Iblogatory Notes (7)

Bread on waters

Like St Mary de Crypt church, the attached schoolrooms have seen many different uses during its long history, though not as dramatic as an ammunition store or an inn, or even as target practice for Royalist forces lodged at Llanthony!

A panorama of the schoolrooms as they are today

Their use as a school is given emphasis by the many carved initials of pupils on the wooden wall finishes. Almost all of them will continue to be historic confessions of guilt by the perpetrators in the restored building. Yet they are such clumsy and immodest claims to history that nevertheless attract awe and amusement from visitors. Those moments in time, like the toy cannons (found during the excavation of the floor) capable of firing a small loading of explosive, are all footprints of our human existence even if they do not rank alongside the other more important and exquisite archaeological finds in the church. ‘Boys will be boys’ is a long standing and surviving fact of life, and perhaps our rôle now is to consider what marks our generation will leave for future ones to contemplate. And to be fair to the early pupils from 1539 on they, armed with such refined educational aids as stylus and slate (also found during excavation of the floor) formed a strong tradition of education that continues with the modern Crypt School.

In the 1960’s the oriel room over the archway to Marylone was a dwelling place for a family, with use also of the rooms above in the attic, where the natural light was limited (as now) to two very small dormer lights. The lady of the household cared for an ailing husband and acted as a token caretaker for the other rooms. That arrangement ceased in the late 60’s; the conditions were regarded as inadequate and the family rehoused. The archway up until then had been closed by large wooden doors preventing access through it to Marylone. In 1969 it was opened up and there began a lease of Marylone to the City Council as a public right of way.

The oriel room was soon converted to a kitchen (well-appointed for its time), making the two main rooms available for community use. It was at that point of development that the stairs in the NW corner of the church were constructed as a second means of access/egress through a new doorway to the upper schoolroom, then named the Raikes Room. The lower room became known as the Cooke Room. As well as the community use to which they were put, the rooms were invaluable to the congregation to lay on celebratory parish events; children enjoyed especially sliding on the highly polished wood of the Cooke Room floor, with no risk of splinters.

In that strange way that history wends its way through fits, starts and unexpected directions, the schoolrooms, latterly a drain on PCC resources, have actually become a significant catalyst in the drive to see the Discover deCrypt project through. The quality and significance of this Tudor building has enabled it to stretch out a hand of assistance to St Mary’s, the church to which it owes its birth.


Churchwarden St Mary de Crypt Church

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