Background to Education in The Potteries
from the children working in the Pottery factories (1840-42):
Benjamin Taylor (age 12) "I go to Sunday-school down to Methody's; can read, can write, can cipher a little; can tell how much 5 time 7 is, 21; 4 times 9 is 30 (sic);"
Lydia Dale (age 20) "I have been employed 6 years this Martlemas; can neither read or write; attended a Sunday-school a little, not long, at Stoke, Methodist Connexion"
Joseph Bevington (age 10) "Can read; can't write; have been to Jentvale Sunday school and a day school at Oakhill."
Ann Dishley (age 9) "I have been a painter 12 months last Martinmas. There are eight little girls work in the same room with me. I can read very well, but can't write ; I go to Bethesda Sunday-school, and went two years to day-school; they didn't teach me to write."
Charles Perry (age 13) "I have worked for Mr. Clementson two years.. Can't read or write, never been to Sunday-school much ; went to day-school for a little while when I was younger, and left to go to work."
Hannah Jay (age 11) "I have been two years a painter... I can read and write a little. I went to day-school four years, and now go to Sunday-school ; but I have not been lately, on account of mother not being able to spare me."
From the report of Samuel Scriven (1842) into the conditions for Children in the Staffordshire Potteries:
Report on Sunday Schools:
The subjoined return of the weekly, Sabbath, and infant schools, with the number of places of worship, is, as far as it goes, conclusive evidence that no efforts are spared on the part of the wealthy classes to afford ample opportunities to the younger branches of the community of acquiring moral and religious education. Indeed I do not believe that there is any other part of the country, certainly none that I have visited, where such examples, "so worthy of all imitation", are to be met with: -
note: the population of the Borough in 1838 was calculated to be 63,000
Returns of Sunday Schools in the Staffordshire Potteries and Surrounding Neighbourhood (February 1841) Number of churches: 63 Total number of Sunday School scholars: 18,016 Number of Sunday School teachers: 2,2
Ratio of scholars:teachers 8 The Sunday Schools opened 9.00-10.30am and 1.00-2.20pm
There are defects in the system of Sunday-school training . children being so profoundly ignorant as not to know one letter from another, and yet regularly "attend Sunday schools"
..in an educational point of view they are not doing the good which is attributed to them:
1) first, on account of the limitation of the hours of schooling;
2) next; from the absence of writing, and other such secular instruction; and,
3) thirdly, on account of the teachers; who with honour be it spoken, are eight-tenths of the working classes, yet unequal to the task of teaching.
I do not mean to detract from the merits of Sunday-schools as a source of religious knowledge, which by some is considered the basis upon which all others should be built, or from the moral effects resulting from the congregating of children in religious places; or from associating with religious friends; but would rather give my humble praise to the many sects who have with such determined efforts striven to stem the torrent of infidelity, profligacy, and drunkenness, and continue with pious zeal, in imitation of their founder, to extend the knowledge and love of God.
Report on Day Schools:
Returns of Day Schools in the Staffordshire Potteries in 1841. Number of day schools: 17 Scholars attending Bells system schools: 1,930 Scholars attending Lancaster system schools: 494
Infants attending Day School: 417
Total number of Day School scholars: 2,841 Number of Day school teachers: 29
Ratio of scholars:teachers 98
.the attendance upon these, as compared with the Sunday-schools, there is a sad falling off; nearly all of them are handsome and spacious edifices, and capable of holding and seating comfortably four times the number of children in daily attendance.
Most of the schools belong to the National Society, and are therefore upon Dr. Bell's system, and do not admit the children of other denominations unless they conform to the worship of the Church
I almost tremble, however, when I contemplate the fearful deficiency of knowledge existing throughout the district, and the consequences likely to result to this increased and increasing population .. more than three-fourths of the persons therein named can neither read nor write . this state of things is attributable to the three following causes:
1) The first, and perhaps most prominent, I conceive to be that of sending children at too early a period of life to labour from morning till night, in hundreds of cases for 15 or 16 hours consecutively, with the intermission of only a few minutes to eat their humble food of "tatees" and "stir pudding", and where they acquire little else than vice, for the wages of ls. or 2s. per week, whereby they are necessarily deprived of every opportunity of attending a day or evening school.
2) Another is the total indifference of parents, who, although in numberless instances earning from 2s. to 3s. or 4s. per week, and not requiring the early labour of their offspring, nevertheless care so little about their immediate or future welfare, as to be equally satisfied whether they continue in ignorance or not.
3) A third is doubtless the poverty of others unemployed . in all the schools 2d. per week is required from every pupil, which, although trifling in amount, is beyond the reach of many
read more of Samuel Scriven's report on education
read British Board school teacher reports
Examples of the different schools in Burslem
Hill Top Chapel, Burslem
BURSLEM SUNDAY-SCHOOL, Wesleyan New Connexion, for Children of all Denominations
This impressive building was built in 1836 on the corner
of Westport Road and Hall Street.
Closed in January 1977, a fire caused widespread
damage in 1983. Beyond repair the main body was
demolished in 1987 but the dramatic front
portico remains (and is a listed building ).
Note: This Sunday School was built when the teachers and students were locked out of the Methodist Sunday School in nearby Swan Bank. The Methodist Conference had banned any 'secular' teaching, reading was only to be from the Bible and the church Minister disapproved of writing on the Sabbath.
The teachers at Swan Bank refused to adhere to this ruling and were locked out by the trustees.
In 1841 the Superintendent, Joseph Wood, was interviewed by Samuel Scriven - you can read the interview here:
In the 1840s pottery manufacturers cited their support for such institutions to get their industry excluded from the factory legislation which regulated children's employment in textile mills and coal mines. As a result there were no restrictions on the age of children or the number of hours they worked in pottery factories until 1864.
Burslem National School
A three-story structure erected in 1817 at a cost of £2000. It was built to accommodate 600 children but was half empty in 1840 because most parents preferred to send their children to the Methodist schools and to Burslem Sunday School.
This building can be seen on the 1851 map of St. John's Church
Just off High Street, the
Ragged School was for destitute children who could not afford even the
small charge at the 'Hill Top' Sunday
School (which was only a few hundred yards away).