Adult Education and the Public Library
in 19th Century Wolverhampton

The Wolverhampton Free Library Classes 1873 to 1902 (Part 7)

The 1890s: Elliot's Plan

In 1892, with sound finances and a smooth-running system of courses and examinations, Elliot believed that the Library was in a position to adopt a more central role in Wolverhampton's educational provision. Elliot's plan was to make the Free Library classes the nucleus of an interdependent system of technical and science education. Free Library lecturers would go into the Higher Grade Board Schools on a regular basis to instruct the children in science and technology. This link with the schools would be reinforced by making some of the Board Schools into Branch Libraries.

As well as listing a large number of new technical subjects which could be taught "as soon as suitable teachers had been found" [ibid], Elliot recommended that the Library's educational wing would have to be extended considering the new role he had in mind for it. He recommended the building of a scientific teaching block, consisting of a lecture theatre and two laboratories, one of which would be for the study of metallurgy. Elliot justified the building of the metallurgical laboratory by making reference to a Library student named Charles Jeffcoat. Jeffcoat had been awarded a scholarship to study metallurgy by the Whitworth Trust but, due to the lack of facilities at the Library, was forced to travel to Walsall for Practical Metallurgy lessons, which was "a fact not creditable to a town the size of Wolverhampton" [ibid]. Elliot concluded his proposals by recommending that the Library should become more involved in the University Extension Scheme.

Elliot estimated the cost of this ambitious scheme at £1,700, which was within the finances of the Library Committee at that time. The Committee did not share Elliot's imagination nor his innovatory views on adult education, so they only approved a few parts of his report. They agreed to allow a mere £30 to be allocated to financing University Extension lectures, although the Committee members showed more generosity when they approved the expenditure of £500 on a metallurgical laboratory. The laboratory was approved "to prevent students going to Walsall, Birmingham etc, for instruction" [[FLC Minutes 2nd Feb. 1892]. Hence it seems that the laboratory resulted from damaged civic pride, rather than a show of educational altruism on the Library Committee's part. Had a more far-sighted group of people been on the Committee, Elliot's ideas would have received wider support and the subsequent development of education in Wolverhampton would have been very different. As it turned out, however, the erection of the metallurgical laboratory marks the start of the Library classes' swan song.

Return to the
previous page
  Return to the
  Proceed to the
next page