In the early 18th century the building was repaired and opened as a school for the ‘poor boys of Thatcham and surrounding parishes’.
The school went through various stages of repair, use and disuse over the following 150 years.
The school obtained its ‘Bluecoat’ name after the blue coats that were worn by its pupils.
The following text is taken from “Thatcham, Berks, and Its Manors” by Samuel Barfield. Published 1901.
The Founding of the Bluecoat School
Lady Frances Winchcombe was the widow and relict of Sir Henry Winchcombe of Bucklebury. Berks, knight and baronet, and a daughter of the Earl of Berkshire. By deed dated 30th June, 1707 (in which she is described as then of Stratfieldsea), she gave to trustees about half an acre of ground in Chapel Street, Thatcham, with an old decayed chapel standing thereon, with directions to convert the same into a school-house for the education of thirty poor boys born, or to be born, or whose parents should live in the parishes of Bucklebury, Thatcham, and Little Shefford, Berkshire.
She directed that 20l. per annum should be paid to the schoolmaster as salary; another 20l. per annum in placing out thereof the boys as apprentices to some handicraft; 10l. per annum to provide Bibles, Common Prayer-books, the Whole Duty of Man, and other useful books; 40s. per annum for repairing the school; and 20s. per annum for providing a yearly dinner for the trustees; making in all 53l. per annum.
In order to raise the necessary funds Lady Winchcombe charged by separate deed certain lands belonging to her at Westport, Wiltshire, with the payment of the 53l. per annum.
By the terms of the trust deed she reserved to herself during her life the right to appoint the schoolmaster, and also nominate yearly the three poor boys as apprentices. After her death, upon a vacancy occurring in the office of schoolmaster, the trustees were directed to appoint “a discreet and sober person, being a member of the Church of England as by law established, and of the age of twenty-four years or upwards, who should be well skilled in the English tongue, and capable to instruct and teach youth to read and understand English, to write and cast accounts so as to qualify them for some honest calling,” a not very comprehensive curriculum according to our modern School Board requirements, but well fitted, no doubt, at that time, to carry out Lady Frances Winchcombe’s benevolent intentions.
The trustees were to meet at least once a year to visit the school, inspect and settle the accounts, and to consider other matters relating to the charity, and, in the words of the trust deed, “to take care that her ladyship’s pious and charitable ends and purposes be neither abused nor frustrated.”
The first trustees were Henry St. John, the younger, of Bucklebury, esq., Robert Parker of Shellingford, berks, esq., John Head of Langly, Berks, esq., Richard Lyford of Rusdeans, berks, gentleman, John Cock, vicar of Thatcham, Richard Simeon, vicar of Bucklebury, and Abraham Scolfield of Bucklebury, gentleman; who were to be visitors and directors of the school, with power to make rules and orders for its good government.