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A History of Horncastle by James Conway Walter

The lancasterian the bell schools

The scholars are of both sexes, and between the ages of three years and seven. The school is conducted on Church of England principles, and examined by both Diocesan and Government Inspectors; a Government Grant being earned to supplement the funds of the Watson bequest. The scholars are taught reading, writing and arithmetic, with the various kindergarten subjects. The Secretary to the Charity, H. Tweed, Esq., Solicitor, of Horncastle, pays half the rents to the Lincoln County Council, for teachers' salaries, and retains the other half for repairs and incidental expenses. All the other tenements in Watson's Yard are the property of the Charity.


Beside the endowed schools, already described, the Grammar School for the middle and upper class, and Watson's School for the children of the poorer classes; there were two other schools before the present National Schools came into existence, the history of which is of some interest. Weir, in his _History of Horncastle_, says "a school, on the Lancasterian, or British system, was established at a public meeting, held in October, 1813; and, a few days later, a meeting was held at the church, when it was resolved to establish a school on the plan of Dr. Bell. Both buildings were erected in 1814, supported by voluntary contributions, each for about 200 children." {111}

This needs some explanation. Dr. Andrew Bell was an East Indian Company's Chaplain, stationed at Fort St. George, Madras, in 1789. He noticed, in the course of his duties, that in the native schools, beside the regular paid teachers, the more advanced pupils were also employed to instruct younger scholars; each pupil thus having a tutor, and each tutor a pupil; a system by which both were enabled to learn faster, and led to take more interest in their work, than would otherwise have been generally possible. Being an enthusiast in educational matters, he resigned his chaplaincy, with its good stipend, to inaugurate, and himself carry on, a school for the children of Europeans in the Presidency, on the same principles. The result was so satisfactory that on his return to England, in 1797, he published an account of what he called the "Madras, or Monitorial System," and endeavoured to introduce it in this country. Little progress, however, was made for some time, beyond the establishment of a charity school, on these lines, at St. Botolph's, Aldgate, London, and a school at Kendal, Co. Cumberland.

About the same date Joseph Lancaster, a young Quaker, set up a school for poor children, before he was 19 years of age, in a room lent to him by his father, in the Borough Road, Southwark, and in a very short time he had nearly 100 under his charge. He also adopted the monitorial method, but, as a Quaker, omitting the Church teaching of the Bell schools. Persevering in the work, he was received in audience by the King, George III., who gave him encouragement. He then travelled over the kingdom, giving lectures on the new mode of instruction; which in consequence spread with rapidity. In 1798 he taught about 1,000 boys, between the ages of 5 and 12 years, his sisters teaching some 200 girls.

Objections were made to the indefinite character of the religious teaching of a Quaker, by Professor Marsh, and others, and the Bell schools, with their Church instruction, had by the year 1818 become numerous. The services of Dr. Bell himself, in the cause of education had been recognised, and rewarded by a Canonry of Westminster. By the year 1828 upwards of 200,000 children were being taught on his system, and at his death, a few years later, he bequeathed 120,000 pounds to carry on the work which he had so much at heart. {112a}

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