The History of
history of the Manning's School dates back to a quarter
of a century before the actual setting up of the school
when in 1710, Thomas Manning, a Westmoreland planter,
bequeathed a gift of land for the setting up of a
free school in the parish of Westmoreland.
legal formalities which facilitated the effecting
of his will were formalised in 1738 when the Jamaica
Assembly made this possible by the passing of an Act,
Eleventh George II chapter 9, after which the Free
School was formally established.
is interesting to note that the school was established
on the present site near Savanna-la-mar instead of
on the lands left by Manning at Burnt Savannah Pen
at the northern end of the George's Plain.
1780, a hurricane did extensive damage to the school
and the Board petitioned the House of Assembly for
help to effect repairs.
the years progressed, the 20th Century led to the
reorganization of the School into a Modern Grammar
School. The oldest existing part of the School which
was built in the early 20th Century is known as the
Thomas Manning Building, named in honour of the School's
founder. It is the most outstanding building on the
entire School property and is currently used as library
Thomas Manning Building is a delightful structure
which is constructed from timber and the rest on a
masonry plinth. Typical of the Georgian architecture,
the building is perfectly symmetrical in elevation.
However, for its function in the tropics, the Architect
has added several features. On all sides the building
has been fitted with deep verandas to add shade. The
vented steep gable roof expels hot air, and a cupola
with fixed jalousies provide relief for any warm air
trapped in the roof. The features combined have created
a perfect example of colonial architecture.
(Article courtesy: Jamaica National Heritage Trust
The Thomas Manning Building
1710 - 1800
the period before emancipation there was a lack of
public education in Jamaica as well as in other British
West Indian Colonies. This problem was created by
a society which allowed personal prestige to the white
plantocracy who wherever possible sent their children
to Europe for an education or alternatively employed
the services of private tutors. This meant that little
or no concern was given to the provision of local
schools since the negroes were generally slaves and
the coloureds were not given the type of Consideration
which would lead to the provision of schools for them.
Although the idea of establishing free public schools
was scoffed at by the wealthy a number of donations
were left by wealthy planters sympathetic to the cause
of education especially for poor whites.
One such donation which found fruition was that of
Thomas Manning a slave owner of Burnt Savannah in
Westmoreland who by his Will of 1710 left certain
real and personal property which were to be appropriated
to the use and encouragement of a "tutor or tutors
and the keeping of a free school, in the parish of
Westmoreland.. to instruct and educate the youth"
The bequest was left idle for some time and in 1738,
an Act, Eleventh George 11 Chapter 9 was passed by
the Jamaican Assembly constituting the Manning's Trust
and allowing for the erection of a building for the
purpose stated in the will of Thomas Manning. The
erection of the school took place in the same year
on a piece of land one mile from the centre of Savanna
La Mar the capital of the Parish and not on the 96
acres of land owned by Manning at Burnt Savannah Pen.
In July 1738 the school bearing the name of its benefactor
began operation under the supervision of a Board of
Trustees called the Trustees of Manning's Free School.
Their responsibilities included the appointment of
a Master fit to teach the youth, the planning of a
curriculum, deciding on the number of students to
be admitted and the supervision of financial as well
as other important matters relating to the school.
The first subjects taught were reading, writing, arithmetic,
Latin; Greek and Mathematics. At this time there was
a single tutor.
The first students were called foundationers and the
age of entry was 9 years and the age of departure
14. The Trustees were empowered to remove any student
who showed slow progress or poor conduct and they
could allow those excelling academically to remain
after they had arrived at the age of fourteen.
For the rest of the century the School continued to
serve the white community providing for some children
their first exposure to formal education. In his work
on Creole Society in Jamaica Dr. Edward Braithwaite
makes the following observation. "In 1780 Manning's
Free School in Savanna La Mar was destroyed in the
Westmoreland hurricane. On the 6th July 1781 the Trustees
of the school presented a petition to the Assembly
for a grant of £405. On the grounds that the
school house was utterly demolished and the offices
there at were very much damaged"
the records do not say whether or not the money was
granted the school record of Headmasters show no break
in the list for that time and we are left to conclude
that by one means or the other the school was rebuilt
and continued to operate changing four Principals
by the end of the century.
In 1801 the Headmaster Rev. W. Stewart retired from
his post which he held for 8 years. His successor
Richard Combauld served for twenty-two years retiring
His retirement made way for the appointment of Rev.
Daniel Fiddler C.D. as the first Headmaster on record
with university qualifications.
Fiddler served for a term of forty years 1823 - 1863
during which Manning's became the leading school in
the island with its reputation extending to other
parts of the West Indies. This period is outstanding
for four main reasons.
(a) It was characterized by a significant increase
in the number of students on roll
There was a marked improvement in the standard and
quality of education offered.
It saw the opening regardless of colour, of the door
of the school to all students
The school lost its parochial character and began
to draw students from neighbouring parishes such as
St. Elizabeth, St. James and Hanover. Just before
Rev. Fiddler's arrival a resolution was made to admit
"six children of colour" This resolution
was carried into effect on Fiddler's arrival and by
1824 there were 18 coloured children on roll.
1835 one year after The Bill of Emancipation was put
into effect Rev. Fiddler was instrumental in abolishing
all colour distinctions in the school. Although this
was done three full years before the coming of full
freedom it is said that Rev. Fiddler's gesture was
designed to increase enrollment-rather than to promote
equality or to make education available for blacks
gesture was almost negated by the fact that be made
no attempt to alter the curriculum nor the entrance
examination which, the newly freed blacks were hardly
expected to pass since they were just being exposed
to formal education in some cases.
For over 100 years the school had built up an image
as a white institution and this was to change very
slowly. In 1848 of the 110 students on roll 100 were
white with the other ten being coloured.Through hard
work however blacks began to form more than twenty-five
percent of the student population by the 1870s. Although
there were over 150 private students on roll in 1834
there was a gradual decrease in numbers. This was
due in part to the emancipation of the negroes on
surrounding Estates who were no longer available to
take food into town to the children who were boarders.
The subjects taught to the foundation students included
English, English grammar, History of England, Enfields
Speaker, Writing, Arithmetic and the reading of the
Bible. Only those students interested in entering
the higher professions of Law and the Ministry showed
any interest in the Classics.
During Rev. Fiddler's term of office the school was
also opened to charity or poor pupils but their presence
was offensive to the wealthier parents who did not
wish their children to be associated with those whom
they termed 'mere charities. In an attempt to cope
with this situation, the Rev. Fiddler separated the
desks of the private pupils from those of the "charities"
and prevented any association between them outside
The addition of a girls school, the admission of private
pupils who paid school fees and the opening of an
elementary department to serve as a feeder for the
high school are other notable achievements under Rev.
In 1844 of the 175 students on roll some were private
students paying 16 shillings per quarter as well as
There was one entrance examination for boys and girls
except that for the girls, Latin, Algebra and Euclid
Before the end of the century dress-making was introduced
The absence of an elementary school in the Parish
caused the school authorities to offer a kind of elementary
education for the first formers.
The popularity of the school at that time was expressed
by various persons. In 1848 the Rector of the Parish
addressed a letter to the Secretary of the Board of
Education in which he claimed that the only daily
schools are "The National School and Manning's
School and yet the district bears advantageous comparison
with many others on account of its good fortune in
possessing so excellent and deservedly popular an
The examiners report to the Governor in 1860 was equally
"Two of these institutions (Number 8, Manning's,
number 14 - The Presbyterian Mission School in Montego
Bay) are well known and stand in such high repute
that it might be regarded as presumptuous in me to
offer any remarks in condemnation of these schools."
Rev. Fiddler was followed by two other Ministers Rev.
Pearce B.A. 1863 - 64 and Rev. E.Clarke 1864 - 80.
In 1879 the Jamaica Schools commission drew up a new
scheme for the school providing for the maintenance
of a Boys and a Girls school providing a good middle
class education to the Cambridge Local examination
standard. The amending of the Bye Laws left only 15
boys and 15 girls to be provided with free education.
new scheme was introduced in 1883, reorganizing the
school into a modern grammar school with both classical
and Commercial Schools.
In 1885 the first School Library was opened with about
70 books. The examiners reports during this time showed
satisfactory performance in the different subjects
offered. Under W.A.Milne, 1887- 1903, Agriculture,
Book-Keeping and Botany were added to the curriculum.
A regular feature of school life during this time
was the Speech Day and Inspectors Report.)
1901 - 1979
Although the twentieth century has witnessed the greatest
amount of change in the school the first quarter saw
the school operating with fairly narrow limits with
regards to size and activities..
In 1901 a new scheme was drawn up by the Schools Commission
and approved by the Governor. It stipulated that Foundationers
be between the ages of 9 and 14 and that paying students
would continue to pay £8 annually or £6
in case of students from the same family. No scholar
should be admitted under 9 years or kept over 16 years
unless showing marked ability and recommended to the
Trustees by the Headmaster.
In 1903 a junior department was started in the Headmaster's
residence which was then a two story wooden building
adjoining the school compound. The Castle as it was
called was supervised and taught by a second Mistress
with the assistance of the Headmaster.
There were 70 pupils on roll in 1907 and for the next
32 years the number varied upwards and downwards from
this figure reaching a peak of 95 between 1914 and
1919 and 57 in 1939.
decline in numbers was due to the opening of schools
such as St. Hildas, Munro and Jamaica College in other
parts of the island which offered superior boarding
facilities and instruction in Science subjects.
The period around 1915 saw the erection of the old
Building, the present Library and the Headmistresses
house (now the Personal Development Centre) as well
as the 'buggy house" (the old Library) These
buildings have remained as outstanding landmarks on
the Manning's Compound.
THE WILL OF THOMAS MANNING
OF BURNT SAVANNAH WESTMORELAND
I give and bequeath unto my Trusty Friends Rowland
Williams Gent, Capt. George Goodwin, Doctor Hugh Kirkpatrick
and William Dorrill and their several heirs for the
use and trust hereafter mentioned forever thirteen
Negroes and an Indian named Tom, Ruan, Chibba, Pica,
Daniel, Margaritta, Hagar, Dido, Isaac, Rose, Kate,
Pruna-ss Maria and Dick with their increase and also
my run of land in Burnt Savannah in the parish of
Westmoreland and said Island bounding upon the lands
of William Claver Esq. John Goarly, John Stevenson
and Capeborratta River with all the houses, buildings
and Plantations upon the same together with one Penn
of neat Cattle upon the said land being about the
number of one hundred head with two riding horses,
two mares and two colts which said slaves labour with
the produce of my land and profits of my Penn of Cattle
my will is that the Benefit and income arising from
the same my trustees before hand shall appropriate
to the use and encouragement of a Tutor or Tutors
and the keeping of a free school, in the Parish of
Westmoreland in the afore said Island to instruct
and educate youth."