Just north of Caenby Corner along the Ermine Street lies the hamlet of Spital on the Street. Early records mention a hospice or hospital located there to provide shelter for travellers. In 1319 a licence was granted to John de Vendeur, vicar of Tealby, to endow a chantry in the hospital. (A chantry was an endowment for a priest to celebrate mass for the founder’s soul.) The endowment of some land to support the chantry enabled John of Gainsborough, chaplain of the Chapel of St. Edmund, King and Martyr at Spital on the Street, to fulfil this duty.
There were further small endowments made to the hospital over the next seventy years, overseen and governed by the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln Cathedral. The wealth and success of the hospital and charity was dramatically improved with the intervention of Thomas de Aston in its affairs. Born in Wheaton Aston in Staffordshire, he became Canon of Lincoln and Archdeacon of Stow and before his death in 1401 had drawn up a charter, sealed and dated 26 June 1397 wherein he states that he has:
‘given and assigned by this my charter here indented to Sir John de Swaton, chaplain of my chantry newly founded by me in the Chapel if St. Edmund, King and Martyr of Spital on the Street, a certain house adjoining the west part of the aforesaid chapel of St. Edmund for the habitation of certain poor and their successors`
Richard II donated a house and land to help fund the charity and together with Thomas de Aston’s gift of property in Lincoln, and one hundred acres of farmland, an income for the charity was assured. The beneficiaries of the charity were seven poor people from the parish of Hemswell, receiving an income of 7d/week and the chaplain of the chantry in the Chapel of St. Edmund, King and Martyr receiving an annual stipend of £5/year and a house rent free. Thomas de Aston stipulated that the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln send their clerk to inspect the buildings every year.
Before he died, Thomas de Aston made one further endowment to the charity of a considerable amount of church property at Skellingthorpe, Hemswell and Middle Carlton.
The Spital Hospital continued to provide for the poor of Hemswell until 1576, when Elizabeth I confiscated the hospital and all of its valuable properties, and granted them to John Farnham. There were various owners over the subsequent years until 1665 when Dr. Mapletoft, Master of the Hospital managed to recover much of the hospital property.
The income from these properties was over £800 per annum, and it was the Rev. John Prettyman that precipitated the next crisis for the Charity. Appointed Master of the Hospital in 1810, he embezzled £12000 from the Charity between 1821 and 1836. Only £900 was used for relief of the poor.
Investigation by the Charity Commissioners resulted in a Chancery suit being brought against both Rev. Prettyman and the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln. A hearing in 1844 ruled that the Master was not entitled to the Charities surplus income, but as he had died no attempt was made to recover the money.
Clearly the Charity needed reforming and a legitimate use found for its surplus income. The result in 1858 was a new Scheme for the Management and Regulation of The Hospital of Spital on the Street, and the Schedule lists Corn Rent-charge, in lieu of Tithes from over five thousand acres in addition to rents received from properties in Lincoln producing an income of over £800.
Some of the original aims of the Charity were retained, namely provision for seven alms people, the Chapel of St. Edmund at Spital to be maintained and a stipend paid to the Spital Chaplain and Vicar of Skellingthorpe. However, the majority of this income was directed towards education. Lincoln Grammar School received £2500 and very significantly a “Middle School for Boys shall be founded and appointed within the Parish of Market Rasen, in the county of Lincoln, to be called The De Aston School.”
On 12 October 1863, at a cost of £3015, and under the headship of Rev. F Pentreath, De Aston School opened with eleven pupils. Tuition fees for a year were £4, the headmaster’s salary £100 per annum, and he could take in boarders.
From 1863-82 the Trustees of the Spital Charity governed the School. The board of fifteen members comprised the Dean and Precentor of Lincoln, ex officio, and thirteen other persons residing within twelve miles of Spital on the Street. In 1882 a new scheme created a separate board of fifteen governors of which half were Spital Charity Trustees. A scheme in 1906 merged the Trustees and Governors into a joint body called The Governors of Spital Charity and the De Aston School Foundation, under the chairmanship of Lord Heneage.
As a result of the 1944 Education Act De Aston changed from being a “private/charity funded” school to voluntary controlled and pupils had to pass the eleven-plus to gain entry to the School. One-third of the Governing Body were still to be Foundation Governors appointed on behalf of the Spital Charity. Plans to introduce girls to De Aston were proposed in 1957, but lack of funding prevented their implementation until 1970, when work started on an extensive building programme to change the Schools status to a co-educational grammar school of 550 pupils.
The first girls were admitted to De Aston in September 1971. Building work continued, and the size of the School increased dramatically. Within two years De Aston changed yet again from a co-ed grammar school to comprehensive when it joined in partnership with the Secondary Modern School in September 1973, with a school role of a thousand pupils.
N.B. Information for this article was obtained from; ‘The Spital Charity and the De Aston Foundation’ by Richard Oliver and Paul Pinchbeck and ‘A History and Development of De Aston School Market Rasen’ by Mrs Joan Harrop.
Respice ! Respice !
Thoughts are behind us,
Far in the regions of memories dear,
As we retrace every step we have taken,
Many are dimmed, others vividly clear.
Are there regrets over times we have stumbled?
Are there rejoicings over efforts achieved?
The whole is a vision to teach us a lesson,
Be greater today than when ever we've lived.
Respice! Aspice! Prospice!
Thoughts of the present
Thoughts of the faces around us today,
How well we know them, how much we love them,
Full of expression at work or at play,
Each boy resolve with one mind to be noble,
Each build a character worthy of fame,
Each do his work with a will that is eager,
Each on the wide field of life play the game,
Respice! Aspice! Prospice!
Prospice! Prospice! Prospice!
Thoughts are before us,
Thoughts of the future, the mighty unknown,
As we go forward to fight in the battle,
God give us courage and strength of his own.
Each set an ideal, true in perfection,
Strive to attain it with body and soul,
Never lose heart or confess to be beaten,
Ever press onward and so reach the goal.
Respice! Aspice! Prospice!
Floreat Schola Thomae de Aston.