At the autumn of 2010, Elizabeth Kosinski, Archivist and Librarian of Adams’ Grammar School, had an unexpected telephone call. Later, in the Old Novaportans Newsletter, she described what followed:
“On the 20th October 2010, out of the blue a telephone call from Mr. Henry Aldridge, auctioneer in Devizes, was put through to the Library. A deceased’s estate (family from Ireland) had in their possession a manuscript from 1657. Included in the handwritten pages was a copy of the “Original Letters Patent for the foundation of a Grammar School at Newport, in the county of Salop” It was indeed a fortuitous call for Adams.
During Half-Term, I went to view the item and was allowed to take some photos. Copies were sent to David Bartle, Archivist at Haberdashers Hall and Ruth and David Taylor, authors of the history of the School. The Archivist at Habs was very interested, saying that at Haberdashers Hall they did not have a copy of what was in the bound volume, but it was Ruth Taylor who, looking up her old research notes from a visit to the Guildhall in London, told us what it was. She had noted that in Manuscript 15879 there was a note that a “Bound copy of these (to do with Wm. Ad. Charity) documents is to go to the Minister of Newport (Mr. Malden in the 17th C.) for reference for the Visitors (now known as Governors) at their meetings. And one copy for the Master (headmaster, the first one being Thomas Chaloner). Both copies are to be handed to their successors.” Over the years both copies had gone missing.
Then we had to jump the hurdle of an Auction on Nov. 13th . The money had to be found and the bidding had to be successful. It was Keith Morris, the School Business Manager, and myself who consulted widely as to price and method of bidding. Money was secured from the Adams Governors Fund and our bid was successful and thus we own the Manuscript.
What is in the document?
- Copy of the letters patent sealed by Oliver Cromwell nominating the Haberdashers as wardens of the Charity.
- A licence of mortmain from John Cooke Esq.
- Deed of purchase from Charles Sawyer of Knighton in Staffordshire
- Grants of further lands owned by William Adams
- Conveyance of land to the Wardens of the Haberdashers
- Conveyance of three houses in Newport on land wherein the School and officers houses are to stand
- The release made to the Masters and Wardens for the discharge of two annuities
- Copy of the Statutes regarding the duties of Headmaster.
- Copy of the Statutes regarding the running of the School
- Catalogue of Books donated by William Adams and others
- Catalogue of goods held in the Headmasters House signed by Thomas Chaloner and in the Ushers house.
- Copy of an Act of Parliament after the Restoration of 1660 referring to the school at Newport.
The manuscript was displayed at the Full Governors Meeting in Longford on the 14th December and taken to be shown to the Court of Assistants, Haberdashers Hall, London. I was told that the Haberdashers were mightily impressed. The document has been digitised at the Guildhall Library in London and has returned, hopefully to be suitably displayed in Big School Library at Adams in the near future.
Recently, at the School archives, Mrs. Kosinski showed the Manuscript to one of the Society’s members. It is a substantial , leather-bound volume containing more than 100 manuscript pages. It is, indeed, a handsome book and the School must be pleased to have it back in Newport, where it belongs.
Much of it relates to the financial and legal framework by which William Adams was able to create the School’s foundation and its future support through the Haberdashers. However, many Novaportans, who have attended Adams’, past and present, will find of more interest the Statutes which prescribe the way in which the Schoolmasters were appointed, and how they ran the School. Much of the text can be already read in David and Ruth Taylor’s 2002 “Mr. Adams’ Free Grammar School” but perhaps it would be good if some of the most interesting items of the Statutes were published in the website and the Newsletter.