The Origins of De Aston School – Thomas de Aston and the Spital Charity.
De Aston School takes its name from Thomas de Aston who was born at Wheaton Aston in Staffordshire. He became a canon at Lincoln Cathedral and Archdeacon of Stow.
The Spital Charity takes its name from Spital-in-the-Street, a village on the present day A15 road (Roman Ermine Street), just north of Caenby Corner and, at one time, the site of a spa.
In the early fourteenth century, Spital was the site of a chapel and a “hospital” which would either be a place of rest for travelers or an almshouse. In the course of the fourteenth century the hospital was given various endowments of property to provide income for the support of the hospital. By far the most important of these were the endowments of Thomas de Aston. The first was given in a charter dated 26th June 1397. This is known as “Thomas de Aston’s Charter”. This is a beautifully illuminated manuscript of 6000 words written in Latin and bears the seals of the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln Cathedral and Thomas de Aston.
This endowment provided for the support of seven almspeople at the hospital. Each was to be given 7d a week. Provision was also made for a Chaplain who was paid £5 a year and provided with a house. There was to be an annual inspection of the hospital arranged by the Dean and Chapter.
In 1399 Thomas further assigned considerable property in Skellingthorpe, Hemswell and Middle Carlton for the upkeep of the hospital and for another chaplain.
Thomas de Aston died in 1401.
The charity functioned uneventfully until Tudor times. It escaped the clutches of Henry VIII by being a charity but in the reign of Elizabeth I the Queen confiscated the property and gave it to one of her court favourites. It was sold on to Sir Christopher Wray, the Lord Chief Justice, who had a house and property at Glentworth. When his son inherited the property he demolished the buildings, an act that was challenged in the courts by the Master of the hospital. After litigation, a settlement was reached and a new chapel was built in 1616 and two new almshouses in 1620.
However, further disputes followed but by the 18th and 19th centuries the charity was producing substantial income, but this was not being properly used for the charitable purposes intended. The activities of Subdean John Pretyman, appointed Master of the Charity in 1814, attracted the attention of the Charity Commissioners who investigated the running of the Spital Charity and found that Pretyman and many before him had embezzled the Charity’s funds. Pretyman died before action could be taken against him.
The Spital Charity was then reorganized and it was decided that the considerable funds should be used for educational purposes. After some dispute over the rival claims of Lincoln and Market Rasen for the funds, it was decided in 1856 that a new Grammar School would be built at Market Rasen. De Aston School duly opened on 12th October 1863 with Revd Frederick Pentreath MA as Headmaster.