QE St Lawrence Green: 1860-1936

In 1860, the whole school moved from the Lady Chapel to the "new building in the Tudor Style" on St.Lawrence Green. The Headmaster, the Reverend John Manley, lived in the west wing; the boarders were housed in the east wing, and the main school house (now a library) was used for all lessons. The St.Lawrence Green site was owned by the trustees of Haywards Charity who originally wished to use it for the elementary school, but it was felt that most pupils at the Grammar School came from the St Lawrence end of Crediton. The building contract was awarded to Thomas Brothers, of Crediton, who seem to have been plagued by the usual difficulties. In June 1860, the architect John Hayward wrote "unless by Monday 2nd July you employ a sufficient number of competent workmen to complete the said works.....I shall order the works to be completed by other persons". Despite problems caused by the brickworks debris left around the site, the building was completed by July 1860 and was opened by the local MP in a great ceremony reported in the London Illustrated News. A copy of the engraving of the opening ceremony can be found in the main Library at the current QE.

We know a lot more about the organization and curriculum of the school in these years because there were many more records- registers, letters to the Governors, and most importantly, examiners reports.

These paint a picture of a successful and happy school, which the 1864 commissioners considered to be "the best grammar school in Devon.....equal to even the more famous and well endowed public schools such as Blundells". In 1862, the pupils took written exam papers for the first time and were examined in "Classics, Mathematics, English, History etc". The examiner praised the achievement of all concerned, but recommended an increase in the number of boarders to raise standards even further. The 1875 report had a special mention for the exhibition scheme run by the Governors to allow very bright boys to study at Cambridge or Oxford; William Vellacott having achieved a first in the Maths Tripos at St Johns College, Cambridge (recorded on the Honours Board in the current Library). The 1880 examiners report states that the school had fifty three boys, divided into six classes for Classics work and into three divisions for Divinity, French and Maths. In Divinity, all senior boys answered questions on the Prayer Book and St Luke "with some distinction"; in Classics, one boy, England, showed "a complete knowledge of the texts", whilst there was particular praise for the work in the Maths papers (Algebra, Euclid, Arithmetic. )"The work is intelligent" wrote the examiner, "but what was far more important, it is correct. The boys have been well taught." The overall judgement on the school echoed almost exactly the more recent (2009) Ofsted judgement (Good with many Outstanding features) and is best summarized by Frederic T. Colby who wrote the reports for 1860 and 1863. "I have to remark that although there are only two boys at all advanced in classical attainments, the character of education given appears to me thoroughly sound and satisfactory.......I will only add that the behaviour of the boys was in every way satisfactory and that I was struck by the affectionate respect which many of them plainly bore towards their Head Master".

John Manley retired in 1864, and the Reverend A.Calvert became Headmaster - the last clergyman to hold this position. His attendance registers and day books throw further light on the daily workings of the school.

The school room was improved by the addition of gas lighting on 1869, whilst the Headmaster also improved the grounds- adding a large "fowl house and double pigsty" along with "a complete system of drainage throughout the Orchard". Corporal punishment was used infrequently, although on September 1st 1871 the Headmaster records that "I punished Jackson with the cane and boxed his ear for stupidity and obstinacy- about substituting in algebra". A sixth form timetable for 1871 shows that lessons were given in Latin, Greek and Mathematics everyday for three hours, whilst Religious Instruction was taught for four hours a week. French, History and Geography made up the timetable, but only for one or two hours a week. Science was not taught until 1900, although there were special lectures and events organized- Mr. H. Hoffert was paid £2 16s for giving a talk on electricity in 1869; the Head's accounts record that due to the excitement generated, a pupil named G.Robinson fainted in the playground and broke his wrist.

There were half-days (i.e. no school lessons after lunch) on Wednesdays and Saturdays - and the summer holiday in 1871 started on June 7th and finished in August 1st.

The Church Governors continued to run the school until 1880, when the school established its own governing body, although the church governors retained a majority. In 1902 the Devon LEA was established and it made a grant to QE to enable it to continue, but it was not until 1923 that it became fully maintained by the LEA, with plans to extend the school as it now had more than 160 pupils. However, as now, the national financial crisis pushed school building programmes down the agenda, and it was not until 1936 that the new teaching block was opened- with assembly hall, classrooms and labs. This set of buildings, now the East wing, added a much more modern aspect to the established grammar school with the addition of science and art/craft teaching – in a splendid large room [now the Upper School Cover Rooms]. The addition of the Exhibition Road playing fields allowed the school to continue and improve its sports education as well.