Where it all started

Henry Box was a merchant with business interests in the City of London. He came from an Oxfordshire family and attended Oriel College as a young man. In 1606, two year before his death, he founded this school.


The endowment of a Grammar School was a common form of public benefaction in the 16th and 17th Centuries. The school and its site were placed in the care of the Wardens of the Grocers’ Company with the Provest and Senior Fellows of Oriel College being its Visitors.


The building consisted of a central hall, the school room, running north-south with cross wings at each end forming accommodation for the master and usher.


The recent works were occasioned by work carried out about fifteen years ago when the lime render on the outside was replaced with cement. This stopped moisture escaping from the wall and caused the timber lintels over the windows to be attacked by Death Watch beetle. All this render has been stripped and replaced by new lime render in the old manner. The opportunity was also taken to repair some of the dressed stone and to relate the roof.


The process of stripping gave the opportunity to look closely at the way the school was constructed. It was built very simply, giving the impression that the builders were more used to smaller buildings. Even so, it was finished to ape the more expensively constructed buildings and is fashionable for its period in its general external design.


The walls are stone rubble, roughly squared and laid in mud. They were finished inside with a thick coat of earth daub mixed with chopped straw to bind it together and a thin coat of lime and hair on top of that. The outside was also covered with some form of render, but not enough survives to be certain of the exact thickness. There is evidence suggesting that the front wall may have had a different finish from the rest of the building. On some of the window jambs there is a skim of lime with scribe marks which suggest a thinner coating of render, possibly with a flat surface and lines scribed to make it look like dressed stone.


The method of building above the openings in the walls seems to derive from the tradition of earth walling rather that stone. Instead of relieving arches, there are timber lintels set on the outer and inner faces of the walls with other timbers spanning across between them through the wall to form a kind of raft. There are also other timbers built into the walls in an attempt to strengthen them at potential weak points.