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;

Parish of CARON

This is a very large parish, including not only the town of Tregaron, but the chapelry of Strata Florida, or Mynachlog-fawr, at a distance of five miles from Tregaron. Tregaron is a small, dirty, irregularly built place, lying amidst the wildest hills and peat bogs of Cardiganshire. It is the chief station for the drovers of the district; and I was informed by the Rev. Mr. Hughes, the Incumbent, that many of the people migrate from this place to attend dairies elsewhere. Welsh Methodism sprouting from this immediate neighbourhood, though its spread has been so extensive of late years that neither this place nor Llangeitho can be said to present any peculiar characteristics or results of Methodist instruction.

I think the extreme filthiness of the habits of the poor, though observable everywhere, are as striking in this place, if not more so than elsewhere, inasmuch as in a town it might be expected that a little more of the outward observances of cleanliness and decency would be met with. Dung-heaps abound in the lanes and streets. There seemed seldom to be more than one room for living and sleeping in; generally in a state of indescribable disorder and dirty to an excess. The pigs and poultry form a usual part of the family. In walking down a lane which forms one of the principal entrances to the town, I saw a huge sow go up to a door (the lower half of which was shut) and put her fore paws on the top of it and begin shaking it: a woman with a child in her arms rushed across the road from the other side of the way, and immediately opened the door and the animal walked into the house grunting as if she was offended at the delay, the woman following and closing the door behind her.

The churchyard gives ample evidence of the absence of necessary out-buildings in the town, and several of the tombstones were covered with half-washed linen hanging to dry. This church and churchyard stand on a rocky eminence in the centre or the town, forming therefore a very conspicuous object in the place.

I examined some witnesses together in this place belonging to the Church, the Calvinistic Methodists, and the Wesleyans, to which I beg to refer. Mynachlog-fawr is the site of the ruins of the famous old Abbey of Strata Florida, which in fact stands in the churchyard of the chapel. There is no Sunday school at present held in this chapel, though the population was 819 at the last census of this chapelry. A Sunday school, however, had been held there.

I saw the Calvinistic Methodist minister, who thought schools very much wanted in the neighbourhood. The children of this place chiefly attend the schools of Pontrhydfendigaid on Sundays, which, though close to the parish of Caron, is in that of Gwnnws, where see the Report of the Sunday schools. The cottages in Strata Florida are wretched in the extreme. I beg to refer to the account of the day school for further particulars on this head.

As an evidence of the lawless disposition of the young persons of this neighbourhood, it may be mentioned that even the tombstones do not escape demolition, and a large portion of one of them bearing the inscription of Richard son of Richard Oliver, 1825, aged 18 years, had been thrown over the church wall into an adjoining enclosure, where I saw it; and many of the tombstones showed marks of violence ; nor was there a closed gate of any kind to keep cattle out of the churchyard.

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

Tregaron Day School.

This is an adventure school. It is the only boys' school in Tregaron, and appeared to be a good deal under the control of the Calvinistic Methodists. I visited it on November 6th, and found it in a large loft, tolerably well lighted, and in decent repair. The floor was boarded, and not of earth, as is usually the case about here. Forms and uncouth tables were placed in all directions about the room.

The master, a mild melancholy looking man, called up his first Class, consisting of seven boys and two girls, at my request, and told them to read the 12th chapter of Joshua in English, which he preferred, he said, to the New Testament. They read very fairly; one little girl, of seven years of age, remarkably well. Their pronunciation of the kings' names at the end of the chapter was wonderfully correct, inasmuch as their knowledge of English was very imperfect. They knew the meaning of the words river, possessed, but not of grant, remnant, or possession. They spelled very correctly, not repeating each syllable, but spelling so as to mark the proper division of the words by pauses between each syllable. Their Scriptural knowledge was very limited; of geography they knew very little; in arithmetic they appeared to have made rather more progress.

A total absence of method and discipline characterised the school, and the master was quite unable to maintain order, even during the time of my visit. Nevertheless, he was evidently a man of natural ability.

J.C S.

Strata Florida Adventure Day School.

This school is in the parish of Caron, and the chapelry of Strata Florida, although being close to the village of Pont-rhyd-fendigaid it is in fact a school for that place, which is in the parish of Gwnnws. The school-house is a substantial building on the road side to Strata Florida. It was built by the schoolmaster himself, according to his statement.

On approaching the school at several yards' distance, the buzz of voices sufficiently proclaimed the system of instruction pursued - every child reading its own book after its own fashion. On entering the school the noise was with difficulty stopped. Benches of the roughest description were placed round the walls. Some of the children were sitting with their faces to the walls, to which the books were in some instances fastened by pegs or mails, apparently as a preservative against dogs-earing. The floor was of earth, and the place utterly devoid of comfort. With his back to a small fire stood the master, a fine looking handsome man. Immediately in front of him was a little boy, called up to say his lesson, which consisted of a column of Vyse's New London Spelling-Book, which he gabbled through with extraordinary speed,-mispronouncing nearly every word, horribly, and spelling them correctly.

I asked the master if he ever corrected their mispronunciation? He said Yes, and then proved that he did not; for, on his re-pronouncing the word to the boy, instead of repeating it after the master, the child re-spelt the word. The whole school were taught in English, but as usual, the language was not understood. Four boys and a girl were brought up by the master to read ; the buzz of the remainder breaking out at intervals of a few minutes, which the master repressed with difficulty. The five brought up were selected by the master as his best scholars at my request. They read tolerably, mispronouncing, however, several words after the example of their master; as e.g. pleesure for pleasure ; warld for world; trorble for trouble, &c.

The master said he questioned them on the meaning in Welsh of the words they read, and not on the meaning of the subject. The 17th Psalm find been selected to be read ; and to the following questions I had the answers I have annexed, not the least bashfulness being evinced :-Who wrote the Psalms?-Three did not know, the fourth thought it was David, and the fifth St. John. Who was Moses?-Nobody knew. The children of Israel ?-They had not heard of them, nor of their passage through the Red Sea. What is a prophet?-(A penny shown and offered to whoever told)-Nobody knew. Who were the Apostles ?-Four did not know; one only knew. How did Christ save sinners ?-No one knew except that he was crucified, but they could not tell where that was. Where is Jesus?-In heaven. How must we act to get there?-Not sin. Who were the disciples? -No-one knew, nor whether they were rational beings or not.

To questions on secular subjects the answers may be thus summed up. There are 365 days in the year, and twenty-four hours in a day. One thought the earth went round the sun,, but the others were all decidedly of opinion that the sun went round the earth, The land of Canaan was in America; France is a town, and Scotland also; London was where the Queen lived, who reigned over England, but not over Wales. In arithmetic 7 x 8 took them out of their depth.

I afterwards saw the hut where the schoolmaster lived, which consisted of a single room, without any other chimney than a hole in the roof - more smoke escaping by the door than upwards. The schoolmaster's mother lay dying on a bed by the door; a younger woman was cooking by the fire, and all of them slept in the same place which was scarcely 12 ft. square. Everything was begrimed with soot and dirt ; the walls of the hovel were of mud ; and the partition between this and the adjoining cottage formed apparently of a hurdle and an old chest of drawers. The piece was so dark that scarcely anything could be distinctly seen in it; and there the schoolmaster lived and this is the only day school within many miles round.

J. C. S.

Tregaron Church Sunday School.

On Sunday, November 8th, I visited and inspected the above Sunday school, which is held in the parish church. The school is held every Sunday, from 2 to 4 in the afternoon.

The first hour is spent in reading the Scriptures; they then sing a hymn ; and for the remainder of the time the Scriptures are committed to memory. , and repeated by the different classes to their respective teachers. I heard a class of boys read the 4th chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians, which they did tolerably well. Whenever the teacher found that a verse was read incorrectly, be gave the boy a second trial, and in the event of his not reading it satisfactorily the second time, he referred it to the next boy, and so on, until the verse was read correctly. I did not hear the teacher ask the boys any questions, either as to the meaning of a passage or of a word. When they had read the chapter, the teacher told me that he had proceeded just in his usual way, and that was all be was in the habit of doing, except that he occasionally explained a passage here and there, which, however he did not, in a single instance, do in my presence.

I afterwards examined them myself. and in answer to questions, got the following answers: - Adam was the first man; he was placed in the garden of Eden ; ate the forbidden fruit; was therefore cast out ; the garden of Eden was in Asia; did not know what part of Asia it was in. A prophet means a person that foretells future events. Knew the names of some of the Prophets. Christ was born in Bethlehem, which was in the land of Canaan ; Joseph of Arimathea was Christ's reputed father; five out of the eleven, -which was the number in the class - thought it was Joseph the carpenter. Christ was crucified, which means to nail hand and foot to a stick; he was buried in a grave where remained three days and three nights ; after forty days he ascended into heaven. Christ died to save sinners; did not know how he saves them.

The adult classes catechised each other, and endeavoured to explain to each other all the difficult passages they happened to meet with.

(Signed) D. B. PRICE, Assistant.

After diligent enquiry in the parish of Caron I found only the following schools in it :-Two day schools at Tregaron, and one at Strata Florida. The Sunday schools in the parish were one Church, one Baptist, one Wesleyan, and two Calvinistic Methodist ones.

(Signed) D. B. PRICE, Assistant.

Tregaron Bwlchgwynt Chapel.

On Sunday, November 8th, I visited the above Calvinistic Methodist Sunday school, held in the above chapel, which is a very large roomy building. It is well lighted by four large windows in front, six in the back, and four at each end. The school is opened by reading a chapter of the Bible, singing a hymn, and a prayer. The time of school is divided into two parts, between which some one of the teachers, in alphabetical order, gives out a hymn to be sung; which being done, the same person requests the whole school to repeat the Ten Commandments, which I thought was done in a very creditable manner.

The school was divided into classes, and to each class was appointed a teacher, who asked his own class questions upon what they read; and, in the event of their unable to answer (which did not often occur), he endeavoured to explain every difficulty to them. In some of the adult classes I heard long discussion upon doctrinal points, e. g. predestination and election.

I heard a class of boys read the 11th chapter of St. John's Gospel up to the 20th verse; afterwards, the teachers asked the boys questions upon what they had been reading, nearly all of which they were able to answer. I then heard the same class, consisting of nine boys, read a part of the 12th chapter of St. John's Gospel, which they did with great correctness. When they had read a dozen verses, I asked them a few questions, to which I had the following answers -The first mention of the Passover is in the history of the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt; it was celebrated for seven days; did not know what time of the year. The Mary that anointed Christ's feet was Magdalene; knew of no remarkable feature in her history. Judas Iscariot, who betrayed our Saviour, was one of the twelve Apostles; did not know why he was called Iscariot. There was another Judas, not of the twelve Apostles, who wrote the Epistle called after his name. Did not know how many years after Christ the world was created. 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, which they were tempted to do by the serpent. Knew the names of most of the Prophets. The Israelites were led from Egypt to Canaan by Moses, who received the tables or the Law from God on Mount Sinai. Did not know where Mount Sinai was, nor the number of plagues inflicted upon Egypt. Christ was born in Bethlehem. Did not know what quarter of the globe Canaan was in. Christ was crucified by the Jews , buried by Joseph of Arimathea ; and after three days he arose. By Christ's death sinners are saved; knew not how sinners are saved by Christ's death. The school is closed by singing a hymn and with prayer.

(Signed) B. PRICE, Assistant [1846]

(Gareth Hicks)