There are no records about education in Liverpool before 1515.
After that date however, some information can be gleaned. In 1515, John Crosse, Rector of St Nicholas in London, left money for the foundation of a GRAMMAR school (the first of its kind in Liverpool) at his Liverpool property.
In 1565 Queen Elizabeth I gave the minister of St Nicholas £4 17s 5d yearly and £5 13s 3d to the Schoolmaster out of charity rents. Mr John Ore, a learned man from London, took up the post of Schoolmaster at the Grammar school on 16th February 1565. His salary was made up to £10 per annum by rates levied on the householders and the fees paid by privileged scholars. All boys with the name CROSSE went free!
The school was held in the ancient chapel of St Mary, in the churchyard of St Nicholas. It was developed as a TUDOR GRAMMAR school because the main lesson was Latin.
The Grammar School was later moved to a building adjoining the Blue Coat school, however by 1753 it was not in a “prosperous condition”. It closed in 1810 when John Baines, the last Schoolmaster, died.
Blue Coat Charity School
Prior to 1800, there were few schools in Liverpool other than the Old Grammar School and a Charity School founded by Master Mariner Bryan Blundell. He was a tobacco merchant, a slave trader and sea captain, who also exported servants and children to be apprentices on plantations. In spite of this, his heart went out to the plight of destitute children on the streets of Liverpool. With the help of Reverend Robert Styth, he set out to do something for them. He opened Liverpool’s first CHARITY SCHOOL [Blue Coat Hospital School] for 40 boys and 10 girls, in a small house on School Lane in 1717. The main aim was to teach poor children to read, write and cast accounts, and be instructed in the principals of the Established Church. By 1725, the school buildings had been enlarged to house pupils as boarders. Blundell devoted much time and money to this institution until his death in 1756.
[Please note: The Blue Coat School was moved to its present building in Wavertree in 1906. The original Blue Coat Hospital is now Bluecoat Chambers, School Lane]
Sunday and Day Schools
In 1784 came the establishment of SUNDAY schools in Liverpool. These were set up to ensure that children should “go to school, at one o’clock every Sunday, to be kept till evening came on, and be taught to read and write”
Five years later, in 1789 came the foundation of a DAY school. It was an old Church school in Moorfields and 200 boys and 120 girls were provided for. Each child paid 1 penny a week to attend the school. Things gradually improved and the early 1800’s saw a slight increase in schools in Liverpool. In 1807 the HARRINGTON SCHOOL (off Castle Street) was set up, and in 1811 came the HIBERNIAN SCHOOL (Now Pleasant Street School off Mount Pleasant) followed in 1812 by the CALEDONIAN SCHOOL (Off Hope Street). By 1824, E BAINES in his “Directory of Lancashire” gave the following information
Figures show establishment in Liverpool by 1824 of:
12 Anglican Church Schools
7 Methodist Schools
15 Sunday School Union Schools
6 Sunday Schools
4 Day Schools
5 Non-religious schools
Of these, only the following four claimed to have existed before 1800:
• Blue Coat Charity School [now Blue Coat Chambers, School Lane]
• Hunter Street School [area between present Liverpool Museum and John Moores University]
• Welsh Calvinists in Pall Mall [main road parallel to Dock area]
• Manesty’s Lane School [close to Blue Coat Chambers]
In 1824 the number of children attending Day Schools totalled 7165. If you added the Sunday School figures the total rose to 11,866. At this time Sunday Schools provided a very valuable service for the poor and for children whose parents could not afford the Day School fees.
In 1826 Liverpool Corporation stepped in for the first time and built 2 FREE ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS, the NORTH CORPORATION SCHOOL Bevington Bush [off Scotland Road, City Centre end] and the SOUTH CORPORATION SCHOOL Park Lane [off Wapping and Canning Place]
Common Day and Dame Schools
By the 1830’s, still only half the children in Liverpool went to school. Many who did attend went either to a COMMON DAY SCHOOL (with a Master in charge) or a DAME SCHOOL (with a Mistress in charge). The pupils paid a few pence each week and were often crowded into the one classroom per school. The Dames and Masters were often illiterate and provided no more than a child-minding service.
In 1840 A Mr Riddell Wood investigated the state of education in Liverpool. He reported 12,000 scholars were attending schools that were “wretched” in the extreme. He was referring to certain Common Day Schools and Dame Schools. They were dark, damp, dirty and confined, the schoolroom often being used as a dwelling by the teacher’s family. He describes two of the Common Day Schools in the following terms:
“Up 3 flights of dark, broken stairs was a Common Day School with 40 children. On a perch in the corner of the room sat two hens and a cockerel. Under a bed was a dog kennel occupied by three black terriers. There was only one small window at which the master sat obstructing three quarters of the light.”
“Another Common Day schoolroom held 38 children and only 6 of these had books.”
In an account of a cellar school he said:
“The descent is by a flight of narrow steps covered in filth. The room is dark. The writing desk is a 3-legged school which accommodates only one scholar at a time.”
And in his account of a Dame School he wrote:
“The teacher in one Dame School was 13 years of age, whilst in another she was 83.”
“In order to supplement her income, the Mistress sometimes left her pupils. It was not uncommon to find a Mistress of a Dame School gone out for the day and the school left in charge of some neighbour or neighbour’s child. Sometimes the Teacher was found washing at the back of the house. At other times the washing and drying were carried out in the schoolroom.”
Source: OUR CITY OUR HERITAGE TEACHERS’ NOTES