A FASCINATING new book about the schooling experienced by our ancestors over two hundred years ago has been published this week.
The book, which has been compiled by volunteers working on behalf of the Berkshire Record Office, explores all the learning opportunities available during the Georgian period (1714–1837).
The book tells how virtually every village in Berkshire had at least one school, even if it was only on Sundays and taught no more than scripture and reading.
In the towns and bigger villages there were free schools, grammar schools and other charities – usually set up by a local benefactor to provide a proper education to the poor children of the parish.
Readers can draw interesting parallels with today’s educational scene. The fragmented nature of education in the eighteenth century, for example, meant there was lots of opportunity for private academies to also flourish.
In Newbury, ‘young gentlemen’ could be boarded at Charles Bull’s academy ‘to prepare for active concerns of life’; while in Reading, ‘young ladies’ might attend the Watlington House academy which had ‘regard principally to the morals, health and comfort’ of its pupils while they learnt ornamental needlework.
‘Berkshire Schools in the Eighteenth Century’ is published by Berkshire Record Society, with the support of the Berkshire Local History Association.
The book is priced £25 and available direct from the Berkshire Record Society. Find out more at www.berkshirerecordsociety.org.uk
Mark Stevens, County Archivist, said: “Our volunteers have put together some amazing research. It’s fascinating to see how much they have discovered. It turns out that Georgian Berkshire was a vibrant county of learning – and now we have the book to prove it.”
Professor Ralph Houlbrooke, Chairman of the Berkshire Record Society, said: “Berkshire Record Society is delighted to share in celebrating the publication of this ground-breaking survey of schools in eighteenth-century Berkshire, prepared in partnership with the Berkshire Record Office and the Berkshire Local History Association. For more than 25 years the Society has been working to widen access to sources for Berkshire’s history, and it warmly welcomes this important contribution to the history of the Royal County.”
Cllr Sarah Hacker, Reading Council’s Lead Member for Culture, Heritage and Recreation, said: “A lot of hard work and research has gone into this fascinating insight into schooling in our local area over two hundred years ago. If you have an interest in local history, this could be a must read for you!”
Notes for editors
Berkshire Record Office is the joint archives service for the six Berkshire councils. It looks after historic collections from public authorities and private bodies from across the county, dating from the 12th century to the present day. Items from the collections can be consulted for free during opening hours, Tuesday-Friday.
The Record Office is always happy to add historic documents and photographs to its collections. Anyone with relevant material is invited to contact: Berkshire Record Office, 9 Coley Avenue, Reading RG1 6AF.
Tel: 0118 937 5132
Berkshire Record Society prints scholarly editions of important documents on the history of Berkshire held in the Berkshire Record Office and elsewhere. It is funded by subscription and always happy to receive new members.