the evils of nuddy racing

In 1846 Reverend Frederick Watkins inspected 346 schools in receipt of a government grant, mainly in Lancashire. In October he visited Colne National School, Blascomy Square (later St Bartholomew’s Church of England School), which he describes in his report as “an important and thriving school” under a master, his wife, and an assistant half the day. The teaching space consisted of two rooms, one above the other, each measuring 60 feet by 30 feet. There were 419 children on the books with an average attendance of 300.

This was before the advent of state education, when the The National Society for the Promotion of the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church was the main provider of elementary education to the working classes (hence “National Schools”) in which the the moral welfare of children was essential. The “great want of bibles” at the Colne school was noted with concern by Watkins, absent weapons in the war against the general immorality he saw vivid examples of in the region……..

“It will hardly be credible that on two occasions, at different localities in Lancashire, one near to the town of Colne, the other to that of Burnley, I have seen in broad daylight, at 9 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon, men, one in the prime of youth, the other past middle age, running races, or rather matches against time on the public high road, quite naked. In the first case, the naked man was loudly cheered by a crowd of his companions on his arrival at the goal, and carried away in triumph on their shoulders; in the other , a large crowd was awaiting his arrival. Amongst them, and along the road on which this shameless race was won, were women of all ages – mothers, factory girls, young children: the runner seemed to excite great interest; but I could observe nothing like a trace of shame on any of the many eager faces collected there”

Empty and to let – the school now.






Source: Minutes of the Committee on Education: with Appendices, London, 1847. Watkins report pp 338-469


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