Newtown High School has two campuses; one in Newtown (the Newtown Campus) and the other in Presteigne (the John Beddoes Campus).
John Beddoes School, founded in 1565, was the second oldest Grammar School in Wales and the first to have been founded from private means, as distinct from Church property.
It is thus a very old school and we can perhaps realise its age better if we remember that it was founded in the reign of Queen Elizabeth the First, the year after Shakespeare was born and 23 years before the defeat of the Spanish Armada.
John Beddoes was a wealthy woollen manufacturer or 'clothier' and he provided for the establishment of a Free Grammar School in Presteigne 'to bring up the youth ..... in virtue, discipline and learning'. The school was to be maintained from the rents of certain properties in Presteigne and the neighbouring parishes. Of the original endowment, 73 acres remain to provide an income for the school today.
The school is closely connected with the Curfew, for when John Beddoes founded his school he left rent from a field known today as Bell Meadow to pay the ringer and stipulated that if the Curfew should cease to be rung then the school should be closed and its endowments reverts to his heirs.
Until shortly before the First World War the Curfew was rung for half an hour at 8pm each evening, but since then the time of the ringing has been reduced to five minutes from 8.20pm to 8.25pm. The tradition continues today with financial help from Mike Oldfield, of 'Tubular Bells' fame.
The original site of the school was in St. David's Street which then extended along what is now Church Street. The precise location is not known, though from the Church Rate Book of 1827 it would appear to have been next to Garrison House, which was the Headmaster's house for much of the nineteenth century.
The school survived many vicissitudes of fortune, no doubt it closed during outbreaks of plague in 1593 when some 350 died in the town and during the outbreaks of 1610 and 1657 when hundreds more perished. The school building itself was destroyed in the great Presteigne fire of 1681 along with much more of the rest of the town. On occasions, too, neglect on the part of the schoolmaster or of the trustees took its toll.
Throughout the nineteenth century the number of pupils, all boys, attending the school fluctuated between 20 and 70. At times the school premises, which until 1869 consisted of a single room, 30 feet by 18, must have been grossly overcrowded.
Then in 1869 the school was transformed into Presteigne County Secondary School, moving into new buildings on a site previously occupied by the County Gaol, the gaol bell being used as the school bell until 1969. The admission of girls to the school since 1902 and pupils from Knighton since 1921, together with the increasing recognition on the part of both government and the public of the value of secondary education, led to a steady increase in the number of pupils during the twentieth century.
In the meantime, at Knighton, another school had started its life in 1939, when buildings were constructed to house a Central School intended to augment opportunities for secondary education in eastern Radnorshire. The outbreak of war led to the shelving of the scheme and for the duration of the war the buildings housed ammunitions works. With the coming of peace in 1945 work began to convert buildings to serve their original purpose and in 1947 Knighton Secondary Modern School received its first pupils. In 1970 the two schools were very successfully amalgamated into the mixed 11-18 County School.
In April of 2014, John Beddoes School closed, to reopen as the John Beddoes Campus of Newtown High School, maintaining the name and secondary education in this rural part of Radnorshire.
Since becoming part of Newtown High School, the John Beddoes Campus has received extensive refurbishment, improvement and numerous modernisations works. It is part of a modern and vibrant school with up to date teaching, ICT, musical, sports and extra curricular facilities.
The John Beddoes Trust Fund
John Beddoes was a wealthy woollen manufacturer who founded a free school in Presteigne in 1565.
As a wealthy land owner he set up a trust fund to help pay for the education of children in East Radnorshire. The trust fund is still in operation to this day awarding grants for education purposes to both individuals and to departments of the John Beddoes Campus of Newtown High School.
There are three Trustees, Beverley Baynham; Chair, Sonja Parg, Cllr. Peter Medlicott, and Mrs Rosemary Evans is the administrator, with meetings being held three times a year. The Trust fund is a registered charity and completely separate to both Powys County Council and Newtown High School.
The Trust Fund makes grants for educational purposes. This may involve funding travel, the purchase of books, course material and equipment such as computers. Under the terms of the Trust, these grants are available not only to pupils currently attending John Beddoes School but also to other individuals in respects of secondary education and of further or higher education, as follows:
• Secondary Education
Grants can be made to pupils attending a secondary school outside the area of the former County of Radnor shire who are, or one or both of whose parents are resident, or were last resident if now deceased, in the area of the former County of Radnorshire with a preference, in the case of those who attend a school outside the area of the former County of Radnorshire, for pupils with special needs.
• Further or Higher Education
Grants can be made to former pupils who have attended John Beddoes School for a period of two years, having one or both parents resident, or last resident if now deceased, on the area of the former County of Radnorshire.
Grants can be made to former pupils who have attended for a period of two years secondary schools outside the area of the former County of Radnorshire, having one or both parents resident, or last resident if now deceased, in the area of the former County of Radnorshire with a preference in the case of those who attended a school outside the area of the former County of Radnorshire for pupils with special needs.
If you wish to apply for a grant there is a short application form you must fill in which you can download from the links below.