A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode
As a pupil of Marling (1969-76), I became interested in in the school’s history when I was a teenager and I remember being intrigued by the references that I found to an earlier Stroud Grammar School. Oliver Wicks referred to it in his ‘Marling School 1887-1987’ devoting a page to it in his chapter on ‘Forerunners’. Marling received its royal approval on 28th November 1887, the culmination of nearly ten years of clamouring for a ’Middle Class School’ led initially by the M.P. for Stroud from 1868-74, Sebastian Stewart Dickinson J.P. (1815-1878) of Brown’s Hill House, Painswick. Stroud Grammar School is a strand of Marling’s rich pre-history.
The Grammar School was established in 1871 by the Reverend Arthur Jonathan Edmonds, M.A., the assistant curate of St Lawrence’s Church in Stroud. His school flourished and a purpose-built schoolhouse was erected in Lansdown, at the bottom of the Vicarage drive, which later became the Free Library. Oliver Wicks wrote, ‘the handsome building with its busts of Shakespeare and Milton carved in stone on the front of it was opened as Stroud Grammar School on 3rd July 1874.’
So, who was Edmonds? He was the son of a banker, Orlando Edmonds of Stamford, and after studying at Cheltenham College he was admitted to St. John’s College, Cambridge but transferred to Clare College where he became a scholar. Having graduated he was appointed as an Assistant Master at Wakefield School in Yorkshire. He was clearly drawn to holy orders and he was made a Deacon in 1871 and appointed to serve his title at Stroud. I have discovered that at the time of the 1871 census he was visiting James Shrubb Iredell, a retired captain in the Bombay Army, at his home, Coburg House, in Montpellier, Cheltenham. Ordination to the Priesthood followed in 1872.
During his assistant curacy in Stroud he not only set up his Grammar School but, on 25th June 1872. he married his first wife, Mary, the daughter of John Libby, a local cloth manufacturer. During 1877 Edmonds left Stroud with his young family to take up a position in Weston super Mare. On the night of the 1881 census the family resided in Ellenborough Park and John Libby was staying with them.
At the inaugural meeting of the Stroud Free Library, on the 15th September 1888, his father-in-law, John Libby, delivered a sketch of the history of Mr Edmonds’ Grammar School which he later published in his ‘Twenty Years’ History of Stroud 1870-1890’:
‘The Stroud Grammar School, for which these premises were built, was founded in July, 1871, by the Rev. A. J. Edmonds, who was about that time appointed curate of Stroud Church. For the first two or three years school work was carried on at Badbrook Hall. At Midsummer, 1872, the school, consisting of 21 boys was examined by the Rev. J. T. Sanderson, vicar of Litlington, and the prizes were presented by the Rev. Dr. Badcock, vicar of Stroud. In the following year lectures were given by the Rev. H. Wood, curate of Stroud, on Botany, and by Dr. Paine, on Physiology. At Midsummer the Rev. F. St. John, vicar of Frampton, was the examiner.
In 1874 the new school-house in Lansdown was opened, and at the Midsummer prize giving, Mr. S. S. Dickinson presided, many of the leading inhabitants of the neighbourhood being also present. Mr. Libby paused here to emphasise the name of Dickinson. He was ever ready (he said) to do all he could for education, and he supposed no man who ever lived in Stroud did more, nay not so much, to promote education as Mr. Dickinson. At the following Christmas, a concert with recitations, was given by the boys and masters – Mr. Brandon being the conductor. At Midsummer, 1875, the prizes were given by the Rev. Canon Girdlestone, D.D., Principal of the Theological College at Gloucester. On this occasion annual prizes were presented by the following gentlemen, Dr. Badcock, Divinity; Mr. Dickinson, Mathematics; Mr. Dorington, Latin; Dr. Paine, French; Mr. Libby, to promote good elocutionary reading of the Holy Scriptures; Mr. Bullivant, secular or general elocution. At the succeeding Christmas there was a concert – Mr. Brandon taking the part of conductor. At the prize-giving at Midsummer 1876, the chair was taken by Mr. S. S. Marling M.P. A great number of prizes were presented on this occasion, and an annual prize for English was given by Mr. J.T. Fisher.
The average number of boys was at this time about 40, and the school was in a flourishing condition. At the Christmas concert for this year, one of the chief features was a recitation of John Bright’s famous speech at Llandudno, on “Peace,” by Bullivant, minor. This young orator astonished the audience by the cool and confident manner in which he re-produced the eloquent oration of that gifted public speaker. In the course of this year, lectures, to which the public were invited, were given by Professor Stokes, on Memory; and Professor Plumtre, on Elocution; and subsequently by Lord William Lennox on the Life of Wellington.
At Midsummer, 1877, Mr. Edmonds feeling his health giving way, resigned the head-mastership to Mr. E. Christie, who had been his second master for some time. But there was another claimant for a share of the pupils, in the person of the assistant master, Mr. Gill. This gentleman set up a school on his own account, and the pupils being thus divided, neither school prospered and both were ultimately closed.
After some time, the Grammar School building was re-opened with the title of the Stroud Borough School, by Mr. Thomas (who was a trained master attached to the Uplands Board School). Under the auspices of this popular teacher, and the fees having been reduced, the school-house was soon filled, and the number of pupils ultimately reached 120 or perhaps more. When the scheme for a Free Library was first mooted many eyes were turned to the Grammar School building in Lansdown, as being eligible for the purpose, and negotiations were set afoot between Mr. Strachan and Mr. Edmonds – which as we all know resulted in Mr. Strachan buying it. Mr. Thomas obligingly vacated the premises, having secured the Lansdown Hall as a home for his school.’
Elsewhere in his history, John Libby adds the following words:
‘In addition to the(se) elementary schools there was the Grammar School commenced and successfully promoted by the Rev. A.J. Edmonds, and the “Borough School”, established by Mr. E. R. Thomas, now carried on in the Lansdown Hall. The number of pupils in this school is about 120. These are private venture schools; but they were both established in anticipation of a Middle Class public school, which is at length founded under the title of the “Marling school”, and the school-house is in course of erection in the Cainscross Road’
Edward Rogers Thomas was living in Lansdown with his wife Eleanor and family at the time of the 1891 census. He was referred to as a forty-seven-year-old teacher born at Llanllwchaiarn in Montgomeryshire. It is interesting to compare the lives and backgrounds of Edmonds and Thomas as they are quite different. Thomas’s parents were both schoolteachers in Wales and, by the time of the 1861 census, they had moved to Prestbury and were working at the National School there. Edward Thomas was listed as a pupil teacher (perhaps at St Paul’s College, Cheltenham), however, in 1865 he married his wife Eleanor in London and, by 1871, both were working at Broadmoor Sanatorium at Sandhurst. From teaching at Broadmoor, he moved to the Board School at Uplands, Stroud, where his address in 1881 was given as Cotswold Villa.
Presumably the Stroud Borough School closed soon after the opening of Marling School in 1891 and Thomas’s resignation from the Sherborne Masonic Lodge in Stroud may indicate that 1893 was the year of his departure from the town. After Stroud he settled at Minety, in Wiltshire, where he farmed until his death on 16th May 1922. In 1911 he was described as ‘Retired Teacher & Civil Servant, Pension.’
This is all that I have found about Stroud Grammar School and Stroud Borough School but further information would be much appreciated. The illustrations that I have used were published in John Libby’s ‘Twenty Years History of Stroud 1870-1890.’