My great grandmother Sybil was also a teacher. We already knew that she met my great grandfather James when they were both teaching at a school in West Yorkshire but I did wonder how she had got into teaching and whether she was qualified to any national standard. In the previous post I wrote how James did his teacher training at the short-lived Kneller Hall Training College. I wonder how a young man, from a family of mill workers, who started his own career as a power loom weaver in Cheshire, came to be in Twickenham studying to be a teacher. I was even more surprised to find (according to the 1851 Census) that Sybil had moved away from her native Nottingham and was living in Kings Road, Chelsea at the age of 19!
Her name was on a list of young girls, together with a Lady Superintendent named Mrs Harries, who were all living at the same address “Whitelands”. A quick Google search identified the address as “Whitelands College”, one of the earliest colleges offering formal teacher training for young ladies and still flourishing as part of Roehampton University.
I have the History and Heritage Advisor of the University of Roehampton and the Archivist of Whitelands College to thank for the following information including Sybil’s college records.
Whitelands College was founded in 1841 by the National Society, and had its history in the desire of both the Church of England and the state to provide education for children of the working classes, in which England, apparently, lagged far behind many other European countries. It was not the first teacher training college in England, nor was it the first church of England training college. It was part of a growing number of colleges aimed at training teachers who would provide a reasonable standard of education for poor children.
Sybil arrived at the age of 18 in 1849. At that time the college was led and managed by Rev Harry Baber. He was joined in 1850 by Mrs Harries, the Lady Superintendent and shortly after by Miss Gillott, the first Governess. The subjects which the students learned to teach were some basic knowledge of history, geography, natural history and English grammar, with a heavy emphasis on religious studies, singing and all aspects of housekeeping!
This is the entry for Sybil in the College Record:
“Born at Snenton near Nottingham. Her father is a coal merchant & responsible for her payments. Educated for about 10 years in various private schools & afterwards engaged in teaching in a private school for a short time. Has been confirmed & is a communicant.”
I presume that Sybil left the college in 1851, after two years of study. I next know of her whereabouts in 1854!
All will be revealed (and it has a literary connection)………….