In 1477 Hue reported to the island's first Governor, Sir Richard Harliston, that there were no good schools in the island and no suitable premises. He offered some land adjoining the Chapel of St Mannelier in his parish and promised to build a house for the Master, with a field as an endowment to finance the school. The Master's duties would be to keep the school in repair, teach the pupils without charge, and say a Mass weekly for Hue's parents.
In his History of Jersey, George Balleine writes that legal difficulties connected with the law of mortmain, which forbade anyone to leave property to something that would never die, had first to be overcome. The Royal Court accepted the gift and the King exempted if from mortmain. 'The Bishop of Coutances issued a Pastoral urging the faithful to keep the building in repair for ever, and the school was built', but Balleine does not say when.
Attendance at the school was free, even for boarders, winter and summer lessons lasted from 6 am to 6 pm, and it was a grammar school, which meant the teaching of Latin grammar. The master, if a priest, was required to say a weekly mass in the chapel for the king, the Governor, Hue's parents and all future benefactors. The Lieut-Bailiff, Guille Hamptonne, wrote to advise that the Royal Court had accepted the gift, and the Dean gave his written approval in February 1478, adding that the Master and scholars must sing mass in the chapel on all festivals and the master must help the Curé on Sundays. In October 1480 Hue's gift was formally ratified by the Bishop of Coutances.
However, what happened next is unclear, because as historian Philip Ahier wrote in an article in the 1951 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise, when Jean Neel and Vincent Tehy put forward their proposals for a second school, St Anastase, for the western parishes, and added a considerable sum to the endowment of St Mannelier, that school had not yet been built, for the deed referred to their desire to 'found and establish two schools'.
The first headmaster, or Regent, as they were known, whose name is recorded is Jean Denys, in 1550. He was succeeded by Jean Mauger and Thomas Bertram. Complaints were being made about the quality of education at the school and at St Anastase and they reached the ears of Queen Elizabeth, whoinstructed her Royal Commissioners in 1562 that 'the two schools founded for the advancement of learning by negligence and misorder follow not the good intent of the founders and little profit of learning growth off them'. Elizabeth suggested that the schools might be combined on a more convenient site and that new rules should be drawn up for their operation. Apparently nothing was done.
Three decades later an Act of the States of 1591 declared that 'the schools were so completely diverted from the aims of the founders that there emerged little or no fruit from them'. It was again suggested that the schools should be combined on a site in St Helier. In 1596 Laurens Baudains offered to build a new college and a house was selected. But after three headmasters were appointed in rapid succession, Baudains switched his benevolence to a trust fund to send students to University.
In 1602 the States reported:
- "The schoolhouse of St Mannelier is in a ruinous and demolished state and the late Regent has died indigent and poverty-stricken'"
It was decided that the school should be rebuilt and it was reopened four years later with the instructions 'that the school be visited in order to test the capacity of the masters to teach and of the children to learn, and how many of the pupils are worthy of continuing their studies for the maintenance of the Island's prosperity'.
Jean Pallot appears to have been Regent of St Mannelier for 60 years from 1601, and little is known about the school during this period. In 1665 Marie de Carteret, the Dame of Trinity, appointed Vincent Quéron, a catholic priest, to the office of Regent. Quéron had seduced his maid and fled from France in disgrace. He married the girl in Jersey, but when their baby was born shortly after he was ordered by the Ecclesiastical Court to confess his sin. There was no move to dismiss him, because no successor could be found, but he resigned all the same in 1667.
Joshua Pallot was appointed to succeed him, but a mere 60 years after it was rebuilt, the school was again in a poor state of repair with the roof and walls in danger of collapsing. Repairs were undertaken and the Ecclesiastical Court ordered quarterly inspections, which led to a brief period of improved efficiency under Pallot, Richard de Carteret and Richard Le Caumais. But in 1680 Charles de Carteret, Seigneur of Trinity, appointed his young cousin Edouard de la Cloche as Regent, and despite his standing as Registrar of Contracts, Registrar of WIlls, Greffier of the Ecclesiastical Court and Captaijn of a Militia company, the school seems to have gone downhill rapidly. Historian the Rev Philippe Falle wrote:"His insufficiency, his negligence, and his many other occupations so dissipated the school that it was in a manner quite shut up to the great prejudice of the public."
The promised quarterly inspections had clearly been allowed to lapse because de la Cloche had been Regent for eleven years before the Dean and clergy decided to pay a visit. "It appeared," said Falle, "that he had intruded into the school without a title, had wholly neglected it, and in the end ruined it. He was turned out and the school declared vacant."
Seigneur's role challenged
The right of the Seigneur of Trinity to have anything to do with the school was then challenged, and after the case had been before the Royal Court, the Privy COuncil decided that "the election of Masters is to be by the Letters Patent of Henry VII and not otherwise".
Jacques Tapin, a Huguenot refugee, was the next Regent, and the school began to prosper for a while. However, in 1703 the school and Regent's house were destroyed by fire. The States organised a collection to pay for them to be rebuilt, but although in 1705 the property was found to be in good condition, there were no desks or tables.
Philippe Mauger was appointed Regent and ran into conflict with the Ecclesiastical Court for refusing to use Lely's Latin Grammar, the popular textbook of English schools, preferring a more old-fashioned book. The school continued to under-perform and Mauger was sacked in 1712. James Watt, about whom nothing is known, was the next Regent, but his successor, Pierre Joubaire, did well enough to receive the thanks of the Ecclesiastical Court for what he had done for the school.
He was succeeded, from 1731 to 1761, by Philippe Mattingley, but although he did well to begin with, it was discovered when the school was inspected in 1757 that the buildings were again "partly fallen down, partly in ruins, partly in a dangerous condition". Repairs were ordered.
The school did so well after Francis Valpy took over as Regent in 1761 that he was given an assistant to cope with increasing numbers of pupils. Among them were Richard Valpy, who became Headmaster of Reading School, and Thomas Syvret, who was to become an active politician in the island.
He was appointed Regent after Francis Valpy resigned to take the Rectorship of St Clement and his successor resigned after a few months due to ill health. Syvret also resigned to become Rector of St John, and Philippe Ahier, who had already had temporary charge of the school, was appointed Regent in 1779, and would hold the position for 52 years.
Like many of his predecessors, he did well to begin with, and attracted students from England, but by 1825 not a single pupil was learning Latin and English and five years later the school roll dropped to six. After Ahier's death at the age of 80 in 1832 an attempt was made to revive St Mannelier. The States granted £500 to repair the buildings again and Oxford graduate Clement Le Hardy was appointed Regent. However, in The Channel Islands in 1835 William Inglis wrote:"Since the appointment of the present master the number of pupils has increased to about 40, but the establishment still languishes".
Le Hardy resigned in 1848 to become Rector of St Peter, with numbers at St Mannelier declining again. They were never to recover after the opening of Victoria College and the school closed in 1863.
The decline in the two grammar schools after the opening of Victoria College left the States with a dilemma. Could St Mannelier and St Anastase continue, or should they be closed and the funds diverted elsewhere? In 1864 a committee was appointed to consider the options, but four years later no conclusion had been reached.
The two Regents, the Rev Robert Philip Mallet of St Mannelier and the Rev George Poingdestre of St Anastase, were still being paid, although the former had had no pupils since 1863 and the latter none since 1860.
Mr Mallet blamed the opening of Victoria College and of public elementary schools for this state of affairs; Mr Poingdestre also blamed the elementary schools but not Victoria College. Mr Mallet had told the committee that he was willing to give up his post and close down the school in exchange for a pension of £ 120 a year for life. Mr Poingdestre only asked for £60 as St Anastase was not worth as much.
On 29 February 1868 the committee came to the States with a re-commendation that the schools be closed and that Mr. Mallet be given a pension of £80 for life and Mr Poingdestre one of £45. The matter was hotly debated and finally the Rector of St Mary proposed an amendment instructing the committee to try again to see if they couldn't make the schools succeed. This was carried by 14 votes to 13 whereupon several members of the Committee resigned.
A pupil's view
A former pupil of St Mannelier wrote that he had “the most pleasant recollections of my school time there, and intense gratitude for the very careful and thorough way in which all the boys were taught”.
He praised the three successive Regents, the Rev John Ahier, afterwards Rector of Trinity; the Rev Clement Le Hardy and the Rev Robert Philip Mallet. “Mr Mallet, also an Oxford graduate, had had in his youth a wide and varied experience of life, including a visit to New Zealand and a long tour of Italy, then a rare event for a Jerseyman. There was included in the school curriculum what must have been very rare at the time, a course of natural science. For one special feature of his teaching I had reason afterwards to be very grateful, he insisted on thorough grounding".
Mr Mallet was also “the apostle in Jersey of the use of liquid manure and his new model pigsties, affording the animals all possible sun and air in fine weather and all possible shelter in cold and wet, had many visitors, but apparently few copyists. So the farm was an object of never-failing interest, and so were the birds, trees and insects all about us " The British Press and Jersey Times"in a leading article ad¬vocated the closing of these schools and the use of the balance of their revenue, after compensating the two Regents, to provide scholarships to Victoria College for boys who could not otherwise afford the fees. A suggestion that was not finally adopted until 1919.