Adult Education and the Public Library
in 19th Century Wolverhampton

Adult Education in Wolverhampton before 1869 (Part 3)

The Working Men's College

Believing that it was the lack of suitably-educated potential students that was causing the decline of the Athenaeum, some of the Management Committee tried to remedy the situation. Led by J.N. Langley, a master at the town's Grammar School and an Athenaeum supporter, members of the Committee tried to counter the educationally "low standards which hampered the work of the Athenaeum" [J.& J. Rowley "The promotion of Adult Education in Wolverhampton 1827-1869" West Midland Studies [XII,1981] p1] by founding The Working Men's College.

The Grammar School in John Street, used by the Working Men's College. Although designed as a supportive institution to the Athenaeum, the Working Men's College actually became its rival. The College, whose function was to give the artisans of the town "an opportunity to improve and extend their knowledge" [Working Men’s College: General Prospectus 1857], from its inception offered a curriculum independent of the Athenaeum.

By 1864 the College was offering the public a choice of 16 subjects, including English and Mathematics, and was even entering some of its students for the Science and Art Department examinations. However, 1864 also marks the pinnacle of the College's success, and as in the case of the Mechanics' Institute and of the Athenaeum, it too started to lose its popular appeal. 

By 1865 the number of students attending the College in St. John's Street had dropped to a mere 45, with only £60 being raised that year in fees. With such low numbers the College was forced to close down in the following year.

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