New Church Worthies
Rev. Dr. Jonathan Bayley
And Cheap Day Schools in Manchester, Salford, and the North
THE Cheap and Good Day School system having been commenced, and seen to be successful, in London, excited attention in Manchester.
Indeed, the excellent Mr. Thomas Jones, of London, brother of the Rev. Richd. Jones, of Peter Street, Manchester, wrote to Mr. Agnew in 1824, and described the success of the school in London as so gratifying, and promising so much good both for the children and the Church, that Mr. Agnew became very zealous that a similar school should be established in Manchester, and called a meeting for the purpose of promoting that object. The minutes of that meeting in 1824, and subsequent proceedings, I possess in the hand-writing of my dear and life-long friend, Thos. Agnew, Esq., the founder of the great well-known artistic firm of Thos. Agnew and Sons, of London and Manchester.
Mr. Agnew was chief promoter, and was chosen secretary, an office he held for very many years. I give the minutes of the first meeting, as the names and circumstances will be interesting to a wide circle of friends, especially to friends advanced in age, to whom the memories of the men concerned, all gone to their eternal homes, will be full of tender recollection.
Meeting of the Members of the New Church in Manchester and Salford, held in the Lecture Room, Peter Street, Decr. 3rd, 1824. Rev. R. Jones in the chair.
The following Resolution, proposed by Mr. Agnew, and seconded by Mr. Goadsby, passed unanimously:
'That this meeting, considering it of the greatest importance to instruct the youthful mind in the principles and doctrines of the New Church, is of opinion that a Day School, founded for this specific purpose, would be highly beneficial to the rising generation in this neighbourhood, and extensively useful to the Church at large.'
Proposed by Mr. Lockett; seconded by Mr. Goadsby:
'That a Committee from the two Societies, with power to add to their number, be appointed, to consider the means of carrying the foregoing resolution into effect, and to report thereon to a public meeting.'
'That the following gentlemen form the Committee: John Prince, Ed. Preston, F. Goadsby, John Barge, John Holgate, T. Agnew, Will. Lockett, Wm. Newbery; and that four be competent to act.'
Richd. Jones, President.
The Committee thus appointed intended to erect a separate building for their school, but found some difficulty in carrying out this plan, and after much consideration accepted the Sunday School room belonging to the Temple, Salford; and in June, 1827, their school commenced, under Mr. Joseph Moss, a gentleman of Burton-upon-Trent, who had visited London to observe the system of the school there.
Mr. Moss was an excellent man, a first-rate teacher, and an earnest New Churchman. The school was very soon a complete success. In twelve months it was so well filled that it was resolved to have another school in the Lecture Room adjoining Peter Street Church, and Mr. Moss was transferred there, another master being chosen for Salford. Both schools were greatly sought after, and overflowing with scholars, for very many years. Two-pence per week was charged, and afterwards three-pence and four-pence, and paid willingly. Mr. Agnew was secretary, and Mr. Goadsby treasurer. Companion schools for girls were soon provided, both in Salford and Manchester.
Mr. Moss, though an exceedingly kind man, was a very rigid disciplinarian; and though his school was always distinguished in all scholastic respects, sometimes held up by the Inspectors of Schools as the most eminent for order and excellence in the kingdom, and always in the first line, it was never of the use in attracting young minds to the truths of the New Jerusalem that its early supporters had hoped.
The same may be said of almost all the other Day Schools of the Church, with some modifications. Where they were in close connection with the Sunday Schools, so that the scholars could be kept in association with the Church as Sunday scholars and teachers, a permanent attachment was effected. Where this was not the case, little was heard of the children after school period was over. Subsequently a large and noble school-room was erected on the ground adjoining Peter Street Church, chiefly by the generosity, zeal, and influence of my never-to-be-forgotten, lifelong companion and friend, dear John Broadfield, one of the best of New Church Christians and men, where it still maintained or increased its high character, under Mr. Scotson, now under the City School Board.
Often have I heard Old Mr. Barge exult in the multitudes of young minds which would be attached to the Church, and make up for those whose prejudices prevented them from receiving its bright and glorious truths; but this was a kindly illusion. Where the rational faculty has not laid hold of the truth, and implanted it in a good heart, it has little fixity. Like the seed on the wayside, false views, like voracious birds, destroy it, or under the hot passions of self-love, the scorching sun of the bad man, it presently withers away.
One unexpected result came out of these schools. Many of the young men, who became teachers or assistant teachers, became clever laymen, or competent and highly respected and beloved ministers. The Rev. Mr. Boys, Rev. Mr. Mackereth, Mr. Johnson, of Wigan, and many others, were and are of this class.
But the chief benefit of these schools was that they led the way and formed the model of the good Cheap Day Schools. First one religious body, and then another, adopted these schools, until at length the time came when Mr. Forster could carry his great bill and extend the system over the nation. Supplemented by the compulsory enactment, and the good-will of the vast majority of the working classes, this grand system is providing for each child that elementary instruction for the mind as essential to its well-being as food for the body.
The New Church led the way in this great work. Mr. Agnew, who took the lead in the introduction of these admirable institutions in the North of England, had a most amiable disposition and an intense love of children. He had long fostered the Sunday School of the Temple, and was greatly beloved both by teachers and scholars.
His presence with the Rev. Mr. Hindmarsh at the annual treats of the school, when they were taken to Dunham Park in the packet on the Bridgewater Canal, was a time of great enjoyment.
He greatly popularised the school by taking untiring pains to train a select number of scholars to recite dialogues and appropriate pieces in poetry and prose.
He placed the children on an ornamented platform, surmounted by a striking picture of little Samuel kneeling, and he usually got an original opening address. The following was obtained, in 1819, from the Rev. Mr. Proud, and as I believe it has never been printed, I insert it here, as it may still be useful elsewhere.
I believe I was the little boy, with whom he took great pains, that it should be said effectively. At the commencement all the children rose.
Your little children now before you rise,
To offer up their humble sacrifice;
We rise—we bow before our ev'ry friend,
And pray our artless strains you will attend.
Young as we are, we know that much is due
To friends benevolent, like each of you.
Our infant minds, with little science bless'd,
In feeble language praise must be expressed:
But poor and weak, as infant language, prove
To you our bosoms glow with ardent love!
Some few years past, we're taught to understand,
No Sunday Schools appear'd in Britain's land.
Then children poor, distress'd, untaught must be,
And doom'd to ignorance and misery.
The honest parent mourned his children's state,
And looked with sorrow to their future fate,
For wild they ran in sin and folly's ways,
And no kind hand to bless their youthful days;
But, trained to vice, to ignorance, and evil,
Strangers to all that's virtuous, moral, civil,
They spent their days as many sinners do—
No God they honoured, and no God they knew!
But now, behold! what num'rous schools appear,
To chase from lab'ring poor the falling tear!
Look up, my fellow children, turn your eyes
And see the Sunday School for us arise
Our bless'd asylum in the days of youth,
To guide our feet in learning, science, truth:
To well instruct us what we need to know,
And make us virtuous Christians here below.
Kind friends, kind teachers, how shall we repay
Your gen'rous aid—our gratitude display!
For thanks and praises dwell upon our tongue:
We feel the mercy, though we are so young;
We forward look, and see with raptur'd eyes
Our blessings when to manhood we arise!
Then will our minds, by your instruction giv'n,
Be well prepared to take the path to heav'n—
Then virtuous servants, masters, we shall prove,
Respected in whatever state we move—
Live not as heathens, but as Christians live,
Faithful to men, to God due rev'rence give!
Trained up in pure Religion's sacred laws,
And firm to our Jehovah-Jesu's cause,
We shall, with you, arise to heav'n above,
And live for ever in that world of Love!
Oh, may we there our benefactors view,
And be a crown of joy to each of you!
While we behold you take your vast reward,
And highly honour'd by your Sov'reign Lord,
May we, the children of your love and care,
Be well prepar'd in time to meet you there;
Then rise with joy, through your instruction giv'n,
And happy live in that eternal heav'n!
November 28th, 1819. J. P.
The great interest Mr. Agnew felt in universal education, and especially in Sunday Schools, received its supreme enjoyment when the Queen and Prince Albert visited Manchester and Salford, in 1850. Mr. Agnew was Mayor of Salford that year, and he arranged that the royal visitors should have a sight possible only in Lancashire, then pre-eminently the land of Sunday Schools.
In Peel Park, which he had been mainly instrumental in obtaining for the town, and furnishing with an admirable Museum, he assembled 80,000 Sunday Scholars to sing before Her Majesty, and to have the pleasure for once of seeing the Queen.
It was a great day of delight probably for the Sovereign, certainly for the schools, and, I have good reason to know, for the benevolent New Churchman, Mr. Agnew.