THE CHARITY SCHOOLS
Grammar schools such as that established at Dartford made no widespread provision for the schooling of the poor, the underprivileged and the broad masses of the labouring classes. Grammar schools reached only a tiny percentage of the population.
It was widely believed among the gentry and wealthy townsmen that education should not be generally extended to the poor since it would upset the social order and increase expectations beyond acceptable levels. The English Civil War of the mid-seventeenth century was used as an example of how dangerous it was to educate the poor and lower classes. It was, however, desirable for the lower classes to be able to read the Bible for themselves, if only to help them to discover for themselves that they should accept their humble place in Gods greater plan of things.
Charity schools, aimed at providing a very basic education for the poor, became a prominent feature of eighteenth century life; many were founded by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK). Others, like that established at Dartford, were funded by subscriptions and endowments.
THE DARTFORD CHARITY SCHOOL
In 1745 the Rev. Charles Chambres, vicar of Dartford, gave £25 the vicar and Churchwardens of Holy Trinity church to be invested. Income from this investment was to be used to pay for an annual sermon aimed at encouraging the parishioners to establish and fund, by subscription, a new Charity School in Dartford.
The terms of the will dictated that, following the preaching of the annual sermon, the churchwardens should stand with collection plates at the church doors to receive the gifts of the congregation. It took three years for the Charity School to be established. The school was initially held in the north chancel of Holy Trinity church, St. Thomas Chapel, but later moved to the vestry.
The vicar and churchwardens played an active part in selecting as many poor children as the money allowed to receive a basic education. Some of the Charity School pupils were recruited direct from the workhouse.
The success of the new venture depended on a reliable and regular source of funding. Voluntary subscriptions were received from local parishioners on an annual basis. Additional funding was secured from bequests. In 1771 John Randall bequeathed £100 "to be put out to interest, for schooling and clothing as many poor boys as the interest would admit." In 1778, Catherine Tasker bequeathed £50 for promoting and encouraging the Charity School and in 1795 Mary Pettit bequeathed £1,000, the interest from which was to be given to the Charity School at Dartford.
By the end of the eighteenth century, both boys and girls were being taught at the church-based Charity School. The Charity School merged with the Sunday School in 1816.