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PETER BLUNDELL OF TIVERTON

From Devonshire Celebrities by T. L. Pridham, published in 1869.

 

"Peter Blundell, the founder of the celebrated school at Tiverton, in which so many of our aristocracy and men of fame have, from time to time, been educated, was born in Tiverton AD 1520, of the most humble parents, being himself, as a boy, employed in running errands for the carriers who frequented the town, and assisting to look after their horses; in this way. he saved a little money, which he laid out in the purchase of some kind of woollen material, which was manufactured in the town of Tiverton.

 

This article, one of his friends (a carrier) undertook to convey to London at no charge and to sell it to the best advantage, and the amount thus obtained. he handed to the boy. This was his first venture, and the foundation of his future wealth. By his industry. he obtained sufficient money to purchase enough of the woollen fabric to load a horse, with which he set out for the great city, and sold at a good profit; he then engaged himself in the employ of one who sold extensively the article he had brought with him to London, and soon  saved sufficient money to set up a manufactory for himself in the town of Tiverton, and in this way, he amassed his great wealth. At his death, he left much of his large estate. for charitable purposes.

 

Peter Blundell's Free School founded in 1604
The Free Grammar School, Tiverton

Founded by Peter Blundell in 1604

Courtesy of Devon County Council

 

But to crown his great acts of munificence, he caused to be erected a noble schoolhouse in Tiverton, which he richly endowed. The building stands at the east end of the town, in form somewhat resembling college halls in universities; it contains two schoolrooms each one hundred feet long and 24 feet broad; there are also two good houses attached, one for the master and the other for the usher, with gardens to each. The Masters income was £50 a year, that of the usher £20 a year, a goodly sum in those days.

In front of the school is the playground, an acre in extent, surrounded by a high wall with a handsome gateway, over which was the following inscription, which time and weather have greatly effaced: "This free grammar school was founded at the only cost and charge of Mr Peter Blundell of this town, sometime clothier." A sum of money is left in order to keep in good repair the schoolhouse and grounds attached. At the present day, there are 4 scholars maintained at Balliol College, Oxford, and 4 at Sydney College, Cambridge, from the Blundell funds. To Sydney College. he gave five pounds a year for a Hebrew lecture as well as five pounds a year to each of the scholarships at Sydney, by way of exhibition. Since the death of Mr Blundell, the property has greatly increased, which has given the trustees power to increase the number of exhibitions.

 

The names of trustees mentioned in Mr Blondel's will are as follows: Sir Francis Popham, Lord Chief Justice of England, Anthony Pollard, Richard Bluett, Charles Bere, Roger Ashford, Roger Ware, Roger Gifford, James Clark and Henry Worth, for the most part residing in or near Tiverton; besides these, there were 19 other trustees, who were most of them clothiers in the town of Tiverton; the Trust was made to them and to their heirs after them. He also left a large sum in order to establish a preparatory school.

 

Blundell's School in 1902

Blundell's School in 1902

Courtesy of Devon County Council

 

He gave, moreover, £10,000 to his relations and friends in Tiverton, £5000 to his friends in London; nor did he forget the poorer class who had assisted him in the way of trade. After all the above claims were satisfied, a goodly estate remained, which he gave to his executors. Mr William Craven (ancester of Earl Craven) and Mr William Parker, both merchants in London. It is computed that the sum left by Peter Blundell for charitable purposes amounted to £40,000*, but it is not known how much more he left to friends and others. His latter days were spent in London in the parish of St Michael, and he was interred in the parish church there. He died on the fourth of May 1601 at the advanced age of 81. Perhaps there is no case on record so remarkable as that of Peter Blundell of Tiverton, both for the rapidity with which his vast fortune was acquired, and its judicious disposal for the benefit of mankind.

Within the last few years**, a great change has taken place in the character and management of Blundell's school, it having been thrown open for the education of all classes, whether for the advantage of the school, or the good of the town of Tiverton, let others say.

*This sum today would have the purchasing power of £4,025,600.according to the National Archives site.

**. This sentence was originally written in 1869. This excellent school is still going strong (2012) though Peter Blundell may have been surprised by the presence of girls. You can visit their website at

www.blundells.org/admin/blundells.htm

 

 
 
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