Merchant Taylors School

3. Samuel Backler – lapsed schoolmaster of Ashwell

In which I describe a rather less than flattering account of the career of Samuel Backler as schoolmaster of Ashwell, Herts.

In my first blog I wrote about Samuel Backler, Vicar of Newnham, and later of Ashwell in Hertfordshire. Like many vicars, he took on the role of schoolmaster as well, assuming this role in 1683 while he was vicar of Newnham, a neighbouring parish. The school was owned by the Merchant Taylor’s Company of London and, according to an article about the school by David Short in the Spring 2010 edition of ‘Herts Past & Present’, Samuel Backler’s tenure as schoolmaster was not without its problems. The Minute books of the Company record that complaints were made about ‘severall misdemeanors’ committed by Mr Backler in around 1693 – the nature of which was not divulged. Indeed, a few years later the Company voted Mr Backler £25 to enlarge the schoolhouse – a building still standing in Mill Street, Ashwell. When Samuel Backler’s son Samuel went up to Cambridge, he was said to have been educated at Ashwell School – presumably by his father. But by 1718, two years before Samuel Sr’s death, the parishioners of Ashwell complained to the Merchant Taylors that there had been no school at Ashwell for several years, and that the schoolhouse was let out. A month after the Company sent a stern letter to Backler, suggesting that for the ‘notorious neglect of your office you be suspended from the said office of Master and the salary thereto belonging…’, his resignation was accepted by the Court of the Company.
The author of the article speculates that Samuel Backler, having become Vicar of Ashwell in 1714, may have moved from the schoolhouse to the Vicarage, and then let out the schoolhouse.
As to his neglect of teaching duties, no explanation is available.

The image of Ashwell School House is taken from: