For a relatively small town, Basingstoke has had a lot of charitable townspeople.

Some left money for gowns or bread, others for education. One of the town’s secondary schools is known as Aldworth School, but who was Richard Aldworth?

Richard Aldworth was born around 1576 in Reading.

His mother, Jane South was the daughter of Clement South, a member of the Holy Ghost Guild, his father also Richard Aldworth.

Aldworth was apprenticed to the Skinners Company and rose to become a merchant, importing goods through the East India company.

He lived all his life in London and died a very wealthy man - in today’s money he left bequests worth more than £1 million.

In his will dated 1646, he left money for Christ’s Hospital School in London and to fund two Blue Coat schools in Reading and Basingstoke.

The £2,000 left to Basingstoke paid for a school in Cross Street for 10 poor boys, who would be housed, fed, clothed and educated. Then at the age of 16, apprenticed to learn a trade. They were to have a single bed each!

Basingstoke Gazette: Aldworth School after remodelling in 1718. By Peter DavisAldworth School after remodelling in 1718. By Peter Davis

Over the centuries, the charity altered and by 1908 it was paying for poor boys to go to Queen Mary’s Grammar School and for a lesser number of girls to go to the Girls’ High School (now Costello School). Grammar school education was not free until the 1944 Education Act.

The pupils’ progress was checked annually to make sure that they were doing well. The most well-known of these scholarships were awarded to John Arlott, the son of the cemetery keeper, and to George Willis, founder of our town’s museum and much more.

Another local lad, Rex Monger, went on to train as an artist, taught at what is now BCOT and painted the copy of a portrait of Richard Aldworth, which now hangs in the school.

Basingstoke Gazette: Rex Monger and Hazel Sweetman, both Aldworth scholars. Photo from 1994Rex Monger and Hazel Sweetman, both Aldworth scholars. Photo from 1994

The Blue Coat school was in Cross Street, its presence marked by the Bluecoat Boy statue, erected by Basingstoke Heritage Society in 1994. The educational charity still exists today.

Why are they called Blue Coat schools? Simply because they wore long blue belted gowns and yellow stockings.

Basingstoke Gazette: Reading Blue Coat pupils in Cross Street on September 29, 1994Reading Blue Coat pupils in Cross Street on September 29, 1994