Adams Grammar School, Wem
Archives intern, Meriel Lees, writes….
As part of my archives course last year, I catalogued a collection of school records, the school in question being Adams Grammar School in Wem.
Cataloguing an entire collection from scratch can be tricky as it was often created (and sometimes deposited) many years ago, so it is sometimes difficult to know how to arrange it in a way that respects its initial purpose.
Generally, archives are kept in what is known as their ‘original order’ as far as possible, with the advice being to sort records by their main function in the creator organisation where this is not known, e.g. sorting records into series like finance, staffing, private records etc. This was the approach I used for the Adams Grammar School collection.
The main types of records, or ‘series’, the collection contains are thus as follows:
- Documents relating to the foundation of the school
- Finance: including sub-series of trustees and governors, Charity Commission documents, building accounts and plans, and general
- Staffing: including sub-series of headmastership and teaching staff
- Pupils: including sub-series of admissions and attendance, scholarships, examinations and sports
- Inspection reports
- Photographs: including sub-series of whole school formal and class photographs
- Printed material relating to school history: including event programmes, the school magazine and news cuttings
You can view the full catalogue here.
Early records and the foundation of the school
Adams Grammar School was founded as a free school in 1650 by Sir Thomas Adams. Admission was to be free to all boys in Wem whose parents could not afford to pay for schooling.
The school’s founder, Sir Thomas Adams, endowed the school with land and property to provide it with an income, which he entrusted to the feoffees (or trustees as they were later known), to oversee on behalf of the school.
The school was formed by statutes which stated how it was to be run, including the responsibilities of each of the masters. This is the earliest document in the collection and is signed by the founder. A contemporary copy of it is also particularly interesting in that it lists the school’s major benefactors.
As well as appointing the masters who would teach at the school, the feoffees were also responsible for raising further funds to provide it with on-going support. Some of the other early records include minutes of their meetings dating back to 1651 and various rent books relating to land they managed on behalf of the school.
Staff and pupil records
Staff and pupil records tend to be the ones most often asked for in school collections.
The staff records for Adams Grammar School have survived quite well and mainly consist of applications and appointments, with additional documents and correspondence relating to various staffing matters. These give some glimpses into the characters of those employed at the school. There are 5 documents, for example, that detail complaints filed against John Spedding, who was the upper master at the end of the 18th century, for negligence in teaching duties and immoral conduct. Despite several attempts to dismiss him from his post, Spedding resisted for almost 30 years.
Other staffing records include headmasters’ reports, Board of Education superannuation forms and salary sheets.
Pupil records have also survived well, although these only date back as far as the 19th century. While individual pupil files don’t tend to be kept long-term, other items such as admissions and attendance registers can provide information about the pupils. The series of photographs showing the pupils of the school each year can also help to put faces to some of the names in the registers.
Other pupil records include examination results and scholarships under the Careswell Foundation and Eckersley Exhibition schemes, sports results and a 19th century calligraphy exercise book.
Some of these records (particularly the ones created in the last 100 years) may be closed due to data protection, but it’s always worth enquiring as access can often be granted in some capacity.