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The only known example of Hardy’s signature
The le Hardy family migrated to Jersey from Normandy in the twelfth century, owing to their pro-English sympathies, which appear to have continued to cause problems - an Edmond Hardy is recorded as being ‘ostage des peskeuers de Grantchamp’ in 1419! A John Hardy migrated to England in about 1490, and his son Thomas, of Toller Whelme, married Joan Ferret (possibly Feret, another Jersey family) of Cerne. They had two sons – Edmund who became, by his second marriage, the lineal ancestor of both Admiral Hardy and Thomas Hardy the novelist, and our Thomas, who had one daughter, Thomasina.
The family became quite substantial property owners in West Dorset and Hardy owned property in and around both Melcombe Regis and Dorchester. On the death of his father in 1561 his mother married John Browne of Frampton House, where Hardy died in 1599. Hardy’s name only acquired its curious final ‘e’ in 1861, courtesy of Messrs. Shipp and Motson, editors of the third edition of Hutchins’ History of the Antiquities of the County of Dorset!
Crickmay’s drawing of the Free School (west front) before its partial demolition in 1880
The Dorchester Free School was built in 1567-9, (on the site of the Hardye Arcade in South Street) by the efforts of the townspeople, as a Protestant grammar school, designed for the free education of local boys in (Latin) grammar prior to university. It could not hope to rival Sherborne or Wimborne Free Schools, with their considerable private and royal endowments, and in 1579 the town, for reasons probably financial, ‘bestowed’ the school on Thomas Hardy, hoping that his endowment would encourage others to help provide the funds needed to keep it going. Although Robert Napper donated property adjoining the school to house an usher, or under-master, no-one else followed Hardy’s example, with the result that the school was generally short of funds throughout its history.
The Free or Grammar School during the Mastership of Maskew
1569 – 5
1678 – 11
1783 – 40
1823 - 12
1885 - 73
1912 – 100
1927 – 160
1937 - 305
1951 – 476 (including 87 boarders)
1979 – 820 – (The School becomes comprehensive)
1986 – 730
1993 – 1200 – (The School becomes a mixed comprehensive)
2003 - 2007
2004 - 2370
The school, which incorporated materials from ‘Chubb’s school house’, was a substantial stone building; the walling stone of the street front came from the Portland beds at Upwey and the freestone for the schoolhouse behind came from the recently opened Poxwell quarry. This quality of building did not prevent it from being badly damaged in the fire of 1613. By 1618 it had been rebuilt by Robert Cheeke, one of the two Puritan leaders of Dorchester, again largely at the town’s expense, but also at his own. At this time the oak screen was added to the west end of the schoolroom, and the Queen’s arms restored to the exterior; these two items, now on display at the Thomas Hardye School, are all that is left of the C17th school. In the room above the schoolroom, (after Cheeke’s widow was found alternative accommodation!) the town library was installed, which was catalogued in 1631, and which contained a number of valuable works which unfortunately began to disappear quite quickly!
After the Restoration, the last Puritan master, John Stephens, was ejected (he had already been ejected from Bristol Grammar School!), and the Free School became a small Anglican country grammar school run by a series of pluralist clergymen who seem to have paid little attention to the state of the buildings, which were almost in ruins by 1824, and seem to have required almost continuous repair for the next fifty years. During the first half of the nineteenth century, in competition with the Academy of William Barnes, and later the County School at Charminster, the school with its predominantly classical curriculum suffered, though, unlike many grammar schools at this time, managed to keep going. The last Master of the Free School, from 1846-1879 was Thomas Ratsey Maskew; he gave his name to two characters in Moonfleet by John Meade Falkner who attended the school for a year in 1869.
The Jacobean screen in the schoolroom in South Street.
As was common during this period, the school was from time to time almost entirely devoid of pupils, and was lucky to survive; it was eventually closed for rebuilding in 1879 by the Charity Commission. It re-opened in 1883 with the official title of Dorchester Grammar School, with an imposing new Tudorbethan front by Crickmay, but retaining the original schoolroom behind, with a further storey on top. This school was not demolished until 1965. It had been known as ‘Hardy’s Grammar School’ in the nineteenth century to distinguish it from other schools in the town – after 1885 this became ‘Hardye’s’ with the newly-added final ‘e’, in local directories. Slowly the school grew, building more accommodation including science labs, on the premises between South Street and Charles Street.
Following the Balfour Act of 1902, as education was increasingly funded by the State via the newly- formed County Councils, the school gradually prospered, and eventually moved from the increasingly crowded site in South Street to a healthy site on land purchased from the Duchy of Cornwall, on the hill at Fordington: in 1928 the new school buildings were opened by the Prince of Wales.
The Prince of Wales opens the new school at Fordington in 1928
‘Hardye’s’ continued on the Fordington site as a boys’ grammar school matched by the ‘Green School’ or girls’ Grammar School in Queen’s Avenue, in about 1930. The Butler Education Act of 1944 gave rise to the Dorchester Secondary Modern School in 1945, at the end of Queen’s Avenue. The three schools became two comprehensive schools, Hardye’s boys’ at Fordington and Castlefield girls’ on the Secondary Modern site, in 1980; these were fed by the two Middle Schools, Dorchester Middle School taking over the Green School site, and St. Osmund’s being purpose-built on the SW edge of the Hardye’s site.
It was not until 1992 that the merger of the two comprehensive secondary schools created The Thomas Hardye School on the Castlefield site which fulfilled the dream of the sixteenth-century Burgesses of Dorchester in offering, in the one school, ‘the necessary education and instruction of Children in all degrees in good Discipline’, as had been proposed in the Deed of Endowment 430 years ago in1579.