The Village of Beer: East Devon

Schooling in Beer

There was no school in Beer until the 1820’s. It is generally recorded that the funding for this came from a legacy of £7000 left in the will of Judith Maria, Baroness Rolle who died in 1820. While it is true that a legacy was included in her will dated June 11th, 1819, “for providing the salaries of a schoolmaster and schoolmistress respectively for the purpose of instructing poor children of the same parish (Beer) and also for providing clothes for such poor children” a codicil dated May 20th 1820 revoked the bequest.

It was Lord Rolle who paid for the building of a row of almshouses and a schoolroom at either end of the almshouses. A row of ten almshouses was built and completed by August 1821. Two schoolrooms were added at a later date, one schoolroom was for the boys, the other for the girls.The actual date of the buildings and first lessons is unknown but an entry in the records of the Primary Episcopal Visitation to Honition Deanery of June 6th, 1829 indicates that they were operational at that date.

Lord Rolle did carry out the Baroness’s intentions and set up a Trust in 1821 with himself, Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, Rev David Horndon and William Tucker as Trustees with £7000 invested at 3%. The money from this trust provided the books, pens, inks, chattels for running the school in addition to the teachers’ stipends, £30 per annum for the schoolmaster, £15 per annum for the schoolmistress. The children to attend the school were nominated by the Trustees and aged between 4 and 10 year old. The schools were known as “Charity Schools of the Manor and Tything of Beer of the Foundation of Judith Maria Baroness Rolle.”. As they were under sole control of the Trustees, no reports or registers are available for the first 50 years of operation.

This is how things remained until January 1874 when the schools were re-organised into infants and mixed schools and became the “Beer Church of England Schools”. The schools now came under the control of a body of Managers. This body consisted of Mr Rolle (Lord of the Manor), the Vicar of the parish and three residents. One school building had been enlarged for use of the mixed school of children over 6 years old and the original boys school became the infants’ school. Each school had its own Head Teacher. The schools now received grants from H.M. Treasury and were subject to annual inspection by the Diocesan Inspector and H.M. Inspectors. The property remained partly in the Rolle Estate and was partly subject to the Trust.

A number of events occurred at the beginning of the 20th century that affected how the schools would be run. The Board of Education was formed in 1899 and in 1902 a new Act of Parliament on Education handed management of voluntary schools over to local education authorities. In 1903 the Church formed the new ecclesiastical parish of Beer, (previously Beer was included in the Parish of Seaton) and so a new parson was appointed for the Church Parish of Beer. In 1907, Mark Rolle, Lord of the Manor died. His successor was Lord Clinton who had no great desire to continue patronage of the Schools and by the end of 1908, the responsibility of the Rolle Estate for the property was ended.

In addition to providing education, the Trust of 1821 also provided pensions for the elderly of the village. In 1909 the Charity Commission required that the Trust had to be split so that its provision for education was separated from its provision of pensions. Clinton Estates wanted to hand the educational part of the Trust over to the Local Education Authority, but the Vicar, being a Trustee, refused to sign the Trust over. He wanted the schools to retain their Church of England character as defined by the original Trust. Eventually the Estate agreed that a new Educational Foundation Trust be formed under the jurisdiction of the Board of Education with the Vicar and his 2 churchwardens as Trustees.

Between 1929 and 1931, the mixed school building was again rebuilt and enlarged and the 2 schools combined into an all-age Church of England Elementary School which was officially opened on April 16th, 1931 by the Bishop of Exeter.

In 1948 Beer became a school for infants and juniors only, Beer Church of England Primary School, those over 10 years being educated at Axminster Secondary or Colyton Grammar.

Under the 1944 Education Act, the school was granted aided status in 1952.

In September 1979, school moved to a new building in Mare Lane.

Much of the information on this page was obtained from “The History of Beer Church of England (Voluntary Aided) Primary School”, a dissertation by Jock Bowden Killick, a former headmaster of the School.

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