Known as the founder of the
Sunday Schools movement, Raikes used his position
as editor and proprietor of the Gloucester
Journal to publicize the cause. However, many
Sunday schools (and chapel and church communities)
became crucial working class institutions
and centres for mutual aid and association.
There is some debate concerning
the origins of Sunday Schools. As Sutherland
(1990: 126) has commented, Robert Raikes (1735-1811)
is traditionally credited as pioneering Sunday
Schools in the 1780s; 'in fact teaching Bible
reading and basic skills on a Sunday was an
established activity in a number of eighteenth
century Puritan and evangelical congregations'.
In Wales, the circulating schools offered
one model of such activity (see the development
of adult schools). That said, Robert Raikes
made a notable contribution to the development
of Sunday schooling.
Robert Raikes started his first school for
the children of chimney sweeps in Sooty Alley,
Gloucester (opposite the city prison) in 1780.
Described as 'cheery, talkative, flamboyant
and warm-hearted (Kelly 1970: 75), Raikes
was able to use his position as proprietor
and editor of the Gloucester Journal to publicize
the work. After his first editorial in 1783,
schools spread 'with astonishing rapidity'
(op. cit.) In 1785 an undenominational national
organization, the Sunday School Society, was
set up to co-ordinate and develop the work.
By 1784 there were said to be 1800 pupils
in Manchester and Salford, and Leeds the same.
Significantly, 'it was a characteristic of
Sunday schools in both the North of England
and in Wales that they were attended by adults
as well as children (Kelly 1970: 76)
The idea of the Sunday School
caught the imagination of a number involved
in evangelical churches and groupings. Most
notably, Hannah More and her sister Martha
founded a number of schools in the Mendip
Hills that involved innovation. These lay
in the pedagogy they developed; the range
of activities they became involved in; and
the extent to which publicity concerning their
activities encouraged others to develop initiatives.
They attempted to make school sessions entertaining
and varied. Programmes had to be planned and
suited to the level of the students. There
needed to be variety and classes had to be
as entertaining as possible (she advised using
singing when energy and attention was waning).
She also argued that it was possible to get
the best out of children if their affections
'were engaged by kindness'. Furthermore, she
made the case that terror did not pay (Young
and Ashton 1956). However, she still believed
it was a 'fundamental error to consider children
as innocent beings' rather than as beings
of 'a corrupt nature and evil dispositions'