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Pre 1895

The Early Years

The Founder

William Dauntsey, born in Wiltshire in 1483, was the youngest son of four, and went to London at an early age to try his fortune in trade. There he was apprenticed to William Lambert, Master of The Mercers' Company, and completed his apprenticeship in 1504. He was elected Master of the Mercers' in 1531, and became an extremely prosperous man, making frequent purchases of lands and houses in Wiltshire, London and elsewhere. On 10th March 1542, he signed the will by which The Mercers' Company later received his London properties, with the obligation to maintain the School and Almshouses which his executors were to build in West Lavington.

The First School

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Not a great deal is known about the School from its beginnings in the 16th century until the late 1800s. The School was actually started in 1553 in the old building, which still stands opposite the Church in the High Street of West Lavington. The first master was named Adam Waters.

In 1878, dissatisfaction was growing about the School, probably against the background of rising awareness of the importance of education. A group calling themselves 'The Memorialists' submitted a list of complaints about the running of the School, and they were supported by the Leader of the Commons, W.H. Smith - a household name now - who delivered a powerful speech on their behalf in the House in 1887.

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Eventually, 17 years later, a new school came into being. Joseph Chamberlain, a radical MP, prevailed upon The Mercers' Company to make available a sum of money to establish an agricultural school. This was to offer opportunities suited to a rural area, for boys of all classes, since scholarships would be available for pupils from the local elementary school, though others would be required to pay fees of £30-£50 a year. Thus it was that the Dauntsey's Agricultural School came to be built and opened in 1895.