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Wiltshire Community History

Wiltshire History Questions Search Results

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Question Date :

Monday 4th July 2011 10:03

I'm researching my 3xg.grandfather James DRAKE, who was the schoolmaster at Wootton Bassett Free School (according to the 1841/1851 census records) and (listed in the 1849 Post Office Directory for Wootton Bassett ) the Hallkeeper at the Market Hall/Town Hall and the Clerk to the Secretary. Do you have any records pertaining to his tenure at the time?

In the Wiltshire and Swindon Record Office there is a draft of a letter from him to the Earl of Clarendon asking about other job opportunities as the number of pupils in the school was falling. This was in 1846. There may also be information in the records of the Borough Council in the Record Office - wsro@wiltshire.gov.uk .

James Drake was appointed Deputy Clerk of the Market (there doesn't seem to have been a Clerk of the Market) when a monthly cattle market was started as a boost to civic pride after the town ceased to be a political borough in 1832. The first market was held on Tuesday April 12th 1836 and the event prospered throughout the 19th century. A Christmas Fatstock Show was also organised and Hiring Fairs in the spring and autumn.

The school had been set up by a bequest in the will of Richard Jones (1688). In 1835 the land in which the money was invested brought in 25 a year, which James Drake thought was insufficient (that was his salary plus the fees from other pupils he might attract). He had 18 boys selected by the charity trustees and a further 20 fee paying pupils. They were taught writing and casting accounts but the original requirement of Latin had been dropped. The school, which was held in the town hall, fell into disrepute and closed in 1859 but I don't think that Drake was still the schoolmaster as in a Wiltshire directory of 1855 he is just listed as vestry clerk.

Archives in the Wiltshire & Swindon Record Office
Kelly's Directories of Wiltshire, 1848 and 1855



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