chapter  7
The Countryside in Decline, 1870-1914
Pages 31

As noted in the previous chapter, education was seen as a means of instilling nineteenth-century middle-class morality into the labour force. Nevertheless, despite the riots, assaults, maiming, arson and poaching, the provision of the schools tha t were supposed to stem the unrest in the countryside lagged behind their growth in the towns. Before the 1870s many rural parishes had no church school, established by one or other of the two major voluntary societies, but only a makeshift substitute initiated and supported by the local parson, perhaps in a room in the vicarage or in a barn lent by a farmer. Many other parishes could boast only a ‘Dame’ school, a small private establishment held by an elderly lady in her front room or run as a part-time occupation by a village shopkeeper or tradesman, and in either case amounting to little more than a child-minding operation. Yet others, in certain parts of the south midlands and home counties, had only craft schools, where children acquired dexterity in a local trade, such as making pillow lace or straw plait, and were taught little else. And not a few country places had no school of any description.