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Hockliffe Charity School

Francis West charity plaque in the south aisle at Chalgrave June 2012
Francis West Charity plaque in the south aisle at Chalgrave June 2012

In 1690 Francis West of Hockliffe left a legacy of £400 to purchase land to provide an education for the children of the poor inhabitants of Hockliffe and Chalgrave, to be split equally between the two villages. This fund was used to buy land at Simpson in Buckinghamshire [now part of Milton Keynes] and the rent paid for this property was used to fund a schoolmaster. In addition to making it possible for the children of the "poor sort of inhabitants" to learn to read and write any surplus income of the charity was to be used to clothe those whose parents could not afford to do so. If the poor inhabitants of Hockliffe and Chalgrave could not be persuaded to "suffer their poor children to go to school" then the income should be used "for the putting and placing out … of so many of his poor relations children, either to school … or [as] apprentices".  Two relatives of West, Joseph Cooper and William Grant, were appointed trustees, and they in their turn appointed as the schoolmaster in Hockliffe a certain Mr. Gould, an Anabaptist. In 1709 Mr. Gould's share of the income from the Simpson land was £8 per annum 

The appointment of an Anabaptist as schoolmaster caused difficulties in terms of the religious education of his pupils. In 1717 the rector reported that: "An Estate about £8 per annum is given to teach the poor Children of this Parish to read and Write. The number uncertain. The Trustees (not living amongst us) have put in an Anabaptist for Schoolmaster, therefore the children are not taught and instructed according to the doctrine of the Church of England, nor brought to Church as the canon requires". In 1720: "There is a Charity School, whose endowment is the half of the annual rent of £400 worth of Land. The number taught in it is about 20, and as to the Care of instructing them in the principles of the Christian Religion, and bringing them to Church, I suppose it is not great, because the Master is a Dissenter". Later in the 18th century the school at Hockliffe was attended by the artist George Arnald.

A report on Francis West's Charity issued by the Charity Commissioners in 1820 states that in the 1770s a complaint had been made that John Cooper and Joseph Cooper, relations of Francis West and then trustees of the charity, were misapplying the rents received from the charity's property at Simpson [Bucks]. A lawsuit was heard in Chancery following which the charity estate was conveyed to other trustees in 1790. In 1819 it was again conveyed to Richard Thomas Gilpin, William Millard and John Purratt as trustees. In 1815 the property at Simpson had been let to James Croft on a 14 year lease at a rent of £30 p.a. This was the best rent that could be secured as there were no buildings and the land was considered to be of inferior quality. The money was applied to send 9 boys each from Hockliffe and Chalgrave to school, with the number fixed by the trustees. The report says:

"The boys are sent to a schoolmaster in Hockliffe, and instructed in reading, writing , and arithmetic. They are admitted on application to Mr. Millard, one of the trustees. The sum usually paid for their education is about £7.13s a quarter; they are provided also with books and stationery at the expense of the charity. The payments of late have exceeded the amount of the rents, and the deficiency has been provided for out of a balance which had previously remained in hand."

In 1818 a Select Committee established to enquire into educational provision for the poor sent a questionnaire to all parishes in the country. The return for Hockliffe and Chalgrave noted that there was: "one small school, endowed by Francis West, with some land in the neighbourhood, producing about £30 per annum, to instruct the children of both parishes; about 16 boys attend … the present schoolmaster never attends the established church, therefore there is no regular Sunday school". The National Society had been formed in 1811 to encourage the teaching of poor children along Anglican lines and the Charity Commissioners report of 1820 states that "it is the desire of the trustees to apply the funds of this charity towards supporting a national school, if such an institution can be established in the parish, as the benefit of the charity would, by such means, be extended to a much greater number of children." The report also mentions that it did not appear to have been usual to apply any part of the revenues to buy clothing for the children. This is borne out by three receipts held by Bedfordshire and Luton Archives which show that in 1822 the Trustees received £5.19s.10d for the education of twelve children from Michaelmas to Christmas, and as payment for books and a fire. In 1828 they received £5 12s.0d for teaching sixteen boys to read, write and do accounts; and in 1831 £7.1s.6d for educating sixteen boys in reading and writing, and for books.

A National School was not set up in Hockliffe until 1844 when land was purchased as a school site for poor persons of Hockliffe and Chalgrave. West's Charity then applied its income to this school. In the early 1900s the Charity was updated and the income was used to help children to further their education beyond the elementary stage. In 1963 Chalgrave Parish Council inquired into the work of the charity and established that funds from the Charity were distributed to those passing the Eleven Plus and Thirteen Plus examinations for selection for Grammar or Technical School education, or those with university places. Beneficiaries had to be resident for two years in either Hockliffe or Chalgrave before gaining their place and must remain resident there during their school years. As Charity funds were for the benefit of Church schools Hockliffe benefited to a greater extent than Chalgrave, which was by this time controlled by the County Council.

The land at Simpson was compulsorily purchased by the Milton Keynes Development Association and with the phasing out of the Eleven Plus examination applications for grants reduced. The terms of the Charity were again changed the 1970s, from when the income was to be used to:

  • Promote the education of persons aged under 25 residing in Hockliffe or Chalgrave, particularly through provision of exhibitions, bursaries, grants and maintenance allowances to those in need of financial assistance, and to provide equipment, books, travel expenses help in pursuing education or preparing for a profession.
  • Provide special benefits for Chalgrave and Hockliffe Schools
  • Make grants to any charitable organisation in the two parishes with objects including education or the provision of beneficial recreation and leisure facilities for young people.