Biography – Rev. John Cutler

Cutler,John_ headmaster 1790_1823
John Cutler portrait, courtesy of Sherborne School, Dorset

John Cutler (19 May 1756 – 28 February 1833) was the oldest son of Roger Cutler and his wife Mary Bold.  Roger Cutler was a plumber, and owner of the Windsor and Eton Waterworks.  John and his four siblings were born in Eton, England.

John was educated at the famous private school – Eton, entering in 1763 at the age of seven.  He was a local boy, so it is unclear if he was resident there, but it was (and is) a boarding school.  In 1770 he matriculated at Oxford University, with a bachelor of arts.  He was ordained as a deacon that same year at Christ Church College.

He became chaplain aboard the Hero, which was part of Admiral Sir Edward Hughes Fleet, which was dispatched to the East Indies. This was an unsuccessful naval mission which saw the British fleet fight the French, during the American War of Independence.  Cutler was apparently injured during one of the battles, although details of the wound and the exact circumstances are unknown.

He returned to England in 1784, and obtained the position of assistant master at Rugby School.  He was also ordained as a priest while at Rugby, in 1786. In 1787 he became headmaster at Dorchester Grammar School (aka Thomas Hardye School).  He continued to work there until 1790 when he obtained the position of headmaster at Sherborne School. However he had to first obtain his Master’s degree, which he did at King’s College, Cambridge.

John Cutler married Sarah Elizabeth Guise, daughter of Richard Guise and Elizabeth Windham, in 1786, at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster. Together the couple had ten children: George Annesley (1787-8), William (1791-1791), Charlotte (1792-3), John (1794-1843), Richard (1795-1873), Edward (1798-1874), Frederick (1799-1858), Elizabeth (1806-after 1881), Ann (1797) and Henry (1788).

When John became headmaster at Sherborne in 1790, he and his growing family moved into the headmaster’s house, which was attached to the Abbey Church (Lady Chapel). Apparently money was tight, and the £60 per annum was insufficient.  Both John and his wife wrote to her uncle, William Windham, who was Secretary of War, for assistance. Their requests were for a naval pension and an ecclesiastical living (a parish). It is unclear if these requests were successful in any way, although he was not granted a living in Windham’s lifetime.

According to a history of Sherborne School, Cutler’s innovations as a headmaster had more to do with getting students to pay more for their education, than the quality of education they received.  Notwithstanding this financial commentary, he appears to have been respected.  In 1821, a dinner was held in his honour at Sherborne Town Hall.  He retired in 1822 hoping his son Richard would take over (he didn’t, but instead became headmaster of Dorchester School).

In 1815 Rev Cutler was given the parish of Patney, Wiltshire.  There is no evidence that he actually served the parish.  For part of his tenure there, he was also at Sherborne. Also, a history of the parish states that it was only after his time that the parish saw the company of its assigned priest.

John Cutler died in February of 1833 at the home of his son Edward Cutler (a doctor).  His wife died a few months later.



Eton College Register, 1753-1790

Dorchester Grammar School website

Rugby School Register Volume I & II from 1675 to 1874

Dorchester Free School by Michael Russell, 2009

Cambridge University Alumni, 1261-1900

A History of Sherborne School, AB Gourlay, 1971

Sherborne School, Dorset (correspondence with archivist)

Register, St Margaret’s Westminster

Register, Dorset

William Windham Papers, British Library

Salisbury and Winchester Journal

Patney Wiltshire history

London Standard

Sherborne Mercury