The Journal of William Roberts ('Nefydd'), 1853-62
E D Jones, National Library of Wales journal Vol IX/4 Winter 1956.
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 2002]
This fifth part of the series
-includes the Journal entries from November 1856 to May 1857, which cover his visits to places in Glamorgan, Monmouthshire, Carmarthenshire, Cardiganshire, Pembrokeshire and Brecknockshire.
See the first part for links to all the other parts
Cardigan. I visited this town being in the neighbourhood, for the following purposes. (1st) To see Mr. J. Jones the teacher of the British School who is to be one of those that are to be on the Neale foundation in the Boro' Road in 1857, in order to make arrangements with him, ) [ Repeated from previous part]
(2 ly) To know how will the Committee proceed afterwards, respecting engaging a schoolmaster, whether from the Borough Road or elsewhere? If from the B.R., to know what salary they intend giving. The matter will be settled in the next Committee.
(3 ly) To see how the school comes on, what progress is made, the number on the books, &c. I was glad to find that there is a steady increase of number, and that the school is otherwise progressing as fast as may be expected, taking all things into consideration.
Llechryd. Visited this place (1st) in order to see the young man, Mr. Roberts, that has applied for admission to the Borough Road. I am happy to find that his master (Mr. Hughes) thinks very highly of him, as being adapted for the work.
(2ly) To see if the Managers do not feel inclined to put this school under inspection. I was very much pleased to find that there is a desire to do so at present, and I think it will be the case as soon as convenient.
Llanddausaint. This is a parish in a very mountainous district of Carmarthenshire, containing a population of 1006. There is no school of any sort within a reasonable distance. There is a Calvinistic Methodist congregation, which was established in the last century; some of the leaders of that congregation are very desirous of having a British School established there. I gave them every assistance in the shape of advice & information to proceed.
November 11& 12.
Blaina. Spent the chief parts of these days in reading the great number of applications received for the offices of master & mistress of Blaina School, searching the reports of the Committee of Council to see if they were certified and searching for the opinions of H.M.I. of the schools under their care. Strange to say that the applicants were almost all of them from National Schools in various parts of the Kingdom. We arranged in our last meeting on the 12th to renew the advertising, stating the amount of Salary, &c.
Writing letters on that acct to Messrs. Baxter, Dnnn, Bowstead, Saunders, Phillips, Morell, Wilks, &c. &c.
P.S.---I spent the latter part of this month in North Wales burying my old Tutor, Rev. J. Williams, late of Newtown.
Blaina. We had a meeting to look over the applications from schoolmasters & schoolmistresses. It was resolved, after reading them, to choose a few out of the whole who were the more likely persons to do for our schools, and to make inquiries of the Inspectors of the Society and the inspectors of the Government, and other gentlemen, in order to get all the information that we could glean about them, and to meet again on the following Monday.
Blaina. According to the above arrangement on the 1st instant, the Committee of this school met to consider the applications, testimonials, and all the letters containing information respecting the applicants. The number of applications laid aside as being inefficient, without Certificates, &c. on the 1st was near 40, and seven selected (5 males, and 2 females) to make further inquiries about them. By this time twelve more applications had been received. F. Levick, Esq. requested me particularly as one that had taken interest in these schools from the commencement, and as the Agent of the British & Foreign Schools Society for this district, with all the information of the Blue Books at hand, to draw a full report of the merits of all those applicants from all the sources of information that I could obtain, this being an important crisis connected with these schools where about 4,000 children have received more of less education during the last 11 years, and the number increasing continually.
In accordance with Mr. Levick's request I collected from the reports of the Committee of Council, from letters I had received from Messrs. Bowstead, Morell, Baxter, Wilks, Saunders & Griffiths (of L'pool), and from the testimonials, as fair and full a report as I could prepare.
The Committee met this day to look over my report and it was resolved to appoint Mr. Dugdale of Red Cross St. British School, Bristol, and Mrs. Kovachich of the Hibernian British School, Liverpool, as master and mistress of our schools.
Three-fourths of our 50 or 52 applicants were from National schoolmasters & mistresses.
The Committee met today to consider the necessity of some improvements connected with the house, schoolrooms, and play-ground, to be done during the holidays, and to build an additional house, so that the Master and Mistress may have a house each, in addition to the house of the Mistress of the Infant School (Miss Tozer).
Having sent, as soon as he was appointed, to ask Mr. Dugdale to meet the Committee this day, we met accordingly. We arranged to open the schools with the new Master & Mistress on the first Monday in January.
Tongwynlais. Having been given to understand that William Prosser, who had been keeping schools at Bryn Amman in Carmarthenshire, and Lantwit Major in Glamorganshire for years, was about to take a large club room connected with a public house in this place, in order to establish a private school, I made it a point to persuade him to go to the Boro' Rd. to be qualified to take a good school, under inspection. I was aware that he had been very successful in the above small schools and that he had left the work, after being married, because his salary was too small, and had taken the management of a shop, but not being pleased with that work as much as in keeping a school, I thought it a good opportunity to prevail upon him to apply to Boro' Rd.
I am glad to find that he has been admitted and is preparing to go to London, Jan. 13th.
Taff's Well. This is a populous district near the Works of T. W. Booker Esq. (M.P. for Herefordshire) at Pentyrch. There is no school near, excepting a dame school about a mile off, and a small inferior Church school about a mile and a half off. I had a conference with some of the leading men of the place, and they seemed to think that a school is greatly wanted and that no school will do for the place but a British School, because all the inhabitants are members and hearers at the Dissenting Chapels. They will inquire for a site, and send to me a for a second visit as soon as they can secure ground,
Blackwood. The schoolmaster (J. H. Dangerfield) having left, I visited the place in order to persuade the Committee to apply to the Boro Rd to Jas Griffiths from Llanelly. They informed me that they would call a meeting of the Com. as soon as possible, and afterwards send to the Boro' Rd.#
#The Com. afterwards met, and they resolved to send to me, that I might send to Griffiths. I did so. But during this negotiation Beaufort British School was about to become vacant, by J. Richmond leaving for Borough Road and Griffiths settled to go to Beaufort. Therefore, Blackwood is now at a stand for want of a Master. Others are so---Penmorfa, Newgate Nr. Hawen, Talgarth, &c. &c.
Maesycwmwr. This is a very populous neighbourhood, chiefly on acct of its being a conjunction of three Railways, The Rumney & Newport, the Rumney & Cardiff, and the Loop Line (Pontypool to Aberdare) Railways. There is no school, excepting a small church school which is held in an old dwelling house about a mile off, where about 60 children are huddled together where about 25 or 30 ought to be. The leading men of the place are very anxious to have a good school established here, but they seem to have some fears about the possibility of having a freehold site.
Pontaberbargod. This neighbourhood is within about 3 miles of the above, and is similarly situated as to the want of a school. There is a strong desire to act, if they could have a site. The greatest difficulties throughout my district arise because the land is the property of gentlemen belonging to the Church of England and those generally of the Tories, and high Church party.
Blaina. We had a public meeting to present Mr. & Mrs. Jones with a testimonial, towards which the parents subscribed £16. It was a very interesting meeting.
Pontypridd. I had visited this place on the 18th of Dec. 1855, and found the leading men very backward in taking up the idea of the importance and necessity of establishing a school amidst a population of from 4000 to 5000. They thought also that it would be impossible to have a site. But in a few weeks after my visit there was a move,---promises were made, &c. One gentleman promised £20, and others according to their means. But they found some difficulty to have a site, and the matter was then dropped. About three months ago the Rev. Mr. Osborne (Wesleyan Minister) moved towards having a Wesleyan School built on the ground attached to their Chapel, and obtained the promises that were formerly made for a British School towards the said erection, and a room 40 ft. by 20, with a classroom are nearly ready, and a young man from the Wesleyan institution is engaged. It is to be opened early in January. I hope it will stimulate the others to have a British School; there is room for both.
Trefforest. This place is near Pontypridd and the population is just the same, but the prospect of increasing is much more at Trefforest. This will be one of the most important districts in South Wales ere long. The chain works of Messrs. Brown Lennox & Co. at Pontypridd, though large and important, are not likely to increase, nor the Collieries of the neighbourhood; but in addition to the Works of Messrs. Fothergill at Trefforest, those of F. Crawshay, Esq., are now in course of being greatly extended. Three new furnaces are now in course of erection. Probably the population of Trefforest about the next census will be from 7,000 to 8,000. There is no public school in the place, and only a few private ones. A National School is now in course of being erected, but the inhabitants are almost all Dissenters, and it is the firm belief of even the friends of the Church that it must prove a failure if a British School is established there.
I had two or three conferences with the most influential men in the place. They seemed to think that my visit was just at the very time it was wanted, thinking it so providential they were very thankful for the information their case required. From the aspect of things here, I expect that something will be done very soon. The only thing they seemed to hesitate about here, as elsewhere, was the ground, but they resolved to work quietly until they could secure that.
Rhydfelen. This place has a population of about 1,000 or 1,200. There are two Chapels, but no school of any sort excepting Sunday Schools. I knew that the Independent Minister, who has by far the largest congregation in this place, was some years ago against Government aid, and it struck me that it would be difficult to have a school erected here without it. I asked him the question, and was very glad to hear his confession 'I was so some time ago, 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'. I was led to hope that the result of my visit to this place, and the conversations we have had, will prove eventually satisfactory.
Beaufort. The British School in this place may be considered in almost a peculiar position. It was established about 7 years ago, when the 'great bubble' as Mr. Dunn called the voluntary movement, with the Normal College, &c. in Wales. A room was built on a site attached to a Wesleyan Chapel by subscriptions, with an understanding that it should be for the public use gratis. But in a few years the Trustees charged £3 per annum of rent for the room. That gave such an offence to some of those who were on the Committee that 'they would not do anything in connection with the school as long as it would be held in that room'. But the other portion of the Committee saw that there was no other room to hold it in. This, however, disorganised the original Committee, and greatly discouraged the members remaining thereon. About three years ago Dr. Bevan took a room in the place and established a Church School. The Dr soon found his mistake, and he saw that his Infants' School, which was under the care of a Mistress, would be nearly empty as long as it was a Church School. He changed its character, and put it under the inspection of Mr. Bowstead, with an intention of erecting a British School with Government aid. In this form, it became a formidable opposition to the British School; and about 12 months ago the Committee discontinued its operations, and it was dissolved. Several of the leading men offered to co-operate with Dr. Bevan in order to have a good school established. The Dr. would have no co-operation with Dissenters, and would persist in keeping the management of his school entirely in his own hand and call it 'Dr. Bevan's school'. The Dissenters on the other hand had not much confidence in the Dr. who is a zealous, and conscientious Churchman, and who went himself from house to house, and sent notes to others, to ask the parents of his scholars, if they would allow their children to go to Church on Good Friday. They (Dissenters) thought that even if the school would be erected as a British School, that he and the other Trustees would change its character to be a National School when it would suit his convenience as they did lately at Defynog (see my Journal Oct. ). Therefore they advised J. Richmond, the schoolmaster, to continue, and aided him a little in his operations. And although Dr. Bevan's room# was full, J. Richmond's was full also.
Great credit is due to J. Richmond for keeping on for many years this school under a great many disadvantages, and giving much satisfaction to parents and others, notwithstanding his inferiority in point of education. He (Richmond), being about to go to the Boro Rd., felt anxious himself as to the continuance of his school, and so did several of the old Committee. We therefore succeeded in forming a new Committee and invited Jas Griffiths of Lanelly, who has lately come from the Boro Rd., to succeed J. Richmond.##
#He has not yet erected the new school-room.
##Jas Griffith came on the 6th to see the place, and we settled on the 7th that he is to commence at Beaufort Jan. 19.
Writing to the young men that were preparing to go to the Boro' Road College, and also to Mr. Wilks and Mr. Owen respecting them.
Blaina. This was the day appointed for the opening of these schools under the charge of the new Teachers (Mr. W. Dugdale and Mrs. E. Kovachich), a number of parents attended. Mr. Levick (proprietor and manager of the Works) introduced the new Master to the scholars in the boys' school, and made some excellent remarks on the value of education. I had afterwards to address the scholars and pupil Teachers. The same was done at the Girls' school, the parents, teachers, and children were addressed by other Ministers. The meeting was interesting.
Beaufort. Visited this place according to previous arrangement, to meet the Com. and Mr. James Griffiths (from Boro' Road) the new Teacher that I had proposed to them. The young man came from Carmarthenshire to see the place and to have an idea of the prospects &c. It was arranged that J. Griffiths should commence his work at Beaufort B. School on the 19th. (We had also under consideration the necessity of building a good schoolroom to contain from 250 to 300 children. This, I think, will be done in the course of the summer.#)
Dowlais. Having been given to understand in the month of Novr last that Canon Jenkins succeeded to bring Church principles to bear much on these schools, that that caused much dissatisfaction among Dissenters in this place, and that this was not done in accordance with the will of Mr. Clark (the Manager), I wrote to Mr. Bowstead, knowing he was on very friendly terms with Mr. C., stating the facts that Miss Oliver taught the Church Catechism and that she showed much more favour to those of her scholars and teachers that attended Church than to the others, asking him whether he could do anything to counteract this evil in these excellent schools. Mr. Bowstead sent to me in Dec. stating that he must not take a prominent part in the matter, in so doing he would not be backed by the Committee of Council but what he could do in a private and friendly manner with Mr. Clark he would when he would meet him; but the best plan would be for me to see the Dissenting Ministers and when they have collected a few facts together to relate them to Mr. Clark frankly and fully. This was the object of my present visit, I met some of the leading men and found that what I had heard to be true respecting the Church pressure especially in the Girls' school, the dissatisfaction of Dissenters, &c. (and to my great joy) I found that all this was contrary to Mr. Clark's wish. Mr. Clark had lately invited the whole of the Dissenting Ministers of the place (about 15 in number) and addressed them inviting their 'cooperation in making the schools efficient by visiting them, and taking interest in them, in fact by making, and considering them their own; that Mr. Jenkins (Canon) had nothing more to do there than one of them, &c. This would have been a good opportunity for them to bring forward the above facts but they did not then feel prepared to enter into those matters. They were very thankful to me for my visit and information. The leading men have had a meeting since, where they formally voted thanks to me for the assistance above mentioned, wishing me also to give them further aid to carry out their object, of placing the Dowlais Schools on such foundation that no Church coercion, or wrong bias, shall be exercised therein.
Writing to various schools and Teachers in South Wales and also to Messrs. Owen, Saunders, Fitch, Wilks, and Bradford, in London.
Blackwood. I had recommended Mr. J. Griffiths to this Committee but when Beaufort and Blackwood were offered to him, he chose the first as being the more populous district and this Committee was therefore disappointed, and I am sorry to say that this is now one of the many places where we have no teachers to offer. The object of my visit was to inform them that their slowness and apathy in carrying on their correspondence with J. Griffiths when he was in the Boro' Road caused them to lose him, and to propose to them that they should agree with an old Independent Minister who is a good scholar and willing to supply the place until we can supply them with a Certificated Teacher. It was so arranged. He is to commence there on the 26th instant. The salary this Committee will offer when a Certificated Teacher can be found will be £45, a good house and plenty of coal independent of Government aid.
Beaufort. The schoolroom in this place being small and inconvenient, it was supposed although the Duke of Beaufort would not grant or sell freehold site, that with a little additional expense suitable rooms could be made under the Independent Chapel that is to be erected this summer; rooms that will contain 250 or 300 children. I attended at the request of the Committee to assist them in coming to an arrangement in this matter and I am glad to be able to add that such schoolrooms will be erected this year, and a clause is to be in the Deed that they shall be used for unsectarian education.
Newbridge (Radnorshire). I was given to understand by a letter from the Rev. Mr. Morgan, Errwd, that there was a strong desire to have a British School established in this place, and that they would be very thankful for information as to how to proceed, with Government aid, &c. I lost as little time as possible in complying. I gave them the necessary information to secure a freehold site, &c., and promised to visit them again as soon as they shall succeed in getting land, &c.
Pontsenny. My journal of Oct. the 1st contains detailed accounts of this place, its connection with Defynnock, the change of the Devynnock school from being a British School to be a National School, the opposition of the Managers of the Devynnock School to this Committee with Sir C. Morgan M.P. respecting the site, &c. I am glad now to be able to say that Sir C. Morgan has given the Committee a promise of a site. Now they are about to establish a British School in a room until the new schoolroom will be ready. It is expected to be ready in the course of this summer. This is another place in want of a Certificated master.
Pontyrystrad. Visited this and the following places in accordance with the arrangement made between myself and Mr. Baxter. There is a Dame school in this place with about 60 children, held in an old Cottage. This is under the management of Mr. Thomas of Ystrad; he is now building a new Church in this neighbourhood, and a new schoolroom is to be erected near it when this dame school will probably be established in a more efficient form. I do not see any prospect of establishing a British School in this place, although the Dissenters are very numerous here.
Quakers Yard. This place has taken its name from an old burying ground given in the time of Charles II by a Lady called Lydia Fell of Cefn y Fforest. This and a place called Berth Lwyd in the same neighbourhood, contain a population of about 700 or 800, and there is no school of any sort within reach. I met with some of the heads of families. They would be glad to have a good school, but they do not seem to think that they would be able to undertake such a 'great work', as they considered it. Some good may have been done here, at least I hope so.
Blaenrhondda. Pursuing my exploring visits as arranged between myself and Mr. Baxter, I came to this neighbourhood. I find that above three hundred men are engaged here by the Great Western Coal Co.; their children are very numerous. There is a Church School within reach, but the inhabitants being Dissenters, very few of them feel inclined to avail themselves of its advantages, clogged as they are with Churchism. I consulted some of the leading men and found that there is a strong desire to have a British School established. Some of them were afraid of the undertaking being too much for them.
Cymer. This is the place where 114 men were killed by the terrible explosion that took place in the last summer. There are about 450 workmen altogether in these Collieries. A small school has been established as an experiment in order to see how it would be appreciated. It is more immediately in connection with Mr. Insole's Collieries. The Schoolmaster, Mr. Tho. John, has had no training, nor is he capable of working a school, or teaching properly even the most common rudiments of education. It is therefore no wonder that such a school is not appreciated. I had a conference with some of the most influential men in the place, and found a strong desire to have a good school. I gave them all the necessary directions to proceed, and promised them any assistance that they would require in their future movements after a site is fixed upon, and other preliminary operations.
Ystrad-dyfodwg. This place is similarly situated to Blaenrhondda with about double the population of that place, and with no sort of school. It has sprung into note during the last few years by the opening of new Collieries, after the Rhondda Valley Railway was completed. I did not meet with the encouragement and prospects I anticipated here, but I had a good opportunity of laying the case before some of the leading men of the neighbourhood, and I have only to hope for success.
February 9 & 10.
Blaenffos (Pembrokeshire). This was one of the places fixed upon when I was with Mr. Baxter. There has been a school from time to time in this place in connection with the Baptist Chapel. The room in which it was held was inconveniently small and low. I found in the place a strong desire to have a good school, but some objected to the receiving of Government aid, but still they did not see their way clear to do without Government aid. This presented a difficulty which they must settle among themselves. I think that the pro-government aid party will prevail. This is a rural and agricultural district without a school for miles around.
Star (Pembrokeshire). This is a neighbourhood similar to that of Blaenffos. There is not a school of any value for about six miles round, and although a strong desire for one is there to be found, yet the money towards building and maintaining a school among a few poor farmers is a very difficult matter. I pointed out to them the advantages offered by the Committee of Council and I have some grounds to hope that they will proceed to build with Government aid.
Darren Felen (Brecknockshire). I had visited this place during the last summer and found about 120 children in a room much too small. It was a small Chapel. I pointed out the necessity and practicability of building a schoolroom, and putting the school under inspection. The matter was from time to time discussed by the Committee (which consists entirely of working men) and I was now invited to give some further information as to the details of such procedure. I was thankfully received, and found a very strong and general desire to improve the school by putting it under inspection as soon as possible. It was also arranged to make inquiries about a site for building a school-house and a residence for the Master.
N.B.---The remainder of this month I spent in Liverpool at the request of the Committee of the Pontypool College getting donations towards the extension of the building.
March 9 & 10.
Abertillery. After the new list of Certificated Masters and Mistresses was published by the Committee of Council Mr. Bowstead sent to me a letter requesting that I should endeavour to advise those who had been unsuccessful not to stand in the way of the progress of the schools, at the same time informing them of his (Mr. B.'s) wishes respecting them. On the 9th there was a Tea party at these British schools. The object of the Tea party was to draw the children and parents together so that after Tea (which was given by a respectable person in the neighbourhood) the principles of British Schools might be explained, as being the only schools adapted for all Denominations of Xtians to cooperate in carrying on the great work of education. Sir Thos. Phillips's National School was opened in January, every effort was made to draw the children from the British Schools to the National School by the Curate and others. Sir Thomas Phillips had given orders in his own Colliery that his workmen must pay a percentage of their wages towards supporting the National School whether they would send their children there or not. Through the efforts and influence of the Committee of the British Schools the workmen in Sir Thomas's Colliery stood out altogether, and refused to be bound in that manner to support the National School.
March 11 & 12.
Beaufort. Mr. Bowstead desired me to try to persuade Mr. Jas. Griffiths to go to Maesteg, Glamorgan, instead of Mr. Protheroe because that school is under inspection, and the Beaufort School is not, nor is it likely to be so in consequence of the schoolroom which is to be built being under or connected with a Chapel. I found that the Committee prevailed with Griffiths to remain and that they are ready to promise him £80 without Government aid if the school cannot be put under inspection, but that they will endeavour to build such schoolroom as will be passable by the Inspectors and the Committee of Council. At all events the Committee was prepared to make an extra effort in order to keep Griffiths. Seeing that I had no other Certificated Teacher to offer at Maesteg, instead of Mr. Protheroe, I thought it of no use for me to go there. I therefore returned home on the 12th.
March 16 & 17.
Aberdare. This school also is likely to be thrown backwards in consequence of J. Anthony the Master not being Certificated. He had promised Mr. Bowstead in August last, to go to London to try for a Certificate in December, but he did not go. He has had Pupil Teachers and Capitation grant for yeats, and has from time to time promised to try either for Registration or a Certificate, but this year all Government aid will be withdrawn from this School in consequence of his not fulfilling his promise. I wanted to know the intention of himself and the Committee. I am sorry to find that Mr. Anthony intends leaving if the School will not be carried on without Government aid. I find also that some of the Committee are inclined to abandon Government aid altogether, so that the School, if such will be the case, will suffer greatly. In fact, it will be an effectual way of handing over the bulk of the children to the national school. I could get no satisfaction at present; I intend visiting this place again as soon as I can.
Writing to Messrs. Baxter, Bowstead, and Owen, London and to various parts of South Wales.
March 19 & 20.
Beaufort. I was requested [to visit] this place again to assist on the following points.
(1) I was informed by J. Richmond that some of his old friends of the various Denominations in the place wanted him to recommence keeping a school, and that he was on the point of yielding to their entreaties. I am glad that I succeeded in persuading him to abandon the idea, and to seek another situation. I am happy to find that by this time (April 10) he is a Clerk in a Machine at Dowlais Works.
(2) There was some disagreement among the Committee as regarding the new School-room. The Independents being the strongest Denomination in the place thought of building the room in connection with their Chapel, the other Denominations were not willing to co-operate with them unless a conveyance of the property to Trustees of the various Denominations be effected, so that one Denomination should not have all the power of controlling, managing, &c. I could not assist them in this matter but I think that the end of it will be their fixing on another piece of ground.
Blackwood. Mr. J. H. Dangerfield the Master that was here, left in December last, and because they could get no one, they engaged in January an old Minister, who was not acquainted with the system of B. teaching. He had left this week, so that this excellent schoolroom, with a good house attached are now shut up for want of a Teacher. This is still our great want. We want now eight or nine, and we shall want more before the end of this year. Our harvest is great, but the labourers are few.
Penmain. This is an agricultural district, a small school had been built here near an Independent Chapel about eight years ago, at the time of the voluntary movement in South Wales. But they became unable to continue the salary of the Master in about 2 or 3 years, and the room has been shut ever since. I hope that I have succeeded in moving a reopening of it. I can scarcely expect it to be under inspection because the terms of the Committee of Council are too high to meet the requirements of such places as these.
Risca. Mr. Bowstead wished me to urge the Committee of this school to proceed with the building as soon as possible. I was very glad to find more than a hundred children where Mr. Merriman found from 40 to 50. The appearance of the school is pleasing as to the order, &c., considering the shortness of time since Mr. Merriman has been established there, and the teaching power being also inadequate to the requirements, and one pupil Teacher. Mr. Merriman has no Candidate fit to be examined to be a Pupil Teacher in August. The Committee will proceed &c.
During the first nine days of this month I was unable to attend to my duties in consequence of a severe cold I had.
April 10 & 11.
Writing my Journal for March and other letters on educational matters.
Devynnock. In my journal for January I stated that the Committee of Pontsenny School had obtained a promise of a site of the Agent of Sir Charles Morgan, but I am sorry to say that this promise in consequence of the opposition of the managers of the National School at Devynnock (about a mile from Pontsenny) has been recalled [and that] the above Agent will not certify that the ground is to be had. The Committee when they found that out, endeavoured to obtain a piece of land somewhere in the neighbourhood, and have succeeded with much difficulty to buy one in the village of Devynnock. They wanted therefore to know how to proceed. I advised them first of all to secure the land by a conveyance Deed for fear some influence would be brought to bear against their having it, especially as it is near the National School of Devynnock. And afterwards to apply to the Committee of Council as soon as possible, and also to establish a temporary school until the new erection will be available. I expect that the promoters of the British School in this place shall have a struggle similar to those of Abertillery or Llangefni.
Troedyrhiw. This is a very populous neighbourhood near Pentrebach Works in Glamorganshire. There is no school. Mr. Hill, the Manager of the Works at Pentrebach (who is very high Tory in Politics) has established a collection towards a National School. I am informed that upwards of £300 is already promised. The Dissenters are very numerous in the place but they are afraid of offending Mr. Hill, therefore there are no prospects of having a British School there.
Aberaman. This place which I had visited about twelve or eighteen months ago was then without prospects bnt now a Committee is formed, they have met several times, and have sent to me requesting my assistance as regarding the mode of proceeding, of obtaining Government aid &c. I was very glad to notice, that those who were formerly thinking it impossible for them to have a school at Aberaman, had changed to say 'we must have it'. I directed them as usual to secure a freehold site in the first instance, and then to apply to the Committee of Council. The population in this place is considered to be from 3000 to 4000, eleven-twelfths of which are Dissenters. Mr. Crawshay Bailey, M.P., the proprietor of the Works, it is feared, will do nothing for them.
Llanilltyd-faerdref. This is an agricultural district containing a population of 800 to 1000, (without reckoning the outskirts of the Parish, containing the populous neighbourhood of the works of Trefforest and Pontypridd. There is no school of any importance in the whole district. There are several parties very anxious to have one, but the obstacles seem to be, in their view, too great. I could not succeed in convincing them of the practicability of the advantages offered by the Committee of Council and its adaptation in their case. However, they may think otherwise at another time, as they have done at the above place (Aberaman).
Briery Hill. This place is in the neighbourhood of Ebbw Vale. Several of the inhabitants had taken into consideration the strong Church influence exercised in the schools connected with the Ebbw Vale Works. Some of them thought of having a British School established on the Briery hill. I was requested to give an advice in the case and to assist them to come to a conclusion. My advice was, to let the matter remain until Mr. Baxter would visit the schools at Ebbw Vale, and as the Schools were now in course of being changed and had been put under the inspection of Mr. Bowstead the British Schools Inspector, that Mr. Baxter and Mr. Bowstead would see to the liberal principles being properly and fully carried out in these schools, notwithstanding their past adherence to church principles, and the anxiety of the Clergyman and a few others to continue so. The matter will be in abeyance until Mr. Baxter will be in Wales.
Blackwood. They are still in want of a Teacher in this school, and they wanted information as to the consequence of their taking an uncertificated one. They have invited Mr. J. Davies of Dolau School in Radnorshire to take the charge of the school. Mr. Davies intends preparing himself for the next Xmas examination. The Rev. J. Thomas a Minister of a neighbouring Chapel has voluntarily undertaken the charge of the school until Mr. Davies can make it convenient to be in there.
I advised them to endeavour to have Mr. Davies before Mr. Bowstead comes in August in order to have a Pupil Teacher and other Government aids for the efficient working of the school. The alterations are completed in the schoolroom. There is a good house, schoolroom, and playground. The neighbourhood is populous.
Pontaberbargoed. This neighbourhood which is rapidly increasing in population is still without a school. But I am glad to find that there is now a movement in the right direction. They have had a few meetings, and they are now proceeding in their inquiry for a site. This is supposed to be a difficult point, as is the case in most parts of Wales, because the owners of the soil are almost all of them, Churchmen of the old Tory stamp, and the inhabitants generally are Dissenters. As soon as this Committee has succeeded in obtaining the ground I have promised to visit the place, and to deliver a lecture on education.
I had an opportunity of spending this day with the Rev. John Phillips of Bangor, who visited Monmouthshire. We had conversations upon various subjects connected with schools, Normal College, and other educational movements in North and South Wales.
Neath. Visited this town and British School with a view of making arrangements about Mr. Baxter's intended visit. I found the school very orderly as usual under the able management of Miss Evans.
This Committee has more in prospect than establishing the present school, which is only what may be called an Infant School (containing 130 girls and 54 boys) established preparatory to the erection of Boys' and Girls' Schools.
The ground bought at first is sufficient to build Boys', Girls', and Infants' Schools, and the Committee had this in view when it was bought. The buildings contemplated have been kept in abeyance now for nearly three years, because some of the members of the Committee were against Government aid. They all agreed notwithstanding that they could not proceed without it, after having collected at first about £500 to buy the land and to erect the present room. At last they agreed to apply for Government aid towards the erections which are to cost about £900. The Committee of Council has promised them £698 towards the above £900, the value of the ground, &c. The contract has been taken, and the work has now been commenced. The second Anniversary is to be on the 15th of May.
P.S.---I now (June 5th) enclose a Report of the above Schools for last year, which shows more fully the state of things connected with them.
Swansea. Visited the Boys' School in this Town to make arrangements about Mr. Baxter's visit. Mr. Adams is very anxious to have a public examination when Mr. Baxter comes. This is one of the most important schools in this district as regarding its number of scholars [and] as to the efficiency of education in it. Mr. Hammett the old master that was there for about 30 years who lately died has kept it very backward but now under the care of Mr. Adams it is progressing rapidly. At the request of the master I examined some of the classes in Grammar, Biblical information, &c., and found much improvement in them since I had been there before. Seeing that Mr. Baxter's visit is so near I do not intend to examine it with a view to be reported. Mr. Adams desires to know as soon as possible the time Mr. Baxter will favour them with a visit in order to prepare for the examination.
Neath Abbey. I visited these schools at the request of the Teachers and Managers in order to conduct a public examination. We had a great number present including parents, managers, &c. The first Class of Boys read, and afterwards the third, and after that the girls. The reading upon the whole was good as regarding pronunciation, and distinctness of articulation, but the emphasis was not very good.
Then about forty were examined in the Geography of England, and afterwards in History from William the Conqueror to Henry II.
Afterwards Mental Arithmetic, Geography of Palestine, and Scripture History were our subjects. The children manifested a considerable skill and readiness in their answers.
This school when we consider the amount of Teaching power in it (being as yet without a Pupil Teacher) has made good progress. Afterwards Cha. Price, Esq., myself, and others addressed the meeting. They intend to have a great day here when Mr. Baxter will visit them.
May 11 &12.
Llysfaen. This is an agricultural district in Glamorganshire, containing a population of about 500 or 600 and the parishioners being almost all Dissenters, and having heard of my being the Agent of the British and Foreign Schools Society in South Wales wanted information as to how to proceed in establishing a school. I had an interview with a few of the leading men, and gave them all the required information. There is not a school of any sort for several miles.
May 14 &15.
Hirwaun. Some years ago I reported the case of this neighbourhood as to educational preparation. There were then two schools, kept in connection with the Works, which were almost worse than being without any, for one was kept by an old collier that was unable to work, and of course unable to keep a school; the other was kept by a drunken man. There was also a British School that had been erected by the Dissenters in the heat of the voluntary movement in South Wales about 1848, which had still a considerable amount of debt upon it. The workmen were compelled to pay towards the schools of the Works and some of them could not pay also in the British School. The number of children in the British School being small, the Committee could not get a good Schoolmaster, therefore, there was no inducement to the workmen to make an effort to send their children there, some of the Committee being also against Government aid. All these things combined to keep the place without a school of any value. I endeavoured to direct some of the leading men of the place to state the case fully to Mr. Crawshay the proprietor and manager of the Works; and to try to bring each other to see the propriety of applying for Government aid, and if they could succeed in discontinuing the schools of the works, and to get Government aid for the British School they may expect to have a good school at Hirwaun and not without that. I am glad now to add that they have succeeded. The miserable schools of the works are no more, the present master of the British School who is of course a very inferior one, is to leave in six weeks, hence they wanted information as to Government aid, and now I think the way is clear for establishing a good school at Hirwaun.
May 18 & 19.
Pantycelyn. This is among the mountains of Brecknockshire, containing a population of a few hundreds, a Chapel, and no school of any sort for several miles round. I think about 4 or 5 miles. There has been a small private school held here occasionally, but now for years there is no one. Many of the inhabitants are very wishful to have one but they are afraid that the terms of the Committee of Council are not within their reach, and therefore that they cannot avail themselves of the Grants expect in preparing a school-room. I have only to hope that the importance of making an effort in this matter will be duly felt by the farmers of the neighbourhood.
May 21 & 22.
Devynnock. According to my promise on the 13th of April, I visited this place again to assist the Committee in carrying on the correspondence with the Committee of Council and to my agreeable surprise the Committee of Council had sent a promise of the Grant a few days ago. Now the Committee of this school is ready to proceed with the [building] to be approved of by the Committee of Council. If they can have things ready they will prepare the building this year so that there will be soon a British and a National School in the small village of Devynnock.