Wigan Grammar School
The First School

 

“…for the better education and bringing-up of the youth within the said town of Wigan, and to advance learning, whereby true religion, virtue and good manners might be the better placed, increased and advanced.”  Francis Sherrington 1597

 

The School was not ‘founded’ in the sense that a new school started on a certain day. There certainly was a school before 1597, but it was not permanent, because it had no regular income or endowment. What happened in 1597 was that the School was endowed and it continued from that day without a break.

 In 1594 Thomas Bankes, a goldsmith who lived in London, left in his will the sum of £30 – quite a large amount in those days – “to the Free School in Wigan, if it shall go forward in three years.” The man who was determined that the School should ‘go forward’ was Francis Sherrington, a man of considerable means, who was Mayor of Wigan in 1594. He raised a substantial fund by contributions from his friends and relations as well as by spending considerable sums of his own money, partly in buying land to provide a permanent income for the School and the Master’s salary. On October 12th, 1597, a deed was drawn up, giving the names of twenty-five gentlemen who were to be trustees of this fund and see that the School was properly carried on- in fact, they might be called the first ‘ Governors’ of the School.

 So October 12th 1597, may be called the date of the ‘Foundation’ of the School. Francis Sherrington , if anyone, deserves to be called the ‘Founder’ of the School, for without his efforts there would have been no endowment and hence no school. The six Houses of the School were named in 1926 after benefactors, but the name of Sherrington is strangely missing.  

click to locate the First School

Of the first school building not a trace or even a picture remains. It was probably a building of one room like a cottage: it was in Scholes, behind the present Little Theatre. It was erected on School Common and for many years a rent of 4d per annum was paid to the Rector. It stood at the junction of School Lane and School Street on the side extending towards Orchard Street, a little, say a foot, below the present level. We may conceive it to have been a single-roomed building with an open roof, resembling Mr. Woodcock’s Sunday School in Bishopgate, ( the old Bluecoat School of 1761), near Wigan Parish Church. The number of boys was less than fifty, and they attended for two or three years only, school hours being from 7 or 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with Thursday and Saturday afternoons as holidays. The subjects taught were Latin and Scripture, with some Greek and Mathematics, but no History, Geography, English, Science or Modern Languages