Education and its Records

(This presentation was given at the Society’s Annual Gathering)

by Colin Chapman

This article was published in the December 2013 edition of Soul Search, the Journal of The Sole Society

Colin’s lively and entertaining talk covered the records available for schools, tertiary institutions and specialist bodies. He showed us slides of a whole variety of records including those described here.
Many records from schools are published, some are indexed although most are not digitised and originals records are often held in country record offices. For instance Sussex Record Society has produced a Catalogue of Sussex Schools, a comprehensive list of the available material. However some records held in local records offices aren’t available to view under the freedom of information rules, although this seems to be open to different interpretation by different record offices. The Society of Genealogists has a huge collection of items relating to Schools and Universities. Dr Barnado’s keeps their own records of their schools.
Much of early teaching in this country was carried out by the church. Teachers were often nuns or monks and a room in the abbey or over the porch on south side of church was used as the school room. There are records going back to medieval times, for instance there are records of St Paul’s School from the 1100s, statutes of Winchester College from 1400 and the school endowment of Wotton Under Edge School by Katherine, Lady Berkley from 1384. This school, which was originally endowed for two children and a master, is still in existence today.
Henry VIII used money from the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 to reendow existing schools and set up new schools and his son Edward VI continued to invest in schools. New schools were often named after the King, for example King’s School in York. Endowment indentures often survive.
From the 15c endowments for schools were often made by merchants, for example Bedford School was endowed by William Harper in 1552. The merchants were usually based in London and there was an altruistic reason for setting up the schools – to educate boys to keep the records required as a result of the increased trade with other countries caused by the expansion of exploration. Many of these schools turned into today’s Public Schools. The term ‘Public School’ may have come from the schools being available to pupils from a wider geographical area because they offered boarding facilities. The money for many of these endowments during the 16c came from investments in cities. For instance Bedford School, was supported by the income from properties in Tavistock Square and Russell Square. Some money from these properties today still goes to the school to provide free places. Invoices for school fees were usually printed forms and may include a charge for glazing (the pre-assumption that the child will break a window!), gloves and hairdressing as well as books, papers, pens and boarding fees.
In Elizabethan schools, the school room would have contained two or three classes in the same room and this system went on well into the 20c in small villages. From the time of the Reformation teachers should have been licensed by the bishop and some of these records still exist, for example the Commendations in 1684 to the Ecclesiastical Court for a licence for John Whiteley of Samlesbury, Lancashire. These documents had to testify that the applicant was a good Protestant.
Dames’ Schools were started in Elizabethan times. Some were just excuses to get together a group of children who were made to wash clothes. There are few records for these schools but any still existing in the 19c may be shown in street directories such as Kelly’s Directory.

A Dame School 1713
A Dame School, 1713.
Image available from Wikipedia Commons

The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, a charity school movement, came into being in 1698 when Colonel Maynard Colchester wrote to parish officials in various counties suggesting they should set up parish schools, and pay for books, uniforms, board, lodging etc … These schools provided ‘hospitality’ which over the years has been corrupted into hospital e.g. Christ’s Hospital in Horsham. Often the uniform was brightly coloured so that boys could be easily identified if they ran away, this led to, for example, the Blue Coat Schools. Two boys absconded from a Blue Coat School in June 1817 and a flyer was produced giving descriptions of the boys in order to try and apprehend them.

Christs Hospital Horsham
Christ’s Hospital, Horsham.
Image released by the copyright holder into the public domain

Instructions dating from 1708 to parents attending a charity school, includes that they should send their children ‘clean washed and combed, freely submit their children to discipline of the school and set their children a good example’. If parents did not follow the instructions the children would have to leave the school and forfeit the free clothes provided. It was felt that the school should also benefit the parents too as the children should repeat the catechism to parents.
Schools were not just for boys, education was provided for girls also. For example Rushworth Charity School was endowed in 1729 for 20 boys and 20 girls. However girls were often taken out of school as early as six or seven to work at home.
For Westbury School in Gloucestershire there exists a 1697 list of pupils, including the date they joined the school, what food is being provided to each, what they are being taught and what books they used. Some children were provided with clothing.
There is a record that at Kirkburton School, Huddersfield in 1716, the children were sent home because the master had been abusing them. The master had been ‘severe and cruel to the boys without provocation’ and Reuben Whitehead had been wounded in the head.
In the 19c ragged schools which provided free education to poor children were set up around the country. They offered Sunday Schools, bible classes, mothers’ meetings, homes for working boys, cooking clubs – basically fulfilling a huge number of roles. The Shaftsbury Society has records of some ragged schools.
At the beginning of the 19c the introduction of the Monitorial System resulted in an increase in education. To solve the problem of a shortage of teachers in British Schools in 1808 Joseph Lancaster, a Quaker, introduced a system where senior students taught the younger ones. Three years later in 1811 the Rev Andrew Bell implemented the same system in National Schools. Most non-conformists attended the British Schools and Anglicans attended the National Schools, a trend that continued up to the end of the 19c. Both types of school had several classes in one room.
Sometimes drawings of schools exist, for example, when being built or extended. The plans for the school in Gayton, Northampton from 1870 show the boys’ yard separated from the girls’ yard and the master having accommodation on site. Boys and girls were often taught similar subjects, for example in one school in 1838 the boys were taught reading, writing, geography, arithmetic and navigation. Girls were taught the same subjects but navigation was replaced by sewing.
The Times in January 1836 has a whole page of adverts for girls and boys to be educated in teacher’s, often clergymen, homes. For example one was offering education for 8 boarders at 70 guineas a year each. A girl’s finishing school was charging 18 guineas without boarding.
Some records provide interesting social history, for example the Log Book for Harrold School in Bedford from 1884 includes the justification for low attendance at various times as the ‘approach of feast week’, ‘typhoid fever’,
a ‘public tea,’ ‘harvest’ and ‘gleaning not yet finished’. In the 1895/96
log book a boy was caned for calling out to his brother to kick the teacher’s legs.
Tertiary Education
Tertiary education includes Oxford, Cambridge and Northampton universities, The Inns of Courts and Inns of Chancery. Northampton University existed from 1261-1265 but was dissolved when it was felt to be a threat to Oxford. Although the Inns of Courts still exist, The Inns of Chancery are no longer in existence. In the 19c many colleges became universities, for example St David’s College in Lampeter. Most universities, colleges and Inns of Court have published lists of their students. [Ed: the alumni of Oxford and Cambridge with our surnames have been reproduced in the journal of the Sole Society]. In the early days of universities, students had to be members of the established church of the day.
Specialist Bodies
Specialist schools include military schools, Sunday schools, deaf, blind and dumb schools, workhouse schools, industrial schools, denominational schools and reformatories. Parliamentary papers in 1852 showed the huge range of this type of school, including wood and forest schools, prison schools, orphan schools, idiot schools, chemical works schools and farm schools.
Reformatories consisted of industrial schools, truant schools and short term schools. Reformatories weren’t necessarily for punishment; some children were taken from streets to have their lives improved. There were reformatory ships in Essex, Wales, Yorkshire and Somerset.
[Ed: coincidently the following booklets have recently become available from the Oxfordshire Family History Society: Childhood Secrets: Oxfordshire Children sent to Industrial Schools in Bristol, Bath and Leicestershire which details boys sent to Industrials Schools at Clifton and Desford, and girls sent to Bath Industrial School and Childhood Secrets: Oxfordshire Boys On Training Ship Formidable, which describes the life of boys sentenced by the Oxfordshire Courts to the ship].
Colin finished by showing us an entry in the Log book of Harrold School in Bedford from 1885 which reports that Gertrude Rose had been suspended because the parents refused to allow her to be submitted to school discipline and her mother threatening personal violence. Gertrude Rose was Colin’s grandmother! n Reporter: Rosemary Bailey