Some say that your school days are the best days of your life. I suppose that from the point of view of not having many of life’s worries, they could be right.
But having said that, when I was at school, there were plenty of things to worry about. Such as- would I get to “be” the footballer John Barnes whilst having a kick about during lunch time? (Mainly yes, as everyone else wanted to “be” Gary Lineker or Chris Waddle.)
There were so many other worries too – what was the best way to get out of the pointless cross country PE “lesson”?; who was responsible for nicking my pencil sharpener?; could I swipe an intriguingly named Hedgehog flavour crisp from Daniel during break time without him seeing?; how much Space Dust popping candy could fit in my mouth before it spat and foamed out uncontrollably?; could I make it back home in time to see the next episode of ChuckleVision on TV? And the biggest worry of all – how much of a telling off would I get from my mum after I’d fallen in the brook that ran by the school’s perimeter whilst attempting to jump over it on the way home?
However, a few hundred years ago, there was no such thing as school or education for children. Children were set to work or to simply survive in the city’s disease ridden slums. They had plenty of worries far more serious than crisps and pencil sharpeners, one of which was just trying to stay alive.
But the proprietor of the Gloucester Journal, Robert Raikes, who was born at Ladybellegate House in Gloucester on this day in 1736, had other ideas. He was a pioneer of education for children through the promotion of the Sunday school movement. Children, aged between 5 and 14 were able to attend school on a Sunday, the only day on which they wouldn’t be working. They went to sessions in the morning and the afternoon where they were taught reading and spelling. In the afternoon they went to church. Within a couple of years several schools opened in and around Gloucester. By 1831 Sunday schools were teaching approximately a quarter of the population – eventually leading to the state school system that we know today.
It’s this achievement that he’s known for best of all, and to prove how famous he is, there are statues of him in London in the Victoria Embankment Gardens, and next to Queen’s Park in Toronto, Canada. So therefore, properly famous.
But there is one other achievement that he’s responsible for, and which could quite possibly eclipse every other of his remarkable accomplishments. It is this: being the inspiration for the name of Gloucestershire Archives’ new mascot – Raikes the Rat.
Raikes was named through a combination of online suggestions from the public, and votes at the recent Heritage Hub open day, held during the Gloucester History Festival. You will be seeing more of Raikes in the future, particularly on social media, so look out for him!
In the meantime, I’d better end this pretty sharply, as I’m a little worried that I won’t make it home in time to see the next episode of The Mysterious Cities of Gold, especially if I fall in the brook on the way.