Broad Street Wrington Website
The Lives of
John Locke & Hannah More

Page 2



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.

Her sisters, about this time, gave up their school in Park Street and went to live in Pulteney Street, Bath. She joined them there from time to time. They were frequent visitors at Cowslip Green. Hannah's many friends visited her there, including Mrs.Montagu, Mrs.Boscowan and Bishop John Newton.

He strolled with Hannah in the garden and was so delighted with it he later wrote that he had acquired a similar place in the country elsewhere.
One can imagine those strolls and the conversations they had on the evils of the slave trade. John Newton was a captain of a slave ship before he was converted to Christianity and entered the Church; with that knowledge his hymn "Amazing Grace" takes on a fresh meaning.

With those first-hand accounts ringing in her ears, William Wilberforce also found a ready helper in his campaign to abolish the slave trade and Hannah's ready pen filled pages in his support.

It was around 1786 that William Wilberforce came to stay at Cowslip Green and, upon Hannah's recommendation, he rode to Cheddar to see the scenic beauty. On his return he was so downcast on being asked if he enjoyed his day that he replied: "The scenery is very fine but the poverty is dreadful. Miss Hannah, something must be done for Cheddar. If you will be at the trouble end, I will be at the expense". Sister Martha was with them and they talked far into the night on ways and means.

In 1780, Robert Raikes of Gloucester had started schools for the children of his area, so a pattern was set to teach the poor to read the scriptures, writing and good conduct. The idea spread to other areas where good folk took up the challenge. It is reported that within ten years thousands of children could read.

Hannah, with the support of her sisters and Patty in particular, set out for Cheddar, staying at the George Hotel. She wrote letters from there reporting progress, visited local farmers and gentry, she says, patted dogs, nursed grubby habies, cajoled and flattered and persuaded one farmer and his wife of the rightness of her cause.

They rented her a house and garden with an oxbarn in it for £7 per annum and she set about having it repaired and made suitable for a classroom.
Some folk said, "if you teach them to read they won't want to work" others, "teaching them religion causes all sorts of trouble."

Hannah later became firm friends with the farmer's wife. She appointed a Mrs.Baber and her daughter as the first teachers and the school opened on October 25th 1789. Much of its success was due to those two teachers. When Mrs.Baber died, the whole of Cheddar came to mourn her; the church could not contain all who would attend her funeral.

Hannah and Martha were constant in their interest and oversight, travelling on horse back or by carriage over those rugged hills. We are assured that, if needs be, she would walk from Wrington to Cheddar. In the community centre at Hannah More House in North Street, Cheddar, I was shown her walking stick.

In the letters of Hannah and her sisters on the subject, she referred to Cheddar as "our university". They also attempted to teach weaving and domestic tasks. Weaving was not successful but knitting was.

her visitors
Bishop Newton

slave trade

'Amazing Grace'


poverty in Cheddar

start of schools

Hannah goes to Cheddar

opposition to education of poor

school opens

"our university"

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.

Accounts show that Hannah made learning entertaining. When the children tired of one subject, she stood them up and they sang a hymn. A penny was given to a child who could recite a psalm or passage of scripture.

The oxbarn was given a new roof and windows that first year. The accounts show:

House rent £7
Repairs, whitewashing benches £2
Headmistress salary £30
Under teacher £10
Bibles, prayer and other books £8
Caps & tippets for 100 girls £15
Shirts for 20 men £5
Club subscriptions, expenses £6
Incidental charities £6

Total £89

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.

Encouraged by her success, Hannah went on to other villages, overcoming opposition - there was much of it - and ridicule for two maiden ladies who travelled the countryside to try to educate the children of the poor. Schools were started in the following order.

1790 Shipham and Rowberrow
1791 Congresbury, Yatton, Axbridge
1792 Nailsea
1795 Blagdon
1798 Wedmore

Churchill, Sandford and others followed, but what of Wrington? Did she ignore her own village? Not so. In one letter, she writes that she has no worries at Wrington: "the good incumbent has a school under his charge."

Early school records do indeed refer to the influence of Miss Hannah More.
Hannah's endeavours to found schools met with much scepticism from rich and poor alike. On the one hand, it was said, to teach the lower orders to read and write would be futile or dangerous, giving them ideas above their station; the other side wondered what was behind it all. What was to be demanded of them after all this learning? It would not fill empty bellies.

Once the benefits were realised, the schools made progress. At first, they were held only on a Sunday because children were set to work at a very early age. The under twelves scared birds whilst picking up potatoes and the like; the over twelves were in full-time work, mostly on farms and living with the farmer's family..


thrift club

expansion to other villages

scepticism about educating the poor


At 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..

encouragements to attend




Shipham and Rowberrow



mother hanged

evening classes

clerical opposition

'methody' teacher

Sir Arthur Elton

appeal to bishop

Nailsea school for glassblowers

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.

The school's picnic, up on top of the Mendips in 1793 was attended by about 1000 children and watched by a similar number of onlookers and visitors, including the local gentry and invited guests from Bristol.

The children paraded under a floral arch and sang hymns and songs. They had a meal of beef, bread and cider, with more singing and speeches and the event ended with the children lustily singing God Save the King.

Alongside those endeavours, Hannah observed the plight of the village women. They had little but work and worry. Clothing was almost always hand-me- downs from others, so she started thrift clubs to encourage saving a few coppers a week towards clothes and coal. Odd pennies usually went on drink.

The Hannah More Female Friendly Society was a boon. Even until 1948 at the start of the National Health Service, for ½d a week they got medical attention, 6/- a week for the first six weeks of illness, 3/- for the next six weeks and 1/- for as long as the illness lasted.

Stewards were appointed to see that a doctor's certificate was brought and no one claimed benefit without one. There was a Death Grant of about £3 and, upon marriage, a member of good moral standing received 5/-, a Bible and a pair of white stockings. The annual club day was an occasion with a parade and church service followed by a tea, the appointment of stewards and the annual report. The women were encouraged to see to the running of the club, giving them some pride and dignity.

In 1802 Hannah and her four sisters went to live together at the new home they had built at Barley Wood, Wrington. It was a little mansion with a thatched roof and verandah all round and it nestled into the hillside with a panoramic view of the Mendip Hills.

There were old friends and new who visited. Among them, Mr.Gladstone, when he was a small boy, was brought by his mother. He records this in a letter in 1890 to the minister of the Congregational Church, Wrington, the Rev. T.B. Knight. Hannah continued to give oversight to her school and wrote many articles, books and letters.

Is it any wonder that her letters to friends so often referred to her being "laid low with headaches"? Undaunted, however, she carried on.

Continue reading about Hannah's literary works 


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picnic on Mendip

concern for village women

friendly society


move to Barley Wood