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Walter Scott House History

Who was Walter Scott?

Walter Scott was the son of a poor tradesman of Ross-on-Wye who became very wealthy and towards the end of his life endowed his old school to enable the continued education of local poor children.

Walter Scott was born in Ross in 1716 and attended the local Charity School.  The school was a Blue Coat school funded through public subscriptions and intended for the “instruction of poor boys and girls in the parish of Ross-on-Wye in the Christian Religion according to the doctrines and usages of the Church of England”.

Blue Coat schools have their origin in Christ’s Hospital – a public school founded in 1553 by King Edward VI.  Even today, students at Blue Coat schools still wear a long blue coat, knee breeches with yellow stockings and a white collar.

Aged 13, Walter Scott was caught scrumping pears and ran away from home rather than face his punishment.  He went to London and became apprenticed to an uncle who was a master plasterer.

He worked diligently at his trade, rising to become a liveryman, then a warden and finally a master of the plasterers.  When his uncle died he inherited the business which he carried on until his death in 1786.

In 1785 , aged 69, Walter returned to visit Ross-on-Wye and was distressed to find his old school in a very neglected state.  He roused the local townspeople to revive the school, promising to contribute five guineas annually to the funds.  On his return to London Walter amended his will to provide a permanent endowment for the school.

He died a year later in 1786.  His body was brought back to Ross and buried in the parish churchyard where a white memorial stands prominently next to the path to the main door.

WSH 2.jpgThe endowment

Walter Scott’s legacy was to instruct his executors to invest £6,666-13s-4d in New South Seas Annuities, the resultant annual yield of approximately £200 to be set aside in perpetuity to fund his old Blue Coat school.   By 1792 sufficient funds had accrued to demolish the old school building and erect a new one.

£6,666-13s-4d  in 1792 is worth  £ 373,533.33 in today’s money, so clearly Walter Scott had gone from being a pauper to a very rich man.  The investment has remained intact, and even today it generates a modest £1,000 annually which is given as grants to children of Ross-on-Wye for the purchase of books, educational equipment or musical instruments.

The school

In 1799 the school was officially established as Walter Scott’s Charity School.

The trustees determined that the school would “provide education for as many pupils as the income could afford to keep clothed” which was around 30 boys and 30 girls .  There was to be one master and one mistress who must be married and live at the school and be members of the Church of England.

The school building essentially comprised four classrooms – two on the ground floor and two on the first floor, with girls and boys in separate classrooms.  The master and mistress lived in a flat on the top floor.

Each room had a single small fireplace, so with the big Georgian windows it must have been very cold in the winter.

The building was renovated in Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Year 1887 by public subscription.  It remained a school until the early 1970s, at one time being a cookery school for girls and a woodworking school for apprentices.

It became an auction house and store room for 15 years and then sat derelict and empty before being purchased and restored by Roy Peers-Smith in 2009.

The uniform

Each boy was provided with –

  • 3 pairs shoes and stockings
  • 3 shirts
  • 3 neckbands
  • 3 handkerchief
  • 2 pairs leather breeches
  • 2 belts
  • 1 cap
  • 1 pair of gloves (carefully knitted for them by the girls)
  • 1 blue waistcoat
  • 1 long blue overcoat with red collar
  • 1 hat

Each girl was provided with –

  • 1 dress and petticoat
  • 1 winter hat
  • 1 summer hat
  • 3 shifts
  • 3 caps
  • 3 aprons (one white for best)
  • 3 neckbands
  • 3 short capes
  • 3 pairs shoes and stockings
  • 3 handkerchief
  • 1 pair leather braces

WSCmedallion - low res.jpg

In addition, on their first day of school each child was given a numbered medallion to wear.    We have used a facsimile of this medallion as safety icons on the glass walls in the entrance hall.

The curriculum

Children started school aged six, and were required to leave when they reached 14. 

All the children were taught reading, writing and arithmetic. 

Boys were taught woodwork and girls were taught needlework. 

The Blue Coat tradition was maintained by instructing all pupils in the Christian Faith and they were required to attend church twice on Sundays. 

All pupils were supplied with a bible, a psalter, a spelling book, a slate on which to write, and various writing materials.

No exams were taken, but pupils were assured of getting a job because of the high reputation enjoyed by the school in general.

Severe misbehaviour was punished with a cane – for both boys and girls.  During the course of renovations, a ruled school book was discovered under the floorboards in which a student had had to write lines – either as punishment or as an exercise to perfect their handwriting (we suspect the former due to the nature of the lines and because there is no evidence of improvement!)

Founders Day

Founders Day – 4th December - became the most important day of the school year and the traditions were maintained right up until the school closed in 1970.

Table decorations were made and placed in the classrooms and  there was a competition among pupils for the best Founders Wreath to be placed on Walter Scott’s memorial.

Pupils dressed in their best and went to church where a sermon was preached to remind them of what was expected of them – “diligence and discipline in the classroom, honour, obedience and respect for teachers and parents, complete trust and faith in Lord God and never to forget the generosity of their benefactor”.

Afterwards, in the long room upstairs there was prize giving for the pupils and a big feast  was held including the staff, trustees and governors.  (We intend to respect this tradition!)


Kirintec Limited of Ross on Wye HR9 5PB is registered in England & Wales with the company number 6699502

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