February 28, 2018


By angus
The Penny Magazine August 18, 1838 and continued August 25 1838
It, unfortunately, happens that the only investigation conducted on a large scale for the purpose of ascertaining the extent to which the people of this country avail themselves of the existing means of obtaining a knowledge of reading and writing does not permit us to rely with confidence upon the facts which it presents. In attempting to form a correct opinion on this subject we must resort to isolated inquiries which have reference to distinct sections of the population or to single districts which may or may not furnish a correct average of the country generally.
Undoubtedly the intelligence of the people has much increased and newspapers and other periodicals which are the instruments of popular knowledge are more abundantly distributed and rendered more attractive but as to mere reading and writing only what is the amount of progress actually made within the last half century On this point there are few persons who would not be inclined to form a highly exaggerated opinion What has been the progress of education in the rural as compared with the manufacturing districts Here again though it is doubtful if we possess sufficient grounds for entertaining anything like a conclusive opinion on this point the inclination would probably be to magnify the superiority of the manufacturing population Lord Brougham has said that education is less provided for in the large towns than in the agricultural districts while by some persons the latter are regarded as utterly benighted The question on this as on several other similar points relating to the subject may be determined either one way or the other so long as we can only refer to a narrow circle for the facts on which to ground an opinion Without knowing beforehand the results to which they may lead we propose submitting some materials for consideration which may either tend to prove the probable accuracy of opinions previously formed or otherwise show that without more extensive inquiry it is not possible to arrive at the actual truth of the matter
  1. The first of our documents places the question in a light in which it has not before been represented by figures It is taken from a provincial newspaper (Doncaster Gazette Friday June 29 ) and was supplied by the officiating minister of the parish of Crowle in Lincolnshire Crowle is an agricultural parish in the north west extremity of the county and comprises with the small township of Eastoft an area of rather more than 11 square miles or 7350 acres Three fourths of the population are engaged in agriculture the remainder consisting of artisans commonly found in an agricultural district as blacksmiths wheelwrights shoemakers tailors small shopkeepers victuallers and a few families belonging to the educated classes as the attorney surgeon and clergyman Situated at several miles distance from any great high road and being in other respects remote and secluded the stimulus which might exist in another place similar both in lo and the occupations of its inhabitants is but slightly experienced It may be regarded as a fair example of any rural parish distant from a great thoroughfare and the habits which prevail may also be considered as uninfluenced by a resident gentry The population for the four decennial periods of the census was as followsInline images 1

    Taking the parish register and commencing with year 1754 when Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act into operation which amongst other matters required signature or mark of each person as a proof of the of the marriage the officiating minister Crowle has gone through the whole of the marriages from 1754 to 1838 a period of 84 years has ascertained in each case the number of those of writing their name and of those who being to write made their 3 in the register He found during this period there had been solemnized marriages and that out of the 2016 individuals united 933 could sign their names and 1083 could not results are presented with more clearness in the table

    Inline images 2

    In the table it is seen that on an average 53 of each 100 persons married between 1754 and 1838 were unable to write their names. Dividing the 84 years into two periods it appears that in the 46 years ending 1800 the number of individuals unable to write their signature was 56 out of each 100 while in the following 38 years only 50 out of the same number were similarly incapable. Thus some improvement would seem to have taken place but a more minute analysis brings out the real features of the case and exhibits the retrograde movement which has been going on for the last twenty years and which has brought the acquirement of so simple an accomplishment as a person writing his or her name to about the point at which it stood in the same parish two or three generations ago. The parish has not been pauperized to so great an extent as other parts of the same county the increase in the poor’s rate in the three years preceding the passing of the Amendment Act not being more than 10 per cent and the rate per head for the three years ending March 1834 not exceeding 4s 3d so that extreme poverty can scarcely have caused the difference.

    The most probable causes to which the retrogression may be owing seem to be these the age at which marriage takes place is in most cases from 25 to 30 and the period of instruction from 7 or 8 to 13 or 14 This would lead us to fix the interval between 1802 and 1812 in the one instance and 1812 and 1818 in the other as the periods during which education was suffered to be neglected The excitement of the war the important social changes occasioned by an alteration of the currency the war taxes the growth of the manufacturing system and the inclosure of about three million acres of common lands with a rapid increase of the population which in the parish of Crowle amounted to above 24 per cent in ten years a ratio of increase far exceeding that of any agricultural county all these tended to the derangement of old habits while the scarcity of labourers gave a value even to the services of children who ought to have been at school from which they were taken prematurely to aid in the exertions everywhere making under the stimulus of high prices to render the newly inclosed lands productive. We have little doubt that in the next ten or fifteen years the marriage register will offer a marked improvement but indications of the advancement of education in the parish of Crowle since 1818 cannot yet be looked for in that record If the council of the Statistical Society were to induce those clergyman who are Fellows to institute an inquiry similar to that which the officiating minister at Crowle undertook in order to satisfy a very laudable interest we should have from a variety of places agricultural as well as manufacturing a much closer approximation to the truth than can be expected from any inquiry which is confined to a single parish Such returns if procured in sufficient number would form interesting materials for a chapter on the progress of education The period of investigation should be divided into decades corresponding to the decennial census and should also distinguish the sex in order to exhibit the state of education amongst females The operations under the Registration Act will furnish valuable opportunities for testing the intelligence of the people at least so far as reading and writing may be taken as a test The Superintendentregistrar of the Bolton union in Lancashire which contains a population amounting to about 80,000 has already collected some interesting facts relating to the duties of his office Out of above 4000 persons who came to the offices of the various registrars in the Union to register births or deaths 1245 or rather more than onethird signed their names and 3006 made their 3 It is stated of the latter that many of them can read and some can write a little but were unable to write their names within the prescribed space This excuse however must be taken with some allowance as few adult persons like to confess that they are no scholars In preparing the quarterly extracts for the Registrar General’s office it would be easy for the superintendent and other registrars to note a variety of interesting facts In nuinerous cases we know that the registrars are not slow in availing themselves of the opportunities which it affords

    *in 1833 there were 9 day schools in the parish seven of which had been commenced since 1818 at which 386 children 206 boys and 180 girls were taught There was besides a Sunday school attended by 100 children 45 boys and 55 girls Parliamentary Returns

    Part 2


  2. It was stated in a paper read before the Statistical Section at the last meeting of the British Association that in the parish of Sidlesham Sussex 33 adults out 100 of the agricultural labourers were unable to read while only 14 adults out of 100 of the non agricultural class were incapable of reading The proportion able sign their names would probably be about one half as the case of Crowle The state of instruction at Redruth a mining parish in Cornwall containing a population 8000 is tiearly similar At a public meeting field in parish two or three years ago the following quaint resolution was come to relative to the state of education in the parish Resolved that not more than three fourths of the population above the age of twelve years can read and not one half of the inhabitants above that age can write In the Appendix to the 37th Report on Public Petitions issued August 4 there is a petition which discloses the state of education in another part of the country It is from the parish of West Bromwich in Staffordshire which contains a population exceeding 20,000 souls and is according to the petition better supplied with the means of instruction than many other parts of the kingdom The following is a summary of the statistical facts which the petition contains In 2193 families of the working classes it was found that 1428 children were above the age of 14 Their acquirements are shown in the subjoined statementInline images 3

    The prospects of the children under 14 years of age in number 6375 are still worse

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    The sort of education which the 2702 children under 14 years of age who do go to school receive is as follows and out of this number 1148 go to Sunday schools only

    Inline images 5

    The disheartening result is brought out that in a large active and industrious community out of 2193 families comprising one half the families in the parish there are including the 471 children above 14 who can neither read nor write 3103 children wholly uneducated

  3. The following return is taken from the Reports of the Factory Commissioners aud is the result of an examination of 50,000 workmen in the manufacturing districts in England of about 30,000 engaged in similar occupations in Scotland and 1600 belonging to the manufacturing class in IrelandInline images 6

    The proportion of individuals according to this table who cannot write is nearly the same which prevails in the parish of Crowle but in the former case the inquiry is confined to one class while the latter includes a certain number above them in rank This invalidates in some degree the fairness of the comparison but allowing for this circumstance there is still a remarkable approximation in the two districts To what extent the narrowness of the inquiry in the rural districts detracts from its value as a general criterion it is impossible to state In Lancashire where we may suppose the number of individuals examined was greater than in any other county the proportion of those who could not write was 62 in each 100 in Derbyshire 57 in Cheshire 53 and in Yorkshire 52 in 100 Even this proportion has been considered too high National Education by Frederick Hill Esq vol i p 250 If this be the case the opinion of Lord Brougham as to the means of education being better adapted to the necessities of the population in the country than in the towns seems not far from the truth

  4. The preceding return does not as in the case of the one from Crowle supply grounds on which to come to any opinion on the recent progress of education This defect is in part remedied by a table also taken from the Factory Reports showing the state of education in Mr Ashton’s factory at Hyde which classifies according to their age the parties examined From this table we are enabled to gather the following resultsInline images 7

    Here it is shown that education is advancing and that of the rising generation only 46 out of each 100 are unable to write while the proportion is 57 out of each 100 for those above the age of 21 The Crowle return necessarily excludes all but adults and the improvement which has recently taken place is not therefore indicated although we do not the less believe that it exists

  5. The preceding return being confined to a single factory allowance must be made for local circumstances as the exertions of a single mill owner may as in the instance of Messrs Strutt of Derbyshire do much towards promoting the education of his work people In a recent report of Leonard Horner Esq one of the Factory Inspectors whose judicious investigations we have before noticed there is a table containing the result of a careful examination chiefly under Mr Horner’s eye of 2000 children employed in nineteen factories in the Manchester district An idea is generally prevalent that the acquirements of children in the factories are of a superior kind or at least that they are more intelligent than children engaged in other occupations More intelligent and knowing they may be but the degree in which they possess the common rudiments of education is very small as the following analysis showsInline images 8

    Less than one third therefore or 30 only in 100 could read with ease Mr Dunn the secretary of the and Foreign School Society says that where an is unable to write at all he is not able to with sufficient fluency to enjoy the occupation If converse of this rule were true we should find that out the above 2000 children 611 or 30 out of each 100 could write tolerably This is a smaller proportion than could be expected under the circumstances and it not have been difficult to believe that at least one half them or 50 in each 100 would have possessed this acquirement but such was not the case and Mr was at the trouble of undertaking their examination result of which was as follows

    Inline images 9

    Many of the above children or rather young persons were receiving from 5s to 7 s per week for their services and their fathers were in many instances earning 30s and upwards per week The small proportion of able to write their names shows the short time they had been at school In London it is that a smaller number of girls than boys attend national and other schools but in the country the proportion is different On the whole the services of arc of some value in the large towns earlier than in the case of boys but in an agricultural district there is an earlier demand for the services of boys and to be able to read and write is a recommendation which is often necessary to ensure employment for boys while from girls no such acquirement is demanded

  6. The tables of criminal offenders issued each year from the Home Department have shown for the last three years the state of instruction of persons accused of crime There were 20,984 criminal accusations in England and Wales in 1836 and 23,612 in 1837 and the following is an analysis showing the degree of education they had receivedInline images 10

    According to this table there are amongst persons of crime a greater number who have received such a of instruction as enables them to write their than either in the agricultural or manufacturing districts amongst those who are pursuing honest occupations This alone shows the importance of a more extensive in order to ascertain if such a result would be borne out At present it would seem hazardous to that the state of instruction amongst criminals bears a proportion than in the non criminal portion of the community making some allowance for the wealthy and highly educated classes The luxury and civilization England must also be taken into account as they offer peculiar temptations to persons whose education is superior to their moral character The rural and town districts as may be expected present considerable differences in the degree of instruction amongst persons guilty of crime in each A man who can neither read nor write may be tempted to steal a sheep but to break into a bank or forge a bill the common rudiments of education at least must have been acquired Thus in Middlesex 55 out of each 100 persons accused of crime can read and write while in some of the agricultural counties less than two thirds of this number have received an equal degree of instruction The extreme is presented in the counties of Middlesex and Suffolk and the mean or very near it in Yorkshire

    Inline images 11

    It thus appears that the time passed at the great majority of common day schools to which the bulk of the people can have access fails in giving that tone to the mind which education properly so called ought to impart It does not enable a man to enjoy the healthful exercise of his faculties and not being capable of giving him this power he is thrown upon resources which have a vicious tendency

  7. The conclusions to which the preceding returns point seem to be these 1 In the agricultural parish of Crowle including all ranks not one half of the adult population are able to write their names the proportion being about the same in 1838 as in 1754 2 In respect to writing the case of Crowle probably resembles other parishes similarly situated a conclusion borne out by the example of Redruth 3 In the manufacturing districts the degree of instruction so far as reading and writing are concerned apparently is not superior to that of an agricultural parish in which some attention has been paid to education but it is shown that a smaller number than before are destitute of instruction 4 The necessity of further inquiries and more general exertions to improve and extend the means of instruction are greatly needed both in towns and villages speaking roughly it may perhaps be safely asserted that less than one half of the adult population of England can write and less than three fourths can read