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Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The Advent of Sunday Schools

The birth of the Sunday School movement is the subject of my latest feature for Jane Austen's Regency World.

Robert Raikes is often considered the ‘founder’ of Sunday schools for working class children, but there are several candidates for the title. Almost a century earlier, the Revd. Joseph Alleine held classes at Taunton, and there are more instances recorded elsewhere: in Pennsylvania (USA) during the 1740s, at Catterick (Yorkshire) in the 1760s, and at Macclesfield in Cheshire in 1778.
Many of the pin-makers of Gloucester were small children. One day in 1780, Raikes was ‘struck with concern at seeing a groupe [sic] of children, wretchedly ragged, at play in the street’. The children worked all week; Sunday was their only day off. Raikes was worried they would turn to crime unless they were taught right from wrong.
In July 1780, Raikes and the Rev. Thomas Stock, headmaster of Gloucester Cathedral school, set up Sunday schools for the children. This initiative was immensely popular, and spread like wildfire in Britain.
You can find out more about the lives of working children, and their schools, in The Children History Forgot.

Images: Robert Raikes’ house at Gloucester, now a pub.
Memorial statue of Rev. Thomas Charles (1755–1814) at Bala. Charles founded day schools for Welsh children, promoted Sunday Schools in Wales, and was one of the founders of the British and Foreign Bible Society. © Sue Wilkes.

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