The Old Trust may seem somewhat mysterious to some of you, -who are they? -what do they do? Perhaps many people will not know that they instigated, founded and were “The QEGS School Governing Body” from 1585 to 1879 a period of 294 years. For voluntary enterprises such as the building of a School at that time to be successful, the following criteria were required :-
In 1585 Queen Elizabeth had been on the throne for 27 years and it was less than 50 years since Henry V111 had broken away from Rome and the catholic faith.
History reveals that Ashbourne and the surrounding villages, were notorious for the number of people who still followed the catholic faith, although of course they were not alone in this respect. To overcome this resistance to change from Catholic to protestant the government was very keen to educate the ordinary citizen into the ways of the New Church of England. The government’s view was “That all persons should be trained to adopt the religious views of the government”. As Religious Education was a principal subject taught in schools at that time what better way was there of promoting the Church of England than through the younger generation in the schools for the good of the Country and for future generations.
This idea struck a chord with many people and education coupled with the new Church of England, enjoyed a popular revival in the country in Elizabeth 1 reign. Sir Thomas Cokaine was the local squire,in his 60’s, an old soldier, and a leading and respected member of the County Gentry. He earned his knighthood in 1544 for his services in the Scottish Wars of Henry V111. In 1558 he contributed £50 towards the expenses of defeating the Spanish Armada. His Coat of Arms – the Three Cockerels- was adopted as the school emblem in the 19th century.
Along with other gentry a successful petition was presented to Queen Elizabeth 1 requesting a Royal Charter to build the school, it contained such supporting statements as :-
"For wante of Scholes the youth of the cuntrye followe the olde traditions of Men and rather cleave to papistry than to the truthe of the Gospelle. For wante of Scholes they know not God or her Majestys Lawes, but are given over to wickedness and vyces as swearinge, Drunckedness, whordome, idleness and such lyke to the great displeasure of God, contempte of her Heighness and to the great damage and hurte of the comonwealthe."
The Royal Charter was granted in 1585. The school building was completed in 1607. It had taken over 22 years from inception to completion, and the magnitude of the task of the Founders to build such a marvellous example of Elizabethan architecture in a relatively small town such as Ashbourne was immense.
The Seal inscription of the school depicts the presentation of the petition to her Majesty
With the passing of the Education Act at the end of the Victorian age the County Councils became responsible for secondary education. In 1904 it was originally decided to demolish the Old School and to rebuild it on the same site, but following opposition it was eventually decided to erect an entirely new building on sloping fields to the north east of the town on land owned by the Old Trust. On the 23rd August, 1909, the new school was formally opened by His Grace the Duke of Devonshire and the school moved from the Old Grammar School to its present site on the Green road, there were 71 pupils of whom 17 were girls.
From its inception in 432 years ago to the present day the Old Trust made up of 15 men – three Governors along with twelve Assistant Governors & Trustees, has existed for the benefit of QEGS. It still provides Foundation members of the School Governing Body along with providing land for the extensive school playing fields.
Along with that the Trust owns 46 Alms-houses in Ashbourne recently building two disabled friendly properties in the town.