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British Schools in South Wales

The Rev William Roberts (Nefydd), South Wales
Representative of the British and Foreign School Society, 1853-1863    1

B L Davies , National Library of Wales journal. 1974, Winter. Volume XVIII/4

Extracted onto the pages of GENUKI with the kind permission of the National Library of Wales

This is a complete extract of this article (Gareth Hicks May 2003)


ALTHOUGH a few British Schools had been founded here and there in South Wales during the first half of the nineteenth century, the sudden surge in the building of such schools that had taken place in North Wales during the eighteen forties did not materialize in the South. Most attempts to found schools there had been paralysed by the advocates of Voluntaryism. 2  The Committee of the British and Foreign School Society did not wish to become involved with the Voluntaryists and refrained from appointing an agent in South Wales for many years. 3 Consequently, even in 1853, 'only fourteen British Schools were under inspection in South Wales and Monmouthshire, viz. 12 in South Wales, and Boys and Girls Schools at Blaina (sic), and in all there were only 1,500 children in the 14 schools'. 4  Furthermore, most of the small Nonconformist schools established by the 'Voluntary System' between 1846 and 1848 under the aegis of the South Wales Education Committee, were, by 1853, rapidly dying away. 5

It is true that in some of the newly created industrial centres there were many large 'neutral' schools which had been founded by the iron masters, mine owners and copper masters, 6 otherwise most of the schools in existence had been established by the National Society, and these were quite often attended by Nonconformist as well as Anglican children.

By the early 1850's, the initial fervour of the Voluntaryists was on the wane, the violent reactions engendered by the Reports of 1841 had simmered down, and many Nonconformists had begun to appreciate that the British Schools were really unsectarian and undoctrinal in character. Moreover, it was no surprise to see the collapse of the Voluntary Normal School at Swansea in 1851, and with the demise of that institution, the Voluntaryists lost what was virtually the centre of their organisation, and their efforts subsequently became even more ineffectual.

It was at this time that certain Nonconformist leaders such as the Rev. Henry Griffiths of Brecon, Hugh Owen of London, and the Rev. David Charles of Trevecca, encouraged the British Society to take action in South Wales.  7  Fortunately, the Society responded without delay, and in its Annual Report for 1853, after referring to the satisfactory progress in North Wales, it expressed a hope that the Committee, 'before another year had expired, would be able  7  Fortunately, the Society responded without delay, and in its Annual Report for 1853, after referring to the satisfactory progress in North Wales, it expressed a hope that the Committee, 'before another year had expired, would be able to repeat the establishment of a similar agency attended by equally happy results in South Wales'. 8  On the recommendation of Hugh Owen, 9  the Rev. William Roberts, (Nefydd), of Blaina, was duly appointed agent of the Society for an experimental period of twelve months---as from December 1st, 1853, at a salary of 60 a year. He was to devote himself to the work of the Society 9  the Rev. William Roberts, (Nefydd), of Blaina, was duly appointed agent of the Society for an experimental period of twelve months---as from December 1st, 1853, at a salary of 60 a year. He was to devote himself to the work of the Society for sixteen days in every month. 10

Nefydd, however, served the Society for ten years, and assiduously devoted himself to the task of founding British Schools throughout South Wales. His Journal provides a vivid report on the state of education at the time, and also an account of the many difficulties encountered in building British Schools. 11  It is a valuable social document as well as an educational report. Unfortunately, it will be seen that he had to contend with even greater pioneering difficulties than those which confronted the Rev. John Phillips in North Wales during the previous decade.

A perusal of the journal, though, indicates that a close relationship existed throughout those years between Nefydd, Hugh Owen and the British Society on the one hand, and between Nefydd and Joseph Bowstead, H.M.I., on the other. And it will be appreciated that the progress of unsectarian elementary education in South Wales during these years was in no mean degree the result of the labour, the wisdom and the enthusiasm of these three men. It was a most fruitful alliance which ensured that the resources both of the British Society and of the Committee of Council were at the disposal of Nefydd in all his work. 12

Throughout his years in office, Nefydd was well advised and greatly encouraged in his work by Hugh Owen, and soon after his appointment, he attended the Society's School at Borough Road so as to gain as much information as possible concerning the nature and organisation of British Schools. During his stay in London, he was able to confer at length with Hugh Owen on how to start a movement for promoting British Schools in South Wales. 13

To begin with, Owen advised him to establish a committee in each of the South Wales counties, which would promote a general movement on behalf of the British Society. He also suggested that Nefydd should open his campaign with an intensive drive in the counties of Monmouth and Glamorgan, and later penetrate westwards into Carmarthen, Pembroke and Cardiganshire. Owen seems to have fired Nefydd's imagination and enthusiasm during this London visit, for when he returned to Blaina he set about his task with great industry, and within less than a week 'had sent 32 letters to various parts of S. Wales with a view to carry out the suggestions made by Hugh Owen in each County'. 14

Over the years there were many such visits to London, and entries in the journal indicate how he kept in close touch with the Committee of the British Society, Her Majesty's Inspectors, important civil servants, and members of the Committee of Council. He was most fortunate in the help given him from these sources in London where he would spend part of the day with Hugh Owen, and call at the Privy Council office on behalf of Abertillery B.S. 15  or call 'at the Boro Road with Messrs. Saunders, Baxter, Fitch and Wilks, and with Mr. Owen at Whitehall. 16 Yet, all through the years, the journal indicates how unremitting and frustrating were the tasks which confronted him on all sides. He found that his fellow countrymen, in spite of the exhortations of Hugh Owen in the Welsh papers and periodicals from as far back as 1843, 17 still needed to be constantly reminded of the financial aid and government funds which were available to them. The extent of...................

.................Nefydd's dismay is felt when he reported that 'it would surprise any gentleman unacquainted with rural districts or even towns, to notice the ignorance prevailing respecting the movements and measures of the Committee of Council, and that even by educated and generally informed persons'. 18

Guidance on the simple procedure for founding a school was still necessary, although the Rev. John Phillips had pioneered in this work for the previous ten years in North Wales. Nefydd seemingly convened innumerable committees, delivered dozens of talks and lectures, and discussed at length the many problems involved with leaders and people of influence in each locality. Such was the purpose of the preliminary conference which he convened at Blaina shortly after his appointment when 'respectable ministers and laymen from among all Denominations met together at 10 o'clock in the morning, and our consultations lasted almost all the day' 19

The eight resolutions passed at the meeting are an indication of the kind of preparation which he considered to be necessary in launching the campaign for British Schools in the district:

1. That the object of this Conference is the promotion of education in South Wales, according to the unsectarian principle of the British and Foreign School Society; with the aid of the Committee of Council on Education.

2. That a Committee be appointed, composed of gentlemen interested in education to carry out the objects of the meeting consisting of the following persons with power to add to their number.

Two representatives from England:

3. That the Rev. D. Charles be requestcd to act as Honorary Secretary of the Committee.

4. That the Rev. W. Roberts, agent of the B. &.F.S.S. in South Wales and Mr. E. Jones of the British School, Blaina, be acting Secretary (sic).

5. That the Secretary be requested to draw up a pamphlet in the Welsh language, containing instructions for the establishment of schools, showing the advantages offered by the Government and answering objections.

6. That a copy of these resolutions be forwarded to the Committee of the B. &.F.S.S. with the humble request of this meeting that the above Society should defray the expenses of printing the pamphlets.

7. That T. Brown, Esq., of Ebbw Vale be respectfully requested to be the president of an association to be formed for the purpose of carrying out the objects of this meeting, and other gentlemen in South Wales be requested to be patrons and to co-operate.

8. That the next meeting to be held at Merthyr Tydfil, on Tuesday, May 9th --- a conference in the morning and a public meeting in the evening. 20

It was an auspicious beginning; it seemed that the Nonconformist leaders were intent on making up for lost time and were keen to take advantage of this new wave of enthusiasm. Hugh Owen came down to South Wales during that first year of Nefydd's agency, and together they journeyed from village to village in the counties of Glamorgan, Carmarthen, Pembroke and Cardigan, as Owen had tramped throughout North Wales with the Rev. John Phillips ten years previously. Between them they succeeded in stimulating , and together they journeyed from village to village in the counties of Glamorgan, Carmarthen, Pembroke and Cardigan, as Owen had tramped throughout North Wales with the Rev. John Phillips ten years previously. Between them they succeeded in stimulating enthusiasm and support for British Schools in many a hamlet throughout these counties, but the entries in the Journal indicate how laborious a task it proved to be. For instance, at a conference in Haverfordwest, after the Mayor, Mr. Owen, Rev. T. Burditt and others 'had spoken well on the necessity of establishing a good B.S., Sub-Committees were formed to apply to the Corporation for the Site, and to collect subscriptions etc.' 21 Seemingly, this tedious procedure could not be streamlined --- there was no shortcut; it had to be repeated in centre after centre.

On their travels, Nefydd lamented at Llwyndafydd, Cardiganshire, that they had come across a school which had been 'commenced six or seven years previously (as was the case with about 30 others in this part of the Principality) through the instrumentality of the Cambrian Education Society, with which Mr. H. Owen was connected. Mr. Owen [had] employed agents in various localities, who endeavoured to stir the people to their duty, and after a very prosperous commencement was made, the dispute about Government aid arose and frustrated almost all the prospects at that time, consequently this Schoolroom and Teacher's house although commenced in 1847 had to wait for Mr. Owen to open it near the beginning of 1855 '. 22   Unfortunately, such lapses were quite common throughout the country during those years.

Whilst on this journey in South Wales, Hugh Owen also attended an important conference held on December 1st, 1854, at the Temperance Hall, Merthyr Tydfil, mainly to establish a Society to act as an auxiliary of the B. &.F.S.S., in South Wales, and

Whilst on this journey in South Wales, Hugh Owen also attended an important conference held on December 1st, 1854, at the Temperance Hall, Merthyr Tydfil, mainly to establish a Society to act as an auxiliary of the B. &.F.S.S., in South Wales, and to be known as the South Wales British Schools Association. 23 This conference, convened by Nefydd, was well attended by ministers and laymen from the counties of Monmouth, Brecon and Glamorgan.

It seems to have been a most successful meeting in which Hugh Owen made 'a long and animated speech', and in which he surveyed the state of elenentary education in South Wales. 24 He drew attention to the urgent need for elementary schools in the district and pointed out that 'the number receiving school instruction was shown by the last census to be rather more than one in every eight of the population, taking England and Wales together, but taking Wales, with Monmouthshire, alone, the number was shown to be less than one in every eleven of ..................

....................the population'. He estimated that the number of children in Wales 'attending schools of all descriptions was only 103,247, whereas there ought to have been at the rate of one in eight of the population, 145,392 attending schools',

....................the population'. He estimated that the number of children in Wales 'attending schools of all descriptions was only 103,247, whereas there ought to have been at the rate of one in eight of the population, 145,392 attending schools', so that there appeared 'to be at least 42,145 children in Wales without day-school instruction', and these children belonged to the classes that were in most need of public sympathy and aid'. Moreover, he was very concerned that the Established Church was much more successful than the Nonconformists in founding schools, and regretted that 38,925 children in Wales attended schools supported by the Church of England, whilst only 14,975 attended schools supported by Dissenters.

He again emphasised the unsectarian principles of the British Society before dealing with such controversial topics as state-aid, the constitution of the Committee of Council in Education, and the mode in which government grants were distributed. In order to qualify for a government grant, he recommended the periodical visits of inspectors to schools, since he felt that they 'exercised a most healthful influence', in that they supphed 'both teachers and pupil teachers with motives which stimulated them to vigourous efforts from the beginning of the year to its close.'

Owen strove to convince his audience that Dissenters had as much right to get grants as the members of the Established Church, and tried to assure them that the 'State was ready to help any party who were willing to help themselves, and that if the bulk of the money voted by Parliament had gone into the hands of the Church, the Dissenters could not say that this was attributable to any favour shown by the State to the Establishment.'

Having praised the motives of the Committee of Council, he also reminded his audience of the great contribution already made by the British Society in Wales, and of the support it could give them in their own localities. Reference was made to three aspects of the work of the Society. First of all, the Society had for some years past employed at its own expense, an agent in North Wales to promote British Schools, and the labour of the Rev. John Phillips had been attended with marked success; in the second place, the Society had now appointed Nefydd to undertake similar duties in South Wales, and lastly, the Society had undertaken the training of young men and women for the office of teaching 'without which all other appliances would be of no avail'. He nd place, the Society had now appointed Nefydd to undertake similar duties in South Wales, and lastly, the Society had undertaken the training of young men and women for the office of teaching 'without which all other appliances would be of no avail'. He was hopeful that 'assisted by State grants and guided by the B. &.F.S.S. and with the association now about to be formed, South Wales would soon become as distinguished for the number and efficiency of its British Schools as it was for the number and was hopeful that 'assisted by State grants and guided by the B. &.F.S.S. and with the association now about to be formed, South Wales would soon become as distinguished for the number and efficiency of its British Schools as it was for the number and commodiousness of its places of worship'.

Such a wide-ranging survey seems to have made a great impression upon those present, and support of this kind proved to be of great help to Nefydd in his agency work. The Committee of the South Wales British School Association was to meet again at the

Such a wide-ranging survey seems to have made a great impression upon those present, and support of this kind proved to be of great help to Nefydd in his agency work. The Committee of the South Wales British School Association was to meet again at the Town Hall, Bryn Mawr, on January 19th, 1855, when according to the 'Star of Gwent' a 'goodly number' met for the despatch of business. 25  This local paper felt quite assured that though 'the association is yet in its infancy, it has already been the means of doing some good, as several facts, indicative of progress, brought forward at the meeting testify'. It was of the opinion that the object of.....................

..........................the association was 'the promotion of some practical measures, by collecting into one focus and directing to some tangible operation the convictions of a great number of intelligent persons, dissenters or others, who consider

..........................the association was 'the promotion of some practical measures, by collecting into one focus and directing to some tangible operation the convictions of a great number of intelligent persons, dissenters or others, who consider that voluntary efforts alone are inadequate to the education of the people'.

When the Committee met again on February 19th, 1885, it was decided amongst other things to print an 'instructive Pamphlet on Education in connection with the Society's establishment at Merthyr Tydfil'. The pamphlet was to be prepared by 'Edward Jones

When the Committee met again on February 19th, 1885, it was decided amongst other things to print an 'instructive Pamphlet on Education in connection with the Society's establishment at Merthyr Tydfil'. The pamphlet was to be prepared by 'Edward Jones and W. Roberts, and was to be examined and approved by the Rev. D. Charles, B.A., and Hugh Owen Esq.' The Committee also felt that the deficient state of education in South Wales called for a special effort in raising funds:

'To assist young men to go to Boro Road College.
To assist poor localities to obtain and pay salaries to good teachers for the first few years, and
To assist by donations in some places towards building schoolrooms with Government aid.'  26

Shortly afterwards, in April, 1855, Nefydd, in a lengthy article in the Star of Gwent on the merits of the British schools, stressed the 'Advantages of Government Inspection of Schools'. 27  He was particularly eager to stress the merits of British schools, and claimed that the 'great and distinctive peculiarities ... of the National and British school systems are, that the former is the school of one sect, which enforces its 27  He was particularly eager to stress the merits of British schools, and claimed that the 'great and distinctive peculiarities ... of the National and British school systems are, that the former is the school of one sect, which enforces its peculiar dogmas on all who attend, whereas the latter is open to all sects on equal grounds'. He quoted from a speech by Sir John Pakington (a Conservative and a member of the Central Committee of the National School Society), in the House of Commons on March 16th of that year, when he stated, 'I am convinced that the only result of endeavouring to force any particular creed upon reluctant children will be, not to make them adopt that creed, but to drive them from the school'. Lord Stanley, who also took arch 16th of that year, when he stated, 'I am convinced that the only result of endeavouring to force any particular creed upon reluctant children will be, not to make them adopt that creed, but to drive them from the school'. Lord Stanley, who also took part in that debate, is reported to have said, 'I can understand and respect the feelings of a man who claims religious equality, but I cannot understand the feelings of those who say they will not allow the children of other sects to go to their schools part in that debate, is reported to have said, 'I can understand and respect the feelings of a man who claims religious equality, but I cannot understand the feelings of those who say they will not allow the children of other sects to go to their schools unless they are permitted to force their own religious teaching upon the children'. Nefydd referred to the many localities in South Wales where such a policy existed, and expressed surprise 'that the Dissenters, who constitute at least nine-tenths of the unless they are permitted to force their own religious teaching upon the children'. Nefydd referred to the many localities in South Wales where such a policy existed, and expressed surprise 'that the Dissenters, who constitute at least nine-tenths of the population in some localities should submit so quickly to this species of persecution'.

He consequently advocated the adoption of British Schools which were open to government inspection. Nefydd reminded his readers that 'this subject was explained fully by Hugh Owen Esq., of London in the educational meeting at Merthyr', but since the question 'has been so mystified and misrepresented ... it will take some time to clear up the minds of the people and to convince them of the real facts of the case'.

In addition, he explained in detail how government grants were available for the following purposes: '1. Grants for building schoolrooms and teachers' residences. 2. Grants towards the masters' or mistresses' salaries, viz. (i) augmentation grant, or the certificate money, (ii) for instructing the pupil teachers, (iii) capitation grant. 3. Salaries of assistant and pupil teachers. 4. Inspections of the schools and examination of the pupil teacher candidates etc. 5. Supply of books, maps, etc., at about a third of their value.'

He was anxious to assure the people of South Wales that government interference within the schools would be minimal, and these conferences and committee meetings at Merthyr, Bryn Mawr and Blaina helped to convince parents of this. The press reports of

He was anxious to assure the people of South Wales that government interference within the schools would be minimal, and these conferences and committee meetings at Merthyr, Bryn Mawr and Blaina helped to convince parents of this. The press reports of each meeting kept reminding Nonconformists of their responsibilities, and slowly the tide of public opinion in the district turned in favour of the British Schools.

Two years after Nefydd had begun his agency work, Joseph Bowstead, one of the outstanding inspectors of schools during this period, wrote a very outspoken report on the state of education in South Wales. 28  Although an Englishman and an Anglican, he resolutely supported Nefydd, the Rev. John Phillips and Hugh Owen in their efforts to establish British Schools. Together with two other inspectors of schools --- Matthew Arnold and Joseph Fitch --- Bowstead was noted for his independence of outlook and progressive reports, and fortunately, his report of 1855 aroused considerable interest in the Principality.

The report dealt specifically with the state of elementary education in the counties of Monmouth and Glamorgan --- then Nefydd's own base of operations. Bowstead deplored the very poor provision of elementary schools in the district, and in particular, condemned the lack of nondenominational schools in an overwhelmingly Nonconformist area. After a close study of the conditions there, he was convinced that 'the schools best suited for such a population are those based upon the unsectarian, yet strictly condemned the lack of nondenominational schools in an overwhelmingly Nonconformist area. After a close study of the conditions there, he was convinced that 'the schools best suited for such a population are those based upon the unsectarian, yet strictly scriptural principle of the B. &.F.S.S.' Such a statement from one of her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools was a great encouragement to Nefydd in his work, but became a source of considerable annoyance to the Church authorities in Wales. It also greatly exacerbated the already strained relationships between the Established Church and Nonconformity in Wales. Eventually, it also led to open conflict and to much acrimonious correspondence between Bowstead and Bishop Connop Thirlwall, which went on for a number of years. The Bishop strongly attacked Bowstead in his Charges to the Clergy of the Diocese of St. David 's. 29

As education was such a burning issue at the time, the Report was also given considerable publicity in the various Welsh Nonconformist periodicals, and Seren Gomer even issued a reprint of these articles in book form under the title of British Schools best adapted to the Educational Wants of Wales. 30  In a review of the state of education in South Wales, the Faner   31  not only approved of the report, but claimed that it had been of the utmost help to Nefydd in founding British Schools. It was equally convinced that the report had succeeded in changing the.........................

...................general attitude of the Committee of Council in their allocation of grants to British schools. It referred to the widespread dissatisfaction concerning the allocation of grants to British schools, in Wales between 1851 and 1856, but

...................general attitude of the Committee of Council in their allocation of grants to British schools. It referred to the widespread dissatisfaction concerning the allocation of grants to British schools, in Wales between 1851 and 1856, but after the appearance of the Bowstead report, it maintained that the Committee of Council was far more prepared to give financial support to build British schools during the years 1857, 1858 and 1859. 32  Nefydd and Wales were deeply indebted to Joseph Bowstead for his support to establish non-sectarian schools during this difficult period . 33

Apart from this denominational conflict, one of the most difficult problems confronting Nefydd was the hostility of a sector of Nonconformity known as Voluntaryists to accepting state aid for building schools. It is true that Voluntaryism was on the wane during the 1850's, but it was far from dead, and this in spite of the recantation of some of its former leaders. A residue of Voluntaryism persisted throughout the district, and between 1853 and 1863, Nefydd repeatedly referred to the frustration created by this problem. He was most grateful to people such as John Phillips, Hugh Owen and Bowstead for their support 'to counteract the Anti-Government aid principle'. 35  He lamented that in so many areas an anti-Government aid party prevailed ' 30 or he saw a village school neglected because 'the anti-Government aid party is strong here', or he would cone across a village where a British School would have been established years before 'had it not been for the old dispute that mars our prospects almost everywhere'. 36

At Penmain in Monmouthshire, a voluntary school had been closed even, and Nefydd deeply regretted that they would 'rather let it die than open it in connection with Government aid and inspection'.  37 The objection to Government aid at Mynydd Islwyn was so strong 'that they put up the following inscription on the outside of the school to be seen from the highway, viz. 'Non deligatus admititur'. 39 A few years later, Bowstead referred to this particular school in a much more confident mood, and reported 'I annually pass near a small British School in Monmouthshire which has the words 'Non deligatus admititur' carved in solid masonry over the door. Notwithstanding this threatening inscription which is supposed to be meant as a warning to your Lordship's representative, I learn from one of the Society's agents that I am not unlikely to receive an invitation to enter' . 39

In Monmouthshire, the influence of such a zealous anti-state-aider as the Dr. Thomas Thomas, the Tutor of the Baptist College at Pontypool, permeated over a wide area. Here, Nefydd, the Baptist and state-aider, was harassed by a fellow Baptist and a Voluntaryist. So annoyed was Dr. Thomas with the British Society for accepting government aid on the sane basis as the National Society that he referred to it as 'The Educational Church Establishment in the Boro Road'. 40  Consequently, as late as 1862, Nefydd lamented that the 'whole district containing a population of from 15,000 to 20,000 (including Abersychan, Pontnewynydd, Pontypool, Pontymoil, Pontnewydd, etc.) has been allowed to be almost entirely possessed by the National School education, and that chiefly through the influence of our great voluntary educationist, Thomas Thomas, D.D., Pontypool College. Within the above district there are 12 National Schools containing about ..........

.................1,200 children. At the same time, the district contains four Dissenters, at least, for every one Churchman. This fact would be worthy of Mr. Miall's notice, who is the great director of Dr. Thomas's thought.' 41

After the recantation of David Rees, Llanelli, in 1853, there was a steady trickle of converts, but Rees only recanted when 'the failure of the school convinced him of the necessity of Government aid'. 42  Another voluntary advocate, a minister at Rhydfelen (Glam.), when he did finally realise the impracticability of the Voluntaryist position, ruefully admitted that he had once been an anti-state aider, 'but I am not so now. I find that we want even double aid in Wales if we can get it, and I think that we must have it too'. 43  On another occasion, the depth of Nefydd's frustration is manifest in his entry, 'O! when will my dear brethren (the Dissenters) be wise enough not to stand in their own light?'   44

Bowstead attributed the progress in the provision of elementary education in South Wales 'to the Rev. W. Roberts, of Blaina, the indefatigable agent of the B. &.F.S.S.', and added that 'Mr. Roberts who has long been convinced that Government aid is essential to the advance of education in South Wales, has made himself thoroughly acquainted with the details of its administration, and loses no opportunity of spreading this needful information among the persons by whom it may be available' . 45

The cause of the state-aiders was strongly supported by Bowstead throughout the years, and he openly deplored the failure of the Nonconformists in the area to support British Schools since 1845, because the 'majority unhappily appeared to be in favour

The cause of the state-aiders was strongly supported by Bowstead throughout the years, and he openly deplored the failure of the Nonconformists in the area to support British Schools since 1845, because the 'majority unhappily appeared to be in favour of purely voluntary action' . 46   The Voluntaryists had promised to establish schools 'without any contamination from the co-operation of the State' , 47 but in reviewing the school situation in 1854, Bowstead reminded the Voluntaryists that the state-aiders had 'waited some seven years, and the expected results are nowhere to be seen'. 48  Their experiment had been a failure, and now he hoped that the Voluntaryists had realised that the 'work of education could not be done by voluntary effort alone'. 49

However, as the British School became more familiar in South Wales, many of the works schools adopted its non-sectarian character and mode of teaching. In 1855, in Tredegar, 'the manager of ... the Works when he became acquainted with the movement (B.

However, as the British School became more familiar in South Wales, many of the works schools adopted its non-sectarian character and mode of teaching. In 1855, in Tredegar, 'the manager of ... the Works when he became acquainted with the movement (B. &.F.S.S.) and with the dissatisfaction which existed in the Firm with regard to the compulsion exercised in the schools of the works in connection with learning the Catechism and attending Church, gave orders to the Schoolmaster that the children are &.F.S.S.) and with the dissatisfaction which existed in the Firm with regard to the compulsion exercised in the schools of the works in connection with learning the Catechism and attending Church, gave orders to the Schoolmaster that the children are henceforth to go wherever they (or their parents) wish to worship God, and that no catechism is to be taught in the schools. As a result, these National Schools which had been established and held for 25 years as the exclusive system, became in one day virtually British Schools' . 50  Few employers of labour in South Wales at that time were so liberal or enlightened as this.

Nefydd lamented that many a National School would often be 'too rigid in its Churchism', 51  but on occasion he felt that the 'competition of the National and ..............

..............British Schools upon the whole answers very good purposes in provoking the zeal of each other, and also to cause the National Schools to exercise much more liberally towards Dissenters' . 52  On another occasion he reported that the people of Abertillery 'seemed to be highly delighted' and that 'a very enthusiastic' spirit prevailed as to the success of the British Schools notwithstanding the opposition (or competition) of the 52  On another occasion he reported that the people of Abertillery 'seemed to be highly delighted' and that 'a very enthusiastic' spirit prevailed as to the success of the British Schools notwithstanding the opposition (or competition) of the N.S. now in the course of erection by Sir. Thos. Philips and a few other wealthy gentlemen'.   53  As a rule though, the rivalry was bitter, and it was exceptional to have such co-operation as experienced, for instance, at Llandeilo (Carms.). where Lord Dynevor wished to erect 'a school in the town on very liberal principles to be managed by a Committee of all denominations'.   45 (54?)

An exceptionally liberal view was also held by H. A. Bruce, M.P. for Merthyr from 1852 to 1868. Although a devout and active member of the Established Church, he had come to the conclusion at an early date that the claim of the Anglican Church to control popular education in South Wales was inconsistent with a national system. Speaking in the Education Estimates in 1860, he told the House that, as a trustee for a large property (the Dowlais Works), he had erected schools for 2,300 children, not a tenth of whom belonged to the Church, and that he had therefore, disconnected the schools from the National Society and attached them to the British and Foreign Society. He asked the House whether it was right to take public money and apply it to the education of Dissenting children in Church Schools.   88 ( 55?)

Another difficulty which plagued Nefydd during these years was that of finding freehold sites on which to build schools. Most of the landowners were members of the Established Church, and were out of sympathy with the educational aspirations of the Nonconformists. In 1854, for instance, we find Nefydd at Risca 'at the request of the Committee to consult about the reply of R. R. W. Lingen, Esq., in which he says that one condition the Committee of Council requires to grant any aid is that the site must conformists. In 1854, for instance, we find Nefydd at Risca 'at the request of the Committee to consult about the reply of R. R. W. Lingen, Esq., in which he says that one condition the Committee of Council requires to grant any aid is that the site must be Fee-Simple'. Nefydd commented 'I had understood from a footnote on the School Building Form No. 4. that a lease of 99 years is admissible. I consulted Mr. Dune, and he thinks the footnote equivalent to a refusal. However, if that is the case, and if they will adhere strictly to it, it will create a serious obstacle in my way' . 56  There are frequent references to this kind of problem, and particularly in the case of a landowner such as the Duke of Beaufort, who when an application was made for a 'freehold site either as a grant or on sale ... refused' . 57  Such an attitude greatly added to the wrath the Nonconformists and Voluntaryists felt towards Anglican Tory landlords of this type.

Yet, apart from administrative problems of this kind, Nefydd was also constantly plagued by a shortage of qualified teachers even when he had managed to establish the schools. In 1854, he reported with some feeling that 'the want of good teachers is the GREAT obstacle in the way of our prosperity now in Wales. Could we have from 20 to 30 Certified Teachers, I think that we could find comfortable situations for them in S. Wales alone'. 58  His efforts were seriously thwarted since the status of a teacher in the eyes of a local committee was often extremely low, ..............

................. and on one occasion he referred to the application of the school committee at Abergavenny 'to the Boro Road for a teacher, making an offer of a salary (I do not know the amount) and received a reply that there was no Teacher to be had at such a low salary'. 58 (59?)

In an effort to meet this shortage, he at all times tried to recruit young men to the profession, and on occasion we find a reference to his efforts to get 'a few young men to go to the Normal College, Boro Road' . 60  Furthermore, he would help them to get into the profession, as in the case of a Mr. H. Rosser, at Darran Felen, who was 'very anxious to be better qualified for the work of Teaching,' and Nefydd promised 'to send to Mr. Owen on his behalf 60  Furthermore, he would help them to get into the profession, as in the case of a Mr. H. Rosser, at Darran Felen, who was 'very anxious to be better qualified for the work of Teaching,' and Nefydd promised 'to send to Mr. Owen on his behalf to know if he is eligible for a Neale exhibition'. 61   Similarly, on another occasion when on a visit to Beaufort, he wanted to ascertain whether 'John Richmond, the schoolmaster (who was not able to go to the Boro Road the last two years for want of means to pay), would avail himself of the kind offer of Hugh Owen Esq., that is, to take four young men of s[outh] W[ales].' 62

With the increasing number of schools, teachers naturally became more difficult to find, and by 1858 Nefydd lamented that 'six to eight years ago young Welshmen from Boro Road were glad to have 40 salary.... but now we cannot have any for 50, hence the great drawback in such schools as these. We look towards the establishment of the Bangor institution (Bangor Normal) as means of releasing us from these difficulties.' 55 (?)

However, even when a school had been established and a master recruited, Nefydd's troubles were not over, for he often had 'to arouse the inhabitants of the neighbourhood to send their children to the British School'. 65 Non-attendance as well as irregular attendance at school was a source of disquiet at this time, particularly when capitation grants were tied to attendance. Unfortunately, children were still regarded as a source of income, and it was the custom to make full use of them in rural Wales. Consequently, a little schooling during the winter months was considered to be adequate. For instance, at Neuadd Lwyd in Cardiganshire in the summer of 1855, he observed that the school there 'was in the same state as at Blaenannerch, having been given up until the winter', but as he observed, each of these schools has from 60 to 70 children in the winter'. 65

For this reason he considered that the 'Committee of Council ought to give half the capitation grant for attendance during the winter time for it will be very difficult to have but few to alter the old custom of the country of working in the summer on

For this reason he considered that the 'Committee of Council ought to give half the capitation grant for attendance during the winter time for it will be very difficult to have but few to alter the old custom of the country of working in the summer on the harvest and going to school in the winter' . 66 It was, however, a forlorn hope --- the Committee of Council would not relax or relent on this rule in any way.

It will be readily appreciated that during this period, great economic and social changes were taking place throughout the South Wales coalfield. The rapid growth of the coal and iron industries during the middle of the century was accompanied by a significant growth in the population of the area. This was a new phenomenon in Wales. In addition, canals, railways and roads linked up the district with the................

...............coastal areas and with England. All these changes brought new demands and further pressure upon the educational facilities. Nefydd did his utmost to meet these new demands.

In the face of all kinds of set-backs, he succeeded in making slow but steady progress in founding schools each year up to 1860. In May of that year, he rather jubilantly observed, 'I am glad to tell you that we are getting on in South Wales wonderfully successfully---we have from 14 to 17 new schools coming under inspection anew this summer, old schools improved and new prospects, etc.' 67  In a review of the progress made since the dark days of 1853, he claimed that by 1860 there were 102 British Schools in South Wales and Monmouthshire with accommodation for 24,000 children. 68

After 1860, however, Nefydd's reports, became more irregular. The report for 1862 reflected this slackening in his efforts, or at least in his progress, and he lamented that although the 'new schools opened in my district have been from 10 to 15 annually for a number of years, I am only able to report 5 new ones between Lady Day 1861 and Lady Day 1862'. 70

This sudden lack of impetus at a time when the British Society could rightly expect the movement to gain momentum caused some concern, and early in 1863 the Society's secretary visited South Wales to investigate the situation. Aware of this concern, Hugh Owen  approached Nefydd on these matters, and a letter from the latter to the Secretary of the British Society in March 1863, refers to a question recently posed to him by Hugh Owen --- 'Supposing the B. &.F.S.S. came to the resolution to keep you as you are now, have you been thinking anything about the division of work between yourself and another agent that may be appointed in South Wales?' 71

The discussion with Owen  had alerted Nefydd to the concern felt by the Society about the recent slackening in the pace of progress in South Wales. Yet, whilst he readily agreed that there was a need for an additional agent, he wished to emphasise that during his ten years as a part-time agent, the number of British Schools in South Wales had increased from about 14 to 164, and that in some rural districts, 'there were 23 projects for new British Schools', and that he had in mind 'more than 100 other places where they ought to be established'. 72

The Society, however, was not satisfied, for, following the visit of the secretary to South Wales and the preliminary soundings by Hugh Owen, a special Agency Committee was convened in March, 1863, and the following resolutions were sent in to the General Committee:-

1. That the apparent readiness of the population of South Wales for the extension of education in the principles of the Society renders it desirable to secure the entire services of an agent fully competent to the origination and organisation of British Schools in that part of the country.

2. That the Secretary be instructed to inform the Rev. W. Roberts, of Blaina, of this resolution, and to intimate that with this view they consider it needful to terminate their engagement with him as their agent at Midsummer next, conveying at the .....................

.....................same time their sense of the great service he has rendered to the Society during his connexion with it, and their assurance of his disinterested desire to see yet further progress and to help towards the work of education among his fellow countrymen'. 11 (73 ?)

Included in the report of the Society for 1864, there is a tribute to Nefydd and an explanation for the sudden termination of his contract. 'The Rev. W. Roberts, who as your respresentative has so long, and with so much disinterested zeal and success watched over the interests of scriptural education in that district, was precluded by other engagements from giving more than half his time to the work' . 74 Although aware of the Society's dissatisfaction, this decision must have been a great shock to Nefydd, and so as to delay his dismissal, he requested that his services be retained until the following Christmas. The request was granted, but thus 74 Although aware of the Society's dissatisfaction, this decision must have been a great shock to Nefydd, and so as to delay his dismissal, he requested that his services be retained until the following Christmas. The request was granted, but thus sadly, ended Nefydd's ten years of patient and arduous work in founding British Schools.

Although loyally supported by Hugh Owen and Joseph Bowstead, he had not been given that massive support the Methodists of North Wales had given to John Phillips. In addition, Nefydd had to contend with an influential residue of Voluntaryist opposition

Although loyally supported by Hugh Owen and Joseph Bowstead, he had not been given that massive support the Methodists of North Wales had given to John Phillips. In addition, Nefydd had to contend with an influential residue of Voluntaryist opposition for many years whilst in office. Bearing this in mind, his achievement was substantial and significant. He had firmly paved the way for his successor, David Williams, the Headmaster of the Copper Works School, Llanelli, who took over the agency in a much for many years whilst in office. Bearing this in mind, his achievement was substantial and significant. He had firmly paved the way for his successor, David Williams, the Headmaster of the Copper Works School, Llanelli, who took over the agency in a much more favourable climate. By that time, the British Schools were accepted, the rancour against state aid had largely evaporated, and government motives were no longer suspect. The more difficult years were over.

 

B. L. DAVIES

Bangor.

 

Notes;

1 Nefydd, (1813-72), Baptist Minister, lived at Blaina, Monmouthshire, 1845-72. South Wales representative of the British and Foreign School Society, 1853-64.

2 For a brief summary of the activities of the Voluntaryists in South Wales see Daniel Evans, The Life and Work of William Williams, 194-275.

3 The Rev. John Phillips, (1810-67), Calvinistic Methodist Minister, had been appointed representative to the B. &.F.S.S. in North Wales in 1843.

4 NLW. MSS., Nefydd, XV, 276, May 5, 1860 (Draft).

5 Letter from Nefydd to the B. &.F.S.S., March 17, 1863, Quoted in Trans. Hon. Cymm. Soc., 1931-32, 162-164.

6 Leslie Wyn Evans, Education in Industrial Wales, 1700-1900.

7 Trans. Hon. Cymm. Soc., 1931-32, 108.

8 British and Foreign School Society Report, 1853, 10.

9 Hugh Owen (1804-81), Civil Servant, Educationist, 'Chief Clerk of the Local Governnent Board', 1836-72. Knighted 1881.

10 Gen. Min., B. &.F.S.S. Nov. 3, 1853.

11 NLW. MSS., Nefydd, 7106. See also E. D. Jones, 'The Journal of William Roberts 'Nefydd', 1853-63', The National Library of Wales Journal, 1953-58.

12 Hugh Owen was appointed to the Committee of the British and Foreign Schools Society in 1855.

13 Journal, Dec. 22, 23, 1853.  

14 ibid., Dec. 22, 23, 1853.

15 ibid., May 13, 1854. 

16 ibid., Oct 13, 1857.

17 e.g. Y Drysorfa, 1843, 293-295. 

18 Journal, Jan 26, 1858.

19 op. cit., May 13, 1854.

20 Annual Report of the B. &.F.S.S., 1853, 15.

21 Journal, Nov. 21, 1854. 

22 ibid., Nov. 24, 1854.

23 ibid., Dec. 1. 1854. 

24 Educational Record, 1854, 20.

25 The Star of Gwent, Jan. 27, 1855.   

26 Journal, Feb. 19, 1855.

27 The Star of Gwent, April 17, 1855.

28 Minutes of the Conmittee of Council on Education, 1854-55, 635-48.

29 J. J. Stewart Perowne, Remains Literary and Theological of Conop Thirlwall. - Vol. 1, A Charge, delivered Oct. 1857, p. 310-13; ibid., Oct., 1860, p. 366-73. - Vol. 2, A Charge, delivered Oct., 1866, p. 101-19; ibid., Oct., 1872, p. 330-5.

30 ' British Schools Best Adapted to the Educational Needs of Wales,' Carmarthen, 1855, Seren Comer Office.

31 Baner ac Amserau Cymru, Chwef. 20, 1861.     

32 ibid.

33 B. L. Davies, ' An Assessment of the Contribution of Sir Hugh Owen to Education in Wales', 1971, Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis (Wales). 75-115.

34 Journal, Sept. 5, 1853.      

35 ibid., May 11, 1853.

36 ibid.        

37 ibid.        

38 ibid.

39 M.C.C., 1856-7, Footnote, 552.

40 Journal, Dec. 19, 1854, & Nonconformist, Dec. 20. 1854.

41 Journal, Jan. 30, 1862.      

42 ibid., Jnly, 20, 21, 1854.

43 ibid., July 25 & 26, 1854.   

44 ibid., Aug. 24, 1854.

45 M.C.C., 1855-56, 588-89.     

46 ibid., 1854-55, 640.

47 ibid., 1854-55, 641. 

48 ibid,. 1854-55. 641. 

49 ibid.

50 Journal, Jan 17, 1855.

51 ibid., Dec. 29, 1853.

52 ibid., June 30, 1854.

53 ibid., May 8, 1855.

54 ibid., Sept. 15/16 1857.

55 J. Vyrnwy Morgan, Welsh Political and Educational Leaders in the Victorian Era, 230-31.

56   Journal, Feb. 13, 14, 1854.  

57 ibid., May 21, 1845.

58 ibid., Nov. 28, 1854.        

59 ibid., Dec. 20, 1854.

60  ibid.. Jan. 27, 1855.       

61 ibid., May 22, 23, 1856.

62 ibid., June, 2, 1856.        

63 ibid., Feb. 8, 1858.

65(64?) ibid., May 8, 1855.  

65 ibid., Aug. 4, 1855.

66 ibid. 

67 NLW. Nefydd MSS. XV, 276. May 5, 1860, (Draft.)

68 ibid.

69 B. &.F.S.S. Annual Report, 1862, 13.

70 Letter from Nefydd to the Sec. B. &. F. S.S. Appendix V, Trans. Hon. Cymm. Soc. 1931-32, 162-64.

71 ibid.

72 Corr. & Ag. Min., B. &.F.S.S. March 20, 1863.

73 Annual Report, 13. &.F.S.S. 1864, 16.


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