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A History of Horncastle by James Conway Walter

James Conington and Benjamin Handley

We have been accustomed to consider the foundation of William of Wykeham, at Winchester, in 1373, as one at least of our very oldest, but Horncastle Grammar School may even be of still earlier date than that. The oldest school of all is King's School, Canterbury, attributed to Archbishop Theodore, A.D. 670, but which may probably be traced to St. Augustine. St. Peter's School, York, is the next oldest.

Addendum II.

The Governors of the Grammar School are about to erect, in this year, 1908, new and more commodious premises for the school, in the grounds of what is now called "The Chestnuts," near the west end of West Street.


Next in importance to the Grammar School, and prior to the existence of the two well appointed National Schools, Church and Wesleyan, possibly even of greater utility than at present, is Watson's Free Infant School; the founder of which placed it under the control of the Grammar School.

The title deeds of this Institution are in the keeping of Mr. H. Tweed, Solicitor, who is Clerk to the Governors; and from these we gather the following particulars of its history. Richard Watson in the latter half of the 18th century was a resident in, and a native of, Horncastle, being the son of James Watson, who had made money by tanning, at that time a staple business in the town. Although engaged in trade he ranked with the resident gentry, his sister, Frances, marrying James Conington, Esq., belonging to a family of good position, not only in the town, but in the county; members of which have also distinguished themselves at the Universities, the name still surviving. She is referred to in an Indenture of date 22nd Sept., 25 George III. (1785), as "Frances Conington, of Boston, widow, formerly Frances Watson, spinster, surviving sister and heir of Richard Watson, late of Horncastle, gent., deceased, tanner, and his wife Elizabeth." By her marriage she had a son Francis Conington, who as nephew of Richard Watson, was the sole executor of his will and testament. The principal deed has the following external inscription: "Title deeds of the school, signed, sealed and delivered, by Benjamin Handley (afterwards called "of New Sleaford"), {108a} in the presence of Williom Swallow, {108b} supervisor, and Abraham Hanson, of Horncastle."

The following is the heading within, "Sealed and delivered by Frances Conington, being first duly stamped, in the presence of Caleb Preston, and Bowlin Kelsey of Boston." This is further confirmed, as follows: "Sealed and delivered by Frances Conington, in the presence of William Swallow, supervisor, and Abraham Hanson, of Horncastle."

Then follows a "Release of lands in Lincolnshire to found a school (dated 22nd Sept., 1785), inrolled in His Majesty's High Court of Chancery, the 8th day of March, in the year of our Lord 1786, being first duly stamped according to the tenor of the statutes made for that purpose." (Signed) Thomas Brigstock.

[Picture: The Market Place]

The seals attached to this are those of Frances Conington, James Conington and Benjamin Handley. There is a note in the margin that "James Conington came before me this day, and acknowledged this to be his deed, and prayed the same might be inrolled in His Majesty's High Court of Chancery. Robert Chapman, Master in Chancery." Dated 6th March, 1786.

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