Pembroke Dock, c. 1860. Small Private institutions outnumber the new National and British schools.
National educational policies meant that, by the twentieth century, schools stood alongside churches and chapels as focal points of community life. Previously optional and fee-paying, education became universal and mostly freeSunday schools and small private day schools provided basic education until the 1840s. The quality of the day schools varied in 1846: Mr Hitchin's was "in a very dirty room". During the inspector's visit Mr Hitchin "made great exertions to keep his scholars quiet and silent ... but they cared little for him". Despite this, they had some grasp of scripture, geography and arithmetic. Mr Barclay fared better. His twenty pupils were satisfactory in scripture, arithmetic, geography, geometry, history, astronomy and navigation, but here too "the manners of the lads were rather rude, and they amused themselves in mimicking their master". Mrs Peters recalls Barclay, who was also a pharmacist, as "a man of scientific and advanced ideas". When even gas light was a novelty, "he had a galvanic battery which he used occasionally to allow the boys to try. He oftentimes talked to them about electricity". Mr Barclay also offered night classes for twelve adults who wished to improve their skills in "RWA" - reading, writing and arithmetic.(Sources: Reports ... Commissioners 466-472, 492; Peters 108; Rose, R. 195-6)Picture by courtesy of Pembrokeshire Record Office.
Education - The National & British Schools
Two rather more methodical elementary schools - the National and British - were built in the 1840s. As elsewhere, the National School was linked with the Church of England, while chapel-going parents favoured the British School . There was some government subsidy to the National and British societies. These schools were also financed through fees ("one penny per week" in the National School in 1846) and fundraising. School projects aroused the same enthusiasm as chapel-building ones. For the British school, "dockyardmen did all the labour on the woodwork free". Both ran money-generating concerts and bazaars, timed to coincide with the holiday atmosphere of ship launchings. Teaching in both schools featured delegation: some of the instruction would be first given by the master or mistress to monitors and pupil-teachers. They, in turn, would then teach and supervise the younger pupils. Mr John Adams, master at the British School, encouraged the employment of more advanced "pupil teachers" for subtler instruction. Inspectors praised both schools. Matthew Arnold thought the boys' section of the British School "the best ... I have met with in South Wales" and John Adams "a thoroughly effective master". Supporters of the two schools were sometimes less flattering about each other, when church-chapel rivalry spilled over into educational debate. Terms such as "numbskull" and "steeped in the grossest bigotry" graced letters in local papers.The British and National schools were incorporated into the later system
Victorian architects emphasised that new schools were continuing the educational work of Sunday schools and churches. "Victorian gothic" windows in the National School (left) and Albion Square Board School (centre) repeat the shape of a genuine mediaeval church window - St Mary's, Pembroke (right).
The Mechanics' Institute in Dimond Street functioned as an early cultural and further education centre for adults and young people. It was part of a nationwide movement. The Institute operated in the 1850s in a Lewis Street house. In 1862, the new building was completed on land in Dimond Street, given at a nominal rent by Sir Thomas Meyrick. Like other some other early community buildings, it was paid for by subscriptions, fundraising events, and membership fees. In 1875, we learn, "The Mechanics' Institute ... possesses a reading room ... with all the daily and weekly newspapers, periodicals, etc. and is open from 9am to 10pm. The library contains 3,500 volumes. There is a small museum in connection with it ... members pay sixpence per month". A splendid billiards room was added, and evening classes were available here in the 1890s. A key figure in the Institute was "Mr Thomas Dunbar Harries, the respected and able Librarian". Mr Harries's first career was as in the Dockyard. He went on to serve as librarian for 32 years, being rewarded on his retirement in 1882 with an illuminated scroll and a purse of gold. Pembroke Dock Museum Trust now has its office and archive in the Mechanics' Institute, site of the town's first museum more than a century ago. (Sources: Findlay 21, 34; 1851 census index; Peters 63-4)
Education - Grammar, Secondary Modern & Comprehensive schools