Our History

On the 13th of September, 1759, General Wolfe was killed when English troops in Canada took the French city of Quebec. Wolfe’s second in command Jeffrey Amherst, then captured Montreal, the next town up the River St. Lawrence.

His military life and the governorship which followed being over, he returned to Riverhead where he had lived as a boy in a small house called ‘Brooks’ overlooking the square. He later acquired the house and estate to the south west of the village and called it Montreal. Here his family lived and descendants continued to live until the first quarter of the last century. Thus, under the patronage of the Amhersts, our village was developed. To house the estate workers, houses were built on which the family crest can still be seen (see image alongside). Lord Amherst gave money for our parish church of St. Mary’s, and this was completed in 1831. So the village can be thought of as a family village.

Beginnings

In 1871 the Amhersts built the school. The tuition fee was a penny a week. Prior to the opening of the Amherst school, there had been a dame school in the village and this continued for some time as a second place of learning.

The school was organised to cater for children of all ages and was divided into three sections – infants, senior boys and girls, with a teacher responsible for each section. We have in school Log Books which go back to 1892 and until quite recently there were elderly people in the village who were pupils in those days. They have produced evidence in needlework and basic subjects of a very high standard.

The children and staff were answerable for their work and behaviour to Earl Amherst. It was regular practice for children to walk from school, through the estate to the ‘big house’ to receive suitable rewards and punishments. Teachers’ registers were inspected and the Log Book was signed by the Earl. One of the daughters of the family taught in the school. At Christmas time the whole school was entertained at a big party given by the family in Montreal House. A link with our heritage is the town of Amherst in Nova Scotia, Canada – a town renamed after Jeffery Amherst.

The original Amherst School was once The Riverhead Primary School. It has been enlarged and continues to grow. We hope that as it grows it will absorb new ideas without losing touch with its proud past and the village it was built to serve.