Tottenham Grammar School and Sarah, Duchess of Somerset

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Sarah, Duchess of Somerset - Copyright: Bruce Castle Museum (Haringey Culture, Libraries and Learning)
Sarah, Duchess of Somerset - Copyright: Bruce Castle Museum (Haringey Culture, Libraries and Learning)

In her Will dated 17 May 1686, Sarah, Duchess of Somerset, included the following:

“Also I do give and appoint the sum of two hundred and fifty pounds, to be expended, paid, and laid out by mine executors, in and for the making an additional building to the school house at Tottenham, near the High Cross, in the County of Middlesex, for the enlargement thereof; whereby it may be made capable to receive a greater number of scholars. Also I do give and appoint the further sum of eleven hundred pounds... for the buying and purchasing of lands, rents, or other hereditaments, in fee simple, and they do settle the same for the support and maintenance of the school, and the master and usher of the said school for ever...”

The Will continued to set the Master's salary at £40 per annum and the Usher's at £10 pa and laid down a number of provisions for the school, in particular that it was to provide free education for “...the children of all such people, inhabiting within the said Parish of Tottenham, as shall not have estates or their own, or free or copyhold, of twenty pounds per annum.”

When Sarah died on 25 October 1692, she was buried in Westminster Abbey and in the fullness of time the terms of her Will were carried out and land purchased for the benefit of the school. Much of this land was sold by the Governors in the 1890's to Charterhouse School, and the remainder in 1927.

Sadly, the School which Sarah endowed did not survive ‘for ever’ and in 1987 the Governors had reluctantly to recommend its closure to the local education authority and the Secretary of State for Education. That recommendation was approved and the School, by now known as The Somerset School, finally closed its doors in July 1988 after more than 300 years serving Tottenham and Haringey boys.

A new, smaller body of Trustees was appointed to administer a new look and considerably wealthier Tottenham Grammar School Foundation. Most had been Governors of The Somerset School and were well aware of the traditions, both of the School and the Foundation.

Trustees have endeavoured to administer the Foundation as they imagine Sarah would have wished had she lived in the twenty-first century. By so doing, Trustees hope to be able to act within the spirit of her Will and continue to provide for the education of young people from Tottenham, thereby keeping Sarah, Duchess of Somerset, in her rightful place as a major influence in local education.