The Peterhouse Connection

Bernard Hale, whose portrait was presented to the School by the Master and Fellows of Peterhouse in 1948, was the grandson of Richard Hale. This portrait is placed immediately above that of Richard in the School’s Old Hall.

Bernard was one of the first boarders at the School in 1625 and he was admitted as a pensioner to St Peter’s College, Cambridge. He obtained his Master’s degree and was elected Fellow of the College. He resigned to administer his family property but maintained a close association with the College. In 1660 he was elected Master and became a Doctor of Divinity and Archdeacon of Ely.

The historian of Peterhouse, T A Walker, records “A man of remarkable modesty, of sincere piety, of the strictest justice, and of singular benevolence, he was greatly beloved by all with whom he came into contact, and his sudden death within three years of his appointment produced in his college an unprecedented sensation, the utmost grief mingling with something akin to consternation. He had been a generous donor to the college in his life and he largely increased his benefactions by will. The lands bequeathed by him to the Society were valued at upwards of £7,000.”

In his will Bernard increased the emoluments of the Mastership, endowed the post of chapel organist and provided for 7 valuable scholarships primarily for the benefit of boys from the School. “If there be no scholars in Hertford School fit to be admitted into St Peter’s College, my executor and my heir are left free to choose the best grammar scholar they can find elsewhere; and if my executor or heir fail to do their duties in providing a sufficient scholar within 5 months after my place is void, then my will and intent is that ye Master of St Peter’s College for ye time being shall choose either in ye college or university ye best scholar he shall get to accept of ye vacant scholarship and admit him to ye profits of ye same as amply as if my executor had chosen one from Hertford.”

On 29 March 1666 seven Hale scholars were elected, two of whom came from the School: Thomas Green and Ralph Battell, son of the Headmaster. James Beaumont, Bernard’s successor as Master, entrusted William Hale to fill any vacancies in 1673, by which time the scholarships had been increased to eight. Of the 200 scholarships awarded, 1666 1779, barely 30 were awarded to Hertfordians. Early enthusiasm at Hertford declined by the eighteenth century, no doubt reflecting the decay in education in both schools and the two universities during this century. In 1795 Lord Kenyon declared

“Whoever will examine the state of the grammar schools in different parts of the kingdom will see to what a lamentable condition most of them are reduced empty walls without scholars, and everything neglected but the receipt of salaries and emoluments.” At this time Henry Fielding described public schools as “the nurseries of all vice and immorality”. Like the schools, the two English universities, still all male, celibate and Anglican, declined in matriculants. Christ’s College, Cambridge had just 3 freshmen in 1733 and, by the mid eighteenth century, Oxford’s total intake was fewer than 200 a year. The universities had become pockets of patronage. However the Charity Commissioners in their 1832 report complained “For upwards of thirty years past none of the sons of the inhabitants educated at this school (Hertford) have been to the university and no application has been made for the scholarships bequeathed by Bernard Hale.” In 1908 the Victoria County History stated “There are now 2 Hale Scholarships of £80 and 6 of £60 a year they were thrown open by the statutes made under the Cambridge University Acts and the rights of Hertford boys abolished and the connection with Hertford School severed.”

But this was not the end. A number of Old Hertfordians had gone up to Peterhouse before the Hale scholarships existed; others went up to Peterhouse from the 17th to 19th century without the benefit of such scholarships, they have continued to go up since. At Speech Day 28 March 1942, Mr P C Vellacott DSO, MA, Master of Peterhouse was guest of honour. THB commented on the close ties between College and School and noted that we had 4 Peterhouse undergraduates at this time, the first representation of the School at the College for many years. They were probably J E Crane, D Goodman, J B Simpson and E W Sorensen. Vellacott delivered an inspiring address and gave some interesting information about the 300 year old association of the two Foundations, By 1948 two more Old Boys, Edward Allwright and Peter Ashley, had entered the college to which Sorensen and Crane had returned after war service. In this year the School received the generous gift of Bernard Hale’s portrait. Allwright and Ashley were preceded by John A Cannon, from 1976 92 Professor of Modern History and from 1983 86 Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Newcastle. In 1950 John Ironside and Peter Vandome went up to Peterhouse, followed by John Ogborn in 1954.

THB in his Valediction, 1956 wrote “And what was my proudest moment? I think it was when Professor Guthrie wrote to me from Cambridge to say that two Old Hertfordians, Richard Eden and John Fincham, had been elected to Bi Fellowships at Peterhouse on the same day”. Eden and Fincham were both Peterbouse undergraduates in the 1940’s and Fincham continued is an Emeritus Fellow of the College until his death in 2004, while Eden is Emeritus Fellow of Clare Hall. Eden is Emeritus Professor of Energy Studies and Fincham was Emeritus Arthur Baffour Professor of Genetics of the University of Cambridge. The College from the 1940’s provided a Governor at the School. Professor Butterfield was succeeded by W K C Guthrie. In the late 1990s Dr Greenwood, from Peterhouse, was also a Governor.


Link to the Peterhouse Collection – Cambridge