The Thomas Adams School in Wem

The Grammar School Gates.

The Thomas Adams School was founded as a Grammar School in 1650 by Sir Thomas Adams Bt.who was born in Wem in 1586 and became Lord Mayor of London following a period as Sheriff. He was described as 'filling the office with great disinterestedness'. A monarchist, he sent £10,000 to Charles II in exile, and received a baronetcy on the return of the monarchy. He set up a free school for boys in his home town with income derived from property. Most of the income went to pay staff. The pupils were free to study classics and English, but had to pay for other subjects (e.g. writing and accounts were up to 10 shillings and sixpence a quarter). The Rev. William Boulton was the headmaster, and in 1850, there were only 6 pupils. In 1828, it was described as 'a free school liberally endowed'. The headmaster was the Rev. Francis Salt, and the 2nd. master, Thomas Kynaston.

It was rebuilt in 1776. In 1899, a chemical laboratory and lecture room was built. In 1900, there were 2 scholarships of £60 each at Christ Church Oxford, founded by Mr. Careswell.

In 1900, the school had an annual income of £269 and the school was presided over by Joseph Ohm M.A. and the school had 72 pupils and 40 boarders.Mr Ohm was the grandfather of the British actor, Peter Vaughan.

A photograph of Mr Ohm (front row right centre, is shown with his pupils. He was headmaster until 1911.

1917

By 1917,there were 52 pupils, but the number of boarders was only 8. G.L Bretherton M.A. of Trinity College Dublin was by this time listed the Headmaster of a school, though an acting headmaster, E.C. Carter BSc was apparently in charge. JL Rylance of Harper Adams taught horticulture, S.S. Jones taught Music and Sterling Brown taught Art. Major ASC Fothergill, Miss Bryant and Harry Reynolds were also listed as assistant teachers.

1926-34

G.L. Bretherton continued to preside over a school that had 116 pupils, including 20 boarders. A further scholarship of £70 donated by the chairman of the governers, Lt.Col. Eckersley,J.P. was available. By 1934,when Mr Bretherton retired, there was accommodation for 120 boys. A larger laboratory was built in 1932, together with a Fives court and a library. Ornamental iron gates had been erected in memory of those pupils who died in the 1914-18 war.

1934-1976

In 1934, J.S. Shields took over as Headmaster, a post he retained until 1947. This was followed by contined expansion until, in 1976, the Grammar School and the Secondary Modrn school in Lowe Hill road united under the headship of Edward Aspinall and became the Adams School. The old grammar school buldings became the sixth form centre.

Below is an image of a letter written by Sir Thomas Adams, which includes his signature.

We are grateful to Enid Smith of Shrewsbury for supplying the old photograph, which were found in a trunk of documents.

Below that is an account of one of the Adams School's famous pupils of the 20th century, Peter Jones as recounted by his cousin, Ruby Musgrave to the Wemian magazine. Our thanks to the magazine for allowing us to reproduce the article here.

Peter Jones

The actor Peter Jones was born in Wem. Peter’s father William Jones who was a Cabinet Maker and Antique Collector, had a shop in Aston Street.
Ruby Musgrove and Peter were both only children and spent a lot of their early days together. Peter Jones was very fond of Ruby’s father Harry Jones. On a recent programme on Radio 4, “An Audience with Peter Jones,” Peter told the audience that his Uncle Harry had encouraged him greatly in his early acting career and had lent him a suit to play his first professional role at the Grand Theatre in Wolverhampton.

When Peter began to appear in the West End Theatres, Ruby and her father would be invited down to London to watch the performance and then taken backstage to meet the Cast.
Peter Jones became a household name when he starred in “The Rag Trade” which was one of the first regular situation comedies on TV and one of the most popular that people remember. Peter Jones also made a number of films. A favourite film of his was called Private Angelo, which was shot on location in Italy. On the set he met a fellow actor Peter Ustinov and the two of them became lifelong friends. Peter went on to write his own plays, one of which starred Sir Richard Attenborough.
Peter Jones voice became immortalised as ‘The Book’ when he read “The Hitch - Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy,” by Douglas Adams. Of course all Radio 4 listeners will remember Peter Jones for being a founder member and star of the panel show “Just a Minute.”

Along with the chairman Nicolas Parsons, Derek Nimmo, Kenneth Williams, Clement Freud, a classic cast entertained us all with their wit and skill of not repeating words for one minute on a chosen subject. Peter was a master with words and so full of fun it was always enjoyable to listen to.
Peter went to New York appearing on Broadway and while there met his wife Jerry, they were married for over forty years. Jerry died last year. They had three children, Selina, Charlie and William.
Peter often came back to Wem and was here just a few months before he died. He always stayed with Ruby, who told me he was a very warm person to be with and everyone enjoyed his company. He liked to visit old friends Alec Turner, George Morris, and Freda and Vera Clawley.
Peter once came to present the prizes at an Adams School Speech Night. He told the students how happy he had been as a pupil of that school. In fact one of his treasured possessions had been presented to him by the Headmaster after a school sports day. The event had been for all the boys to run a number of laps of the school field. Peter told the students he was certainly no athlete but being a determined young soul managed to complete the course, but well after the older boys before him. The staff and parents encouragingly cheered him to the finish and he passed the finishing line to warm applause. He told the students that he remembered enjoying being the centre of attention and especially the applause. Anyway the next day in assembly the Headmaster presented the Winners’ Trophies and Peter was called to receive a special prize for endurance. At this point during the Speech Night, Peter took from his jacket pocket the Trophy, a silver egg cup.

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