The Academy

Many may be unaware there was once a private school in Wreningham. It was in the mid-1800s and operated in the large house next door to the old chapel on the main road – and now known as Wreningham House.  Most of the information we have found is what the owners wrote (about themselves) in letters and advertisements.  Some of the language used is a little unfamiliar to modern ears!

The first we have discovered about Wreningham’s private school is from January 1850 when a Mr J W Pigg (understood to be James William Pigg) placed an advertisement in a Norfolk newspaper advising he had taken over a school in Wreningham, previously run by a Rev J Leeder.  Mr Pigg gave his background as a “Writing and Mathematical Master at the Norwich Grammar School; and formerly Classical and English Tutor at Paris”.  We should note that, at the time, there were two Norwich grammar schools so it’s not clear which one he was describing – although he references the “Free Grammar School” in a couple of places.

Previous newspapers record the earlier life of Mr Pigg.  In the mid-1820’s he had written a long letter to a Norwich newspaper about the benefits of the metric system over Imperial weights and measures.  At the time he appears to have been a young teacher at the St Simon’s Classical and Commercial Academy in Norwich.

In an 1833 advertisement, he can be seen offering his teaching / tutoring services – but still within St Simon’s.

In 1834, Mr Pigg proposed himself for the role of auditor in The Unions of Depwade, Loddon and Clavering in Norfolk and Blything and Wangford in Suffolk. He described his suitability as being based on his experience “during the last twenty years as teacher of accounts and other branches of education having successfully passed severe examinations therein…”.  This application was formally supported by Headmaster, H Banfather who then described the potential candidate as a “Teacher of Writing and Mathematics at the Free Grammar School”. We might presume his application was unsuccessful?

In an 1840 advertisement for St Simon’s, J W Pigg described how he was offering private tuition in Writing, Arithmetic, Geography, Mapping, Astronomy, The Globe, French etc having “formed a practical knowledge of first-rate boarding schools near London and improved by careful inspection of the best academies in France, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland and Rhenish Prussia”.

An 1846 advertisement states that he had relinquished his post at St Simon’s, and being engaged for only three afternoons per week at the Free (Grammar?) School he was able to instruct “a few additional private pupils” at either their homes or his.  He also appeared to be offering studies on the Greek Testament and Biblical Criticism.

After his 1850 arrival in Wreningham, he advertised to recruit pupils and was “gratefully acknowledging the kind recommendations of his intelligent friends in England and France and duly appreciating the general encouragement of the principal families in the vicinity of Wreningham”.  A prospectus and testimonials were available.  His stated goal was: “gentlemen prepared for college”.

In 1851, a long letter to the editor of a Norwich Newspaper was published about “Liberty at Rome” – signed: J W Pigg, Wreningham School.

The 1851 Census for Wreningham includes the following individuals living at a single address on the main road:

James W Piggs, Head of household, 60 years and School Master, born in Norwich
Caroline Pigg, wife, 52 years and Teacher, born in Bungay
Victoria Pigg, daughter, 17 years and Teacher, born in Sprowston
Horace Pigg, son, 14 years and at school, born in Norwich
Selina Pigg, daughter, 12 years and at school, born in Norwich
Heber Pigg, son, 9 years and at school, born in Norwich

Leon Rudault, pupil, 17 years and born in France
Antoine Demonchy, pupil, 14 years and born in France
NB It was also a “Day” School so there may have been non-resident pupils, too.

In 1852, he inserted an advertisement in the Illustrated London News.  This describes the Wreningham establishment as “very salubrious”, stating that “delicate boys” would be “restored to health and hilarity by the country air and kind treatment” with “large classrooms, dormitories, play-ground, cricket-field etc”.

However, in 1955, Mr Pigg appears to have handed the Wreningham establishment to a Mr Morrish “late assistant master at the Mile End School, Norwich” – with Mr Morrish being assisted by Mrs Morrish. Meanwhile, J W Pigg appears to have returned to St Simon’s, in Norwich.

The advertising for pupils continued.  Subjects covered by Mr and Mrs Morrish included: “Agricultural or Mercantile Pursuits together with Latin, French and German Languages.  Further subjects: “Drilling and Fencing” were added – we might assume not the types of “drilling and fencing” found at a 21st century DIY Store!

By 1858 it was all change.  Mr and Mrs Morrish seem to have gone and James William Pigg is back at the helm, in Wreningham.  Part of his educational establishment has become the “Wreningham Seminary” which is catering for “Young Ladies”.  This offers “useful, ornamental and fashionable studies: with plain and fancy needlework” which are under the control of the “Misses Pigg”;  presumably James Pigg’s wife/daughters.  Meanwhile, James Pigg is back in charge of the “Wreningham Academy” side of the operation: for Young Gentlemen.

… and then, suddenly, the advertising and letters-to-the-editor all stopped.  We can find nothing more about Wreningham’s private school.  Except ………

A slightly different version of history?

We have been made aware of one final newspaper article.  This is an obituary. It was published by “The Desert News” in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA on 1st March 1865.  The obituary provided the story of one Professor J W P Stannard (note the first 3 initials), born in Norwich, England on 4th May 1800 and recently deceased.

The professor’s life story, as given in this Salt Lake City newspaper, can be summarised as follows:

Professor Stannard had been educated in Norwich, England; he became a scholar in languages but his favourite study was mathematics.  He was master of the Classical and Commercial Academy, St Simon’s in Norwich and then (apparently?) became “head teacher at the Royal Grammar School”.  He inspected the best schools in France, Switzerland and the Netherlands.  “In Bourbon College, France he was made a professor (“professeur” perhaps?) of Languages and Mathematics.”

The obituary concludes by telling us: the professor, “finding his health failing, retired to a country residence, at Wreningham, 8 miles from Norwich, where he opened a boarding and day school.”  He left England in April 1861 and sailed to New York.  Whilst travelling across the USA, he was employed as a head teacher at a school in Illinois.  Visiting Salt Lake City, Utah, he met Brigham Young, (a key figure in the early Mormon church) who appears to have been instrumental in finding Professor Stannard his very last teaching job: at the 13th Ward School. “He leaves a wife and family, with many friends to mourn his loss.”

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