Reports of the Commissioners appointed to enquire into the state of Education in Wales. 1847


This report was published by three English university scholars into the educational system in Wales. The three were Lingen, Symons and Vaughan Johnson. The report unfairly drew attention to the inadequacy of Welsh education . One of their main points was that Welsh children , and often their teachers too, could not speak English. The report was produced in blue books, hence the name. Apart from , and because of, the understandable outrage of Welsh people the report helped to forge a  greater sense of national identity and the publication was referred to as "The Treachery of the Blue Books" [Brad y Llyfrau Gleison]. One of the principal Welshmen who fought a campaign against the report was Evan Jones , better known as Ieuan Gwynedd, a  minister and a journalist .. One of the report's statements was that Welsh was a " peculiar language isolating the masses from the upper portion of society". Sadly, for the Welsh language, faced with such criticism many people did opt for an education in the English language despite the efforts of Ieuan Gwynedd and others. [ Based on an article in"A Helping Hand "by W J Jones 1996]

This is an extract by Aidan Jones from the actual Report as far as it relates to this parish;


Boys' National School --- On December 15th, in company with the Rev. Mr. Thomas, Vicar of St Mary's, Cardigan, I visited the above school, which was held in a large cold room over a warehouse; the schoolroom had also formerly been used for the same purposes. The school furniture consisted of a desk for the master, and eight benches and some desks for the children; the room was low and not ceiled; it was lighted by six small glazed windows, parts of which were in the roof; no fire-place in the room. A class of six boys read the 31st chapter of Genesis, some of whom read tolerably well; a few false pronunciations were made which were corrected by the master.

The following questions were given them by the master: ---What was Laban to Jacob? ---Father in-law. What was the glory mentioned in the 1st verse? ---No answer. Countenance in Welsh? ---Correctly answered. Whose son was Jacob? ---Abraham's. He gave them the following words which they spelled correctly and gave the meanings (in Welsh) of most of them; namely, towards; answered; glory; changed; eyes, spelt, highs, but right in the meaning; return correctly spelt, but no meaning The following they could neither spell nor give the meaning of: --- Conceived; speckled; power; ringstaked; deceived. I then heard them read the 3rd chapter of the gospel by St. Mark, which four of them did in a very creditable manner. They got on very badly in spelling and giving the meaning of words.

The following questions were then given them ---Who were the Pharisees? No answer. The Sadducees; Did they or did they not believe in the resurrection of the dead, and in the immortality of the soul. ---- They believed both. What was the synagogue? ---A town. Did not know the meaning of the name Peter, or whether he was called by any other name or not. Scribes; what was their work? --- No answer. I then took them to the Old Testament history, which they knew very little about. Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden of Eden because they ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and likewise of the Tree of life. Adam had three sons Shem, Ham, and Japhet. Did not know how many days it rained before the deluge, or how long the deluge lasted?  The ark rested on Mount Sinai, Olivet, Ephraim, from different boys. Knew nothing of the history of Lot. Sodom and Gomorrah were burnt; but were afterwards rebuilt, and now exist as towns. Knew scarcely anything of the history of the journey of the Israelites. Moses led them out, and went with them all the way to Canaan; others thought he only saw the land from Mount Sinai. Knew of nothing remarkable connected with Mount Sinai. Did not know where or when the Ten Commandments were given.

A prophet foretells future events. Gave the names of some of the prophets, among whom they mentioned Enoch, who went to heaven without dying. Abraham and Elias likewise were taken to heaven in a similar manner. They were tolerably well acquainted with the history of the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ. Mentioned several of the miracles and parables of Christ. Could not explain the meaning of any of the parables; e.g. that of the sower and the seed, and that of tares in the field. There were twelve Apostles appointed by Christ to preach the Gospel. Paul was one of the twelve Apostles; he once persecuted the Christians, but was converted; knew no circumstances connected with his conversion. Faith means to believe in Christ as a Saviour. No one can be saved without faith in Christ.

They were all very deficient in geography, which was a subject not professed to be taught in the school. Four quarters of the globe; could not name them. Knew the county and country they lived in. Ireland, Scotland, and France were towns. Five boys could answer any questions given them from the multiplication and other tables. They were advanced in arithmetic, and they were able to make most of the sums given them in the different rules they had been over. The following is a specimen of the proficiency of the rest in arithmetic, 3x3=9.  3x9=27.  4x8=32.  4x7=-26.  6x6=36; 6x9=52.   8x8=64.  9x6=56.   9x9=81.   20d.=1s. 8d.   35d. = 2s. 8d;   48d.=4s.   70d.=5s. 10d; 40s = 2 l; .90s. = 4 l 10d; 130s.=6 l. l0s.;  170s.=8 l. 190s= 9 l.  They knew the number of days, weeks, and months in a year.   Knew the month and the day of the month. Could not distinguish between a lunar and a solar month. Did not know how often a leap year occurred.

(Signed) D. B. PRICE, Assistant.

I have received the following note from the Vicar: ---

MY DEAR SIR                                                 Cardigan, December 22nd, 1846.

As there was no particular place, where an exact statement of the particulars respecting how the said schools are supported, provided in the printed form, which Mr. Price, your Assistant, had to fill up, I beg leave very respectfully to state to you the following facts; namely --- The amount of subscriptions and donations in aid of the Boys' National School, Cardigan, for the year ending at Michaelmas 1846, was 38 l 17s. 6d, but only 10 l. 10s. of the above sum was received from the inhabitants of the parish of St Mary's, Cardigan; and the remainder of 28 l. 7s. 6d. I received from ladies and gentlemen who live very far from Cardigan, in England and Wales, and some of it from families who reside in the adjoining parishes. And the amount of subscriptions and donations in aid of the Girls National School, Cardigan, for the year ended at Michaelmas 1846, was 22 l. 1s., but only 8 l. 8s. of the above sum was received from the inhabitants of the parish of St Mary's, Cardigan, and the remainder of 13 l. 13s. I received from ladies and gentlemen who live in different parts of England and Wales; and many of them complain that they should be asked to aid charity schools at Cardigan, as they have schools to support in their own neighbourhoods.

I trust that the above statements are sufficiently explicit to convince you how unpleasant it is to me, as a clergyman and the Incumbent of this parish, to be always begging of strangers for subscriptions and donations in aid of the charity schools in my parish.  My own 2 l. 2s. per annum are included in what I have stated as received from the inhabitants of this parish. I have had no list of subscriptions and donations made for the current year as yet; and indeed I do not know how to ask strangers always to assist me. The Rev. R. H. W. Miles, Rector of Bingham, Notts, gave me 15 l. 15s. last year, otherwise I should have been obliged to give up the schools at Michaelmas 1845.  I have mentioned to Mr. Price that I was about writing to you on the subject.

        I am, &c.

                       (Signed) GRIFFITH THOMAS, Vicar of St. Mary's, Cardigan.
                                            To J. C. Symons, Esq.

Baptist Sunday School --- I visited this Sunday school at Cardigan on December 6th, accompanied by Mr. Price. It belongs to the prevailing sect in that, town. Though inferior in method and efficiency of instruction to the schools of Aberystwyth, this Sunday school appeared to be respectably conducted.  I had some difficulty in ascertaining whether it was the habit or only the occasional practice of the teachers to question their classes. I am disposed to think that it is at any rate very commonly neglected. The minister, Mr. Rees, accompanied me to two or three of the adult classes, and put several questions to them in Welsh, mostly at my suggestion.  I observed that the correct answers were almost invariably given by one, or at most two, of the senior members of the class, and that the others were often unable to answer questions which it was reasonable to suppose they could have easily answered.  I also catechised the only class who were reading English, and found them entirely devoid of comprehension as to what they read, and very deficient in general knowledge of the Scriptures.

Mr. Price examined a class separately, of whom he gives the following Report: --- "I heard a class of eleven boys (whose ages were from 15 to 18) read to their teacher the 21st chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, which five of them read in a very creditable manner.

To the teacher's questions (when they had finished the chapter) were the following answers given: ---Who is the subject of this chapter? ---Paul.  Paul's object in going from one place to another so quickly was to preach the Gospel.  Is there any mention of prophetesses in the chapter just read? ---Yes; but did not know how many.  They were the daughters of Philip. What is the distinction between the ministry of Paul and that of Moses? ---Moses circumcised children, which St. Paul objected to. Why did the people glorify God (verse 20.)? ---to which there was no answer given. Was Paul a Jew or a Gentile? ---A Jew.  Did he persecute the Church at all? ---Yes; but he afterwards became converted, and was a zealous preacher of Christ.  There are two sacraments --- baptism and the Lord's supper. None but those who are come to age of discretion ought to be baptized. Christ was the son of Mary: did not know what Mary. His father was Joseph the carpenter. Knew nothing at all concerning the Pharisees and Sadducees. What is grace; faith? --- No answer. Apostles were five (from three) children; the others said twelve. They all continued faithful to the end except Judas, who betrayed Christ. They answered tolerably well questions given them concerning the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ."

J.C.S.  [Jelingar C. Symons, the chief commissioner in Cardiganshire]

Girls' National School. --- On December 10th, in company with Mr. Price, I visited the above school.  A class of seven girls (three of whom read tolerably well) read to their mistress the 5th chapter of Exodus. When they had done reading, the following questions were given them. Who were Moses and Aaron? ---No answer. Hebrews? ---Jews. Where was Canaan? ---Did not know. Who was Joseph, and how many brothers had he --- Joseph had twelve brothers, who went to Egypt to buy corn; because of a famine, which lasted three years. Where did God first tell Moses to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt? ---After a long pause, one girl said, "In a bush," but did not know where that was.  Moses divided the sea with his rod ---Did he strike anything with his rod? ---No answer. Moses was first found in a basket on the river's side by Pharaoh's daughter, who nursed him. How did Pharaoh plague the Israelites? --- He sent taskmasters to them, and they had to make bricks without straw. Moses went all the way to Canaan with the Israelites; died, from one; went to another country, from four.

Christ was born at Bethlehem; crucified with two thieves upon Mount Calvary. Did not know what country Bethlehem and Calvary were in. Christ died for sins; the way to be saved is to pray for grace; did not know the meaning of grace or faith. What benefit was Christ's death to us to us?  Ans. He took our sins upon himself, from one.  Paul was an Apostle; did not know the office of an Apostle. There were twelve apostles, who all behaved well to Christ, except Judas, who betrayed him (of which they knew the meaning) for thirty pieces of silver. Miracles ---knew the meaning of, and mentioned a few. Parables ---could mention one only. A few of them could spell words tolerably well, but did not understand the meaning of them. Christ will come to judge the world, when some shall go to heaven, (a place of happiness,) and others to hell, (a place of torment). They repeated portions of the Church Catechism in a very creditable manner --- knew the meaning of inheritor and renounce, but not that of vow. The works of the Devil are sins. Pomps and vanities (after a long time) meant to be fond of gaiety. Articles of the Christian faith? --- Word of God.  Knew the meaning of the words verily, salvation, ascend, descended into hell, i. e. merely to the grave.  Holy Ghost, one of the persons in the Trinity; The sun turned round the earth, from a large majority. Did not know how many days or weeks were in a year. Knew no arithmetic.

J. C. S.  [Jelingar C Symons, the chief commissioner in Cardiganshire] 

Sunday Schools. --- Church School. --- On December 6th I visited the Church Boys' National school, which assembles on Sundays in the day-school room; but although the Psalms are read, and a hymn sung, it is scarcely a Sunday school, but the assemblage of the children is chiefly for the purpose of taking them in a body to church. I was accompanied by the Rev. Mr. Lee, the Curate, and Mr. Price, my Assistant.

 We found about forty boys in the room. The first class repeated the Collect of the day, for the second Sunday in Advent, very correctly. They understood nothing of it. Merely one or two could give the meaning of ordinary words in it, and none knew the meaning of " inwardly digest:" "embrace" they said was to enjoy. They afterwards read the 5th chapter of Isaiah tolerably well; but were wholly unable to explain it, or to answer very simple questions in the Gospel, with the exception of one or two boys at the top of the class, who answered the easiest questions. They were for the most part ignorant of the English language; none knew the meaning of the words "desolate" and " pliant," except an English boy, and he alone knew what judgment was. They could give no explanation of miracles or parables. Some of them repeated the Catechism with tolerable correctness, but scarcely one of them had a notion of its meaning. To the question, what a "vow" meant, they answered a " solemn resolution;" but they understood the meaning of neither of these words --- a common instance of explanation by rote. They sang a hymn very creditably.

 J. C. S.   [Jelingar C Symons, the chief commissioner in Cardiganshire]

Mr. Forrester James's School --- On December 11th I visited the above school, which was held in a very comfortless room in the master's dwelling.  I heard a class of three boys (which, as the master told me, was all the number in the school that could make any attempt at reading) read to him the first chapter of the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians.  They all read in a most wretched manner, hesitating at almost every word, and making constant false pronunciations; e. g., behalf --- behalph, waiting ---wighting; beseech ---besiege &c. The master said he never asked them questions of any kind, but that he occasionally gave them a few words to spell; he gave them the following: --- "preaching, among, knowledge, behind;'' among was the only word spelt correctly. I then heard the same three boys read the 1st chapter of the Gospel by St. John, which was read in such a manner as to be perfectly unintelligible to a bystander; they could neither spell nor give the meanings of the most simple words. To questions given, I had the following answers: --- The world was created by God. Adam and Eve had three children: viz., Shem, Ham, and Japhet.  Did not know whose sons Cain and Abel were.  A prophet foretells future events.  Did not know the names of any of them, or any particular events or persons foretold by them. Afterwards, one boy thought Rabbi was the name of one of the Prophets. Knew nothing at all of the history of Moses, or of the journey of the Israelites in the wilderness. Christ was the Son of God. Did not know Christ's mother's name, or that of his reputed father.  The disciples crucified Christ.  One of the miracles wrought by Christ was to remove a mountain.  Two of the boys had just commenced arithmetic; they were learning the multiplication table, but they were able to answer very few questions

(Signed) D. B. PRICE, Assistant.

English Independent Chapel --- I visited this Sunday school on December 6th, and listened to the examination of one of the classes by Mr. Lloyd, who devotes much attention to this school; and his instruction to the class, and the answers he elicited, were very satisfactory. I also examined another class, and found them very well read in the Scriptures.  This is a superior Sunday school.

J. C. S. [Jelingar C Symons, the chief commissioner in Cardiganshire]     

Grammar School --- On December 11th I visited the above school, and examined the six boys who were in the school on the foundation; one of the boys was reading Virgil, which he could translate into English, scan, &c., in a very creditable manner. They were all rather deficient in the Old Testament history. A prophet foretells future events; did not know any particular events or persons foretold by any of the Prophets. Knew very little of the history of the Israelites, and their journey through the wilderness. Moses led them out of Egypt, and went with them to Canaan. The Ten Commandments were given to Moses in the wilderness; did not know where. They were considerably more ready in their answers to questions given them out of the New Testament: --- Christ was born in Bethlehem near Jerusalem, which was in the land of Canaan. Two of the boys were able to answer most of the questions given them concerning Christ's birth, reception, death, resurrection, and ascension. Christ wrought many miracles while on the earth, some of which they enumerated. Knew little more of the Apostles than that they were twelve in number; they wrought miracles by the power of God; could not mention any miracles wrought by them. To the following questions they could give no answer: --- How are sinners saved by Christ's death? (given in several forms.) What is meant by atonement, grace, faith? In modern geography they were pretty well versed. They mentioned the four quarters of the globe, some countries in each, and some of the largest towns in those countries. Answered correctly as to the number of hours in a day, days in a week, and the number of days, weeks, and calendar (but not lunar) months in a year; could not distinguish between a lunar and a calendar month. Some of them were learning their English and some their Latin grammars. They answered correctly the following questions: --- How many parts of speech are there? What is a substantive? an adjective? a pronoun? preposition?  Could not say what a verb or participle were. They were far advanced in arithmetic; they all knew their multiplication and other tables perfectly correctly.

  (Signed)  D. B. PRICE, Assistant.

Mrs. Davies's School --- On December 16th I visited the above school, in which I found two boys and one girl. I desired the mistress to hear them read, which she did in the 11th chapter of the Gospel by St. Matthew.  They each muttered a few verses in a most wretched manner; I listened to them very attentively, and it was with the greatest difficulty that I could catch a word here and there, and those few words were sadly mispronounced. The mistress said she never did anything more than hear them read, which I soon discovered by giving them a few words to spell, and asking them the meanings of the same; they had very little idea of either. Jesus Christ, they said, was born at Jerusalem; did not know where or what Jerusalem was, or whose son Christ was. Had never heard of Moses or of the Prophets. Who where the Apostles? No answer. What did Judas do when he betrayed Christ? --- He ran away, did nothing else. Who denied Christ? --- Daniel. Had heard of the Queen; did not know her name, where she lived, or what she was doing. Knew the county, but not the country or parish in which they lived. Twelve hours in a day; seven days in a week. Did not know how many weeks or days made a year.

From the above school I proceeded to Mrs. Griffiths's School in Catharine Row, where I found only two little boys in the school, owing to the inclemency of the weather. All the children that belonged to the school were so young that the mistress did not think any of them would return to the school until the weather changed. One of the above boys was 5 and the other 6 years of age. I heard the eldest make an attempt at reading in Vyse's spelling-book; I could not make out a single word that he said. I knew it to have been quite useless to ask them questions of any kind. However, I asked them. Who was the first man that God created? To which the eldest boy replied, a person (whom he named) now living in the town of Cardigan.

Mrs. Matthias's School. --- On the same day I visited Mrs. Matthias's school. Having called at the school four times, I found present three girls and two boys. I heard them read, which they did in a very imperfect manner; false pronunciations were frequently made, a few of which were corrected by the mistress. She gave them no questions of any kind. They read the 5th chapter of St. Luke. To questions given I had the following answers: --- Apostles, did not know the number, names, or office of.  Christ was the son of Mary Magdalene.  Had never heard of Christ having done anything to Mary Magdalene. Who betrayed Christ?  --- Mary.  He was crucified; nobody crucified at the same time. He was buried in the grave of Moses. Did not know whether he rose from the dead or not. Why did Christ die? What must you do to be saved? - No answer.  There are four quarters of the globe (named); they lived in Africa.  Could not name any of the large towns, except London, in England, Scotland, or Ireland.  Could go to Ireland in a coach without crossing a sea. Seven days in a week, twenty-six in a month.  Did not know how many weeks or days made a year. The Queen, whose name is Victoria, lives in London, and reigns over the country.  Did not know who reigned before her.

(Signed)   D. B. PRICE, Assistant.

It is proper to observe that the above schools have probably been represented in a more backward state than they really are, owing to most of the best scholars, as I was informed, being prevented from attending by the severity of the weather.

(Signed)  D. B. PRICE