AN ESSAY IN PARENT POWER Back to the Main Historical Society page
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The Barwicker No 10 June 1988

William Hiley Bathurst,K.A., Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, was Rector of Barwick from 1820 to 1852. A biographical sketch is given in Colman's "History of the Parish of Barwick-in-Elmet". He was a man who gave much to the parish. Unlike many of his eighteenth century predecessors, he lived continuously in Barwick, and he devoted much time and money to the improvement of the spiritual and physical lives of his parishioners.

Local historians will thank him most for his written record of day-to-day life in Barwick. Happily, some of his successors followed his example and the resulting log-book is still kept in the Leeds District Archives at Sheepscar.

The records show that sometimes his parishioners did not fully support his views, particularly in connection with the Village school which then stood in the churchyard, at the north-west angle of the Church. It seems to have been established in the eighteenth century, with land in trust to provide the salary of a schoolmaster for 16 children. The trustees were Sir Thomas Gascoigne, the Lord of the Manor; Sir William Milner, another prominent landowner; and the Rector. They were responsible for the appointment of the schoolmaster.

Some changes had been made by the time of his appointment, as he explained:

"I found that it had been usual for eight children to attend the school free of expense, being paid for out of land allotted for that purpose at the Inclosure (1804), the rent of which paid £14 a year - it had also been customary for the Rector to pay £16 for the education of six other children - this of course I continued. The eight foundation scholars had been usually appointed by the Rector and Churchwardens."

A year later, in 1821, the schoolmaster Edmund Rawlinson died, and the Rector appointed John Irvine, his curate, in his place. He saw this as an opportunity to make two changes. The schoolroom was small and inconvenient, so he proposed to the parishioners that the schoolmaster's residence attached to the east end of the school should be taken down and the space used for an extended schoolroom.

The parishioners approved and the alterations were made at a cost of £119.11.11, the Rector paying the whole amount, except for £10 contributed by Mr Wilkinson of Potterton. The schoolroom was considered to be the property of the parish and repairs were to be paid for from the church rate.

The second change he proposed was the introduction of the system of education developed by the "National Society for promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church throughout England and Wales". The national system included the teaching of the principles of the Church of England, and compulsory attendance at church on Sundays. The parishioners were less enthusiastic about this change and hoped that the teaching could return to the old plan, if the national system proved unsatisfactory. The Rector had no doubt that the new system would be preferred once its effects had been seen.

All seemed to go well for several years and he bought several items of furniture for the school. In 1824, he records:

"John Irvine having resigned the Mastership of the School, I appointed Samuel Beanland in his place with Mr Gascoigne's approbation. Samuel Beanland not having been previously acquainted with the National System, I sent him to the National School at York for six weeks to learn it, and paid for his board while there. At the same time desirous of lowering the rate of payment to the Parishioners, I agreed to give him a regular salary of £23 a year, and that the scholars should pay no more than 1d. a week until they got beyond the first four Rules of Arithmetic."

In 1833, he made less welcome intervention. "At the beginning of this year I drew up some rules for the school and had them printed and distributed to the children
Their object was to enforce regular attendance and regular payment, and to oblige all who attended the day school to attend also on Sunday. These regulations, especially the last, gave great offence to many of the parishioners.

A vestry meeting was called.

"A deputation from the meeting afterwards called upon me, who stated that they were commissioned by the meeting to request that I would not insist on the attendance of the weekly scholars at the Sunday School, and that the National System of Education might be discontinued."

The Rector's reply was read to the vestry meeting a few days later. He said that he was willing to drop his insistence on attendance of Sunday School, as this would deprive no-one of the opportunity of attending. He was not willing however to change from the national system, hinting that the poor would be disadvantaged if he withdrew his support.
The parishioners proposed a compromise plan. They suggested that the schoolmaster should teach the national system to those whose parents wished it, and the "old plan" to those whose parents wished for that. One would have thought that the schoolmaster had difficulty enough instructing children of widely different ages and abilities without further complication.
The Rector consulted the Lord of the Manor, Oliver Gascoigne, a trustee of the school, who referred him to his agent, Mr Wharton, "expressing his readiness to support me in any course I might think it right to adopt".
The agent's opinion, shorn of its legal niceties, was that the appointment of the schoolmaster and the choice of the method of instruction were in the hands of the trustees. He added, however, that there would be difficulties over the occupation of the schoolroom and recommended an amicable agreement with "the refractory parishioners". He suggested that the Rector should threaten to withdraw his financial support unless the national system were continued. "Any recourse to legal interference would, I much fear, if resisted, prove hazardous and expensive."
A vestry meeting was called, and the Rector said that if the parishioners wished to return to the old system of instruction, he would withdraw his financial support. The parishioners remained unshaken by such threats. After "strong debate", a memorandum was inserted in the minute book and signed by the Rector and Mr Gascoigne. This records their acceptance of the ending of the national system and its replacement by a made of instruction more acceptable to the majority of the parishioners. At the same time, they stated "our strong disapprobation of the change".
The Rector wrote: "I therefore from that time ceased to pay anything far the education of poor children at the school and withdrew entirely from all interference in its management or control." This unhappy conclusion to what had been a fruitful connection with the Barwick school did not end the Rector's interest in education. In 1838, he built a schoolroom in Stanks to serve the western end of the parish, at a cost to himself of over£400. Oliver Gascoigne gave the land.
As for the parishioners, they had taken on the two most influential men in the parish and they had won. A return to the "old system" of instruction could now be made. But their victory had a hollow ring. They had lost the Rector's financial support. Six poor scholars would have to look elsewhere for their schooling. As often happens, victory on a point of principle had dire financial consequences. .

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