Follow the path to the left of the north church door to the south side of the church. On the left is the original schoolroom founded by Robert Johnson. It was built in 1584 to provide free grammar education for 20 local boys, who were taught Greek and Latin. This is the origin of Uppingham School. Above are inscribed three Biblical quotations:
Train a child in the way he should go.
Proverbs 22.6 (Hebrew)
Suffer the little children to come unto me.
Matthew 19.14 (Greek)
Remember they Creator in the days of thy youth.
Ecclesiastes 12.1 (Latin)
Above the door: Let nothing unseemly spoken or seen touch these wals wherein are boys. (Latin)
The building is Grade I listed. In 1830 a book club was started and in 1858 a night school began under four traders of the town. Thring was approached and he allowed the old schoolroom in the church yard to be used. In more recent times it houses a pre-school group.
ARCHDEACON JOHNSON’S GRAMMAR OR FREE SCHOOL
The Elizabethan Schoolroom built in 1584 is one of the three oldest buildings in Uppingham. Owned by Uppingham School, it is listed as a Grade I building of architectural and historic interest deserving of protection and preservation.
In 1584 Robert Johnson, Rector of North Luffenham, founded two grammar schools, one each at Oakham and Uppingham, to provide free eduction for the sons of local people. He was a good scrounger and provoker of gifts; a contemporary saying of him that “he could surprise a miser into charity”. At Uppingham his schoolroom was erected on land above the Beast Market donated in April 1854 by the Parmenter family and was ready the following year. The cost of construction must have been met by gifts of money and materials as there is no record he paid anything for building his school or the associated hospital to accommodate 24 old men, completed in 1592. In 1587 he obtained a Charter from Queen Elizabeth I establishing the Foundation of both the schools and hospitals.
Besides a Master or Warden there was a second called an Usher. Between them they taught from 20 to 40 boys in the one large room, most likely seated at either end. The subjects taught were Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Arithmetic commemorated in the inscriptions over the door:
Hebrew Train a child in the way he should go.
Greek Suffer the little children to come unto me.
Latin Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth.
Latin Let nothing unseemly spoken or seen touch these walls wherein are boys.
Writing as a subject was added in the 18th century, but it was not until after Edward Thring arrived as Headmaster in 1853 that the curriculum was modernised. Johnson made generous provision of Exhibitions tenable at Cambridge University, thus ensuring a steady flow of high quality pupils.
Apart from the Usher’s classroom added to its north side in 1836 this Elizabethan schoolroom has remained virtually unchanged since it was built. That is until towards the end of the last century when structural repairs to the south wall necessitated removal of the ancient sundial, that along with the school bell, governed the daily lives of pupils and masters.
For almost 300 years until 1863 the schoolroom remained in daily use as the School’s sole major teaching room until expansion carried out by Thring in the 19th century concentrated teaching and classrooms in the newer part of the School. Then for a brief time the building served as a carpentry shop until in 1884 it became the Art School. In this use it remained for almost a century until replaced in 1995 by the Leonardo Centre for Design and Technology. Once again the Elizabethan Schoolroom experienced a change of use, becoming a children’s kindergarten and nursery school.
At the present time the School is reviewing the building’s future use as part of its long term programme for expansion and development.