The Lives of
John Locke & Hannah More
COWSLIP GREEN, BARLEYWOOD & MENDIP SCHOOLS
Hannah More retired to Cowslip Green, Wrington in 1785. This was to be her retreat from the world where she would tend her garden and concentrate on her writings.
Some 120 children were attending and the improvement in their standard was amazing, although the sisters had to be firm, as mothers wanted to send infants as well as elder children.
I should think this meant Hannah had a thrift club running, as most villages did well into the 1930's for the poor to pay in weekly as much as they could to provide clothes and winter coal. The local lady in charge would buy rolls of flannel, etc., at cost price and apportion it out to those who wanted it. This encouraged needlework.
first the scriptures were learned by heart; writing came later.
There was also the singing of hymns and "good ballads"
with a moral content. Some of these are preserved, with the tunes
suggested.Hannah herself composed suitable ballads.
Discipline was firm but kind but these were lawless times. To keep the children's interest and get them to attend regularly, she enlisted the help of the employers, first convincing them education would make better employees.
For full attendance for a month, a child would receive one penny; a treat such as gingerbread was brought in about every two months. An annual prize for good progress and attendance was a bible or book.
In 1790 Shipham and Rowberrow a school was started. The report of the childrens' progress and the general improvement in the neighbourhood seems to indicate that the knowledge that someone cared about the well-being of the poor could have far reaching effects. Shipham and Rowberrow had a reputation for lawlessness. Many were deported to the penal colonies, imprisoned or hanged for their misdemeanours.
Hannah was concerned, one day, because two of the children were so downcast. On enquiring what was the matter, she was told that their mother was to be hanged for stealing bread for them.
By the year 1800, thirteen schools had started in the Mendip villages and each has its own story to tell. Much progress was made in educating the poor. Hannah introduced evening classes for adults. These were scorned at first but time proved their value - even to the present day. The classes led to other problems.
The Rev.William Eyre, curate of Wedmore took exception to them and said it was Methodistic teaching. Because the schoolhouse was not ready, the class was held in the open in an orchard. Mr.Eyre was supported by the curate of Blagdon, the Rev. Mr.Bere and here started what was to become known as the'Blagdon Controversy !
Mr.Bere at first welcomed the school at Blagdon but could not accept the ways of the teacher, Mr Younge, who also conducted weekly prayer meetings. In the evenings he used extempore prayers instead of the prayer books and he was accused, amonst other things, of being a 'methody.'
Hannah was asked to sack him but this she refused to do. She was then accused of heresy and those who objected to teaching the poor took sides against her. Pamphlets and letters were issued and poor Hannah became almost imprisoned in her own home whilst the controversy raged around her.
At long last Hannah asked Sir Arthur Elton, a local magistrate, to investigate the accusations of heretical teaching by Mr.Younge. He did so and exonerated Mr.Younge but there was no let up.
She broke her rule never to reply to her eritics and wrote a long letter to the Bishop of Bath and Well.s stating her case. His reply gave due honour to all the work Hannah had achieved and the storm died down. But the unhappy Mr.Young had to move, as the school was to be closed. Hannah found him a post as private secretary to Peter La Touch, of County Wicklow, Ireland. Hannah suffered greatly over this, and for some time was quite ill.
There was a happier note on the Nailsea school for the glassblowers and miners of that area. Hannah was warned not to go to those ruffians but, with courage, she and Patty rode over to Nailsea. They were accompanied by a gentleman to ensure their safety but even he would not go too close to those rough men.
Hannah had no such fears and when she explained what she wanted to do, they all gave her their support, offering to pay 6d. a week towards the salary of the teacher..
Shipham and Rowberrow
Mr.Younge had first
been appointed here but was too genteel for the miners who insisted
that one of.the miners, who had lost a leg in an accident, should
be trained to teach. This was done and proved successful.