The School was founded in 1702 following the establishment of a trust set up in the will of the third Viscount Beaumont (also known as Viscount Beaumont of Swords). The Free School was to teach children to read and write and the original building was capable of teaching 60 boys and 60 girls.
This was pretty forward-thinking as there was no obligation to provide schooling until the 1880 Act made education of children up to the age of 10 compulsory. Also both girls and boys were to be taught at the free school.
The Old Hospital & Free School was built to accommodate six widows of the parish on the site near the junction of Remstone Road and Ashby Road where the current Almshouse building is located.
This is an engraving by S Shaw which shows the School and almshouse building in 1794 - quite an imposing building.
The original building in 1702 had eight rooms on the ground floor, six for the widows, two for the schoolmaster, and two large rooms above, one for the boys school and one for the girls.
In 1820 John Beckwith and his wife Lucy were appointed as school master & mistress with responsibility for the Almshouse. John & Lucy came from Essex near to the family seat of the Beaumonts in Dunmow. As master he received an annual salary of £65, an allowance of 12½ tons of coal and occupied the rooms rent free. He was expected to instruct as many children from the parish as the rooms would accommodate. The children had to be over 6 years, and not many stayed beyond the age of 12. They would have been needed in the fields or to help with home-based occupations. In 1839 there were 50 boys and 40 girls registered. The girls were taught by Lucy Beckwith, John’s wife, whose services were paid from within her husband’s salary. The charity funded all books and stationery. Lucy had a reputation for being a strict disciplinarian.
John & Lucy taught at the school until around 1857 - nearly 40 years. More about the Beckwiths >>
In 1867 Canon W. B. Beaumont built the current school in Ashby Road next to St John's Chapel. A pupil of the early 20th century remembers children marching around the playground chanting tables, using chalk and slates, blazing open fires in the class rooms, pupils stoking the boilers.
In 1926 free school meals were started at the school despite the fact that the school had no kitchen facilities. This meant that 69 children had to march from the school at 12.15p.m. to the Methodist Chapel in Lower Moor Road which could provide the meals.
Since that time the School has been updated and extended and is now a modern and bright space for the young people of Coleorton to begin their education. But it still retains some of the original features – and more importantly – the ethos of providing an opportunity to develop skills, knowledge and understanding and preparing youngsters for life in a diverse and changing world.
Coleorton Parish website has two photos of pupils - from 1922 and 1940. Coleorton photos >>
Find out about the Viscount Beaumont's School today at the School website >>