Mayflower Pilgrims received their early education here and among its alumni was John Robinson.

Lessons were first held in a room above the porch of the original All Saints church.

Many of the school’s early records were lost during the reign of Charles I, owing to the prominent Puritan sympathies of many associated with the school who sought to avoid detection, and so had the incriminating records destroyed.

During the last 400 years the school site has moved from All Saints Church, to Cox’s Hill (where the Hickman Hill hotel is now located) and finally settling on the Morton Terrace Technical College, where the boys’s grammar (Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School) merged with the girls school (Gainsborough High School) to form the current set-up of QEHS in 1983.

Victoria Mason is site manager at Gainsborough Old Hall