I stumbled across the Iron Room Blog after a photograph of a worker at the Bournville Cadbury factory fluttered out of my late Granddads bird watching note books. I searched for the name but instead found the January 12th blog post; Cadbury Trusts’ catalogue now available.
I delved deeper and discovered that in 1859, under the auspices of William White, twenty year old George Cadbury began his life long connection with The Adult School Movement. My own family also have a strong association with Cadburys and the Adult School (AS) so my curiosity was ignited.
It was under the influence of Methodism that the first AS was opened in 1798 by William Singleton in Nottingham. William was subsequently joined by Samuel Fox, a Quaker and grocer who invited his staff, mainly women, to teach at the school.
In Birmingham Joseph Sturge also a Quaker, social reformer and philanthropist established the Severn Street First Day School on October 12th 1845. Joseph recognised the need for an organisation which young men could attend to learn to read (the Bible) and write. More than a hundred attended the first meeting and the numbers grew despite a draughty and uncomfortable environment. The school members drew working men away from the public houses to improve their ‘lot in life’.
In Birmingham Archives and Collections I come across the original sepia photograph of The ‘Beehive’ AS which opened in a disused public house in 1902. This school was first established in 1901 in a grocers store room in Bishopsgate Street. This was a run down part of Ladywood, Birmingham where it was ‘scarcely deemed safe for one policeman to patrol alone’.
At first glance this photograph, of a crowd of men with pocket watches hanging by chains from their waist coats, appeared to be of The Clark Street School which opened in 1875. However a hand written letter from E.J. Fullwood (former secretary of the National AS Council) confirms that it is the Beehive School:
In a most unexpected place I have at last found the missing Beehive AS original photograph. The seated figures and those standing immediately behind them are the original members of the school. Most of the others are members of the Clark St School…
(MS 703 (2015/082) 15/56)
The Beehive Adult School, branch school of Clark St. Adult School, photograph taken by F. Nightingale, after Opening Service, September 1902 [Ref MS 703 (2015/082) 15/56]
Closer scrutiny of the photograph reveals that the building on the left hand side is indeed The Beehive Inn! I am delighted to find another letter from my Great Grandad Tom Hill to Lawrence Burton, the secretary of the Midland Adult School at that time. Grandad Tom wrote,
…of all the men present we know nothing; we have no record of all of the good they did, or endeavoured to do, only this photo…
(MS 703 (2015/082) 15/56)