Bringing Literacy to Rural England

The Hertfordshire Example

J. S. Hurt

Phillimore 1972

A Booklet of 34 Pages

Opening Paragraphs


'Educationally Hertfordshire has not in ancient times or in modern times been prolific of great results.' This comment was certainly true of the county's record in secondary education for much of the 19th century. If, however, we look at the provision made for the children of the labouring classes in the first half of the 19th century, we find that Hertfordshire was in the vanguard of educational progress. The Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the State of Popular Education in England (The Newcastle Report) was published in 1861. It showed that Hertfordshire was one of the best provided counties in the country. With one scholar to every 9.2 persons it ranked seventh equal with Berkshire in the comparative size of its school population. At the head of the list was Wiltshire with a ratio of one to every 7.8, at the bottom was Breconshire with one to 17.8. Thus Hertfordshire stood comfortably above the national average of one to every 11.82.

For the first three-quarters of the 19th century economic and social circumstances favoured educational progress in the county. For agriculture, the county's main industry, this period was one of growing prosperity. Hence the rural landowners and the business men of the small towns, all of whom were dependent on the economic health of the countryside, were ready and able to contribute to the building of the county's schools. Agriculture, the activity whose profits provided the money for the bricks and mortar of the school buildings, however, deprived the schoolrooms of their pupils. Tenant farmers demanded cheap juvenile labour not only for the various harvests but also for longer periods of time for such unskilled tasks as bird-scaring and stone-picking. Similarly the plaiting trade, a handicraft of the arable South Midlands area, also drew children away from the classroom. ...


In addition to a very useful history of primary education in Hertfordshire it includes several useful appendices. For instance Appendix 1 lists the following National School as being established between 1814 and 1828.

St Albans, Aldenham. Chipping Barnet, East Barnet, Little Berkhampstead, Bishop's Stortford, Braughing, Brookman's Park, Broxbourne and Amwell, Bushey, Cheshunt, Codicote, Datchworth, Elstree, Great Gaddesden, Much Hadham, Little Hadham, Hatfield, Bishops Hertford, Hitchin, Hoddesdon and Broxbourne, Great Hormead, Kimpton, Great Munden, Little Munden, St. Paul's Walden, Preston, Rickmansworth, Sandridge, Sawbridgeworth, Stanstead Abbotts, Thorley, Ware, Watton, Westmill, Wheathamstead, Widford.

In each case the date of union with the National Society is given, and in some cases the size of a grant from the National Society.

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