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When three out of four Black Country children went to Sunday School

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: July 20, 2014

By Roland Burrows

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NOTICING in The Bugle (July 3 edition) the interesting article on a Sunday School prize, I thought readers might be interested to see these photographs of prizes from various local Sunday Schools we have in our collection at the Christian Heritage Centre at Rowley Regis.

The one relating to Cradley Morning School 1891, top left, is particularly interesting. Perhaps some of your readers could help us identify what exactly this was and where it was.

There was a nationwide Morning School Movement which in this area was strongly supported by the well-known Cadbury brothers, Richard and George.

These schools met at 6am on Sundays and were run by dedicated Christians to teach the poor to read and write. Was the Cradley Morning School our local branch of this movement?

It is a fact that in 1888 about three out of every four children in England and Wales, which was a remarkable proportion, attended Sunday Schools.

This had steadily increased throughout the century and it is believed by many to be one of the chief reasons why there was such a dramatic fall in crime and deviant behaviour over the same period. When Edward German wrote his well-known song, O Peaceful England, at the turn of the century, he was describing a reality of that time.

The overall incidence of serious offences recorded by the police in the 1890s was only about 60 per cent of what it had been in the 1850s. Given that the efficiency of the reporting and recording of crime was improving at the time, the real fall in the crime rate was probably far greater than that shown by the official statistics.

Thus in 1900 Britain was not only a less violent country than today, but also less lawless and dishonest than it had been in the 1850s.

As well as the glorious truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Sunday Schools taught and warned of the harmful consequences of violent behaviour, theft, illegitimacy and drunkenness.

They taught that these things were quite simply wrong while honesty, self-control and a helpful concern and respect for those with whom we come into contact with day by day, were virtues to be fostered regardless of class, sex or social position.

Whether one was rich or poor, self-respect, respectability and a reputation for decency and honesty were fit and proper aspirations for all.

In 1957 it was recorded that 76 per cent of those aged 30 or over, had attended Sunday School. How important it is that Sunday schools are supported and well-attended today.

The Christian Heritage Centre is located at Providence Chapel, Bell-End, Rowley Regis, and will be open for a Cream Tea and Second Hand Book Sale on Saturday, August 16 from 2pm to 5pm.

For opening times and further details see www.christianheritagecentre.org.uk or phone 01384 637314.

Can you add any more information on these books? What are your memories of Sunday School? Should more be done today to encourage children to go to a modern Bible class? Email your views to editor@blackcountrybugle.co.uk, log on at www.blackcountrybugle.co.uk or write to us at 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL.

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