A brief history of the School at Scarning
In 1604 a local farmer, William Seckar, left his house and land to his wife Alice for so long as she should survive but that upon her death the income from the estate shall be used for “the maintenance of one free school, to be kept forever in the said house, while the world endures, in Scarning.”
Following William’s death on 1st November 1604, Alice married again on 3rd December 1604. Alas, this second husband succumbed on 6th December 1608. Alice duly married for the third time on 7th January 1609. This husband died in 1622 and Alice did not find another. She died in 1638 but there were delays and litigation over the construction of the school but it was now eventually opened in 1645 to general rejoicing.
By 1700 the schoolmaster was teaching the sons of the yeomen and farmers many of whom boarded at the school. These boys were kept separate from the sons of labourers so that the poor scholars did not contaminate the wealthier pupils. The labourers’ sons were taught by the usher who taught them reading, writing and arithmetic during the day. In the evening the usher looked after the master’s boarders who came to the school from all parts of Norfolk and Suffolk. Among these were the grandsons of Roger North of Rougham, one of whom set the school-house on fire, twice!
In 1800 the Schoolmaster, Mr Priest, had attracted a large number of day-boys to the school because there was no room for them to board. These boys come to school on dickies (donkeys) which were turned out for the day on to Podmoor. The mischievous village boys took great delight in driving the dickies a mile or two to Daffy Green so that the young gents had to chase and catch their dickies before they could ride home.
Extract from White’s Norfolk Directory of 1845
“The Free School was founded by William Seckar who endowed it in 1604, with about 86 acres of land, to which 16a 2r 3p was allotted at the enclosure in 1766. The master occupies the large house and garden, left by the founder, and also about 12a of the land. The other 90a are let for £164 a year, out of which the master receives a salary of £80, and £5 a year to provide stationery for the poor scholars.
The residue is applied as a fund for repairing the premises, and for providing for the arbitrary fines levied on the copyhold lands, on the admission of new trustees. The schoolmaster teaches reading, writing, arithmetic, and geography, without any charge, to all the children of the parish above the age of five years, who are sent to him, and has generally about 50 pupils.”
More about the history of the Trust can be found in part 3 of “The Hundred of Launditch…in the County of Norfolk ” by GA Carthew 1879. Carthew printed notes by Barry Girling, giving a spirited account of the Trust and the school down to 1850 with details of numerous controversies surrounding the conduct of the trustees and masters they appointed in the 17th and 18th centuries.
You will also find a modern account in “Scarning A Portrait of a Village” by Nick Hartley (2009). Nick has also prepared a list of those early pupils who went on to Cambridge University and their records from the Alumni Cantabrigiensis.