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Education in Norfolk

Voluntary organisations and schools

The Norwich Charity Schools

These were established in 1707/8, but their surviving minutes do not begin until May 1711. They were supported by benefactions, subscriptions and a weekly payment of 1d or 2d from each child.

Annual subscribers of £1 and benefactors of £10 or more became trustees.

The charity initially ran nine schools, five for boys and four for girls, mostly in rented schoolrooms.

However one, the Mancroft School, was established in 1721 by Alderman John Risebrow. He left the rent of two properties in Walton and Walpole St Peter for its support.

There were also district schools which were an offshoot of the Norwich Charity schools and were maintained by associations of parishes.

The charity trustees were only able to build school premises after 1812. This was when the charity became affiliated to the Norfolk and Norwich Society, the local branch of the National Society.

According to the society’s minutes of 23 July 1812, it was resolved:

“That the City of Norwich having antient established schools with funds provided for their support, the Trustees of the said schools be requested to connect them so far with this Society as to adopt the mode of education recommended by it and to consent to their being considered the Central Institution.”

For minutes of the Norfolk and Norwich Society, 1812-46, see DN/NDS 137.

Papers of the Norwich Charity and District schools are found among records of the Norwich Diocese. They are mainly administrative, but do contain some records relating to individual schools.

  • For records of the Norwich Charity schools, see DN/NDS 1-125
  • For the District schools, see DN/NDS 126-136
  • There is also a short history of the Charity schools, see DN/NDS 61
  • For records of individual charity and district schools, refer to the card index to school archives available in our searchroom, or the online catalogue

The National Society and the Norwich Diocesan Society

In 1812, the National Society was founded. It began to take over schools previously set up by the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) and other organisations.

There were more than 17,000 National schools in Britain in 1851. However, the role of the National Society in school provision declined after the Education Act 1870, which provided free elementary education for poorer children.

The local branch of the National Society, the Norfolk and Norwich Society, was founded in 1812. It provided and maintained schools throughout the area.

The Society gave a £300 grant to build the central Boys' School in Norwich, formerly called the Boys' Model School. This was for 200 pupils and was based in Aldred's Court, St Peter Hungate.

Another local organisation, The Norwich Diocesan Society, was also founded in 1812. It provided schools and trained teachers in Norwich.

The Norfolk and Norwich Society and the Diocesan Society both distributed government grants to local schools, which continued up to the Elementary Education Act of 1870.

  • Papers of the Norfolk and Norwich Society are found among records of the Norwich Diocese. The records are mostly administrative, but there are some which relate to individual schools. See DN/NDS 137-290.
  • For records of the Norwich Diocesan Teacher Training College, formerly in College Road and later at Keswick Hall, see list KHC. Please note some of these records are closed to public access. Where this is the case, it will be indicated in the catalogue entry.
  • For a history of Keswick Hall, see The Story of Keswick Hall: Church of England College of Education, 1839-1981, ed. J Ball (Wymondham, 1981).
  • Central records of the National Society are held by the Church of England Record Centre.

The British and Foreign School Society

In 1808 followers of Joseph Lancaster, a prominent Quaker, founded the Society for Promoting the Lancasterian System for the Education of the Poor.

In 1814 it was renamed the British and Foreign School Society.

It fulfilled a similar role to the National Society, but its schools were non-denominational.

As a result many Nonconformists preferred to send their children to British Schools and by 1851 about 1,500 had been founded in the UK.

At the Norfolk Record Office (NRO) we hold a few records of former British Schools including:

  • The Octagon Chapel day school for girls in Norwich, see list FC 77
  • The Great Yarmouth British School, see Y/TC 86/11

For further information on individual British and Foreign Society schools, please refer to the card index to school archives or our online catalogue.

Central records of the Society are held by the British and Foreign School Society Archive Centre.

Sunday schools

Records of Sunday schools in Norfolk and Norwich are usually located with the associated parish records for Church of England churches (see PD lists), or with the chapel records for Nonconformist Sunday schools (see FC lists).

Records of some Sunday schools are referred to in the card index to school archives, but its coverage is incomplete.