How they laid the foundations of a good education for Honiton
Honiton museum curator Margaret Lewis
- Credit: Tim Dixon
In the 1890s Allhallows School in Honiton had a good reputation and was expanding rapidly.
They often had to hire a room in the Dolphin Hotel for functions. In April 1892 builders were invited to tender for the building of a new hall for Allhallows School. The hall was to be a new school room that we know as the Mackarness Hall today.
In June that year, Reverend Henry Knott Venn used this trowel to lay the foundation stone for the building. The hall was 60 feet long and 27 feet wide and had a specially built stage which would enhance the school’s dramatic productions. It was partly paid for by public subscription and partly by Reverend R A Byrde, the Headmaster. It was to be used for prize giving, plays and concerts and by the people of Honiton for many social functions.
The hall was named after John Fielder Mackarness. He was the London born son of a West India merchant and was educated at Eton and Merton. When the Earl of Devon nominated him to become the Rector of Honiton in 1855, he also became the Headmaster of Allhallows School. He left Honiton to take the role of Bishop of Oxford in 1870 until his death in Sussex in 1889.
Reverend Henry Knott Venn was for some years an assistant master at Allhallows School. Henry was a member of an ancient Payhembury family. His father, also named Henry, owned a tannery at Culver House in Payhembury. Henry was educated at Blundell’s School, Tiverton and St Peter’s College Cambridge and ordained in 1840 at Exeter. He served as curate in Harpford and Venn Ottery, Monkton, Combe Raleigh, and Sheldon and held the chaplaincy of the Honiton Workhouse for 30 years. His duties at the Workhouse were to read prayers and preach a sermon every Sunday and on another day of the week for the salary of £40 per year. Between 1877 and 1890 Henry acted as rural Dean for Dunkeswell and Honiton.
For decades Henry lived in Honiton High Street with his three spinster sisters Mary, Susan, and Frances. Henry died in 1910 at the age of 95 and is buried in Monkton churchyard. Many people are convinced that Henry Knott Venn’s spirit haunts the upper rooms of the Boston Tea Party (previously Monkton House) today.