BookMad HOME    Delicious.Com Bookmark this on Delicious    StumbleUpon.Com Recommend to StumbleUpon

British Parliamentary Papers, 1819

Monumental government survey of the provision of
Education for the Poor

- -

I want to weave a tale of how amazing the people "running things" in 1819 were. And their "support staff".

The tale is set in England. The Industrial Revolution (WP) was in full bloom. Across all of Europe, the dawning of the age of science and the Enlightenment (WP) were well advanced.

By 1819, poor old George III was still alive, but no longer very effective. His son was doing his best. And around them, others carried the nation forward. Queen Victoria was born in May. It wouldn't be until 27 days after her 18th birthday that she became Queen.

A few people were beginning to wonder whether it was right to have eight year olds working in what Blake had recently dubbed the "dark, Satanic mills." Besides their age, also consider the dreadful conditions in the factories of the age.

However, Laws requiring 5 to 10 year olds to be in school (WP) were still 60 years off in the future. (Part of the motivation of those who fought for those laws was the goal of keeping young children out of factories and other forms of work. Oliver (or The Parish Boy's Progress) was still 18 years off... Dickens was Oliver's age at the time of my tale.)

But someone, someone with energy, around 1819 asked the question: What education is available to poor children in our land?

And the result was the monumental survey which is the subject of this web page.

Two of the large tomes you see me struggling to hold for the photo are filled with tables and digests of the information received in response to a letter of questions. Images follow. And the other two are discussions of the financing of the schools.

The information was collected, parish by parish... across the whole land, I assume. (I confess that I lack the capacity for work of the compilers, and have not gone through the 1496 pages of the first two books do cover every parish!)

More anon... first images of the sort of material in the books. In each case, a higher resolution image is available, if your internet connection doesn't mind largish files, 300-780kb. They also usually show you more of the page.

From the section on Sussex. ("Brighthelmstone" was the name then for what we call "Brighton")...


(Better resolution version)


(Better resolution version)

And this is what the tables look like. There is one for each county....


(Better resolution version)

I hope you were impressed?

Just think for a moment about how you would go about producing such a report today.

Now try to imagine doing all of the above....

And then there's what the reports mean...

It is easy to become distracted by the "mechanics" of the monumental survey.

But consider also the realities it reported. Parish after parish with no provision for any education of the children of the less- than- well- to- do... and there were many such in 1819.

Collecting old books is a means of "time travel", if you keep your imagination active.

The other two volumes of Parliamentary Papers

Besides the two volumes devoted to the tables and digests, described above, a further two volumes were devoted to looking at the finances and circumstances of all of the schools.

The entries are in many cases mundane....


... however, in some cases, it appeared that money set aside for the education of the poor was not being spent as had been intended by the philanthropist....


The very idea of "a charity" was not terribly old, a matter I explored in my page about the book at the heart of the establishment of Thomas Coram's London Foundling Hospital (1739).

Other entries give insights which fascinate me into circumstances, bequests, the "way things worked".

I could not find reports for the schools in Brighthelmstone, but here is the one for Brightling, which is listed in the same table, above.


In some cases, the reports on a single school go on for pages, with extensive accounts, etc. Many schools which became well known later were still charity schools in 1819, and thus are included in the reports.

Online resources

See what you get with....

.. and let me know? I find that results from Google Books can be erratic. I think the link will, repeatedly, take you to an online version of the digests and tables, with online viewing or downloading as options.

If that version of the document is dependably accessible, people who are interested in what the provision was in a specific place can look that up.

There is a "pay to view" service out of Parliament, for the really serious researcher.

A coincidence, and a poignant ephemeron


At the same time that I ordered the Parliamentary Papers, I also ordered a "curiosity"... a small book created by the proud "fathers" of a recently established school. The

This purchase is an amusing coincidence, because the last table in the Parliamentary Papers relates to... The West Riding!

The book gathers together several things. The title page you see to the left says....

The proceedings at the opening of the West Riding Proprietary School, August 6th, 1834...

To which is added...

The rules and regulations adopted by the directors, for its government (and)...

A list of the Shareholders and Pupils of the establishment, and a....

Catalogue of the library of the institution

It is a charming book, full of the enthusiasm and optimism of the people who have worked to bring the school into being.

It was not the brainchild and "toy" of a few grand philanthropists. It was set up by many relatively small, mostly equal subscriptions from many people.

The inclusion of a full list of the first pupils of the school (about 100) adds to the poignancy, for me.

(Better resolution version)

Perhaps the opening paragraphs of the celebration of the opening of the project will help you get a sense of what there is to cherish about this moments this little book capture. I wish I could risk posting this page in a higher resolution, but not everyone is blessed with good download speeds. The original is much prettier than this, due to the printing technology of the day... crisp, clean lettering, on lovely paper.


The "rules and regulations" so carefully set out cover not only the basic financial basis of the institution, and the hierarchy of it's officers, but also goes into some educational matters.

In addition to the material already described, bound in at the back are several "year reports" for the school's first few years.

I would love to tell you that the school prospered, was the nucleus for one of the great schools of today.

Alas, after about ten years, it foundered.

Happily, another school took over the buildings and grounds, and the building shown survives to this day, as part of the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School (WP), a prestigious independent school, in Wakefield. Queen Elizabeth, as in Henry VIII's wife, not our present Queen. While the proprietary school may have foundered, perhaps its fine buildings contributed to the future success of the much older school, and some of the work of the people who created the West Riding Proprietary School was not in vain?

Search across all my sites with the Google search button which I have provided at the top left on the page to which the link will take you.

Search just this site without using forms,
Or... again to search just this site, use...

Powered by FreeFind

Site search Web search

The search engine merely looks for the words you type, so....
  *!  Spell them properly   !*
  Don't bother with "How do I get rich?" That will merely return pages with "how", "do", "I", "get" and "rich".

Ad from page's editor: Yes.. I do enjoy compiling these things for you... I hope they are helpful. However.. this doesn't pay my bills!!! If you find this stuff useful, (and you run an MS-DOS or Windows PC) please visit my freeware and shareware page, download something, and circulate it for me? Links on your page to this page would also be appreciated!

--Click here to visit editor's freeware, shareware page.--

This page's editor, Tom Boyd, will be pleased if you get in touch by email.

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional Page tested for compliance with INDUSTRY (not MS-only) standards, using the free, publicly accessible validator at Mostly passes. There were two "unknown attributes" in Google+ button code. Sigh.

-- Page ends --