The ancient parish of Claybrooke contained six hamlets: Ullesthorpe (the largest by 1831 in terms of its population), Claybrooke Magna, Claybrooke Parva (containing the parish church), Bittesby (a depopulated medieval village), Wibtoft and Wigston Parva.
Weekday schools in 1818
At the start of the nineteenth century there were two charity schools for boys which served the villages.
Mark Smith’s charity dated from the reign of Charles II. The income from a house in Cross-Cheeping Street, Coventry, which amounted to £35 per annum in 1818, provided £2 to ‘six of the most necessitous aged men and widows in Upper Claybrook’ [total £12], £1 10s. to six such persons from Lower Claybrook [£9], £1 10s. to six such persons from Ullesthorpe [£9], £3 to teach 3 children from the parish to read the Bible and to write, and £4 to apprentice one of the children upon leaving school and for buying him a Bible.
The other school was supported by an annual payment of £26 from the Corporation of Leicester from Alderman Newton’s charity, and supported 25 boys. It was conditional upon Claybrooke parish contributing something to the maintenance of the school. This was achieved by ‘embodying’ (combining) the two schools. That charity enabled them to clothe the 25 boys in green coats with red collars, green waistcoats and cord trousers. The master was paid £1 per annum for each boy, giving him a total of £24. The date of the merger of these two schools is not entirely clear, but it may have been in 1813/14, for that was when T.E. Dicey provided land in Claybrooke Parva for a new (and perhaps larger) school to be built, taking in exchange the land where the old school stood. The new school cost £150 to build. The master of the school was entitled to take paying scholars in addition to the charity boys.
The curate commented in 1818 that a National School would be great service to the parish ‘as the children are employed at an early age in the stocking-frame or in agriculture, before they are sufficiently instructed’. Such a school would provide ‘an expeditious mode of teaching’. The poor were said to be ‘universally anxious’ to have their children educated.
A new lease of the Coventry property was agreed in 1825, for 14 years at £40, but the new tenant died shortly thereafter. The property was said to be in a very bad state of repair, but this was being addressed in 1839, and it was hoped this would increase the rent that could be achieved.
Weekday schools in 1833-40
By 1833 the school supported by these two endowments contained 88 boys. The master’s salary was augmented by a payment from T.E. Dicey of Claybrooke Hall.
There was also another school containing 60 girls, which met in a schoolhouse provided by T.E. Dicey, who also supported the school’s ongoing costs.
Both the boys’ and girls’ schools provided a free education to the children of the poor, while the children of other parents paid for them to attend.
In 1837 a question was raised about Alderman Newton’s bequest being discontinued. As a result, in March 1838 the vicar visited the school in the company of three others. It was recorded that a total of 70-80 boys attended, including the sons of farmers who paid 6s. quarterly. The school was said to have been well conducted, lessons were delivered in the ‘three Rs’ and psalm-singing and the boys attended church where they were permitted to ‘tone the responses’ during the service. Monitors were employed, but used lightly; the senior monitor was apid 3d. weekly, and the junior monitors received 6d. each time a boy from their group was promoted to a higher class.
No return was made to the Church Schools Inquiry of 1847.
Claybrooke school was enlarged in 1873 at a cost of £210, and it became a mixed school with separate rooms for boys, girls and infants.
A school for 80 children was built in Ullesthorpe in 1856 By William Gillson. The mistress was paid £20 from a charity, with the rest of her salary made up by a subscription. The average attendance in 1895 was said to be 43, and 40 on 1908.
In additional, there was a private boarding school in Ullesthorpe House, which opened under Rev. William Berry in 1847 following his relocation from Sharnford ‘on account of the convenience of the railway station’. It provided a commercial education at 30 guineas annually (in 1855), with ‘Lectures and Experiments on scientific subjects’ and the use of lathes. The 1851 census shows 35 boys boarding there from as far away as Sussex, Cambridge and Northumberland. Berry appears to have moved way in 1868, but by 1877 if not before Rev William Jones was running a ‘high class school for young gentlemen’ in the village, which was known as Milton College Boarding School. The College stood in its own grounds of 16 acres. It was still there in 895, but appears to have closed by 1908.
There was also a Sunday school at Claybrooke Parva in 1818, attended by 120 children from across the parish.
In 1833, two Sunday schools were recorded, one containing 71 boys and the other with 87 girls, all of whom were provided with clothing. These Sunday schools were supported by annual collections taken after a sermon in the church, a penny club, which received any surplus from the sermons, the weekly deposits of the children and voluntary subscriptions from others. An 1846 trade directory mentions that the Sunday school was supported by half of the interest on a bequest of £20 made by John Fawkes, who died in 1829. There was a lending library of 90 volumes, provided by T.E. Dicey, attached to the boys’ Sunday school.
There was also another Sunday school in Ullesthorpe in 1833 connected to the Independent chapel in that village. It was attended by 46 boys and 36 girls, and supported by voluntary contributions.
In 1851, the Sunday school attached to Claybrooke parish church was attended by 127 people on the morning of 30 March, and 129 in the afternoon. That same day, 37 people attended the Sunday school at Ullesthorpe ‘Congregational Independent’ chapel in the morning, and 39 in the afternoon. There were no Sunday schools at any of the other churches or chapels within the parish.
- Education of the Poor Digest, Parl. Papers 1819 (224)
- Education Enquiry, Parl. Papers 1835 (62)
- Charity Enquiry, Parl. Papers 1839 
- National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church, Result of the Returns to the General Inquiry made by the National Society, into the state and progress of schools for the education of the poor … during the years 1846-7, throughout England and Wales (London, 1849). [no return]
- Trade directories
- 1851 Ecclesiastical census
- Leicester Chronicle
- Leicester Journal
- T. Dick (ed.), The Educational Magazine and Journal of Christian Philanthropy (1839)