Several centuries ago, a young John Percyvale set out from Macclesfield to make his fortune. Like Dick Whittington, he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, acquiring a knighthood, a rich wife, powerful friends and a spell as Lord Mayor of London.
At the end of his life, his thoughts turned to immortality: he would endow a chantry school in his home town, where there were ‘copyous plenty of Children … and vertue right fewe Techers and scolemaisters’, and the scholars would pray daily for his soul. The school was established in the Savage Chapel of Macclesfield Parish Church shortly after Sir John’s death, with William Bridges as the first schoolmaster-priest. The year was 1502.
In 1547, when the school was a mere 45 years old, its fate hung by a thread. It had survived Henry VIII’s reign, only to be threatened by the Duke of Northumberland’s closure of chantries under Edward VI. But it had influential allies. Edmund Sutton, nephew of one of Sir John’s old cronies, convinced the Duke of the need for a school. Re-founded under a new charter, it rose again in 1552 as ‘the free Grammar School of King Edward VI’. It was endowed with former monastic lands in Chester (the monks having been less fortunate under Henry VIII) and its new home was School Bank, behind the Parish Church. There it remained until 1748.