RADNORSHIRE SCHOOLS IN 1818 ROBERT BEVAN It is important to appreciate the political and social context nationally before examining the state of education in Radnorshire in 1818. Wages throughout England and Wales were low, particularly so in mid-Wales. The Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars with France had ended only three years earlier in 1815, and as a consequence of these protracted and exhausting conflicts, the cost of food and clothing was relatively high. Children were expected to make an early contribution to family earnings and, even where schools existed, many parents were unable or unwilling to take advantage of them. In any case, very few children of working-class parents, who were fortunate enough to attend school at all, could continue there beyond 9 or 10 years of age. In general terms, not only were there insufficient schools but only a small proportion of children of school age received any form of organised education. Yet it was not only social and economic conditions which militated against the development of more widespread and organised schooling. The French Revolution of 1789 and all the horrors which followed resulted in a widespread and deep-seated fear among the ruling classes that a similar eruption might occur in Britain if poor children were educated above their station in life. The Tory Party were in office in 1815 and retained their parliamentary majority until 1830. and although a total resistance to social change gradually ameliorated into a policy of cautious improvement, it was not until later, with the reform of parliament, that repressive Toryism was transformed into a more progressive Conservatism. Thus, in 1818. the state of public education was sombre. There was no form of state intervention and indeed the first government grant towards the provision of education was not to come until 1833. Elementary education was in the hands of the religious societies, chiefly the 'National Society for promoting the education of the poor in the principles of the Established Church' (founded in 1811) and the British and Foreign School Society (founded in 1814). The great age of the Sunday Schools, in which children were taught little more than to read the Bible, was over. The next development, through the agency of these Societies, was an extension of the Sunday Schools' functions and an attempt to spread education of a religious character among the children of the poor. The motives of those who supported this attempt were a mixture of pure charity, a desire to relieve misery and ignorance, and a fear of the possible dangers of an increasingly large and illiterate population, more especially in the urban areas which were fast growing at this time under the impact of those changes which, when taken together. are known as the Industrial Revolution. In short, Britain was being transformed from a predominantly agrarian and rural society into one in which industry, commerce and the new conurbations dominated the social scene.