Adult Education and the Public Library
in 19th Century Wolverhampton

The Wolverhampton Free Library Classes 1873 to 1902 (Part 5)

Money and Recognition

Even within the "administrative muddle" [E.Eaglesham "The Foundation of Twentieth Century Education in England" [1967]] in Britain's education at that time, there existed national bodies under whose auspices classes at the Library could be organised. Foremost amongst these bodies was the Science and Art Department, with which the Library classes had been associated since their inception in 1873. The Science and Art Department played a critical part in the development of science education in Britain and, according to Butterworth, had alone "sowed the seeds of scientific education for the people" [H.Butterworth "The Development and Influence of the Science and Art Department 1853 – 1899] Sheffield PhD Thesis 1968]. The Department oversaw the dispersal of Government grants for science classes and, because of the system of payment to teachers, allowed class fees to be subsidised, as well as providing national prizes for successful students [R.J.Montgomery "Examinations" [1965] p.65]. The Department seemed reluctant to grant the Wolverhampton Library classes initial recognition in 1873 but by the 1880s the situation had been resolved and the Department's grant represented the largest external input into the Free Library Classes' coffers. That the Department would only grant recognition of the classes in 1873 on the condition that no student should be entered for the annual May examinations until 1876 [FLC Minutes 26th Oct 1874], bears testimony to this reluctance, which was due to the fact that the Department's experience with Wolverhampton's educational establishments had been poor. An example of this is its relations with the School of Art, which had always been strained. By 1875 it seems that the Department was satisfied enough with the viability of the Library classes, to permit the formation of a Science and Art Department Local Committee.

This Local Committee included both Walker and Pratt, and John Elliot was appointed to the post of Secretary. Like other similar committees all over the country, this body had a specific function of supervising the organisation of classes which were aided by the Department's grants [Roderick & Stephens op cit p.42]. John Elliot, in his role as Secretary, examined Science and Art classes at the Wolverhampton Higher Grade School in the 1880s. In 1877 Pratt and other members of the Local Committee tried to use Departmental funds to help to establish the science laboratory, which Walker's circular of 1873 had failed to bring about. This would have entitled the classes to further grants for "laboratory practice" but such aid was refused as the Department's inspector reported that "extensive alterations had to be made to the premises" [FLC Minutes 21 Aug 1877]. Even without this extra funding the Department's grant to the Library in 1878 was £130 and the number of courses relating to the Science and Art Department had risen to fifteen [ibid]. During the 1880s the grant averaged £320 per year [FLC Reports 1880 –89]. All in all, the Department's subjects were by far the most popular with the Free Library students right up until 1897, when the Board of Education took the Department over.

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