Chapter VI

Mr. Whiteley's Headmastership
and the Chancery Suit (1789-1815).


WE HAVE NOW come to a time of great importance in the history of education.

From a Report on the Charities of Leeds in 1827, we find that in 1792-1794 the school estates comprised

in Call Lane... 10,324 yds
in Vicar Lane... 1,731 yds
in Marsh Lane... 3,122 yds
at the Bank... 1,230 yds
against Old Churchyard... 304 yds
at Nether Green (Woodhouse)... 11a. 3r. 2p.
near Sheepscarr... 14a. 0r. 39p.
at Holbeck... 2,874 yds
at Low Balme... 759 yds
in Halton... 29a. 1r. 20p.
at Wike... 27a. 0r. 21p.
in Bardsea... 3a. 3r. 32p.

and in 1808 the income is stated to be

from lands... £185 15s. 0d.
from 102 tenements...(net) £640 0s. 0d.
£825 15s. 0d

and it is added that 84 of the tenements were very old and many of them thatched and in a very decayed condition. The Brief History tells us that two plans were suggested for improving the rental of the estates, viz.:

(a) to let on building leases such houses as were in a ruinous condition.
(b) to gradually rebuild such houses in order that they might be re-let at higher rents.

A START WAS MADE with the former when the House of Recovery in Vicar Lane was built in 1805 upon the site of several old buildings belonging to the School, but so far as rebuilding was concerned not much could be done during this period owing to the other expenses of the Committee. The income however was steadily increasing for the Report of 1827 states that the rents then came to c.£1,595 12s. 0d., and that the Committee held also £2,642 6s. 2d. in stock. As to the expenditure we are left a good deal in the dark, but it must have included, besides the payment of fines—in 1806 these amounted to £1,350—and the repair and insurance of houses, the salaries of the officials (c.£67 14s. 0d. per annum) and the stipends of the masters. At the time of the suit the Master was receiving £126 and the Usher £63, with annual gratuities averaging £75 and £42 respectively.

The number of boys however in the School was small. In 1797 there were only 49, and the average for the preceding 5 years was 44. Lax discipline may have been one reason: at any rate it was so hinted by the Committee in 1779. Bad teaching may have been another, for in honours won there was a great falling off since Mr. Barnard's time, but the decline in numbers may have been the cause rather than the result of this. The Committee however evidently thought that it was the curriculum that was mainly to blame. The subjects taught were the same as of old—divinity, Latin, and Greek, with perhaps a certain amount of general information incidentally introduced. From the number of wranglers however and the stories told of Milner and Smeaton I cannot but think that there was also some mathematical teaching, though possibly only to a few boys and out of school hours. But if the School had not changed the world had. The field of knowledge had immensely extended. Latin was no longer the universal language. The Church and the universities were not now the only spheres in which a lad of ability might find scope for his talents. It is not surprising then that in a commercial town like Leeds business men who wanted clerks who could write a good hand, keep accounts, and correspond with foreigners, thought that the School might be made more practically useful. The Committee accordingly in 1777 had resolved

“as soon as convenient with respect to Rents and Profits of School to appoint a Master for the purpose of teaching to Write and Account such Boys as shall attend at the Free School to learn Latin and Greek, and also that another Master shall be appointed to teach the French tongue and other Foreign Languages, and that sufficient salaries shall be appointed for such masters”

and Dr. Goodinge and his successor, the Rev. Joseph Whiteley, on their appointments formally assented to the resolution, but nothing had yet been done.

MR. WHITELEY, like Mr. Barnard, was an “old boy.” After being excluded by the lot from the Hastings exhibition, he entered at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and became 6th wrangler in 1783 and M.A. in 1787. He won the Norrisian prize for divinity in 1781, 1782, 1783, 1785, 1787, 1788, 1789. From 1784 to 1789 he was incumbent of Beeston. He was also for a time vicar of Lastingham and chaplain to Lord Harewood. In 1789 he was appointed Master and held the post till his death in 1815. During the whole of his time the Usher was the Rev. Joseph Swaine. On 17 Dec. 1791 a sub-committee was appointed to discuss with him the appointment of the 2 new masters and to consider what addition to the buildings would be needed, but on 11 April 1792 it reported that he did “not admit the power of the Committee to appoint the said masters.”

Why the masters—for throughout the Usher was associated with the Master in his action—took up this attitude is not stated. They may have had doubts as to the legality of the changes. They may have feared that they would lead to an entire alteration in the character of the School. They may have been influenced by financial considerations, for if more teachers were appointed the surplus available for gratuities would be seriously diminished. In any case there seemed no means of arriving at an agreement, and a suit in Chancery—the only method then of getting a decision on a question of the right administration of an educational Trust—was commenced in 1795. The suit was quite an amicable one, and the costs of both sides were to be paid out of the School funds.

IN 1797 a Master in Chancery was directed to hold an inquiry as to whether it would be “proper and for the benefit of the Charity to have any other master or masters to teach writing, arithmetic and other languages besides the Greek and the Latin.” In his report he quoted an affidavit of the Committee to the effect that Leeds had “a very extensive Foreign Trade,” and that the teaching of subjects “usually considered to form the basis of a mercantile or commercial education” would be useful to the inhabitants and increase the number of scholars, and he stated that as there was nothing in the original institution and endowment of the Charity which necessarily excluded the teaching of any useful kind of learning', and as it would be beneficial to the inhabitants to employ part of the funds towards teaching those things which might be useful in trade or commerce, he approved of adding to the present establishment one German master and one French master to teach those languages, and a master for teaching algebra and “the mathematics,” to be elected in like manner as the Master and Usher from time to time had been. As to writing and arithmetic, there was a “variety of schools in Leeds” teaching these subjects and to have them taught free at the Grammar School would do more harm to such “seminaries” than benefit to the inhabitants. He left it open to the Trustees to give reasonable stipends to the extra masters and to vary the salaries of the present Master and Usher according to the increase and decrease of scholars.

The report satisfied no one. Even the Committee objected to some parts of it and their views as set forth in 1803 are worth quoting from the light they cast on the condition of the School.

“The parish of Leeds contains upwards of 60,000 inhabitants, is wholly mercantile, and nine-tenths of the Boys are brought up to Trade and Commerce, in consequence they are taken from the School about the age of 14 years and put out Apprentices or placed in the Counting Houses of the Merchants. To such boys Arithmetic and low Algebra may and will be of use and the Committee find so much difficulty in limiting the number of boys to be taught Writing that they are of opinion Writing should be wholly excluded but that Arithmetic should not be excluded. They conceive that a Master appointed merely for Algebra and Mathematics will not be so useful to the inhabitants ... as a Master to teach low Algebra and Arithmetic, as they conceive the boys in general are taken from School at too early an age to avail themselves of Algebra and Mathematics. That the Committee think it would be proper to give the power of appointing separate Masters for French and German, but as it may be possible to find one Master to teach both languages so as to enable the Scholars to write and read both those languages, which ought to be chiefly aimed at, they ought not to be compelled to appoint a Master for each language.”

To the masters the report was naturally distasteful, and they formally protested against it on the ground that

(a) the School was intended for a Grammar School only, not for algebra, the mathematics or the modern languages;
(b) the utility of French and German must depend upon accident and political and commercial circumstances and so they ought not to be made a permanent part of the institution;
(c) the persons who endowed the School did not intend that more than one Master and one Usher should be appointed and endowed;
(d) no complaint was made that the existing masters were not enough to instruct the number of boys who wished to attend a “Grammar School”;
(e) the estates being largely copyhold and so entailing expenses in fines and repairs the residue of the income would not constitute unreasonable salaries for 2 men of learning who were to derive no other benefit from the School than their salaries, but if they were not entitled to the whole of the Rents and Profits, after setting apart sufficient for the fines etc., their salaries ought to be augmented and they ought not to be left to the discretion of the Committee, but specific directions should be given upon this head.

FINALLY THE REPORT was condemned in weighty terms by Lord Eldon, then Lord Chancellor, before whom the case came on 20-22 July 1805.

The case, he held, depended not upon arguments of expediency but on facts. What he had to consider was the intention of the Founder. So long as the Court could find any means of applying the Charitable Fund to the Charity as created by the Founder he did not apprehend that it was competent for it to change the nature of the Charity upon any general notion that any other application would be more beneficial to the inhabitants of the place. The endowments were given for the maintenance of a Free Grammar School “for the teaching grammatically the learned Languages according to Dr. Johnson's definition,” and he knew no precedent whereby the Court could sanction “the conversion of that Institution by filling a school intended for that mode of Education with scholars learning the German and French Languages, Mathematics, and anything except Greek and Latin.” The Committee were desiring, he said, to convert this old school into a Commercial Academy. Nor was it in order to benefit the poor. “This is a Scheme to promote the benefit of the Merchants of Leeds. It is not that the poor Inhabitants are to be taught reading and writing English, but the Clerks and Riders of the Merchants are to be taught French and German to carry on Trade. I fear the effect would be to turn out the poor Latin and Greek scholars altogether.”

The last clause shows that the Committee were now seeking to create a separate modern department, and this is clear also from a hint of Lord Eldon as to the lines on which a compromise might be effected—“If according to the Plan every boy to be brought to the School was to be taught the learned Languages and the circumstance that these other Sciences were to be taught would induce persons to send Boys to the School to learn Greek and Latin also that purpose might have a tendency to promote the object of the Foundation.” About the claim of the masters to the surplus revenue he said nothing except that—“It is more agreeable to Principle to increase the emoluments of both the Master and Usher for carrying on the purpose of the Foundation than to bring in masters to whom the object of it does not point,” and that the Master ought to be secured “a respectable independent situation.”

The report therefore was ordered to be revised, but the case, which had already lasted many years and cost the School much money, was carried no further.

THIS DECISION, forming as it did a precedent, “carried” says Mr. Leach, “dismay to all interested in the advancement of education and nearly killed half the schools in the country.” There is however something to be said on the other side. In these days we are somewhat unscrupulous in our treatment of endowments, and it is refreshing to find an eminent judge maintaining that the wishes of a Founder should be respected, and disdaining even to allude to the specious theory that the Founder if living would have acted differently. Moreover, though the extension of the curriculum was highly desirable, I am by no means sure that the men of those days were sufficiently enlightened to be safely entrusted with the task of remodelling the schools, and I strongly suspect that Lord Eldon was not far wrong when he said that if the Committee won their case the School would become a mere “Commercial Academy” and higher education would cease to be given. Nor can I see that to Leeds at any rate his decision did any harm, for the Committee, finding that there was no chance of upsetting it, took the line which he had suggested, and gradually introduced new subjects, but with care that they should not damage the classical teaching or clash with the financial interests of the masters.

The grievance indeed on the latter point was speedily remedied, for in 1807 it was decided that the Master should have a salary of £200 with a house, and the Usher £100 and a house (or £20 per annum). In 1812 the salaries were raised to £300 and £170, and in 1814 the house-money for the Usher was fixed at £30. Gratuities too were annually voted, ranging from £84 to £100 for the Master and £42 to £50 for the Usher. The amounts seem to have been based on an arrangement come to in 1808, whereby it was agreed that the “school rents” should be divided into four parts of which the Master should have two and the Usher one, and as to the accumulated fund the Charities Report says that after paying the expenses of the case the Committee in 1815 had in hand £5,700 of which Mr. Whiteley received £3700 and the Usher £1,850, the remaining £150 being set aside with the idea of building a house for the Usher.

As to the introduction of new subjects a start had been made even before Lord Eldon pronounced his decision; for in 1799 Mr. Whiteley proposed to appoint an assistant to teach writing and arithmetic, and volunteered to instruct the higher classes himself in “the principles of mathematicks,” and in 1800 £24 13s. 6d was voted for a writing master, and in 1801 £26 5s. for “additional masters.” Further in 1802 £5 5s. was voted to “Mr. Riley” for lectures upon the globes (purchased in 1800) to the scholars, and permission was also given to him to use them for his private pupils. The lecturer was, I suppose, John Riley, a writer on mathematical subjects, who was for 26 years Master of the Charity School and died in 1815. How long these extra teachers were employed I cannot say. In December 1802 Mr. Riley wished to retire, and to the writing master I can find no other allusion.

IN 1806 however—after the decision—Mr. Whiteley informed the Committee that he had no objection to the appointment of a master to teach writing and “accompts,” provided that his salary should not be more than half that of the Usher. This seemed to offer a reasonable basis for a compromise, and the Committee proposed that

(a) the master should be appointed by the Committee;
(b) he should teach not writing but arithmetic and mathematics;
(c) no scholar should be allowed to learn these subjects unless he also learnt the learned languages;
(d) a mathematical room should be built at a cost not exceeding £200.

Subsequently the sum for the room was fixed at £250, and it was arranged that the subjects taught should be higher arithmetic and the elements of algebra and geometry. There is no record however as to whether any of these arrangements were carried out, but on 30 March 1807 a resolution was passed, “that the teaching under proper restrictions of such branches of the Mathematics as are usually taught to young men proceeding to their admission to the University would induce Persons to send Boys to the School to learn Greek and Latin and would thereby tend to promote the object of the Foundation”; and the following restrictions were added—

(a) that no boy should learn any other “science” unless at the same time he “pursued also Classical Learning”:
(b) that no boy should commence the learning of other sciences until he was able to construe the Latin Testament.

THE LONG CHANCERY SUIT was not good for the discipline of the School. The attention of the masters was distracted, and though they were united in their opposition to the proposals of the Committee the strain seems to have told upon their tempers and bickerings arose between them. The marvel indeed is that with two masters whose mutual relations were quite undefined such friction should not have been of constant occurrence. Traces of these troubles are preserved in the records.

In 1796 Mr. Swaine, who had apparently been employing someone to do his work, was directed “to take upon himself the care of that part of the Free School to which he hath been appointed as Usher” on pain of dismissal.

In 1797 there seems to have been some friction as to promotions, for in December it was ordered “that the Classes be removed annually from the Lower School to the Upper School.”

In 1799 it looks as though the Committee had allowed Mr. Swaine to employ a substitute, for Mr. Whiteley wrote that, as Mr. Swaine was “indulged with an assistant,” he thought he had a right to expect that the very few boys he received from him should be as well taught as they usually were. He complained also that Mr. Sutcliffe [apparently the assistant] set a public example of disobedience and defiance of his authority in the presence of the boys. The Committee resolved—“that the direction and control of the Free School is vested in the Head Master and that no assistant to the Usher shall be admitted into the said School without the previous consent and approbation of the Head Master.”

In 1801 Mr. Swaine was again warned not to employ a substitute.

In 1802 Mr. Riley desired to retire, “from want of a proper Subordination in the School which made it impossible for him to do his duty to the Scholars,” and Mr. Swaine also complained of the conduct of the boys. The Committee suspended the grant of the usual gratuities and declared that “great insubordination has prevailed and does prevail in the Upper School.” Neither master, they said, was free from blame, for there was lacking between them that harmony which was absolutely necessary for the well-ordering and proper discipline of the School, but they were glad to hear their public statement that they bore no ill will to each other and would support one another. They were willing to see how this would work, but if there was further complaint they would “use their authority” without favour. They directed that in Mr. Whiteley's absence Mr. Swaine should have absolute authority over the boys, except as to the infliction of corporal punishment on those in the Upper School. They hoped however that Mr. Whiteley would not be absent more than he could avoid, as it was then that the insubordination chiefly if not solely occurred. The trouble then was evidently with the bigger boys who misconducted themselves when their master was absent—an offence which would be especially serious when all the school was taught in the same room. It was at the same time enacted that “when corporal correction is judged necessary by either master it shall be public and with such Instruments as cannot do any Bodily Injury.” The suspended gratuities were then voted. Six months later an order was made that in case any further instances should arise of “improper disorder and insubordinate” conduct in the School the Chairman should convene a special meeting. As there is no record of such being done it may be assumed that discipline was restored.

IN SPITE HOWEVER of small numbers, the distraction of the Chancery suit, and the troubles in the School, decent scholars were still turned out. The most conspicuous name is that of Sir John Beckett, who was 5th wrangler in 1795 and afterwards fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, F.R.S., a privy councillor, M.P. for Cockermouth, Haslemere, and (in 1835) Leeds, Under-Secretary for the Home Department in 1806, and Judge Advocate General under Wellington (1828-1830) and Peel (1834-1835). Henry Hall too, mayor of Leeds in 1812 and 1825, and William Osburn, the Egyptologist, were pupils of Mr. Whiteley, and the meagre records show the names of at least 6 wranglers, 5 fellows of colleges, 3 Milner scholars, and 3 Hastings exhibitioners.


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Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7
Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14
Postscript Assistant Masters since 1854

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