Nicholas Chamberlaine's Will

On the 24th June, 1715, Nicholas Chamberlaine signed his will bequeathing the benefactions, which have been of great benefit to generations of Bedworth people. Only three weeks later, on the 14th July 1715, he died, at the age of eighty-three, having been Rector for fifty-one years, and squire of the parish for twenty-nine years. 


His will was in two parts: the first part dealt with his benefactions to the Bedworth people, and the second with legacies to his relatives. In the first part of his will he directed his trustees to build two schools; one with a schoolmaster for boys and one with a schoolmistress to teach the girls.

The schoolmaster, 'a fit, sober, and discreet man', was to teach about forty boys born in Bedworth 'to write and read English and cast accounts'. His pay was to be £10 a year, and he could have a assistant who was to be paid 40/- a year.

The schoolmistress, 'a fit grave matron', was to teach her scholars, 'to write and read English, sew, knit, and spin’ at a salary of £5 a year.


Both teachers were to teach the Catechism ‘which contains the principles of the true Christian religion,’ use prayer twice a day, and attend Church on those days when public prayers are used in the Church.

The sum of five pounds was to be spent yearly on repairs and buying books for the poorest children.

The Schools and the schoolhouse were to be under one roof, and one school to be above the other. In addition to the two schools, Nicholas instructed the establishment of a hospital (or Almshouses) to provide accommodation for the poor and needy of the town (although it was only to be for practising Anglicans born and living in the town and not for people of other faiths).

Around 1845, Bedworth Hall, the old schools and Almshouses were demolished to make way for the building of the new Central Schools. These were followed by new schools at Collycroft, Woodlands, Hob Lane and Bulkington Lane, providing education for most, if not all the children of the town. In the early days of the charity the boys were supplied with a jacket and waistcoat of dark grey cloth with blue collar and cuffs (of the same design and colour as the men's coats) with brass buttons which were round, about the size of a ten pence coin and bearing the words Nicholas Chamberlaine's Charity around the outside and Bedworth across the centre, a Tam O'Shanter cap of the same material, with a blue top-knot. The girls wore a blue print dress with tippet, a white apron and bib and a white straw poke bonnet with blue ribbon. The boys had a suit for Sundays and a suit for weekdays, and every Monday morning they had to take their Sunday suit and leave it at school, fetching it again on Friday for Sunday wear. The supply of clothing for the children came to an end in 1864 with the retirement as Rector of the Rev. Canon Bellairs.

The Almshouses, which he had already placed out on contract to build before he died, were to be built, together with the schools, in the yard of Bedworth Hall, close to where the Health Centre stands to-day.

He also arranged for money to be spent on clothing for the children and placing out as apprentices poor children born in the parish. A great many boys and girls became apprentices with premiums of £5 to £8 each being paid to their new masters by the trust.

He desired all his Trustees to meet twice a year, at Christmas and Whitsuntide, to inspect the schools, the children, and the people in the hospital (Almshouses.)

1840 saw the building of the present Almshouses, the wonderful mock Elizabethan buildings costing £8,500 to build.

The schools were replaced around 1845 by the new Central Schools, which were built next to the site of the old Bedworth Hall. We know very little about the hall except that it was close to the parish church, more or less where the health centre and police station are today. Bedworth Hall itself stayed until its demolition in 1871, around the time the schools were extended.

These were eventually followed in the 1870s by new schools at Collycroft, Woodlands, Hob Lane and Bulkington Lane, providing education for most, if not all the children of the town.

Uniform

In the early days of the charity the boys were supplied with a jacket and waistcoat of dark grey cloth with blue collar and cuffs (of the same design and colour as the men’s coats) with brass buttons, which were round, about the size of a ten pence coin and bearing the words Nicholas Chamberlaine’s Charity around the outside and Bedworth across the centre, a Tam o’ Shanter cap of the same material, with a blue top-knot. The girls wore a blue print dress with tippet over the shoulders, a white apron and bib and a white straw poke bonnet with blue ribbon.

The boys had a suit for Sundays and a suit for weekdays, and every Monday morning they had to take their Sunday suit and leave it at school, fetching it again on Friday for Sunday wear.

The supply of clothing for the children came to an end in 1864 with the retirement as Rector of the Rev. Canon Bellairs.

The new schools, in what we now know as High Street but was earlier known as Horsefair Street and then Coventry Street, consisted of two large classrooms, one for boys and one for girls (nearest the church) with the Master’s house in the centre.

The Architect of the schools dated his work in a very novel manner. Carvings were made on the stone terminals of the moulded architrave of each of the two large pointed windows of the heads of Queen Victoria, and Prince Albert, who had married in 1840.

Even after the rebuilding of the schools in 1845 we still know very little about them until the early 1870s when it became compulsory for head teachers to keep log books.

In this respect Bedworth has been lucky that almost without exception the log books from the schools supported by the trust are still in the possession of the Nicholas Chamberlaine School Foundation.

The two schools could provide education for 500 children, although average attendance in 1873 was recorded at 320.

The new schools were originally run by Stephen and Emma Cooke.

Up to this point in time schools were generally run by husbands and wives so it was breaking with tradition when in 1851, John Tansley (from St. Peter’s School, Hillfields, Coventry, became headmaster of the boys' school and Mary A. Edginton became mistress of the girls' school.

Major changes happened in 1952 when the two schools merged to became a junior school after senior pupils were transferred to the new Nicholas Chamberlaine Comprehensive School in Bulkington Road, Bedworth.

The old school finally closed its doors in 1967 when the school moved into new buildings in Derwent Road, Bedworth and became Canon Maggs C of E Primary School.

Leonard Bosworth took over the Boys’ school in February 1941 and saw the school through to its final closure in 1967.

Demolition of the old schools came in 1971.