Oral History

Mr Joseph Dare life and times of a School Master

Please Note The figures at the beginning of the line, correspond with the numbers at the foot of each report; and the figures at the end of the line, refers to the MS. Paging of the Volumes arranged for The House of Commons.

Interviewed: Mr Joseph Dare

4659. I believe you are a schoolmaster here, and have some years connected with the town in that capacity? --- I have been; and my connexion with other establishments in the town that have been started expressly for the working classes, I have been acquainted with their homes and their attendance.

4659. I believe you are a schoolmaster here, and have some years connected with the town in that capacity? --- I have been; and my connexion with other establishments in the town that have been started expressly for the working classes, I have been acquainted with their homes and their attendance.

4661. Are they all adults? --- Many, not all; they are allowed to attend from 14 years of age.

4662. What is the number of attending members, on an average? --- The number of attending members, on the average, varies from 50 or 60 up to 100 or 120.

4663. What were the periods of attendance? --- Monday and Tuesday evenings, from 8 o'clock till 10, and then they are allowed to have a book from the library, which is open twice a-week. I should say that two-thirds of them are stocking makers' children, or stocking makers themselves, and nearly half of the members attend for instruction; but the whole of them are continually changing. We do not keep names long upon the list; from some cause or other, they are perpetually going, and as soon as ever a depression comes all the stocking makers disappear at once.

4664. Is that from being unable to pay their subscription? --- Yes, being unable to pay their 1d a week.

4335. Do you believe it to be from that cause only? --- Yes I can speak positively to that fact, because they have regretted being obliged to withdrew, and have expressed their regret, and the committee have even allowed their attendance for a certain number of weeks after they became unable to pay their subscriptions, when it has been known to be the case.

4666. Are you connected with any Sunday school? --- Yes.

4667. What is that? --- We have one at the place at which I attend - the Unitarian; and I also teach the writing department to the Sunday school connected with the independent place of worship.

4668. What do you find the attendance of children at that school? --- It is about 50.

4669. Are they the children principally of stocking makers? --- Yes, I should think from half to two-thirds are stocking makers' children.

4670. Is there a weekday evening school in connexion with the congregation? --- No, not with that, they are taught to write on a Sunday.

4671. Is that in connexion with the independents? --- Not at all, the evening school is the Independent; that is another Sunday school. The Independents have from 200 to 300 pupils, and they are composed nearly of the same characters; there will be two-thirds, I dare say, if not three-fourths, stocking makers' children, and they teach their writing department on Monday and Tuesday evening. I believe a limited number attend according to the regulations, but they seldom are there, they being wanted to be at work.

4672. Have you ever heard it stated that the number of them are kept away from the Sabbath schools for want of clothing? --- I have not the least doubt of it; there are eight Sunday schools in this place altogether, but I have not the least doubt there are many on the list that are nominally pupils, who are seldom there, on account of their not having clothes and shoes. A very great proportion of them never go to any place of instruction, nor any place of worship for want of clothes. You might meet here on the Sunday morning whole troops of them returning to dinner from their Sunday morning rambles, I believe wholly occasioned by their not having clothes to go to a place of worship in. I believe that it is a fact that stocking makers cannot avail themselves of the advantages, which are offered as to education, on account of their personal destitution. One proof of that may be found in the fact that in the National school here, which is a charity school, there is only about one-fifth of the stocking makers go to it, and it is conducted in a excellent manner, and the children are very efficiently taught. There is also a charity school here called the Greencoat School; there they appear to avail themselves more of the advantages. About four-fifths of the stocking makers' children go there. They are clothed in the school, though they seldom stay the whole of the time from being wanted to work. The fact of the destitution of the place may be found in this striking circumstance, that there is a pauper to every ratepayer, and rather more at the present time, and now they profess to be in a good state for work; and plenty of orders are in the town. It is a mystery to see how it is that wages do not rise with the demand, as it is a principle of the political economists that increase of demand always raises the wages; but many of the intelligent men here suppose the cause to be the frame-rents. A man with a frame cannot change, and turn out and take in fresh frames without expense.

4673. And it would take about 10 days, would it not? --- It would take some time in pulling down and setting up and adjusting matters.

4674. What are the rents of the small houses here? --- I was speaking to a collector that collects a great many, and he considered that, deducting off losses and repairs, there is not more than one-fourth of the nominal rent goes to the landlord.

4675. Are many of the houses unoccupied? --- Yes, a great many; not so many as there have been. The landlord has very little remedy, because the people's goods are not worth selling up, as it is termed here; there is nothing to sell from their destitution. The working classes are in a very immoral state; there is a great deal of prostitution at an early age, and a great deal of bastardy. I have inquired of three or four of my neighbours, on whose statements I could depend, as to their earnings, and they all state they do not average about 6s a frame in a week. One great evil, the stocking makers seem to think, consists in the high rent of the frame, and the operation of the bagmen between the hosiers and the workmen; but the bagmen is a convenience to the hosier, because he takes out work for 40 or 50 men and becomes responsible for the quality of the work, and the loss of stuff, and so on. The hosiers are obliged to employ what are called independent frames; and wherever that is the case, they make a charge and claim 4d on the frame. And if they work and earn over 8s a-week on the gross earnings, then for every shilling over the 8s the hosier claims 11/2 d, that is where they are working independent frames.

4676. Have you any stocking makers at your school? --- None. I have no stocking makers in my school; and that proves that they cannot avail themselves of the advantages of instruction because my terms are moderate. I teach one evening in the week at a mere nominal charge, and no stocking makers even attend that.

4677. What is the mere nominal charge? --- Only 1d each.

4678. What school are there of other denominations? --- Church two, Baptist one, Wesleyan one, Independents two, Catholics one, Unitarian one; and the Catholics have also a day school, and there they are all stocking makers' children, except two or three, so that, that school presents a different feature from the others.

4679. And why is that? --- Because the charge is nominal, and then they can go and leave when they choose; whereas, at the National school, they are obliged to attend for a certain period, and also to appear respectable; but here they attend a few odd hours or days in the week, or a few weeks, or just as may be; and they are also young, very few perhaps over eight or nine years of age. They vary in number of attendance from 350 to 300, and so on. The Wesleyans have had as many as 300 in their lists, but it is seldom that the whole of the number will be there at once, from the fact that so many are away not having clothes. About two-thirds of that 300 would be stocking makers, perhaps three-fourths.

4380. You appear to think that education they are receiving is extremely deficient? --- Very much so.

4681. And that they do not avail themselves of the institutions that are existing? --- The poverty that exists amongst them I believe to be wholly the cause why they do not.

The Witness Mr Joseph Dare withdrew.