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Education & Charities in Bedford, 1835
From an article in the SDUK 'Penny Magazine' 1835

There is, perhaps, no English town of similar extent, equal to Bedford in the variety and magnitude of its charitable and educational establishments.

Besides the fifty-eight alms-houses under Sir William Harpur’s charity, houses for eight poor persons were built by T. Christie, Esq. who bequeathed them a shilling each weekly, payable out of the great tithes of St. Paul’s.

The county possesses a spacious lunatic asylum in St, Mary's parish, capable of accommodating sixty-six patients. It was opened in 1812, being the first county institution of the kind erected under the act of parliament to that effect. Private patients pay from one to three guineas per week ; and paupers from nine to twelve shillings, the deficiency being made up from the funds of the county treasury. An unusual degree of liberty is allowed to the unfortunate inmates through the good management of the superintendent.

The general infirmary is also a noble building, situated like the former, at a convenient distance from the town. It was erected in 1803, chiefly from funds bequeathed by Samuel Whitbread Esq. It was originally intended for fifty patients, but has since been enlarged, and continues to be supported by subscription.

The Marquess of Tavistock after a contested election for the county, in which he refused to expend a shilling, gave towards enlarging the infirmary, the sum (£2000) which would probably have been expended in treating the electors.

In cases of need, the surrounding counties are allowed to participate in the benefits of this institution.

A charity school for twenty children of the parishes of St. Paul and St. Cuthbert, was founded before 1737, by the Rev. Mr. Leith and others.

Bedford is however, chiefly indebted for its charities to Sir William Harpur, alderman of London, who, in the reign of Edward VI, founded a free-school for the instruction of the children of the town, in grammar and good manners. The donor conveyed to the corporation thirteen acres of land in the parish of St. Andrew, Holborn (London), for the support of this school, and for portioning poor maidens of the town, the overplus, if any, to be given in alms to the poor.

The land having been let on building leases, Lamb's Conduit Street, Harpur Street, Theobald's Road, Bedford Street, Bedford Row, New North Street, East Street, Green Street and some smaller streets, were built upon it ; and thus the property has gradually risen in value from below £150 a year to upwards of £13,500, which was its amount in 1833.

A property thus greatly increased in value has several times required the interposition of Parliament to regulate its distribution. It at present supports a grammar-school containing about eighty boys on the foundation, and as many private boarders ; a commercial school, containing 100 to 150 boys ; and a national-school, containing 350 boys ; in the latter 170 girls are received on half-holidays ; a regular girls' school, and an infant school are about to be added. Besides which, the girls in the hospital for poor children, another branch of the charity, are taught household duties, needle-work, reading and writing, by the mistress.

In these schools provision is made for the gratuitous instruction of the children of all resident parishioners of the five parishes of the town of Bedford. Books, &c., are gratuitously supplied. About twenty-five boys in the national-school are clothed from a fund left by Alderman Newton, of Leicester. A new building, for the English and national schools, containing large school-rooms, a blue-coat hospital, for the board and education of boys and girls, and a committee-room, clerk's house, &c, have lately been erected in the Tudor style of architecture, by the trustees of Sir W. Harpur's charity.

Part of the income from Sir W. Harpur's charity is also appropriated to the support of alms-houses, to the portioning young women in marriage, and to other benevolent objects. The proportions in which the income is distributed will be better understood by reference to the following extract from the account given of the expenditure for the year, from October 1833, to October 1834:

By Schools, viz.
Grammar : £1581, 15 shillings, 5 pence
English : £673, 7 shillings, 1 penny
Preparatory, commercial : £105, 14 shillings, 11 pence
National : £269, 9 shillings, 10 pence

Exhibitions : £640
Marriage portions : £500
Hospital for children : £670, 16 shillings
Apprentices at binding : £712, 10 shillings
Apprentices at half time : £623
Donations on going out to service : £84
Donations to apprentices after service : £290
Almshouses : £2,208, 18 shillings, 6 pence
Distributed to the poor : £500
Salaries : £580

Repairs, fittings, and furniture for new hospital : £555, 19 shillings, 8 pence
New schools and other buildings : £4,156, 2 shillings, 6 pence
Books, stationery, printing, & stamps : £47, 3 shillings, 6 pence
Taxes, insurance, and miscellaneous : £630, 9 shillings, 10 pence
Law expenses : £869, 17 shillings, 6 pence
Letting estates, &c. : £664, 8 shillings, 2 pence

TOTAL EXPENDITURE FOR THE YEAR : £16,363, 12 shillings, 11 pence

The grammar-school now contains 76 town boys, and has been brought to a high degree of excellence, through the exertions of the present headmaster, the Rev. Dr. Brereton, whose salary is £250 per annum, with a house tax free, coals and candles, together with five guineas from each town boy (paid out of the school fund), and the privilege of taking boarders, at present (1835) amounting to 70.

The second master has a salary of £140, and four guineas with every town boy on the foundation, with a house &c. as above.

A third master has this year been added, with a salary of £150 per annum. The mathematical master has a salary of £100, and three guineas with every town boy learning mathematics.

The salary of the writing master is £80 per annum. The warden and fellows of New College, Oxford, are visitors of the school, and appoint the master and second master.

The exhibitions are eight in number, of the value of £80 per annum each ; and are designed for boys educated in the school to assist them in completing their education at Oxford, Cambridge, or Dublin. Six of the exhibitions are holden exclusively by town boys ; but the examiners from New College are at liberty, as they see fit, to bestow the other two on the most deserving of boarders.



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