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Looking Back: March 1910

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Looking Back

The founder of Sunday schools in Britain was the focus of an article in March 1910 in the pages for young people. 


The Founder of Sunday schools in Britain

How quiet our Sundays would be, and much less interesting too, if there were no Sunday Schools – if there were no bands of cheerful girls and boys to be seen in the streets or along country lanes on Sunday morning or afternoon, making their way to church or hall. Before the days of Sunday schools, of course, many boys and girls were taught by their fathers and mothers, just as to-day there are many children who learn psalms or paraphrases and Scripture texts at home.

Great Britain is usually in the van in religious advance, but it was not so in connection with Sunday schools. Holland was before Britain. As early as in the seventeenth century there were Sunday schools in the Netherlands, where not only religious instruction was given, but also teaching of a general kind.

To Robert Raikes of Gloucester belongs the honourable title of founder of Sunday schools in Britain.

From his youth Raikes was benevolent and kind, visiting prisoners in jail and trying to reform them. Especially did the wretched condition of the children in his own city weigh upon his compassionate heart. Having heard of a clergyman who had sent some uncared-for little folk to school, he resolved to do something on the same lines.

He engaged “four decent, well-disposed women” to collect waifs and strays about them, and to teach them to read and receive the Catechism. These teachers received each a shilling a week for their labour.

This was the beginning of our ‘Sunday schools’ – a very “grain of mustard seed” in comparison with the present great tree with countless branches.

In a letter of his, dated 27th June 1788, Robert Raikes writes that the ladies of fashion at Windsor passed their Sundays in teaching poor children. The Queen of those days – Queen Charlotte – sent him a royal summons to an interview, in the course of which she told him that she envied those who had power to do so much good.

This illustrious and kind man died very suddenly. His Sunday school children were present at his funeral. Each of them, according to his expressed wish, received a shilling and a plum-cake on that occasion.

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