A village history in West Sussex
Westbourne History Group
Numbers 1 to 5 inclusive out of print. Everyday activities of the village can be viewed by visiting:
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In these days of community schools and colleges, playgroups and polytechnics, Oxbridge and the Open University, it is hard to accept that only 150 years ago the simple prospect of teaching village children the alphabet threw large sections of the population of this country into paroxysms.
Learning to read, they forecast, would lead to anarchy among the labouring classes. It would encourage sedition and rebellion, It would make them insolent to their superiors.
It was against this background of supposedly informed debate by the leaders of public opinion that a few courageous men and women struggled doggedly to introduce even the most elementary form of education.
Their perseverance won through, however, and although the early schools were poor affairs, haphazardly attended, they established the principle that access to the world of learning should be opened to the very poorest children.
How the youngsters of Westbourne fared in the early years of the 19th century, one can only surmise. Certainly, learning for the vast majority would have been extremely rudimentary. There may have been a dame school in existence, but these varied from places of meagre learning to establishments where children were simply kept out of the way for a day at a time. A report from a committee in Manchester was typical when it commented of such schools: “The greater part of them are kept by females, but some by old men whose only qualification for this employment seems to be their unfitness for every other”.
Yet any suggestion that Westbourne was in the educational backwoods would be unfair. As early as 1819, parishioners were asked to attend a meeting to consider establishing a school for the education of the infant poor upon the plan of the Rev, Dr. Bell, to be supported by donations and annual subscriptions.
Published 1983 ISBN 0 9507496 1 3
THE VILLAGE SCHOOLS 1819-