Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII

Return to History

THE general meeting being now over, we settled down to our regular routine of school-life of which I will now proceed to give a general account, endeavouring to describe first the education in the school-room, and secondly the agricultural operations in which the boys were engaged.

To the best of my recollection the following was the division of time in the early days of the school.

Division of time: - At six o'clock the gong for rising rang. After the boys had dressed, they crossed their playground to the wash-house, which was a weaver's old cottage, where they kept their boxes, shoes, &c. The water for washing was got from a pump close by. At seven they took their seats and their Bibles to read, then closing them, there was a short silence, followed by mental arithmetic till eight, when they were called to breakfast by the gong, after which, and the reading of a chapter, they assembled in the school-room to repeat a spelling lesson, which occupied only a few minutes. At nine, one class went to school and the other to work till half-past twelve. At half-past twelve they went to dinner, after which they had recreation till half-past one, when those who had been in school in the forenoon went to work, and those who had been at work went to school. At half-past four, both those in school and those at work were dismissed till six, when they were collected for supper, after which recreation again till seven, when they had English grammar half an hour, followed by a scripture lesson till eight, when, after reading a chapter, they retired for the night. Seventh day afternoon was a holiday. They attended the midweek Meeting on fifth day forenoon.

For calling the boys to collect for work and meals, Thomas Richardson had presented the institution with a large, sonorous Chinese gong, swung in a frame, with beaters and all complete. It was very amusing to see the effect its sound had on the boys when summoned by it. One boy in particular I used to observe when the call was to meals, he would beat his hands against his side, and shout at the top of his voice - “The gong! the gong! the gong!" but when it summoned to leave the play-ground and go to work, he would thrust his hands into his trouser-pockets and walk off scowling.

On first day they had a Bible lesson for half an hour before the morning and afternoon Meetings; in the evening, the hour before retiring was occupied by one of the scholars reading aloud from the life or writings of some Friend. These readings were sometimes attended by Friends from the village.

They studied the scriptures under the various dispensations; the history of the Judges, the kings of Judah and Israel and the character of each, committing to memory important passages; the prophecies of the Old Testament fulfilled in the New, particularly those that referred to Christ; and Our Saviour’s references to them as a proof of their genuineness and authenticity. Friends’ view of the spirituality of the Gospel and the disuse of ceremonies in religious worship received special attention as well as all our moral duties. They were familiar with the New Testament, the history of Christ and the Acts of His Apostles.

Our dear aged friend, George Richardson, the last time, I believe, he visited the school, said to me “We want the scholars to be well taught in all the useful branches of learning, but we consider a knowledge of the Holy Scriptures the most important.” This so impressed my mind that I endeavoured to carry out his advice. One of our Ayton scholars, after returning home, was appointed superintendent at a first day school, and adopted our plan of teaching Scripture. He found it answer so well that he wrote to tell me of it for my encouragement. Doubtless he had copied my Scripture notes that always lay on my desk for the boys to read and copy if they liked. The boys committed to memory many passages of Scripture, the meaning of which they may not have fully understood at the time, a practice to which some Friends objected, but which we continued, and the advantage of it was proved in the experience of some of them in after life, who testified to the good remembrance opening their understanding to comprehend the passages with which their minds had been stored while at school. One dear boy became blind, sickened and died. During his illness he requested his father to write and thank me for the Scripture texts I had taught him, which had been a comfort to him on his death-bed.

Singing hymns and music were not allowed in Friends' schools in those days, which I think was a mistake, as it deprived our children of an innocent gratification and much social enjoyment.

Our scholars enjoyed the simultaneous repeating of psalms and other beautiful passages of scripture, also hymns and poetry of an elevating tendency. In this way the memory was stored with useful information of various kinds.

Our aim in teaching was to give a thorough English education in reading, writing, arithmetic, English grammar, and geography. One hour every other evening was devoted to the explanation of the articles that are in constant use, for food, furniture, clothes, &c.; explanation of the mechanical powers and the leading principles of natural history, natural philosophy, and agricultural chemistry. The books we used were the British and Foreign School Society's daily lesson books, Butler's spelling book, Lennie’s grammar, Crosley’s arithmetic, Johnson’s agricultural chemistry, Chamber's maps and hand books. Blackboard and pencil drawing were also taught.

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