Rev. Thomas Shield, B.D.


Rev. Thomas Shield became School Master of Pocklington School in 1807, following the resignation of Rev. Kingsman Baskett, M.A.

Shield's time at the school was fraught with controversy.  He spent much time away from the school (at least once, he absented himself for almost twelve months) and relied on the Usher (Assistant Master) to teach the children.  Unfortunately, the Usher was deaf and infirm and, in fact, the students "mumbled" when reciting their work to him as they knew he was too deaf to hear them!  Other complaints against Shield included that he had let the schoolroom to a carpenter for several years, resulting in it being used as a sawpit and that he allowed the School to get in a dilapidated state, despite being given a sum of money for repairs.  By 1817, the number of scholars at the School had reduced to one boy, although these numbers rose again following visitations of inquiry by St John's College.

In 1834, Shield appointed his son, Robert as Usher, but promptly quarrelled with him about salary.  This argument resulted in a law case in chancery, the Chancellor ordering the Master to take two-thirds and the Usher one-third.

However, the report below, transcribed from the original which appears to have been written in Robert's hand, outlines a far more bizarre argument which occurred between Robert and his father:

DDPS/35

Draft statement of Robert Shield, Usher of Pocklington School, re an incident involving a struggle with a pistol between him and his father, master of the school, as RS attemped to force an entry into the school

No date (pre-1848)

"The Examination of Robt. Shield who saith on Monday afternoon last 2 Boys attending the School called at my House in consequence of which I went to the School and found the outer door locked.  I had the Key of the Junior Door – I sent one of the Boys J.S. Silburn to Mr Shield the Master for the Key of the outer door the Boy returned says the Master refused to give up the Key or open the Door unless examt. would leave with the Master the key of the inner door.  Examt. had reasons for not giving up the Key.  Examt. sent into the Town for an Instrument to force the Door.  A large hammer was brt. to the Examt. previous to which Examt. went upon the premises in front of the School to get into the School if he could without forcing the Door and got in thro’ another Door which was open leading to the Garden behind.  Examt. was taking the Books out of the Window when Mr Shield the Master came to Examt. and askd him what business he had there told him he was a trespasser and he would send for a Constable to take Examt. into Custody this was before any attempt had been made to force the door.

Tho’ as a Member of the Corporation of the Pocklington Grammar School I considered this unjustifiable language Examt. left the premises immediately without making any reply.  Findng some Books were still left in the School Examt. proceeded to the outer Door which was lock’d and attempted to force it open with the hammer.  The Buildings are connected and Mr Shield almost immediately came to Examt. with his Housekeeper Examt. upon turning round saw Mr Shield the Master cocking a Pistol at about 3 yards distance.  And in raising his arm, when the pistol came in a line with Examts. head he made a rush upon him and forced his arm aside.  Examt. got behind the Master with his arms round him attempted to get the pistol from him and held him until some person came and took the Pistol out of his hand.  Mr Shield then went into his own house.  I am a Member of the Corporation of Pocklington Grammar School and am entitled to one undivided third part of the Estates.  I have been in the habit of constantly going to the School in discharge of my duties and have been twice interrupted by Mr Shield the Master but he never before prevented me going into the School.  For the last year the Usher alone has performed duty at the School except once for some portion of one hour.  Mr Shield had sent to Examt. for the Key to the Inner Door the day after the Vacation commenced which Examt. did not send.  Mr Boulby Bell applied to me for the Key.  Saturday was the usual day for the school breaking up.  There is a door into the Garden out of the lobby.  I received a note from the Master on the Friday saying he would attend the breaking up of the School on the Saturday I had not broken up the School when I received the note but dismissed the Boys that Evening.  The next morning I went to the School and lock’d the Inner Door for the purpose of preventing the Master going in.  I might have got into the School again by the Door I had entered but I should have been in danger of being taken by a  Police Officer and therefore preferr’d damaging the School Property.  I ordered the Door to be mended.  I considered the Door partly my property.  The Master claims the School House Garden and premises attached as his private property which I do not admit but have never unnecessarily trespassed upon it.  I had not the hammer when I seized Mr Shield but when he went into the House I broke the Door open and went into the School The Master never before offer’d any violence to Examt. He is about 70 years of age and I am 37.  I did not ask him for the situation of Usher.  I have had acts of great kindness from Mr Shield and much the contrary.  I kept the Inner Door of the School lock’d in consequence of the annoyance I received from the Master in discharge of my Duty.  I have done many Acts of kindness for the Master.  He is my Father.  I am a married Man.  I have lately been divorced from my Wife.  I have lived at Pocklington for the last four years during the greatest part of that time have represented myself as a single Man – but whatever my conduct may have been I attribute the bad part of it entirely to my Father."

It would seem that this case also went to court and that Robert was fined for damage to property by the magistrate!

Despite Shield's apparent lack of dedication, it is interesting to read this extract from a Directory entry of 1840:

"The School property produced in 1828 £1,020, and now about £800 per annum, and consists of land and buildings at Pocklington, Duggleby, Barmby, Wetwang, Lutton, Acklam and York, partly received in 1824 from Colonel Fullerton in exchange for two farms of 188 acres at Thrybergh.  The School has also £1.16s.8d. yearly from land at Wetwang left by a Rev. Thomas Mountforth.

The old School and Master's house were taken down in 1818, and rebuilt on a more commodious plan by the Rev. Thomas Shield, B.D., the present Master, who was inducted in 1807, when the school income was only about £100 per annum, and when he commenced a series of suits in Chancery, which terminated in 1820, and by which he succeeded in setting aside the long leases and small rents, under which all the school estates had previously been held.  It is not distinctly provided in the school-deeds, in what proportion it was originally intended the master and usher should share in the school revenues; but before 1807 it was usual for the former to receive two-thirds and the latter one-third of the income.

In consequence of the present master having alone incurred a considerable expense in recovering the possessions of the School, from the lessees, and thus increasing its yearly income from £100 to £800, it has been agreed that he shall allow the usher £200 per annum, and retain the rest for himself.  By the spirited and praiseworthy exertions of Mr. Shield, during an expensive litigation of thirteen years,the school has been raised to the rank of one of the most liberally endowed scholastic institutions in the kingdom.  It is free for classical learning to all the boys of Pocklington and the neighbourhood, on the payment of an entrance fee of five shillings."     (White's Directory of the East and North Ridings of Yorkshire, 1840)

However, it is likely that the information was supplied directly by Rev. Shield, himself!

Shield eventually resigned - under some pressure, no doubt - in 1848, at about 80 years of age and was followed by the Rev. Frederic James Gruggen, under whose leadership the School reached a very positive turning point.

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