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History of King’s Cliffe Endowed School

The story of our Endowed School goes back to 1688, when Richard Wildbore of KC left an endowment of £5 per annum to be paid to the Rector and the Overseers of the Poor specifically for them to appoint a suitable person to instruct in writing eight boys of the poorest parents in the Parish.

The next part of the story is the founding of two Charity Schools in Bridge Street. First, in 1727, the school founded by Reverend William Law for the education and "full clothing" of 14 (later 18) poor girls of King's Cliffe. Law’s endowment paid the salary for the mistress of this school and ordered that the girls should be instructed "in reading, knitting, and every useful kind of needlework.”

Then in 1745 Mrs. Elizabeth Hutcheson, widow, founded a school for the education and "full clothing" of 18 (later 20) poor boys of King's Cliffe, and afterwards bought a house for the schoolmaster and built a school against that house: these are the Library House and adjoining schoolroom on the left of Bridge Street.

In 1753 the Law and Hutcheson charities were joined together and, later, Richard Wildbore’s £5 per annum endowment was attached to the Law & Hutcheson Boys’ School.

Through the 19th century several private day and boarding academies opened – and closed – in King's Cliffe. These were paying schools, with pupils, usually boys, drawn chiefly from beyond the parish. One such private school was opened by the Reverend Miles Joseph Berkeley, in the spring of 1838. At first, his school operated in a house in Hog Lane (possibly Wellington House) but in 1845 he moved it to an 18th century house in Park Street which today forms the central portion of the Endowed School’s building.

Berkeley was a remarkable man, a true scholar. From 1833 to 1868 he was Perpetual Curate (Vicar) of Apethorpe and Woodnewton, but there was no vicarage at Woodnewton so he came to live in King's Cliffe. He and his wife had a large family – fifteen children of whom thirteen survived to adulthood. The income for his two parishes was only £108 per annum, so he was compelled to open a private school to support his family.

Berkeley’s main passion in life was botany and in particular the study of fungi. Berkeley's reputation meant that specimens were sent to him from around the world for identification – including those gathered by Charles Darwin during his voyage in ‘The Beagle’ which returned to England in 1836. In 1845, Berkeley’s studies led him to identify the cause of the potato blight which ravaged both Ireland and parts of England in the years 1845 and 1846, causing terrible famine. In all, Berkeley identified 6,000 new species of fungus and collected over 10,000 specimens which he gave to the royal Botanic Gardens in Kew in 1879.

Berkeley was awarded; the Gold Medal of the Royal Society in 1863 and a Civil List Pension of £100 for services to botany and diseases of plants in 1867. At last, the provision of universal elementary education came into being under the terms of the Endowed Schools Act 1869 and the "Forster" Education Act of 1870. This led the Trustees of the Law & Hutcheson Charity Schools in Bridge Street to look for alternative, larger premises which could be converted to a school large enough to accommodate all the eligible children of King’s Cliffe. Reverend Berkeley’s former house and school in Park Street was an attractive proposition, and in the early 1870s, the Law & Hutcheson Trustees purchased the site, extending and altering it to provide separate school rooms for boys and girls.

The Endowed School opened on January 13th 1873. Its first pupils were those transferred from the two charity schools plus a few boys and girls who were ‘new intake’.

In February 2017 we moved into our new school which was part funded by the foundation Trust. For the story about our new school and a chronological journey through the building of it click : Building our new school.