Vol. 81: Sussex Schools in the 18th Century



Editor: John Caffyn
Volume: Volume 81
Published 1998
ISBN: 978 085445 042 8

The 18th century has often been dismissed as an educational desert: a period of inertia and decline. John Caffyn’s impressive research has produced a picture of schools and schooling in Sussex which shows how mistaken such a dismissal can be. By exploring a vast range of sources, he describes over 600 schools. The results reveal, throughout the century, a steady rise in elementary education for the poor, and – in the second half particularly – an explosion in the extent, range and quality of private education. Additionally he has compiled a biographical dictionary of all 700 known teachers – which adds significantly to our picture of the social and intellectual state of the county. And finally he has created a further biographical dictionary covering every recorded pupil (over 2000 of them) – providing both a mine of information on children’s school careers and the range of their learning, and incidentally a major genealogical database for family historians.

The variety of schools is remarkable: little rural dame’s schools; workhouse schools; charity schools (providing for almost half of the county’s 300 parishes); ancient endowed grammar schools; Sunday Schools; and a host of private establishments (some in country vicarages but most in the growing seaside towns and the major inland towns). They range from the Prebendal at Chichester, one of the oldest in England, to the Allfree’s innovative co-educational boarding school at Herstmonceux. The teachers provide an amazing collection of biographies including: the radical Hannah Adams, who had been imprisoned in Paris during the Terror; Elizabeth Allfree, who married at 17, had 13 children, and ran her successful co-educational school; Mary Blesard who progressed from teaching to being the mistress of a duke; Benjamin Martin, author and celebrated instrument maker; and William Prince, music master and opera composer. The scholars range from paupers, to French Protestant refugees, to privileged gentry like the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.

An invaluable source for anyone interested in the history of education, as well as Sussex local and family history.

John Caffyn has written extensively on Sussex history, including Sussex Believers: Baptist Marriages in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The dustjacket is based on an example of the penmanship of Charles New, a pupil at Tarring Academy, from his school workbook dated 1803.