Hoots from the Archive - The High Master's Ancient Stipend

Posted by Rachel Kneale on 02 Feb 2023

Duchy of Lancaster

Every year, the High Master receives a letter and a cheque for £100 from the Duchy of Lancaster - the payment is described as an Ancient Stipend. We decided to find out more about the origins of this obscure payment. The Duchy gave us the following information:

"The stipend stems from lands annexed to the Duchy at the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The Duchy Court decreed on 8th July 1606 that a stipend should be paid to the Schoolmaster of the Free School of Manchester in the sum of £4 1s 9d. It records that the school had not been able to pay its rent and that the Schoolmaster had not received any wages for teaching. The Court approved the stipend to the Schoolmaster so that he could remain as a teacher to ensure the continuance of the Free School.

Stipend payments were ceased in 1684 but Orders of the Court were passed on 3rd June 1687 for continuing payment of the salary to the Schoolmaster of Manchester. The review confirmed that the Schoolmaster was "daily resident officiating and doing his duty as Schoolmaster of the said Free School, and they know him to be a person of loyal principles and carriage and behaviour and well affected to the Government as now by law established in Church and State." This payment continued until 2005 when Her Majesty signed a Royal Sign Manual increasing the payment to £100, to make it more meaningful, which continues to be paid each year."

Of course, this information throws up many questions. Clearly the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries were times of great financial difficulty for the School. The original financial arrangement upon foundation was that the School would be funded from the proceeds of the corn mills. However, the monopoly the Feoffees held was not protected sufficiently and proceeds began to drop. Edward Chetham had been appointed as High Master in 1597. However, he and his usher had sued the Feoffees for failing to pay their salaries. Chetham died in 1606 and Edward Clayton was appointed his successor. The stipend would not have been enough to cover the High Master's whole salary; the foundation deed of 1515 stipulated that the master should be paid £10 per annum. However, it would surely have been a lifeline for the Feoffees and for the High Master. Whilst the amount has become less significant over time, even post 2005, the maintenance of this link between the School and the Duchy of Lancaster for over four hundred years is impressive.

Rachel Kneale


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