Henry Fauconberge and the Fauconberge Grammar School

Henry Fauconberge, fifth and youngest son of Thomas Fauconberge, was born on April 19th 1634. In May 1655 he was a student at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and elected a fellow in 1656. Appointed as official to the Archdeacon of Suffolk in 1664, and had a degree of law confirmed on him in 1665. He resigned his fellowship in 1672. Admitted as an advocate of the ecclesiastical bar on 1st July 1674 and is appointed commissary of the archdeaconry of Suffolk, he then becomes an official to the archdeacon of Norfolk. Dr Fauconberge's name appears in the consistory court books between the years of 1682 and 1705.

Dr Fauconberge was an inhabitant of Beccles for several years towards the end of his life. He was married twice and his second wife, Mary, who had connections with the town through her father John Barker who was related to the Leman Family. They lived in a house on the east side of the town that had belonged to John Clarke, gentleman, and which “ retains the curved and parapetted gables common in domestic architecture at the beginning of the last century. The spot was distinguished by some noble trees, and was long known as The Grove.” Henry Fauconberge died on 29th October 1713 having no children. He was interned two days later at the south side of the Beccles parish church, St Michaels, at the junction of the nave and chancel. An altar tomb surmounted by a slab of black marble, bears the arms derived by the Fauconberge's from the Brus family with a bordure engrailed, impaling Barker on the other. His wife continued to live in Beccles until her death after which she was buried at the family tomb in Wickham Market.

Dr Faunconberge's will, dated 3rd May 1712 and attested by Charles Tucke, Thomas West and John Farr, among other bequests made provision “to encourage learning and instruction of youth in the said town of Beccles, and to settle a stipend to be so applicable.” The will instructs that up to two persons be appointed by the Bishop of Norwich, archdeacon of Suffolk and rector of Beccles. The teachers should be proficient in Latin and Greek and teach youths so they could attend university. It appears during this early period there were sufficient funds to teach about 5 pupils, all boys, and that the focus was on teaching classics with the aim of them attaining places at university, they were taught other subjects but not by the masters of the Fauconberge school.

Due to conditions in the will, the money to set up the school didn't become available until 2nd September 1770 when Rev. Peter Routh, clerk to the Rector at Beccles was appointed teacher. The Fauconberge estate was sold up and the monies handed over to a Corporation who acted as Trustees, they are identified as: Edmund Bacon esq. of Raveningham, Henry William Wilson esq. of Kiby Cane, Francis Mathhew Schulz esq. of Gillingham, Robert Sparrow esq. of Worlingham, Bence Sparrow esq. of Worlingham, William Leman esq. of Beccles, John Farr esq. of North Cove, John Price esq. of Beccles, Richard Yerbury esq. of Beccles, Thomas Rede gentleman of Beccles, William Elmy gentleman of Beccles, William Crowfoot gentleman of Beccles, John Chambers surgeon of Beccles, Le Grice Browne gentleman of Beccles, Isaac Blowers gentleman of Beccles, William Hunter mercer of Beccles, and Owen Holmes grocer of Beccles , and the Rev. John Lodington of Beccles.

The Rev. Peter Routh had been educated at Caius college, Cambridge, he was rector at a number of local parishes: St Peter and St Margaret, South Elmham, Beccles and Great Redisham. Rev. Routh became a teacher succeeding Mr Lodington at his Beccles private school until he took over the Fauconberge school. In 1773 he purchased a house in Hungate and in 1783 moved to a property opposite the home of his predecessor Mr Lodington. The Rev. Routh died in 1802 and was buried in Bungay, he had been the teacher at the Fauconberge school for some 25 years. His place was taken by the Rev. John Lang Girdlestone.

The Rev. Girdlestone, also educated at Caius Cambridge, moved to Beccles in 1794 when he became master at the Grammar School (Fauconberge school). The school occupied the old guildhall or Feoffment chamber and he lived opposite until 1802 when he purchased the house that had been occupied by Dr Fauconberge. The premises were not deemed suitable and in 1810 it was agreed that a property would be purchased that would provide suitable accommodation for a schoolhouse and accommodation for the master and pupils. Rev. Girdlestone resigned the Grammar school endowment on the 14th December 1813 and moved to Sherringham. He died on 22nd January 1825. Two of the Rev. Girdlestone more notable students were Charles Chaston Assey and Dr. Joseph Arnold. The Rev. Girdlestone was succeeded by Rev. Hugh Owen LL.D of Stowmarket who occupied the post until Midsummer 1846. This was a difficult time for the school as The Rev. Owen tended to focus on his other occupations to the cost of the school. There eventually appears to have been a protest by the Trustees due to the amount of pay the schools headmaster was receiving, some £250 a year - a huge sum for the time, and the amount of teaching he was doing. The Rev. Owen was removed from his post, the church finding him other work.

The Rev. Henry Nicholson Burrows MA of Trinity College Cambridge was the next master, having been Principle at Hull college for several years and headmaster at a Yarmouth propriety school. It was Mr Burrows who secured the lease on the building and grounds of St Mary's, at the corner of Ballygate and St Mary's road and greatly expanded the school, the number of pupils and the scope of the syllabus. He retired on ill health grounds in 1852. Mr Burrows was followed by the Rev. Alfred Octavius Harley, MA Contab who was headmaster between 1853 and 1870, and then the Rev. St J Reade between 1870 and 1873. The Rev. Reade took on the school at an important time and following some success suddenly left taking a number of students with him. The Rev. Hartley came back again and stood in until the appointment of the Rev. John H Raven who remained until 1901, in 1896 he is mentioned in a newspaper item which also lists assistant masters Merry, Carr, Turner and Holt.

After the Rev. Raven came the Rev. Percy Bateman who made significant improvements to the school buildings. Rev. Bateman suffered a fatal heart attack and in 1904 was replaced by the Rev. Percy A Humphrey who left in summer term 1906 when the school closed temporarily, re-opening at the Summer term 1907 under the temporary Headmastership of Mr A Collins and then several others. The financial state of the school was rather strained after the Rev. Humphrey left and continued at several different sites. A suggestion that the school merge with the nearby Leman school which was also struggling at this time came to nought. Then in 1909 the school came under the mastership of Thomas Clifton Smith and moved to St Marys, Grange Road. The school grew under his mastership until he left in 1918. The next master was the Rev. H Biddell MA. and he was Headmaster between 1919 and 1924. During this period the school expanded by becoming co-ed. When the Rev. Biddell left most of the girl students also left leaving the school in a much weakened state. The last entry on a school board which is in the keeping of the museum is for 1924. The Rev. HJL Norman was the last master and he left in spring 1926 it being impossible to carry on. The endowment continued to be used but only to offer grants to Beccles parents so they could send children to fee paying schools.


Information for this article mainly comes from the SW Rix booklet “The Fauconberge Memorial, An account of Henry Fauconberge LL,D of Beccles and of the endowment provided by his Will to encourage learning and the instruction of youth.” The article is dated 1849. Later information comes from newspaper articles published in the East Suffolk Gazette and EA Goodwyn's book on the Fauconberge School.

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