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Reports of the commissioners of inquiry into the state of education in Wales, appointed by the Committee of Council on Education, in pursuance of proceedings in the House of Commons on the motion of Mr. Williams, of March 10, 1846.. online

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Online LibraryGreat Britain. Commissioners of Inquiry into the SReports of the commissioners of inquiry into the state of education in Wales, appointed by the Committee of Council on Education, in pursuance of proceedings in the House of Commons on the motion of Mr. Williams, of March 10, 1846.. → online text (page 65 of 65)
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Yet in these the families were crowded in the same unseemly manner ;
the father, mother, and six children all sleeping together.

The existence of the evils above-mentioned was less surprising
than the remonstrances addressed to me by persons of high religious
profession ih the neighbourhood, representing the injustice of
apprehending immoral results from habits of promiscuous inter-

in North Wales. 531

course. Nothing could more forcibly illustrate the imperfect
nature of indigenous civilization if isolated and unaided.

The following is the Report of Mr. John James, Assistant .

January 20, I went in company with the Rev. P. M. Richards, the
officiating minister of the district, to visit some of the houses of the
colliers at Rhosllanerchrugog; and though I have seen St. Giles's,
Cow Cross, Wappiug, and other places in the metropolis where the
houses of the poor are unfit to live in, I never beheld anything to
equal some of the cottages at Rhosllanerchrugog as regards confine?
ment, filth, and utter untitness for human abode.

Cottage No. 1 consists of one low room, about 12 feet square,
containing an old man perfectly black with dirt, lying on a bed of rags
and filth. In the same cottage lives his son, who is in a consumption.

No. 2 consists of one small room, dirty, and so close that the
atmosphere was insupportable. The floor was alternately of mud and
stone. In the centre an idiot was seated on a stool. Her mother, an
old woman, 70 or 80 years of age, was lying on a filthy bed beside her,
reduced to a skeleton with disease. The room was without an article
of what would be called furniture.

No. 3 contains only one room, in which live a man and his two
idiot children, both about 20 years old.

No. 4, a cottage of one room, contains a father and mother, their
daughter and her husband, occupying two beds placed close together,
the room being very small. The beds were filthy, the furniture
miserable, and the ventilation bad.

No. 5, a cottage of one room, inhabited by two adult sisters and
their two adult brothers. All occupy the same bed, which may be
enlarged a little, but is still the same bed. The room is low-roofed
and ill-ventilated.

None of these houses had a necessary anywhere near them, nor did I
see such a thing- in the whole village.

The Rev. Mr. Richards and Mr. William Jones, of Llanerchrugog,
informed me that houses of this description are frequent in this place ;
that they are for the most part built by the poor people themselves, an
acknowledgment of from 7s. to 15,?. per annum being paid to the
landlord as ground-rent ; that fever is very common in this district,
although the village is well situate and naturally very salubrious ; that
morals are exceedingly low; that there is a man in the village who
notoriously lives in a state of incest with his own daughter, and that
this is not an isolated case.

Superstition is said to be very common among the poor of this
neighbourhood; there was recently a woman in the village who
gained her livelihood by conjuring, and there is now a pretended
conjuror at Wrexham, to whom scores of people are said to go annually
from Rhosllanerchrugog. JOHN JAMES, Assistant.

As the influence of the Welsh Sunday-schools decreases, the
moral degradation of the inhabitants is more apparent. This is
observable on approaching the English border. The following SJ
evidence relates to the town of Flint : border;

The streets of the town are filthy; the houses are wretchedly built,
and in worse repair; and the people are squalid and in rags. I
visited several cottages in the town. A small house, 10 or 12 feet


532 On the State of Education

square, with a chamber above, accommodates on an average 2 parents,
6 children, and 6 lodgers. The floors are of earth, and in wretched
condition. There is no room for furniture, and the interiors are filthy
and unwholesome. I saw other cottages of 9 feet square, with no
other room adjoining. These generally contain a husband and wife,
with infants and a lodger. I visited a parish almshouse of this
description, containing 9 people, a father, mother, and 7 children.
There was one bed for the parents, and another for the 7 children, both
placed in the only room which the house contained. The eldest boy
was 16 years old, the eldest girl 15. The character of the inhabitants
is degraded in respect of turbulence, intemperance, and debauchery.
The prevailing vice of the neighbourhood is drunkenness, which is
rendered more flagrant and pernicious from the prevalence of the
old Welsh custom of keeping merry nights. A week previous (o my
visit a murder had been committed by a party (as was supposed)
who had been thus engaged in revelry. The clergyman informed
me that fornication also is common in the town and neighbourhood ;
but that in Flintshire, as in England, it assumes the form of
promiscuous debauchery, and is not a recognised and systematic
institution as in other counties of North Wales. The female popula-
tion are ignorant of economy and of all kinds of domestic industry;
in consequence of which, and of the general improvidence and
intemperance of the men, the social condition of Flint is almost as
degraded as at Rhosllanerchrugog (Ruabon).

In the adjoining district of Bagillt

In some of the collieries the men are paid every other Saturday, and
do not return to their work till the following Tuesday or Wednesday.

In Bagillt and in the adjoining town of Flint the old Welsh custom
of keeping a merry night (noswaithlawen) is still prevalent, and, being
generally reserved for a Saturday, is protracted to the following Sunday,
during which drinking never ceases. This custom is represented by
the clergy and others as involving the most pernicious consequences.
I saw two men stripped and fighting in the main street of Bagillt, with
a ring of men, women, and children around them. There is no policeman
in the township. The women are represented as being for the most
part ignorant of housewifery and domestic economy. The girls are very
early sent to service, but marry as early as 18, and have large families.
Women are not employed in or about the mines, but spend most of
their time in cockling^ or gathering cockles on the beach. They have
low ideas of domestic comfort, living in small cottages dirty and ill-
ventilated, and at night are crowded together in the same room, and
sometimes in the same bed, without regard to age or sex.

In the district of St. Matthew, in the parish of Hawarden,
where the inhabitants are exclusively English, the Rev. J. P.
Foulkes, the officiating minister, states that

The state of morals is degraded in respect of drunkenness, profanity,
dishonesty, and incontinence ; that the latter vice is increasing so
rapidly as to render it difficult to find a cottage where some female of
the family has not been enceinte before marriage.

Whatever may be the defects of society in North Wales, it is
free, in the five northern counties, from crimes of a heinous

in North Wales. 533

nature,* and no signs of disaffection or sedition have appeared
within the memory of man. In the county of Montgomery a
different state of society is met with, and nothing but liberal c
education, based on the principles of reason and religion, can towns of
reform the profane and seditious character to which the negligence g0 meryshire.
and apathy of the higher classes has reduced the manufacturing

The following evidence relates to the parishes of Newtown and
Llanllwchaiani, which contain 6842 inhabitants :

It appears that, previously to the year 1845, no district in North
Wales was more neglected, in respect of education, than the parishes
of Newtown and Llanllwchaiarn. The effects were partly seen in the
turbulent and seditious state of the neighbourhood in the year 1839.
The permanent evils which have sprung from this neglect it will require
many years of careful education to eradicate. A memorial presented
by the inhabitants to the Lords of the Committee of Council on
Education at the close of the year 1845 contains the following plea
for assistance in providing popular education :

" In the spring of the year 1839 the peace of the town and neighbour-
hood was threatened by an intended insurrection on the part of the opera-
tive class, in connexion, it is supposed, witli other parts of the kingdom,
with a view to effect a change in the institutions of the country ; but
such an insurrection, if intended, was prevented by the presence of an
armed force ; and a military force has ever since been stationed in the
town with a view of preserving its peace.

" Your memorialists believe that, if the inhabitants had had the
benefit of a sound moral and religious culture in early life, the presence
of an armed force to protect the peace of the town would not be
needed in so comparatively small a place; and your memorialists are
under a firm conviction that no better way can be dev'sed for the
removal of all disposition to vice and crime than by enlightening the
ignorant, and especially by sowing in early life, by the hands of the
teacher, the seeds of religion and morality."

The alarm occasioned by these disturbances has passed away ; but
I ascertained, by a careful inquiry among the persons best acquainted
with the condition of the working classes, that even at the present day
low and unprincipled publications, of a profane and seditious tendency,
are much read by a class of the operatives ; that private and secret
clubs exist for the dissemination of such writings, by means of which
the class of operatives have access to the writings of Paine and Volney,
to Owen's tracts, and to newspapers and periodicals of the same
pernicious tendency. It is stated that many persons who read such
works also attend Sunday-schools, from their anxiety to obtain a know-
ledge of the art of reading, which they cannot otherwise acquire. It
is the opinion of those who are best acquained with the evils complained
of, that the most efficacious remedy would be the circulation of intel-
ligent publications on general subjects, within the comprehension of the

* The proportion per cent, of commitments for North Wales is 61*2 below the
calculated average for all England and Wales on the same amount of male population
of the like ages.

534 On the State of Education

working classes, by the help of reading societies and circulating libraries,
at terms which the operatives would be able to afford.

The parish of Llanidloes is in a similar condition :
With respect to profanity and infidelity, it appears that ever since
the Chartist disturbances Llanidloes has been infected with infidel and
seditious principles. The writings of Paine and Carlile are read, and
societies exist for teaching and discussing their theories. Newspapers
and publications with the same evil tendency are circulated, and on
Sunday people meet together to read and discuss them in summer
time on the river's bank, in winter within doors. It is agreed on all
hands that sound secular education, based on the principles of reason
and religion, would be the best antidote against these vicious habits;
that hitherto no such education has existed worthy of the name, and
no attempt has been made to form a circulating library or a reading
society for the operatives. It is apprehended that this would be the
proper cheok; that Sunday-schools may do much, and have done
much, at Llanidloes ; but people with active minds, who are always
numerous in the class of operatives and mechanics, require in the
present day more extended knowledge : this, persons who teach in the
Sunday-schools for the most part do not possess and cannot com-
municate. Hence it is assumed to be incompatible with religion ; and
from an unsatisfied craving after knowledge, which might have been
turned to good account, men pass at one step from the extreme of
ignorance to the extremes of scepticism and profanity.

But there is one vice which is flagrant throughout North
\v C ai 3 -in- Wales, and remains unchecked by any instruments of civilization.
commence. j t nag obtained for so long a time as the peculiar vice of the
Principality, that its existence has almost ceased to be considered
as an evil; and the custom of Wales is said to justify the bar-
barous practices which precede the rite of marriage.* Upon
this subject it is unnecessary to add more than the following
evidence :

The Rev. William Jones, vicar of Nevin ;

Want of chastity is flagrant. This vice is not confined to the poor.
In England farmers' daughters are respectable; in Wales they are in
the constant habit of being courted in bed. In the case of domestic
servants the vice is universal. I have had the greatest difficulty in
keeping my own servants from practising it. It became necessary to
secure their chamber windows with bars to prevent them from admitting
men. I am told by my parishioners that unless I allow the practice I
shall very soon have no servants at all, and that it will be impossible to
get any.

The Rev. St. George Armstrong Williams, incumbent of Denio,

The want of chastity is the besetting evil of this country, but espe-
cially of this district of Lleyn. In the relieving officer's books, out of
29 births, I counted 12 which were illegitimate. This was in one

* The proportion of illegitimate children in North Wales shows an excess of 12'3
per cent, above the average of all England and Wales in the year 1842 upon the like
numbers of registered births.

in North Wales. 535

quarter of a year. Our workhouse is completely filled with the
mothers of illegitimate children, and the children themselves. What
is worse, the parents do not see the evil of it. They say their daughters
have been unfortunate, and maintain their illegitimate grandchildren
as if they were legitimate. In my parish of Llannor, in one house,
there is a woman wilh five illegitimate children, and these by different
fathers ; her sister had four children, all illegitimate. Another in the
same village had four, also by different fathers. In this parish of
Llannor there are no means of education for the female children of the
poor. These low morals I attribute entirely to want of education.

The fullest evidence on this subject was given by the Rev. J.
W. Trevor, chaplain to the Lord Bishop of Bangor :

It is difficult, as it is mortifying, to describe in proper terms the
disgraceful state of the common people in Wales in the intercourse of
the sexes ; but it is important that the truth should be known. I
believe the proportion of illegitimate children to the population in
Anglesey (wilh only one exception, and that is in Wales) exceeds that
in any other county in the kingdom. This fact is enough to prove the
moral degradation of our common people. But I must draw your
notice more particularly to some details on this subject, which will
show you at once what I want to make known, that the moral prin-
ciples of the Welsh people are totally corrupt and abandoned in this
respect ; that no restraints or penalties of law can cure or even check
the evil, until, by the appliances of better education and more general
civilization, they are taught to regard their present custom with a
sense of .shame and decency. I put out of consideration now any
higher motives for they are not to be looked for at present. While
the sexes continue to herd like the beasts, it were idle to expect they
can be restrained by religion or conscience. I assert with confidence,
as an undeniable fact, that fornication is not regarded as a vice, scarcely
as a frailty, by the common people in Wales. It is considered as a
matter of course as the regular conventional process towards marriage.
It is avowed, defended, and laughed at, without scruple, or shame, or
concealment, by both sexes alike. And what if, as it often happens,
the man proves faithless, and marriage does not ensue, and yet a child
is to be born? Then comes the affair of affiliation, and with it, as the
law now requires, all the filthy disclosure in open court of the obscenities
which preceded it. I will state some facts as they came under my own
cognizance as a magistrate, and you will bear in mind they were heard
by the public of all ages and both sexes. A young girl was brought
to swear that she sat by the fire while her widowed mother was in bed
with her paramour in the same room ; aud this she did on several occa-
sions. Another swears that she stood by, in open daylight, and in the
open air, while the deed was perpetrated which made her friend the
mother of a bastard. A man in bed with two women, night after night,
for months together, and one of the women swore to the required fact.
Both parents, or either of them, came forxvard to prove the parentage
of their daughter's bastard witnesses often to the very act. I might
multiply such instances to prove the utter disregard of common natural
decency and shame among the people. This evidence was given (with
but few exceptions it is always given) without the slightest reluctance
or modesty, and with a levity and confidence of manner which prove


On the State of Education in North Wales.

the parties to be quite callous and lost to all sense of shame. When I
have attempted at the Union Board to persuade the guardians to build
a workhouse (we have none in Anglesey), and used as an argument
that it would check the increase of bastardy, which is a monstrous
charge on our poor-rates, as well as a disgrace to our community, they
quite scouted the notion of its being- any disgrace, and they maintained
that the custom of Wales justified the practice. In fact, the guardians,
who are almost all country fanners, are so familiarized to this iniquity,
and have so long partaken in it, that they are totally incapable of any
right feeling on the subject. They absolutely encourage the practice ;
they hire their servants, agreeing to their stipulation for freedom of
access, for this purpose, at stated times, or, it may be, whenever they
please. The boys and girls in farmhouses are brought up from child-
hood with these filthy practices ever before their eyes and ears, and of
course, on the first temptation, they fall into the same course them-
selves. In short, in this matter, even in a greater degree than the
other which I have noticed, the minds of our common people arc
become thoroughly and universally depraved and brutalized. To meet
this appalling evil the present system of education in Wales is utterly

Such, my Lords, is a selection of the most important facts re-
specting the means of education provided for the poor in North
Wales, and their results as seen in general civilization, intellectual,
social, and moral. They afford materials for serious reflection
and forethought, and suggest important conclusions upon which it
would exceed my province to venture. In conformity, with the
instructions which I received from your Lordships, I limit this
Report to the facts which have been ascertained.


Tfie Folio Edition of the preceding Report upon the State of Education in North
Wales is followed by Appendices comprising details of the evidence and informa-
tion procured undei- the Commission, arranged as follows :



A. Minutes of Evidence respecting the
Parishes, and the Schools provided for
the poor, in the Six Counties of North
Wales, alphabetically arranged ... 3

E. Tabular Report* of Day Schools . .166

C. Tables of Sunday Schools .... 266

D. Tables of Night Schools for Adults . 35*0

E. Table of Parishes in which English is
spoken, with the Number and Proportion
of Inhabitants habitually speaking
English 321

F. Welsh Literature :

1. Welsh Periodicals circulated in

North Wales 322

2. Extinct Welsh Periodicals ... 325

3. Books in the Welsh Language

printed or read in North Wales 327

4. Note on the influence of Eisteddvods

Welih Literature and




G. Specimens of the Errors in Welsh and
English Orthography, occurring in
Returns made by the Superintendents
of Sunday Schools in North Wales . . 331

H. Letters and Memorials 334

1. On the want of Secular Education in

North Wales 334

2. On the prevalence of Bastardy in

Anglesey, as a consequence of
defective Education .... 335

3. On the Endowed Grammar Schools

which have fallen into decay,
and the expediency of engrafting
Normal Schools upon such foun-
dations 336

4. On the necessity for an improved

system of Books, in order to teach
VVelsh Pupils the English Lan-
guage ... 336

5. On the want of Education in certain

parishes in the County of Mont-
gomery .... I ... 33/

London : Printed by WIM.IAM CLOWES and SONS, Stamford Street,
For "Her Majesty's Stationery Office.




This book is due on the last date stamped below, or

on the date to which renewed.
Renewed books are subject to immediate recall.




JUN 4 1969 8 7



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