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Place House, Ware, and the Bluecoat Children

Authors: Violet A. Rowe

Published by Rockingham Press

ISBN: 9781904851592

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During the 68 years that the Christ’s Hospital school was at Ware, the Governors rarely had cause to complain of the nurses’ care of the children – no doubt the boys’ right to voice their own opinions had a salutary effect. Again and again at the annual inspections the Governors commented in such terms as those used in 1712 – the children’s lodgings and provisions were clean, and the children wholesomely and well provided for. Occasionally there were lapses. Nurse Hattrell was given a month’s notice for abusing the children and not feeding them properly, and one nurse was said to have poisoned a child, though whether this is to be taken literally or figuratively is open to question, since the Governors did not immediately remove her, much to the Treasurer’s indignation. Nurse Mary Johnson, who lived in the gatehouse, was admonished in front of all the other nurses for neglecting the children, and for drunkenness and swearing. Nurse Mary Boffey was a person of ill-fame, so the Governors were informed, and was alleged to have neglected the children in her care and not given them sufficient food.

From 1685 to 1761, Place House – the medieval manor house of Ware – was the schoolhouse for young children (mostly boys) from Christ’s Hospital in London. But for more than a century before the London foundation had been sending children to the Hertfordshire town to be cared for by foster-partents or ‘nurses’. In 1983 Dr. Violet Rowe – a retired schoolteacher – carried out extensive research into the schooling, health and welfare of these ‘Bluecoats’, publishing her work in journals and a booklet. Here the research by the late Dr. Rowe is brought together in one publication, illustrated by photographs and maps from the Christ’s Hospital archives.

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