Pauper education in Victorian England: organisation and administration within the new poor law 1834-1880

Livingstone, Janet Elizabeth (1993) Pauper education in Victorian England: organisation and administration within the new poor law 1834-1880. Doctoral thesis, London Guildhall University.


The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act led to the first national system of education for approximately 50,000 indoor pauper children each year in a decade of early initiatives on working class education to combat social unrest and political protest. Pauper schooling involved central supervision, inspection and local management and was inextricably linked with Poor Law strategies to depauperise and to administer strict relief policies. Poor Law organisation and administration are discussed in terms of the attitudes and motives of politicians and administrators. Kay Shuttleworth's ideas on pauper training and social control were acknowledged as an effective means to break the chain of pauperism, crime and social unrest. A specific Poor Law curriculum evolved in which gender differentiation became deeply entrenched. The development of pauper schooling, as part of the tensions of central-local government, is examined in the three Shropshire unions of Atcham, Bridgnorth and Ellesmere. An analysis of the type of pauper schooling, quality of teaching and nature of the curriculum has been undertaken, as well as an appraisal of the reputation of Atcham and Quatt as exemplars of nineteenth century pauper training. At Atcham, a model workhouse school was part of Baldwin Leighton's thirty-year strict relief policy. At Quatt, William Whitmore was closely identified with the establishment of one of the few successful rural District Schools. In Ellesmere, limited Poor Law schooling was developed by farmer guardians under the chairmanship of Robert Slaney, actively concerned with urban social reform. The local controversial Poor Law Schools Inspector, Jelinger Symons' advocacy of agricultural training is discussed as part of an evaluation of his role. An assessment of the hitherto neglected area of outdoor pauper children, who annually numbered 200,000-300,000 reveals more educational provision than previously described by the Webbs. Finally, the gradual and partial merging of pauper schooling into elementary education after 1870, and other changes in educational provision, are examined.

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