Sunday Schools were established by Robert Raikes, a printer, who started the first Sunday School in Gloucester in 1780. Sunday was a free day, when children were not at work, and Sunday Schools offered free education in the 3 Rs - reading, writing and arithmetic. In many schools, they lasted all day, and the establishment of Sunday Schools began to bring to an end the previous mass illiteracy. In 1785 a non-denominational society, the Sunday School Society, was established. By 1795, it is estimated that about 250,000 children were attending.
- Sunday School Treat, Possibly July 1906 (see text)
- Tribute to Mr & Mrs George Taylor for their work with the Wesleyan Sunday School, Mar 1908
Sunday Schools in Hungerford:
In Hungerford a Sunday School was established at the Free Grammar School (in Church Croft), but it was, according to the 1792 Universal British Directory, unsuccessful.
Sunday Schools went on to be established at many of the churches and schools in Hungerford.
An important event in their year was the annual Sunday School Treat. In 1895 this "took place on Thursday, July 11th. The children were taken to Savernake Forest in waggons kindly lent by Lady Pearce, Messrs Alexander, Beard, Booth, Brown, Cundell, Faulknor, Haynes, Hissey, Kimber, Platt, Richens, and Russell. Mrs Rennie sent a two-horse break, and Messrs F Church and Fruen, waggonettes.
There was a short service at St Lawrence's Church at 9am, immediately after which the children started, and reached the Ruins at the Forest about 12 o'clock, where dinner and tea were provided for all by Mr F. Jessett. The weather was most propitious and a thoroughly enjoyable day was spent by all. The party safely reached home about 8.45pm." (From Parish Magazine August 1895).
In July 1896 the Parish Magazine records that "the Ruins, which are now let, are no longer available, but the site selected, near the Eight Walks, proved even more suitable". 280 children attended, and with parents and helpers, there were 400 people in all.
In 1902 the Annual Sunday School Treat (usually to Savernake Forest) was reviewed. It was felt inadvisable to continue it "as a yearly institution; the length of journey the fatigue and slowness consequent the wagon mode of progression, the strain and responsibility weighing upon the teachers who have care of the children, and last though not least, the very considerable expense incurred by such an outing - all these have had their share in the change contemplated. But more than all it seemed to the Vicar that this treat should really be a reward, and not a matter to be looked upon as a right of every child whose name is on the registers of the School." It was arranged that only those who gained two-thirds of the maximum marks for attendance and conduct would qualify - but that the treat would be a trip to Southampton, "perhaps with a little Steamer trip" to see the great English Fleet assembled in the Solent. In the end 83 children qualified. Sadly it rained a lot, but the description of the whole day is full of the excitement enjoyed by the children. They arrived back at Hungerford station at 11.45pm!
The usual pattern of Summer Treats was re-established a few years later and, for example, in July 1906, 250 children attended the "Treat" to Savernake Forest. The day started with everyone assembling at Church House before proceeding to the Parish Church for a short service at 9am. The children, teachers, and a numbers of helpers were then packed into 10 wagons (and two breaks with a further 25 adults) in The Croft, setting off at 10.05am for Savernake Forest. Braydon Oak had become the time-honoured rendez-vous. The Vicar (with his youngest daughter) arrived there in a light dog-cart at 11.25am, whilst the adults in the breaks about 45 minutes later. The children in the wagons did not arrive in the Grand Avenue until 1 o'clock. After being served lemonade, the children were free to play in the forest until tea was served at 3.30pm, the children being gathered back by means of a whistle. After this there were a number of sports events and prize-giving, before they set off home at 6.45pm, arriving back at the Town Hall at 9.30pm.
There were also Annual Christmas Sunday School Treats, recorded carefully in the Parish Magazine. In January 1891 it was reported that "In consequence of so many children suffering from measles it has been determined to put of the Sunday School Treat to Easter".
- Parish Magazines, esp September 1902, Aug 1906.