Trinity School

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Trinity School


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One of the earliest surviving photographs of the school, taken in the early 1900s

Trinity School was one of the earliest of the parish schools, opening in 1854, 40 years before the States made it compulsory for each parish to have its own dedicated school building. It was taken over by the States, along with the other parochial schools, in 1913.

The original granite structure is still standing, although much refurbished and expanded over the years.

History

This history of the school is from a 2017 article in the parish magazine Trinity Tattler.

Although the present Primary School was not officially opened until 1854, parish records show that for some years before then, efforts of sort had been made to provide educational facilities for those children of the parish who desired such (or at least whose parents desired it for them).

School and parish hall

Although the exact location is unknown, parish minutes mention a building in the parish which seems to have been referred to both as a school (Ecole Paroisalle) and as a parish hall (Salle Paroisalle). No doubt it changed its name according to its function at the time.

As early as 1841 the minutes record that one Philippe Le Masurier was retained on a salary of £98 12s per annum as schoolmaster, at a time when a working labourer might have been lucky to earn £20 a year. Whatever the other qualification was required for that office it seems that an appropriate Christian name was a distinct advantage, since both masters after Le Masurier were Philippes also, Dorey and Nicolle.

The building may have become increasingly unsuitable, either in terms of space or condition, because the minutes for 1849 indicate that improvements were urgently required. The debate was still going on in 1852, but a whirlwind in the guise of the new Rector, the Rev Charles William du Heaume, newly qualified from Cambridge, had swept into the parish with all the energy and enthusiasm of a new broom determined to bring the administration, kicking and screaming if necessary, into the modern age.

Rector buys property

One of du Heaume’s first priorities seems to have been the establishment of a permanent school building, but his methods did not find immediate favour in the parish. In 1852 several trees were mysteriously cut down on glebe land close to the Rectory, much to the chagrin of the authorities, who launched a failed investigation to bring the criminals to justice.

When the dust had settled, du Heaume suggested that perhaps the parish could purchase the space cleared by the fellings and utilise it as a site for the new school, but the parish deemed that access was inadequate and turned down the offer. Undaunted, du Heaume turned his attention elsewhere and bought a house and land from James Male. Buy is not quite the correct word as most transactions involving land and property in those days were in the form of leases in perpetuity. The terms of this deal were a ‘rente’, or rent, of 17 quartiers, 3 cabots and 2 sixtonniers of wheat, partially or wholly funded by the Church.

Ernest de Gruchy

This was a traditional way of valuing a contract using a staple product in what was essentially a commodity-based economy, but often it would be converted into a monetary payment, based on the value of wheat at the time, and this no doubt was the case as a cash economy was evolving quickly. In a contact of 1851 a quartier of wheat was valued at £16.

In the fullness of time such leases would be bought out and the ownership transferred freehold. It seems certain that the property in question was on the site of the current school, but it is not known if this was the same property as had been used previously. Between 1865 and 1874 no fewer than five schoolmasters followed each other in quick succession, the shortest reign being that of William le Vavasseur dit Durell, the Rector's brother-in-law. His short five-month residency at the school coincided with a tempestuous interlude in the parish affairs during which his sister, the Rector’s wife, was summoned in the Royal Court for bankruptcy.

In 1879, an inspection by the Rev R Wilde, one of her Majesty’s Inspector of Schools, recorded that there were 38 boys and seven girls on the register; an eloquent condemnation of the low value placed on the education of girls in a 19th century agricultural community.

It seems that the value of boys’ education was not much higher, as the school was forced to close in June of that year due to inadequate attendance, precipitated by the start of the Jersey Royal digging season. Not until the end of July could it reopen, when the children were no longer needed on the farm and parents urgently wanted somewhere to send them to keep them out of trouble.

Ernest de Gruchy

The school obviously had its challenges since in 1883 Ernest de Gruchy took over as master and reported that the educational standards were 'backward in all subjects'. Mr de Gruchy was not dismayed, however, and stayed at the school for 44 years, proving to be a major force in improving things beyond all recognition over that time.

His first impressions of the school would have been reinforced when one of his first challenges was to contend with a second report by HM Inspector of Schools, which found the teaching competent but the pupils, none of whom could speak either English or French, only Jerriais, disappointingly poor in all subjects.

Whatever the educational standards, the thought of classes being taught purely in Jersey French has a certain historical charm. Not a word that the inspectors might have used when addressing the next issue, namely sanitation at the school. Toilets, such as they were, were completely open to view from the public road, with no separate access for boys and girls. They were conveniently situated over a running brook, which can have been of little comfort to any properties downstream. Such was the reaction that the Annual Grant to the school was suspended until swift measures were taken to remedy the situation.

Mr de Gruchy had not only to contend with pollution of the waterways, but also pollution of the air when, in 1901, he suspended John Boullier, aged 10, for smoking in school even though his parents condoned the activity and confessed that they could not stop him smoking even if they wanted to.

Headmaster arrested

A good indication of the range of challenges facing the head was his arrest, in 1910, for his 'unduly harsh punishment' of George Gruber for insubordination and disobedience. At a time when corporal punishment was the norm, it beggars the imagination to think just what this admonishment involved to bring the wrath of the law upon the beleaguered headmaster. The magistrate empathised with the accused, however, and dismissed the charges, but de Gruchy was forced to allow Gruber back into the school, no doubt much to the pupil’s chagrin.

Gruber had obviously left by 1913 when another report was full of praise for the school's neatly dressed and well behaved pupils.

A newspaper photograph of staff and pupils of Trinity School in 1914
This group of Trinity schoolchildren who won prizes for French includes, third from the right, one of Jersey's most distinguished artists, Edmund Blampied. The photograph was taken on 9 December 1899. At the back are D Le Mouton and R Baudains; in the next row C Ahier, A Syvret, J Bisson, W Ahier, C Saudrais, Edmund Blampied, C Blampied (a cousin of Edmund); in the front, Clementine Gibaut, Alice Baron, Edith Gibaut and Lydia Le Monnier

1919 Peace Celebrations

These pictures of peace celebrations the year after the end of the Great War are believed to be connected to Trinity School, but they may include pupils from other schools

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