education in yeovil

Classical & Commercial academy

An early school in Yeovil with an unusual line of ownership


James Morse ran a boarding and day school he called a 'Classical, Mathematics, English, French and Commercial School' in Mansion House, Kingston, between 1834 and 1854. According to the 1846 Tithe Apportionment the building was owned by Susan Collins, Morse was the tenant.

Born in Taunton in 1804, James Morse began his teaching career at the age of 19 in 1823 and was a member of the Yeovil Freemasonry Lodge of Brotherly Love from 1828. He placed an advertisement in the 9 June 1834 edition of the Western Flying Post (see Gallery) announcing the opening of his new 'Classical and Commercial School' in Yeovil.

However it appears that James Morse was not the first owner of the school and actually acquired it through his wife.

In the summer of 1839, at Beaminster, Dorset, James married Grace Ann Pope (1800-1871). This was Grace's third marriage; she was the daughter of John Pope (1778-1851) and Betty Elizabeth née Neale (1782-1847) and had been born at Kincombe, Toller Porcorum, Dorset. She had been married to Edward Genge (1799-1825) on 2 July 1822 at Toller Porcorum and then to George Rossiter (1800-1835) on 29 June 1826, at Tarrant Rushton, Dorset. She had a daughter Elizabeth Mary Genge (1823-1855) by Edward Genge and two children by George Rossiter; Alonzo Pope Rossiter (1829-1856) and Sophia Rossiter (b1832), both born in Yeovil. She and James Morse would have a daughter, Dinah Maria (b1840, Yeovil).

Edward Genge was born in 1799 and baptised on 19 October 1800 at Pendomer, Somerset. It transpires that Edward Genge had originally founded the school but he died in 1825. His widow, Grace, then married George Rossiter the following summer of 1826. However George was already running the school as early as January 1826 when he placed an advertisement in the  Dorset County Chronicle's edition of 5 January 1826 (see Gallery) for the Classical and Mathematical School "conducted by the late Mr Genge."

E Watts' map of 1829 notes Mansion House as "Mr Rossiter's Premises" and in the 'Academies and Schools' section of Pigot's Directory of 1830 George Rossiter's "Gentleman's Boarding Academy" was listed there. George was also a member of the Yeovil Freemasonry Lodge of Brotherly Love, being initiated on 18 April 1826. He remained in the lodge certainly until 1834. He was listed in the Yeovil poll books of 1832 and 1834 by virtue of being an "occupier of lands" in Kingston. 

George Rossiter died in 1835 but was clearly unwell since, as noted above, James Morse was advertising 'his' new school in June 1834.

By the time of his advertisement of 13 July 1840 edition of the Western Flying Post (see Gallery), Morse's school had a resident French tutor and mathematics and French had been incorporated into the school's title - now advertised as an academy.

In the 1841 census James, his wife Grace and their baby daughter Dinah were listed at Mansion House (albeit not named as such) together with three servants and 26 resident pupils. James gave his occupation as schoolmaster.

He advertised his school in the June 1843 edition of the Sherborne Journal and in a July 1849 edition of the Yeovil Times. His classes also included the likes of land surveying and cartography and there were weekly lessons in chemistry by a visiting tutor for the agricultural students.

In the 1851 census 47-year old Morse was listed as a schoolmaster and was living in Mansion House with his wife Grace, her two children by George Rossiter (Sophia and Alonzo) and their daughter, Dinah. Also in residence was a teacher, Charles Green aged 21 and three domestic servants. Additionally there were 23 resident pupils.

In the 5 January 1854 edition of the Sherborne, Dorchester and Taunton Journal it was noted that Mr Morse was re-opening the school on 18 January. However in the 18 May edition of the Journal it noted that Morse was vacating Mansion House and relocating at Fullands House, Taunton.

James Morse died in Taunton in the winter of 1857. Grace died in Lewisham, London, in 1871.




The advertisement placed in the 5 January 1826 edition of the Dorset County Chronicle noting he was opening the school 'conducted by the late Mr Genge'.


By the time of this advertisement in the 15 July 1830 edition of the Dorset County Chronicle, George Rossiter had restyled the school with the addition of 'Commercial' in its title.


An advertisement placed in the 9 June 1834 edition of the Western Flying Post by James Morse.


By the time of this advertisement of 13 July 1840 edition of the Western Flying Post, Morse's school had a resident French tutor.


Mansion House photographed in 2013. The original house which housed James Morse's academy is at centre with a later nineteenth century addition to the right (Magnolia House) and an early twentieth century addition at left.