The most difficult part of writing the history of QE, Crediton is getting started. This may be the result of writer's block, but in fairness there is a better explanation: owing to the lack of reliable written evidence, we do not know exactly the origins of any school attached to Crediton's Church of the Holy Cross. There are many stories of a school in Crediton before 950AD- indeed the opening line of the school song boldly states: "Saxon learning saw thy birth". However, this claim has as much validity as the claim that Oxford University (specifically University College) was founded by Alfred the Great in 872AD. Both Crediton and Oxford were important religious centres- in 909, the see of Sherborne was sub-divided by King Edward the Elder to create the sees of Romsey, Wells and Crediton. Crediton had a large monastery and church, therefore it seems safe to assume that at least writing, chanting and forms of service were formally taught to novices. Scholars and pilgrims may have been attracted to Crediton to listen to established teachers as happened in Wells and Oxford, and there may have been some form of school when the Collegiate Church of the Holy Cross was led by Bishop Leofric, who moved his seat to Exeter in 1050 because he felt safer within a walled city.
In medieval times, the Church of the Holy Cross was flourishing and began to benefit from the increased prosperity of the mid-Devon area. It seems unlikely that such a developing religious centre would not have continued the monastic form of education whilst adding a new "grammar" school to teach local boys to read and write Latin. There are two important pieces of evidence to suggest that Crediton had a medieval Grammar school:
1.In 1333, Bishop Stapledon appointed four young men as choristers- one of whom had "to instruct and take care" of younger choristers- i.e. act as their teacher in a formal school.
2.In 1360, Bishop Grandisson of Exeter complained to his Chapter that "boys from Grammar Schools of Exeter, Ottery and Crediton" had "performed indecent and obnoxious plays" on Christmas Day- dressing up as bishops and making fun of Church ceremonies.
QE therefore, might reasonably claim to have been founded some time in the fourteenth century, or even in the tenth century, and as a monastic school as early as the eighth century, What matters is that local young people would benefit from education was well established by Tudor times and Crediton was perfectly placed to exploit the new situation created by the Reformation and economic changes of the sixteenth century.
Western Road, Crediton, Devon, EX17 3LU Tel: 01363 773401
Queen Elizabeth’s School is now part of the Ted Wragg Trust. Tillhouse Road, Cranbrook, Exeter, EX5 7EE
Registered Company No. 08545109 (England & Wales)