March Meeting – Joyce Allen, An Inspector Calls

Local research specialist Joyce Allen spoke to members of Bingham Business Club about the early days of formal education in the town.

There were four schools in Bingham in mid-Victorian times, including a church school, a Wesleyan school, a school for young ladies and a poor school.

Joyce Allen showed an old school balance sheet with income including a government grant of £25 1s 11d, £29 4s 6d in public subscriptions, and £20 12s 8d in contributions from families towards their children’s education. Outgoings included £53 15s 10d to pay the schoolmaster and upwards of £10 to pay a sewing mistress.

She said that Bingham business community of the day played a huge part in funding the schools, as they wanted to have better-educated employees. With schools paid according to the number of pupils they had, they took great trouble to increase attendance, but many children were absent for long periods, including some who were missing for months to help their parents with harvesting or family businesses. These included an 11-year- old working as a blacksmith, and a nine- year-old helping his father on the railways.

One forward-thinking teacher arranged seaside trips for his pupils, believing the sea air would open their minds and help them absorb more knowledge. Another teacher was a conman who had stolen the identification and glowing references of a real teacher and used it to get a position at the church school. The school flourished under his leadership and so, even when his fraud was discovered, parents persuaded the law to show mercy and he was let off.

Business club chairman Jonathan Hammond said that businesses in and around the town were still involved in supporting young people in their education, with several club members planning to spend time at Toot Hill School that day helping students with interview skills.

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