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News > Memories at Hymers > The Later Life of John Hymers

The Later Life of John Hymers

John Hymers studied at St John's College at Cambridge University in the 1820's
St John's College, Cambridge University
St John's College, Cambridge University

In March (2023), The Development Office visited the city of Cambridge for one of our Alumni Drinks Nights.  While in the area, we couldn't resist the opportunity to visit the St John's College where Dr John Hymers, our school's founder, had studied.  It gave us the opportunity to reflect on his life, as we took a look around the places that he would have studied and lived.

He was elected to Sizar and matriculated at St John’s in 1822; graduated Second Wrangler in 1826, before being elected Fellow a year later. He was appointed Moderator in the University in 1833 and 1834, and Lady Margaret’s Preacher in 1841. Alongside this, at St John’s he became Assistant Tutor in 1829, Tutor in 1832, and President in 1848.

He was well known for being a strong teacher and getting the best out of his pupils academically. He authored several works on mathematics throughout his lifetime, some of which we hold in The Eric Gordon Mallalieu Library, which opened at Hymers College in Summer 2023 and holds archive material regarding the history of Hymers College.

One of his former students wrote:

My recollections of him is of a remarkably handsome moan, very cool and clear-headed, very patient and painstaking with his pupils, perhaps a little cold and reserved in manner, so that although all his pupils liked and respected him, they were never very intimate.  He was a man of varied attainments, and I can recollect, after an hour's hard work at mathematics, having discussions with him on Wordsworth's poetry and characters in Shakespeare's plays.

In his earlier vacations he traveled much on the continent when travelling was not so easy or expeditious. In those days a Fellow of the College required permission from the Master and Senior Fellows to travel abroad. The earliest permission of this kind relating to Dr Hymers seems to be one made 11th June 1830, when the following Order appears in the College ' Conclusion Book '; " Agreed that Mr Palmer, Mr Hughes, Mr Taylor, Mr Hymers and Mr Pooley have leave to go abroad."  Similar permissions were granted from time to time during his residence. 

While at the College, he was a supporter of the poet William Wordsworth and was connected to him by marriage, his mother being a cousin of the poet's wife.  He was an occasional visitor at Rydal Mount, the home of Wordsworth (from 1813 to his death in 1850). Before John Hymers' death, he was instrumental in getting a portrait of Wordsworth painted for St John's College.

St John's College elected him to the Rectory of Brandsburton in Holderness in the year 1852, and there, Dr Hymers spent the remainder of his days.  When he took the living he had no experience of parochial work, and as it had been sadly neglected he felt keenly the difficulty of his position and wished the College to allow him to resign the living and go back.  Technical difficulties lay in the way and the conditions imposed by the College were such as he could not accept.

He was for many years chairman of the Leven Bench of Magistrates, and well known in all the country round.  He had kept up a constant correspondence with his old College friends, and his memory of College affairs reached back over a period of sixty years.  He enjoyed excellent health to the last and was simple and regular in his habits, such as riding and driving.

During these later years, he learned about the gaps in education, and as a result, he wanted to leave his fortune to find and endow a school, that would enable boys in Hull to have the same opportunities that had come his way in life.  On his death, he left a homemade will which stated:

‘I give and bequeath all the residue of my real and personal estate and effects whatsoever and wheresoever to the Mayor and Corporation of the Borough of Kingston-upon-Hull in the County of York, wherewith to found and endow a Grammar School in their own town on the models of the Grammar Schools at Birmingham and Dulwich for the training of intelligence in whatever social rank of life it may be found amongst the vast and varied population of the town and port of Hull.’

Unfortunately, it should have said ‘found or endow’, rather than 'found and endow', resulting in his surviving younger brother, Robert Hymers, inheriting the fortune.  However, Robert spontaneously offered the Corporation of Hull a sum of £50,000 for the purpose of carrying out John's wishes.

If you would like to help continue his legacy, you can donate to the John Hymers' Bursary Fund at www.oldhymerians.com/supportus

Related articles:

Remembering the Birth of Rev John Hymers (published July 2022)

Celebrating 129 Years of Hymers College (published October 2022)

How well do you know Hymers College? (published October 2022)

Photos of St John's College, Cambridge and surrounding area:

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