The Schools of Medieval England

By A. F. Leach | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY AND HUMANISM

THE fifteenth century has commonly been decried as a period of decadence in learning owing to the contempt poured by Erasmus, Colet, and other sixteenth century writers on their more immediate predecessors, which has been accentuated by the odium theologicum of the Reformers for the reactionaries of their own day. So far as education is concerned, the fifteenth century was not one of decadence but of progress. A great development of educational foundations took place, alike in the re-endowment and enlargement of old schools and the erection of new schools and colleges.

Even in the first years of the century, during the much- troubled reign of Henry IV, new educational developments were not wanting. Oswestry Grammar School is one of the earliest instances of a school entrusted to a mixed body of laymen and clerics, and not part of, or dependent on, an ecclesiastical foundation, college, hospital, or chantry. Its foundation or endowment, perhaps intended to strengthen the English elements in the border county of Shropshire against the everrebellious Welsh, was due to a pardoned Welsh lawyer, David Holbeach, who is credited by Leland with the foundation of Davy's or Davies Inn, one of the Inns of Chancery, in London. The school has often been credited to his wife, Gwenwhyvar, though her grant of a corn-mill and lands for the maintenance and sustenance of a schoolmaster in the town of Oswestry for ever are expressly said to be in pursuance "of the intent" of David Holbeach; whose feoffment of school-lands in 6 Henry IV, i.e. 1404-5, is mentioned in the seventeenth century "School-book". In 1548 the school endowment of £6 a year was augmented by £2 a year out of the "service of Our Lady"

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