Voluntary Education in the Industrial Areas of Wales before 1870


Leslie Wynne Evans., National Library of Wales journal. 1966, Winter Volume XIV/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 March 2003)

VOLUNTARY education in England and Wales before the Education Act of 1870 has been regarded as meaning the provision of elementary education by the two leading Voluntary bodies - the National Society and the British and Foreign School Society - including a brief period, roughly between 1844 and 1854 of Voluntaryism, associated with the nonconformist denominations outside the Anglican church.   1

The educational background of this period was inevitably bound up with the many fundamental changes in the social, economic, and political life of the country. Perhaps the most striking feature on the political side was the dilatory attitude and consequent procrastination on the part of the government of the day to legislate on a comprehensive scale for the education of the indigent section of the community, which, by the middle of the nineteenth century comprised the greater part of the population. Nevertheless, in the early years of the century there were signs of a growing interest in popular education both in and out of Parliament.

Some continental countries were ahead of Britain and had already organised education on a national basis. After 1789, free, compulsory, State-controlled education had become one of the leading conceptions of continental liberalism. 2  But liberalism of the English kind, while favourable to a general extension of education, distrusted State control as being a political danger to civil liberty. Again, many people voiced the opinion that education was essentially a sphere of religious training and believed in ecclesiastical control. Others still, clung to the view - so characteristic of the eighteenth century - that education was a charity to the poor, and not a right to which everyone in the realm was entitled. The interaction of these and other opinions delayed for many years the planning of a national system.

The years which followed the Napoleonic wars, and the economic and social distress which they saw, brought with them a new awareness of 'educational destitution'. 3  The ingenuity of Bell and Lancaster created the mainspring of the voluntary principle in education which expressed itself in the activities of the two Voluntary Societies. 4  Indeed, almost all elementary education in England and Wales before 1870 was voluntary. When in 1833 the State took its first step in the field of national education by giving an annual donation of £20,000 (which was considerably increased every year after 1839, when the Committee of Privy Council for Education was set up) in aid of schoolroom building, the two..............

.............. Voluntary Societies were already voluntarily organising educational work. The State, anxious to encourage education could neither enter into competition nor supersede them. The only course open was that of assistance, and thereafter State subsidisation of voluntary education was inevitable. Thus was born the Voluntary System in the official sense, and the government channelled public money for education through the Voluntary bodies because no other administrative machinery existed, and there was no cheap alternative to the parochial system. 5

When 'educational destitution' in the highly industrialised and densely populated parts of England and Wales is examined in detail a most revealing aspect of the Voluntary System emerges, namely, the significant part played by employers of labour in the establishment of elementary schools for the education of the children of their employees. These were the areas where the need for education was greatest and where the Voluntary bodies were weakest, for even with subventions these bodies were utterly inadequate to cover the vast field of less populated areas let alone the industrial ones. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the industrial districts of Wales before 1870.

This paper attempts to assess the efforts of employers of labour, hitherto neglected in Welsh educational historiography, to combat acute 'educational destitution' within their rapidly expanding communities. The reasons why Welsh historians have been strangely remiss in this field are not far to seek. In the first place the theme is complex and often intricately interwoven with questions of religion, sociology, economics, politics and environment. Secondly, during the initial phases of their establishment, works schools were independent of government aid, were not inspected by the Committee of Council's Inspectors, and were often omitted from the annual official returns in the Minutes of that Committee. Thirdly, the Committee of Privy Council made no comprehensive survey of these schools. Again, historical material on this subject is very diffused (though not by any means wanting) throughout the masses of official government publications relating to the mining and factory districts and other Special Reports, more especially the nineteenth century Blue Books which are so much more exciting than is commonly supposed by those who have never made them the sources of investigation.

This study of 'educational destitution' in the industrial areas and the means whereby it was combated seeks to 'fill the gap' in the pattern of Voluntary education before 1870. The extent of the efforts of employers of labour in the educational field shows that their schools were not only an integral part of the Voluntary System but by 1870 had attained a stature comparable with that achieved by the two Voluntary Societies.

The extent to which the works schools supplied the deficiencies of educational provision in the industrial areas is best appreciated and ...................

.................. assessed by relating them to the work of the Voluntary Societies. These schools had their genesis in the deep roots of voluntary charity, for the earliest ones were among the first offspring of the S.P.C.K. and later showed their dependence on private subscriptions, the benevolence of employers and local effort. The eighteenth century --- the Age of Benevolence, of the S.P.C.K. and of the Charity School Movement --- was mirrored in the nineteenth century only with change in names;  the Age of Humanitarianism, of the Voluntary Societies, and the Works Schools.

There is no reason to doubt that the provision of education for the working classes had a close relationship with the Humanitarian movement. The doctrine of the 'tabula rasa' which John Locke propounded in his philosophical 'Essay Concerning Human Understanding', published in 1690, fostered humanitarian feeling. This in turn engendered philanthropy, which in the eighteenth century became almost a catchword  'and its practice influenced both private persons and statesmen, and extended to education'. 6  Robert Owen, one of the first industrialists to build a school for the children of his employees accepted Locke's doctrine and proceeded to frame a New Order of Society. 7  Another of Locke's works 'Some Thoughts Concerning Education' and his two 'Treatises on Government' discussed the principle of utility as the criterion in morals -- - the greatest happiness principle. In the nineteenth century the principle formed the basis of the philosophy which saw the standard of moral value in 'the greatest happiness of the greatest number'. This was voiced by Bentham and the 'philosophical radicals', was essentially a middle-class creed, and numbered amongst its adherents those who agitated for a State system of education. 8

The method of establishing works schools, where a payment was exacted from the workmen's earnings for their upkeep has a possible connection with Adam Smith's 'Wealth of Nations' (1776) where he outlines a scheme of education where 'for a very small expense the community can facilitate, encourage, and even compel the general mastery of the three R's. In every parish there should be a little school, whose master should be paid in part by voluntary contributions, in part by the pupil's fees, these being such as to be within the means of a common labourer. The contribution from public funds to the upkeep of the school and the payment of the teacher must only make good any deficiency in these other sources'. 9

A scheme of this kind was operated in the industrial areas by the employers of labour in the nineteenth century. The massing of people around a new colliery or works, in effect, created a new parish, and where proprietors of works built a school for that population, it was the parochial school endowed by the proprietors, but maintained by a small levy well ........

................ within the means of the 'common labourer'. This nineteenth century expression of Adam Smith's idea was aptly described by the Commissioner in 1897:

'by the denomination 'Workmen's schools' I intend to designate schools directly connected with particular works and maintained wholly or in part by a stoppage from the people's wages employed in those works, the proprietors usually providing the site and the schoolroom ... I regard therefore, a workmen's school in no other light than as a parochial school, and I regard works to which no school is attached in the same light as a parish which contains no school'.   10

The employers' concern for the educational needs of their employees was but one aspect of humanitarian feeling. The new industrial parishes centred around the new industrial concerns required special provision for moral and social relationships de novo. The steadiness of the industrial community was an important ingredient in labour efficiency and initiative, and employers endeavoured to inculcate those qualities which would promote a sober and contented socio-economic works community. This concern for the welfare and moral improvement of the immigrant populations actuated employers to build schools at a time when the Voluntary Societies were relatively inactive. They also built churches to serve the new communities (the Dissenting workmen built their own chapels) and a typical situation can be seen at Rhymney in 1838:

'The Directors of the Rhymney Iron Company have taken into their serious consideration the opinion expressed at the last general meeting of the proprietors that a church according to the laws of the Established church of England, and schools for the education of the children of persons in the employ of the Company should be provided: Report, that they entirely concur in the opinion then expressed, and that with a view to promote an object not less their duty than their interest, they have had communications with the Marquess of Bute, Mr. Stacey, the Rector of Gellygaer, and other parties interested, and, after fully considering that the Company have caused to be located on what were before barren mountains a population of 8,000 souls, and that number daily increasing, and nearly the whole of that population residing on the freehold property of the Company, at a distance of nearly five miles from the parish church, the Directors beg leave to express their unanimous opinion that the Company are, upon every principle moral and religious, bound to provide and endow a church and schools for the use of the tenants of the Rhymney Company and others.'  11

This is only one example of a large Iron Company which established schools and it would be superfluous here to proliferate examples from all the Welsh industrial areas comprising the copper, tinplate, colliery, slate-quarrying and other industries since they have been dealt with in detail in previous papers. 12  The next step is to relate these schools to the social conditions of the period and to discuss their relationship with, and their role within the Voluntary System.

As the industrial areas developed, a general pattern of educational effort emerged according to the locality and the size of the community.

Within a large community like Merthyr Tydfil and Dowlais the typical pattern would include large numbers of private adventure 'pay' or dame schools, Sunday schools, works schools, and a few schools associated with one or other of the Voluntary bodies. A smaller community would perhaps only contain a works school e.g., Cwmavon. Sunday schools prepared public opinion for more general efforts to form voluntary organisations for the promotion of elementary instruction by means of day-schools. But no previous experience existed to determine in what way the highest aims of education might be attained. No sympathy was awakened in the public mind for any other result than the acquirement of the mechanical arts of reading, writing, and arithmetic, and withal, the regimented monitorial method of teaching ruled the day because it was cheap and effective.

Before 1833 the achievements of the Voluntary Societies in Wales were not impressive. By that year only 15 British schools had been established and for the same period 15 works schools have been traced, 7 of whom were British works schools. 13  After the first government grant of £20,000 in the same year, the Voluntary Societies became more active. This money was applied in the first instance, through the intervention of the two Societies, to aid their resources and the voluntary contributions of each locality, in the building of schools. The distribution of the grant was confided to the Lords of the Treasury who acted on the recommendations of these Societies, apportioning the money according to the following regulations

(a) The money was for building schools and local subscriptions had to raise at least half the estimated cost before a grant could be given.

(b) The National Society or the British and Foreign school Society had to support the application and satisfy the Treasury that the school would be permanently maintained.

(c) Applications from large cities and towns were to receive preference. 14

The government by these means promoted the extension of education by voluntary efforts, but took no effectual step towards its improvement. Even this limited interference of the government awakened new ideas as to the objects and aims of popular education. It was more clearly perceived that the nation as well as the Established Church and Dissenting congregations had a direct interest in the solution of this question. The first act of the government was a sign of confidence in the two great Societies organised on a religious basis. By this act, the government declared that it accepted the antecedent history of elementary instruction, as determining that the constitution of its schools should have a religious.............

................... foundation, in harmony with the institutions of the country. The two Societies however differed in one important feature. The National Society made no effort at comprehension; its schools were founded on the doctrines of the Church; their religious constitution was in conformity with its discipline, and their management was confided to the laity of the Church who co-operated with the parochial clergyman. The British and Foreign School Society desired to comprehend in the support and management of its schools all, whether Churchmen or Dissenters, who could co-operate in communicating religious instruction from the authorised version of the Holy Scriptures without any sectarian interpretation. 15

It has been stated earlier that the theme of voluntary education in the industrial areas was complex and it is within the religious framework of the Voluntary System that this complexity becomes evident. It is therefore important to bear in mind that after 1833 the religious issue had an interesting influence on the internal organisation of works schools and also in their relations with the two Voluntary Societies for two reasons:

(a) Most of the works schools were established after 1833 and whilst the majority of the works proprietors were Churchmen, their employees were, in the main, Dissenters.

(b) After 1850, the majority of works schools sought government aid and therefore had to be affiliated either to the National or the British and Foreign School Society.

Voluntary education had expressed itself not on a secular, but on a religious basis. With the creation of the Committee of Privy Council for Education in 1839, and the alteration in the grant regulations in 1846, the works schools who sought government aid involved an attachment to the Voluntary Societies. This in turn, demanded a classification of such schools on a religious basis, and moreover, created a special type, viz. the Neutral or Undenominational School.   16

It has already been shown that works proprietors exacted a weekly contribution from the workmen's wages for the maintenance of schools. In this connection an embarassing situation often arose and in some places caused considerable controversy and discontent. Although education in these schools was voluntary, i.e., the workmen pleased themselves whether their children attended or not, the payment was compulsory and was usually a condition of employment in the works. A more serious aspect of this weekly 'poundage' was that it again involved the question of religion. In some places, works schools were conducted according to the principles of the Established Church and were inspected by the National Society, but Dissenting workmen were obliged to support schools which were not in accord with their religious tenets. Instances.............

.................. occurred where proprietors refused to accede to the workmen's demands for an un-sectarian school, with the result that such workmen built their own schools conducted on British lines, but the majority of employers respected the views of their employees and allowed the schools to be conducted on an undenominational or neutral basis. 17

In 1843, Sir James Graham's controversial Factory Bill (which contained concrete proposals for the establishment of schools in the industrial areas and which foundered on the rocks of religious controversy) stirred the Voluntary Societies into greater activity and more especially brought 'Voluntaryism' to the forefront. Voluntaryism started after 1833 as a movement against any form of government aid, which gathered momentum with varying degrees of success during the next twenty years. Its most militant phase, inspired and guided by one of the leading nonconformist ministers of South Wales, was the decade 1844-1854.The bulk of its supporters were drawn from the rapidly expanding nonconformist chapels, in particular the Independents. North Wales was different. There, within the stronghold of Calvinistic Methodism the religious leaders were prepared to accept as much State aid as possible in order to establish British Schools. 18

In South Wales however, the Voluntaryists were extremely active and voluble. Two events added fuel to their fire. One of them, Graham's Factory Bill of 1843 has already been noted. The other, which caused a national awakening, was the appearance of the famous Blue Books of 1847. Both events generated mounting suspicion and antagonism against the Anglican Church. Graham's proposals which favoured Church schools angered the Dissenters and large meetings were held all over South Wales protesting against the 'oppressive and insidious Bill'. 19  For example, in April, 1843, 'about 80 petitions were sent from Swansea and the neighbouring parishes against the educational clauses of the Bill ... the petition from Zoar Chapel, Neath, and its branches received 1,426 male signatures ... which were sent to J. H. Vivian, Esq., M.P., while others were sent to County Members'. 20   In the 1847 Reports, the suspicions of the Independents were confirmed by the preponderance of Anglican witnesses, and in the following years a spate of pamphlets from the Welsh press, Welsh periodicals and newspapers, the Welsh nonconformist pulpit and some leading denominational ministers including the Rev. Evan Jones (Ieuan Gwynedd) and the Rev. David Rees of Capel Als, Llanelli, denounced the Reports. 21

Rees was the leading protagonist of the Voluntaryists and the shining star of his denomination - the Independents. Furthermore he was the voice of the movement both in the pulpit and in the columns of the Welsh periodical 'Y Diwygiwr' which he edited for his denomination. His influence upon, and contribution to Welsh Elementary education in the mid-nineteenth century has still to be written. He used 'Y Diwygiwr' ...................

....................... ruthlessly to express his unquenchable animosity against all forms of interference by the State and employers of labour, except on one point. Writing in 1846, he stated his utilitarian view of education:

'At yr addysgiaeth wladol a chelfyddol ni fuasai gennym un wrthwynebiad i dderbyn cymorth llywodraethol mewn rhyw amgylchiadau, oblegid y mae rhoi gwybodaeth yn ddyledswydd cymdeithasol ... oblegid fod gwybodaeth fasnachol ... yn angenrhaid er cyrraedd anrhydedd gwladol.' 22

Here he states clearly that he favoured State aid in certain circumstances for purely secular instruction. On all other matters he was uncompromising. His writings are notorious for their bitter attacks on works proprietors and works schools because of the Truck and Shop systems and the Anglican sympathies of the industrialists who organised education without consulting the parents. He also proclaimed that no employer of labour had the right to make a compulsory deduction from the workmen's wages for educational purposes:

'Ac  ni ddweyd ein syniad yn llawn, nid oes gennym ddim golwg ar siop y cwmni, meddyg y gwaith, nac ysgol y gwaith ... gadwer i'r dyn ddewis  ei siop, ei feddyg, ei ysgolfeistr, a'i bregethwr, a rhoddi iddo ei ennillion bob ddimai goch.' 23   
'Yr ydym yn dra sicr nad ydynt wedi deall hyd yn hyn beth yw rhyddid cydwybod, amgen ni ryfygent ymgymeryd ag arolygiaeth ysgolion plant eu gweithwyr, a'u dysgu yng nghredo Eglwys y Wlad.' 24

Having described in detail the rights of the ordinary working man he concludes his diatribe in a typical Voluntaryist manner:

'Rhieni ddylai ddewis addysg eu plant ... y mae y boneddigion hyn wedi myned dan gyfrifoldeb ofnadwy! Yn gyfrifol am addysg plant eu gweithwyr.'  25

By 1853 it became apparent that Rees was beginning to change his attitude toward State aid and was more sympathetic to the British school system. He recanted on this issue in 1854, but his opposition to the works schools persisted until his death. The reasons for his conversion are not far to seek. In the first place he realised that the working classes needed a practical education on the British or Neutral system. Secondly, the poverty of the people made Voluntaryism, however consistent, impracticable, and thirdly, an Agent had been appointed to organise schools for the British and Foreign School Society in South Wales . 26  Also in 1855, Mr. Joseph Bowstead, H.M.I., of the British and Foreign School Society in a comprehensive report on education in South Wales pointed out the great numerical strength of Nonconformity over the Established Church in the industrial areas, and defended the Dissenters in their attitude against Anglicanism and the teaching of the catechism in schools . 27  After Rees died, Voluntaryism still persisted in some areas, and as late as 1868 Bowstead reported that

'Education on the principles of the Established Church has been freely and extensively offered to the Welsh people both in week-day and Sunday schools. But nine-tenths.................

................of them are Nonconformist, and instead of accepting these offers they have everywhere struggled, or are still struggling at whatever cost, to establish unsectarian schools of their own, and to free themselves from what they regard as the trammels of Church catechism, Church formularies, and Church influence. The exertions that are put forth, and the sacrifices that are made, with this view by persons, from whom such exertions and such sacrifices are least to be expected, are really remarkable'. 28

The relation of works schools to Voluntaryism was straightforward and simple. Where Anglican employers of labour refused to meet the workmen's wishes to conduct schools on unsectarian lines, the workmen took the law into their own hands and built their own school or sent their children as fee-payers to the nearest British school and this meant paying twice over for the workman, who had in any case to submit to the usual poundage. This occurred in more than one place. For example, in the Swansea Valley, workmen built schools at Ystalyfera, Abercrave, and Ystradgynlais and all received the annual parliamentary grants. Such places however 'were in the ludicrous position of having two schools side by side ---the one upheld in handsome style by the master of the works out of the workmen's poundage, and the other supported with great difficulty by the impoverished workmen themselves' . 29

The relation of works schools to the two Voluntary Societies was intimate and of mutual concern. It was intimate in the sense that the majority of works schools built after 1850 (including the older ones which were enlarged and renovated) received government grants through the Voluntary Societies. This involved two important changes in their organisation--- affiliation to one of these Societies on a religious basis, and annual inspection by Inspectors of the particular Society on behalf of the Committee of Privy Council for Education.

The chief reason which prompted proprietors of works schools to seek government aid and inspection was the change in the grant regulations in 1846. The new system of grants devised by Kay-Shuttleworth 30  assisted the schools with their annual expenses, replaced the discredited monitorial system by the pupil-teacher system, and promoted the efficiency of the new Training Colleges. The proposals also included a suggestion that better safeguards should be included in the management of schools in receipt of grants so that the laity who supported them should have a share in their control . 31  Henceforth grants were given to apprenticed pupils and to the teachers who instructed them; retirement pensions were available for teachers, and building grants were given to schools . 32  The advantages of this scheme to the works schools in their relation to the Voluntary Societies was far-reaching. Normally such schools had no building grants, for the sites and buildings were supplied by the proprietors, but the grants they received in respect of pupil-teachers and teaching staff meant that in addition to the money they obtained......................

.........................from poundage (and in some instances from school pence) they were able to offer a higher remuneration to their staffs. In addition, annual inspection kept these schools in a high state of efficiency. At the famous Dowlais Guest Schools the resident manager stated:

'Inspection, such as I have found it in the government Inspectors is absolutely essential to the success of our schools. Government inspection adds wonderfully to the efficiency of schools and gives the teachers an appeal from a prejudiced manager or committee . . . I only work the Privy Council scheme of secular inspection and I feel no check on my independence'   33

Some of the works schools maintained their independence for a long time before accepting State aid but almost all opted for annual inspection by the inspectors of the Committee of Council and a few Anglican works schools invited diocesan inspectors to do this work, as for example at Cwmavon:

'Our day-schools connected with the works do not receive government aid nor are they under government inspection. 34  We do not wish to be interfered with in the arrangements made for these schools, and there are some points which, if we accepted aid would be insisted upon, that would be unnecessary here. But the schools are visited at our request by the diocesan inspector and are noticed in his report. The Church catechism is taught in the schools but it is not compulsory on children whose parents object to their learning it. There is no compulsory attendance of the scholars at Church on Sundays. There are five Sunday schools held in the rooms of the day-schools'. 35

The affiliation of works schools to the Voluntary Societies relieved the pressure on the work of those Societies in the industrial areas. The Commissioner reporting in 1861 went so far as to say 'that, valuable as government aid may be as an additional element to this method (i.e., the levy on workmen's wages) of supporting education, it would not have been possible to produce equal results by the existing system of voluntary agency supplemented by government assistance, which this mode of raising a school revenue has effected. I may here incidentally remark that it is to be borne in mind, in looking at the educational capacity of the two South Wales Unions   36   that the works schools remove a vast burden of educational claims which would otherwise press on the voluntary agencies, aided or unaided by the government, of the population of these manufacturing districts ... In such districts works schools are giving most important assistance in the work of popular education'.  37

Relationships on a religious basis with the Voluntary Societies resulted in 'religious types' of works schools since they were classified as National or British according to the religion of the proprietor, or where proprietors were indifferent, the schools became 'Neutral', 'Undenominational', 'Combined', or 'Comprehensive'. This 'neutral' type had a most ................

 ......................interesting history in the religious controversies associated with education in the nineteenth century but is outside the scope of this paper. 38  By definition, a neutral school was one where religious creeds were ignored and children of churchmen or nonconformists could attend on an equal footing. There were no religious tests for teachers and the schools of this type were usually inspected by the British and Foreign School Society. 39  A similar kind of neutral school, the 'comprehensive', referred to a denominational school which, while teaching the distinctive creed, of a church, did not exclude children of other faiths. 40  Neutral school came into being as the result of requests from nonconformist workmen, The usual procedure was for a 'memorial' to be presented to the proprietor asking them to conduct their schools on unsectarian or neutral principles, With some exceptions the workmen's wishes were granted:

' ... It is much to the credit of a great majority of employers that they consulted the wishes of the workers in the class of schools which they established, and wherever that was the case, the system produced admirable results. This was the case at Dowlais, Mountain Ash (the Duffryn schools), Ebbw Vale, Sirhowy, Maesteg, Tondu, and the Hafod, Kilvey, Llanelly, and Pembrey copperworks, and many others. At all these places, large and well-organised schools, in which the religious teaching is based solely on the Bible, and is strictly nentral as between the different sects, have been established by means of a poundage on wages. All the schools give entire satisfaction to the workmen, whilst most of them are in admirable condition, and if a general system of compulsory education were introduced forthwith, these works schools would be prepared to meet the demand'. 41

Neutral Works Schools were exclusively in South Wales and the following lists have been extracted from sources which showed them as Inspected schools receiving government aid :   42

Note: Out of a total of 109 Inspected Works Schools, 20 were Neutral.

Monmouthshire                                   Glamorgan                             Carmarthenshire               Breconshire 

  • Ebbw Vale (Iron)                  Dowlais (Iron) after 1855.              Llanelly (Copper)                     Nil.
  • Sirhowy ( do. )                             Cyfarthfa (Iron)                         Pembrey ( do. )
  • Abersychan ( do. )                         Maesteg ( do. )
  • Nantyglo ( do.)                              Llynfi  ( do. )
  • Cwmbran ( do.)                          Penydarren ( do. )
  • Varteg Hill ( do.)                          Plymouth    ( do. )
  • Varteg Hill (Colliery)                  Kilvey (Copper)
  •                                                     Hafod ( do. )
  •                                                   Neath Abbey (Iron)
  •                                                Aberdulais (Tinworks)
  •                                             Duffryn, Mountain Ash, (Colliery)

Total:  Neutral Inspected Schools: 20.

On the purely religious basis, works schools were either National or British. Again referring to the statistical evidence for inspected..............................

............................... schools, of the 109 works schools, 40 were affiliated to the National Society and 49 to the British and Foreign School Society. Also the above 20 were neutral. The total for Unsectarian Works Schools was therefore 69.

    Inspected National Works Schools :      43


Monmouthshire                                      Glamorgan                                              Carmarthenshire

  • Rhymney National (Iron)           Dowlais (Iron) until (1855)                         Trimsaran (Iron)
  • Tredegar  ( do. )                        Cyfarthfa (Iron) (later Neutral)                    Dafen, Llanelli (Tinworks).
  • Machen  ( do.)                           Cwmavon, Bryn & Oakwood (Iron)             Carmarthen (Tinworks)
  • Pontypool ( do.)                        Pentyrch  (Iron)  
  • Pontnewynydd ( do.)                 Ystalyfera  ( do.)
  • Blaenavon ( do. )                      Ystalyfera (Tinworks)
  • Courtybella Colliery                 Hirwaun (Iron) 
  • Trevethin (Iron)                         Melincrythan (Copper)                                                              Breconshire    
  •                                                                                                                                                     Clydach  (Iron)
  •                                                                                                                                                    Caernarvonshire 
  •                                                 Llangyfelach Colliery,                                                                Llandegai (Slate) 
  •                                                 Penlle'rgaer ( do )                                                                       Llanllechid  ( do. )
  •                                                 Margam (Tinworks)                                                                    Gerlan  (do)
  •                                                 Pontardawe    do.
  •                                                 Margam (Copper)                                                                       Merionethshire.
  •                                                 Rhigos Colliery                                                                           Maentwrog (Slate)
  •                                                 Llansamlet ( do. )                                                                         Llwynygell  (do.)
  •                                                 Bryndu   do.                                                                   Llan Festiniog, Gellilydan (do)
  •                                                 Gorseinon       do.                                                                         Tanygrisiau     ( do ).
  •                                                 Cilybebyll      do.                                                                    Penrhyndeudraeth ( do ).
  •                                                 Court Herbert
  •                                                 Colliery, Skewen

                                Total National Works Schools: 40


        Inspected British Works Schools:     44

    Note: All colliery schools without exception were British schools after 1860.

Monmouthshire Ironworks                       Glamorgan Ironworks                         Carmarthenshire Ironworks

  • Rhymney British                                              Venallt                                                 Gwendraeth
  • Victoria (Ebbw Vale)                                      Tondu                                                  Amman
  • Blaina                                                              Tonmawr                                             Brynaman (Tinworks)
  • Cwmcelyn                                                       Maesteg (Spelter Works)                     Pontaman (Chemical)
  • Dos Nailworks (Newport)                                                                                           Hendy (Tinworks)
  • Tydee (Tinworks)
  • Pits, Ebbw Vale (Colliery)                           Glamorgan  Collieries                             Breconshire
  •                                                                         Bryndu                                                 Yniscedwyn (Iron)
  •                                                                         Hirwaun 
  •                                                                         Llanfabon 
  •                                                                         Dinas
  •                                                                         Treherbert 
  •                                                                         Bodringallt
  •                                                                         Llwynypia
  •                                                                         Treorchy
  •                                                                         Dunraven
  •                                                                         Blaenycwm                                                  Caernarvonshire
  •                                                                         Pentre                                                          Trevor Welsh Granite Co.,
  •                                                                         Ystrad                                                          Penrhyndeudraeth (Slate)
  •                                                                         Penygraig                                                     Tremadoc
  •                                                                         Ferndale
  •                                                                         Cwmparc
  •                                                                         Clydach Vale
  •                                                                         Blaengarw
  •                                                                         Ynysybwl
  •                                                                         Cwmaman
  •                                                                         Garth (Maesteg)
  •                                                                         Coegnant (do).
  •                                                                         Merthyr (Maesteg)
  •                                                                         Tynewydd
  •                                                                         Gilfach Goch
  •                                                                         Resolven
  •                                                                         Dyhewid (Llantwit Faerdre)
  •                                                                         Merthyr Vale

     Total British Works Schools: 49.

The magnitude of the Works Schools System demands some detailed treatment. If the classification of works schools on a religious basis is viewed from the statistical angle and related to the achievements of the two Voluntary Societies (i.e., the number of day-schools which they promoted), it at once becomes evident that the Works Schools System was not only on an extensive scale, but was, moreover, an integral and indispensable element in the organisation and provision of popular education in the industrial areas of Wales during the greater part of the nineteenth century. This was the gap which was filled in the pattern of Voluntary education by the Works Schools System. Works schools were not peculiar to Wales --- they were found also in the industrial areas of England and on the Continent. 45  They confirm the view that the educational history of the nineteenth century cannot, and should not be divorced from the economic and industrial background . 46 These schools not only relieved the Voluntary Societies of their responsibilities in the industrial areas but were numerically distinctive enough to be considered an essential part of the Voluntary System.

Statistically, the extent and achievements of the Works Schools System is impressive. It has not always been possible to extract relevant figures, for although statistics abound, they are often, on checking, unreliable and sometimes contradictory. This is particularly true of the returns of the Voluntary Societies. For the purposes of this analysis, inspected schools listed in the official reports of Government Inquiries and ......................

.................... Commissions and the Minutes of the Committee of Privy Council form the main basis of this investigation.


A statistical investigation of the extent of the Works Schools System in relation to the achievements of the two Voluntary Societies up to 1865-1870:

This investigation is based on four separate groups of statistics in the following manner:

     1. Abstracts from the Reports of the British and Foreign Sehool Society between 1833 and 1870. Figures for the National Society are not available in complete form, for many Church schools were not in union with the National Society, and, moreover, the Society did not always distinguish between scholars who attended on Sundays only and those who attended throughout the week. The Secretary stated 'in the Church schools we do not talk of day-schools. The object of the Society is to promote Sunday and day-schools, or Sunday schools'. 47  Again, very often the British and Foreign school Society had no official knowledge of the provincial schools for there was frequently no direct relationship between a British school and the parent Society. 48  However, there is far more evidence available of the work of the British Society and the first analysis is based on those returns only. National works schools are omitted:

In the decade 1833-1843 ... 28 British Schools in Wales. 49

In the year 1833, of the 15 British schools in Wales, (13 in South Wales and 2 in North Wales), 7 were British works schools.

Note : almost 50% were works schools.

In 1851 : 80 British Schools in Wales: 36 were works schools, almost 50%      50

In 1853 : 14 British Sehools in South Wales: but there were 37 British works schools out of a total of 67 works schools.   51

In 1860 : in the four South Wales counties of Monmouth, Glamorgan, Brecon, and Carmarthen there were 85 British schools (this included all departments, i.e., boys, girls, and infants, and not individual schools,) of which 47, or over 50% were works schools.   52

In 1870 : of the 180 British schools in the six South Wales counties, 96 were works schools, of which 65 were British works schools--- almost one-third.   53

Note : Mr. Joseph Bowstead, H.M.I. in his Report on British schools in South Wales in 1860 stated: 'In 1853, the number of schools in South Wales and Monmouthshire referred to me as claimants of public aid towards their maintenance was 18. In 1860 it was 95. The 18 schools of 1853 were not all established and supported by Nonconformists, neither are the 95 schools of 1860. In each case it is probably about fair to say that two-thirds of the number owe their existence, more or less, many of them to Dissenters. In 1854, Dissenters, although in great number, had done little for education.

The remaining, one-third consists mainly of large and important schools connected with works of which the owners are generally, but by no means invariably, churchmen. The two classes of schools (i.e., British and works schools) have increased.................

.................. in nearly equal proportions. In 7 years, there has been an increase, which has more than multiplied the number of efficient schools by 5'.  54

     2. Abstracts from the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales, 1847, for the four South Wales counties of Monmouth, Glamorgan, Brecon, and Carmarthen

  •         In 1846 .....................................199 National schools :  11,724 Pupils.
  •                    ....................................... 20 British schools     :  2,809 pupils.
  •                   ........................................ 37 works schools      :  5,532 Pupils.

Note : Only 22 works schools are listed in these Reports as works schools. In the same Reports the Parochial Lists contain 37. Personal investigation of the numbers of works schools established up to 1846 reveals 58. Of these, 52 of them show an approximate attendance of 7,050, i.e., 50% of the combined totals for the National and British schools in 1846.    55

     3.According to Sir Thomas Phillips, the total day scholars attending National schools in the four South Wales counties in 1846 were 12,100 which is near enough to the figure given in the 1847 Reports above. 56

     4.The Returns of Mr. R. R. W. Lingen, H.M.I., in the Report of the Pakington Select Committee for 1866 give the following figures:   57

        Returns of Inspected schools for 6 South Wales counties in 1865:

  •             National Schools   166;    Number of scholars    17,705.
  •             British schools      122;    Number of scholars    17,230.

Note : Works schools in South Wales in the period 1865-1870 total 88. Returns from 77 show approximate total attendances of 16,081 ---almost 50% of the above combined totals for National and British schools.


In 1870 there were 109 Works Schools in Wales, classified in the following manner on a religious basis:

                      North Wales                                          South Wales

  •                 9 National                                             31 National
  •                 3 British                                                46 British
  •                                                                               20 Neutral
  •               12 Total                                                   97 Total


Statistical Summary:

The following figures show the extent of the Works Schools System compared with the two main Voluntary Societies in the industrial areas of Wales up to 1865-1870:

Inspected schools only.    

      National Schools                                  British Schools.                                          Works Schools.

  • 1854:     54 (South Wales)              1853:    14 (South Wales)                             1853:   67 (South Wales)
  • 1864:   154     do.                            1860:  103     do.                                          1860:   79 (    do.     )
  • 1865:   166     do.                            1865:  122     do.                                          1870:   88 (77 inspected)

Pupils in attendance, 1865:

        (a) National Society Schools:                                            17,705.

        (b) British and Foreign School Society Schools:               17,230.

        (c) Schools of the Works Schools System, 1865-1870:     16,081.



University College, Cardiff



1. Public money was also disbursed to the Catholic Poor Schools Committee.

2. Adamson, J. W. English Education, 1789-1902: 1930, p. 14. Barnard, H. C. Short History of English Education, 1760-1944; 1947, pp. 49-51.

3. An oft repeated phrase in the Government Reports of the period.

4. Maclure, J. S. Educational Documents, England and Wales, 1816-1963, 1965, p. 2.

5. Jones, Idwal: The Voluntary System at work. Trans. Cym. Soc. 1931-32. This paper deals with the work of the British and Foreign School Society only.

6. Adamson, J. W. ibid., p. 2.

7. Owen, Robert: New View of Society or Essays on the Principles of the Formation of Human Character and the Application of the Principles of Practice, 1813.

8. Smith, Frank: A History of English Elementary Education, 1760-1902, 1931, p. 104.

9. Adamson, J. W. ibid., p. 5.

10. Reports of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales, in three parts: Part i, pp. 12-13.

11. Reports from the Commissioners, Mines and Collieries, 1846, p. 415.

12. Evans, Leslie Wynne: Ironworks schools in Wales, 1784-1860, Sociological Review, xliii. Slate Quarry Schools: Trans. Caerns. Hist. Soc. 1954. Dowlais Schools: N.L.W. Jnl. ix, 1955-56. Colliery Schools: ibid., x, 1957-58. Copperworks schools: ibid., xi. 1959-60.

13. Statistics of National Schools---as day schools, are unavailable, since Sunday and day schools were always 'returned' together, and also many day schools were often conducted in Church buildings.

14. The School in its relations to the State, the Church, and the Congregation, being an explanation of the Minutes of the Committee of Council on Education in August and December, 1846: London, 1847, p. 7.

15. ibid., p. 8.

16. These could only be found in the British system within the B. & F.S. Soc.

17. Report from the Select Committee on Education, together with the Proceedings, Minutes of Evidence, Appendix, and Index: 1866 (The Pakington Committee). Most of the evidence dealt with this question.

18. British and Foreign School Society, Annual Report, 1849, p. 1. Public collections were made throughout N. Wales, Liverpool, and Manchester by Calvinistic Methodist Chapels for the funds of the Society.

19. The Merlin, July 21st, 1843.

20. The Cambrian, April 28th, 1843.

21. The controversy over the Blue Books (Brad y Llyfrau Gleision) extended over many years, and the moral and other issues, and the attacks on the Anglican Church and the replies of the Bishop of St. David's and others are not relevant here.

22. Y Diwygiwr, 1846, Rhif. 134, t. 289.

23. ibid., 1861, t. 221-2: 'To be frank, we have nothing to say to the Company's Shop, the work's doctor, nor the works school. Let a man choose for himself his shop, doctor, schoolmaster and minister, and let him have every half-penny of his wages.'

24. ibid., 1853, t. 223: 'The owners know no freedom of conscience ... or they would not take upon themselves the education of workmen's children in the creed of the Established Church'.

25. ibid., t. 224: 'Parents should decide their children's education---the owners have taken on an awful responsibility---of educating their workmen's children'.

26. Rev. William Roberts (Nefydd): see Nefydd MSS, 7106E, N.L.W. But the Independents were more interested in the appointment of Nefydd's successor, David Williams, in 1863, and it was during that period that they eventually 'came over' to the principle of State Aid: see 'Y Diwygiwr, 1863, p. 247 and 1864, p. 218.

27. Minutes of Committee of Council, 1855, pp. 625-642.

28. ibid., 1868, p. 280.

29. ibid., 1869, p. 281:- 'There is a class of works in which the employers use the fund got from a deduction from the men's wages to establish Church schools and to bring up in church principles a set of children whose parents are generally Dissenters in the proportion of at least 9 to 1. (It is at least doubtful whether the masters are legally entitled to devote wages to support schools disapproved by the workmen. A cause involving this question was recently tried in a Glamorgan County Court, and its decision, so far as it went was in favour of the right of the workmen ... to have a voice in the choice of schools which their children attended'.

30. Dr. James Kay, the first Secretary of the Committee of Privy Council: later Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth.

31. Smith, Frank: ibid., p. 199.

32. Minutes of Committee of Council, 1846, Vol. 1, pp. 1-2.

33. Newcastle Commission Report, Appendix E, pp. 634 et. seq. Evidence of G. T. Clark, Esq., Dowlais Works.

34. The Cwmavon schools accepted government aid as from 1865.

35. Newcastle Commission, ibid., evidence of William Gilbertson, Manager.

36. ibid., the Assistant Commissioner, J. Jenkins reported on the two South Wales Unions which comprised the manufacturing areas around Neath and Merthyr.

37. ibid., Vol. ii, p. 558.

38. Smith, Frank: ibid., p. 205. Dr. Hook's proposal and scheme for combined schools met with little success.

39. Pakington Committee Report, ibid., Minutes 3028-40.

40. Smith, F. ibid., supra, footnote.

41. Minutes of Committee of Council, 1868-69, p. 280. Also Pakington Committee, ibid., 1866, Minutes 3034-9 and 3040. Two schools are quoted showing the numbers of Church of England children who attended the Neutral schools at Maesteg and Hafod Copperworks schools, Swansea. These are extremely revealing: At Maesteg, out of 914 children 93 were Church of England; at Vivian's Schools at Hafod, out of 779 children only 14 were C of E.

42. Minutes of Committee of Council, 1850 to 1895, and the Pakington Committee Report of 1866: complete Minutes of Evidence.

43. Minutes of Committee of Council, from 1850 to 1895.

44. ibid.,

45. Note that the Quakers established several works schools, e.g., Neath Abbey. Works schools were also found in Durham Co., Cumberland, Warwick, Staffordshire, Cornwall, etc. Large numbers existed in Holland and Sweden: see Svenska folkskolens (History of the elementary school in Sweden), under redaktion av Viktor Fredriksson. Albert Bonniers forlag, Stockholm, 1940.
     Tome I: Den svenska folkundervisniggen fran reformationen till 1809, Albin Warne, 1940.
     Tome II: Det svenska folkunder visningsvasendet 1809-1860. Klas Aquilonius, 1942.

46. Clarke, Sir Fred.: The widening scope of the study of education. Brit. Assoc. for the Advancement of Science, Vol. vi, No. 23, 1949, p. 289.

47. Report of the Committee on the State of Education, 1834.

48. Smith, F. ibid., p. 133.

49. Annual Reports of the British and Foreign School Society, 1834-1844.

50. ibid., for 1852.

51. Nefydd MS. xv, 276, May 5th, 1860.

52. ibid.,

53. Minutes of Committee of Council, 1870-71, list of grant-aided schools, Welsh Counties.

54. ibid., for 1860, Report on South Wales.

55. 1847 Reports, Part I, Parochial Returns of Schools.

56. Phillips, Sir T.: Wales, The Language, Social Condition, Moral Character, and Religious Opinions of the people considered in relation to Education. London, 1849, p. 593 et. seq.

57. Pakington Select Committee, ibid., Appendix 2, pp. 310-11.