|Our village school on the green circa 1870|
In 1847 our village school was just two years old. It was the second National School here in the township and replaced the first which had been established in 1817.
These were church schools and provided elementary education for the children of the poor. They were the product of the National Society which had begun in 1811 and aimed to establish a national school in every parish delivering a curriculum based on the teaching of the church.
The new school had been built with grants from the National Society and the Committee of Council on Education on land given by George Lloyd in 1843 “for the purpose of a school for the education of poor children inhabiting the said township of Chorlton cum Hardy......and for the residence of the master of the said school for the time being, such schoolmaster to be a member of the Established Church, and the school to be conducted upon principles consistent with the doctrines of the Established Church”
The youngest at just ten was Catherine Kirby who was born in Ireland and worked as a house servant.
There were slightly more boys than girls and they did a mix of jobs ranging from errand boys to farm worker and domestic service and most were born here.
There may even have been more for when William Chesshyre interviewed their parents in the March of 1851 some children were described as farmer’s sons and daughters.
They may have been at school or they may have already begun to work alongside their parents on the farm. And as we shall see just because parents described their children as scholars was no guarantee they attended school or even if they did that they were there full time.
The national picture was one of children even younger than 10 being employed. A labourer’s child could earn between 1s.6d and 2s. [7½p-10p] a week which was an important addition to an agricultural family’s income and in the words of one government report was “so great a relief to the parents as to render it almost hopeless that they can withstand the inducement and retain the child at school”
It was just part of the rural cycle and which one contributor to the Poor Law Commissioners on the employment of women and children in agriculture in 1843 said would at least teach children “the habit of industry,” which fitted in with the belief much held in the countryside that “the business of a farm labourer cannot be thoroughly acquired if work be not commenced before eleven or twelve.”
And yet it may be that most of our children were in school for at least some of the time because while parents did remove children out of season to help with other farm work or in the case of girls look after siblings, “in the greater number of agricultural parishes there are day schools, which a considerable number of children of both sexes of the labouring class attend.”
*A new book on Chorlton, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/A%20new%20book%20for%20Chorlton
Picture; from the collection of Tony Walker