Frank George Marling (1863-1954): Education and Schooling

There was no national free education in those days but there had been and were being established in some places: Board schools and in other schools provided by local magnates and authorities with Government Inspection, and Grants, at which, small fees, 2d or 3d a week per scholar, were charged to parents who sent their children thither (p.68).

Hedley, Ralph; In School; Laing Art Gallery; 1848-1913.

At the age of around four years, and before he attended school, Frank had to wear what was known as a “frock” (p.14). Frocks were clothes that were worn by young boys until they were at least four years old, as Frank discusses in his memoir afterword. It was a stage of development for boys to be “breeched”, in which they were then “promoted from a dress [frock] to trousers” (Burnett, p.5). This was a special time for boys, as Frank explains: What a big step up in life it was! I was now able to take my place as a boy and meet other boys on an equal footing […] (p.16).

Frank writes about his school days and titles the section: “The School Boy” (p.63). The section is very detailed and gives many descriptions of his experiences in school and outside of school. Frank was educated from the age 7 to 14 years, when he had to leave and help his father at work. This is similar to Dora R. Hannan, who also had to leave school at the age of 14 to help with the “family budget” (Elliot, 2018).

Schooldays arrived at last. I was sent to a private school kept in the Salter Street by a Mr Mason, a kind hearted man and one of the cleanest men I ever knew (p.65).

Frank attended a private day school from the age of 7 years in 1870 (as he was born in January, 1863 – see my introductory post). He writes fondly about his school days and how excited he was when he finally started school. While he attended the private school at Salter Street, Frank writes about mixing with the “free scholars” at the “Berkeley Free School” (p.65). This was because of his teacher becoming in charge of the “Berkeley Free School in Marybrook”, in which Frank and the other “paying pupils” had to join him (p.65). So far as I remember we all did the same kind of work, the only difference being that the free scholars occasionally got a whacking while we did not! (p.65). Frank continues to refer to the boys attending the school as either “free boys”, “free scholars”, or “paying pupils” (pp.65-66). This reflects the ways in which people may have differentiated one another at the time; those who paid for their education and those who did not.

Cotman, Frederick George; The Dame School; Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service; 1887.

Allan, Frank’s older brother, attended a “Dame School” before they were both sent to a private school (p.45). Frank writes about having to attend the Dame School with Allan for the day before he started school himself. Frank describes his experience there, writing about a lady named “Mrs Copeland”, who would have a “very long stick in her hand” to use for when anyone was misbehaving (p.45). Read about another author on Writing Lives who also attended a Dame School: William Webb (1830-1919).

By just over the age of 10, Frank was moved to the “Fitzhardinge School”, located on Canonbury Hill (p.68):

Many parents considered the education given at the Fitzhardinge School was in advance of that obtainable from the system at Mr Mason’s private school. Friends who had boys attending the Fitzhardinge School urged my parents to remove Allan and me thither and at last they decided to do so, though very reluctantly because Mr Mason was a really kind friend and did his best according to his ability (p.68).

 The ”Fitzharding School” was “built in 1861”, located near Berkeley Castle, and is now known as “Berkeley Primary School”, which is now located in “Marybrook Street” (Berkeley Primary, 2018). The schoolroom at the “Fitzhardinge” school had “only one master with a Pupil Teacher” (p.70): The bigger boys in rotation used to be drafted off in turn to take [standard one] boys. Some were keen on this because there was pay for it! (p.70). In terms of punishment at the school, Frank refers to a “Mr Moss”, who he describes as a “very good schoolmaster”, but who was “very strict and did not hesitate to use the cane” (p.73). Frank remembers being struck once by the cane at school because he was unable to find his place in a reading lesson (pp.74-5).

A classroom in 1872; BBC – Victorian Schools.

Education seemed to be very important to Frank’s parents and so they made sure that their two boys, Allan and Frank, attended a good school for what was affordable. Many children may have been unable to be educated and would have had to start work as young as 8 years old (Burnett, p.130).

In 1899, it became compulsory for children to attend school until the age of 11 years. (Hendrick, p.63). Making children stay in school longer also prolonged their “childhood” years (Hendrick, p.64). Frank attending school until the age of 14, before these laws were set, suggests that his parents valued education and were financially stable enough to be able to keep him in school, in comparison to many other working-class families (Burnett, p.130). Therefore, Frank was able to experience a longer childhood compared to many other children at the time (Hendrick, p.64).

Frank himself also seemed to value his education, as he mentions not being able to attend higher education:

Fortunately I was fairly quick in relation to figures so was able to maintain my standing. In tests of mental arithmetic I was usually second or third and before I left the school at 14 [and] 1/2 I had got a good way beyond the school curriculum and was doing special work, advanced algebra […] It was a pity I could not go on to higher education. But who knows? (p.79)

Frank also writes about the subjects he enjoyed at school, including drawing. He mentions how he loved “scale drawing and geometry very much”, and managed to win himself a “Science and Art” prize at school (p.79). Other interests and subjects that Frank enjoyed at school included “bible history” and geography, as he writes: “I always liked maps and still do. It was fascinating to find out where places were” (p.80). Frank’s enthusiasm for education and his interests at school represent how much he valued his education. He writes about his school days fondly with a nostalgic tone, as he does so throughout his memoirs.

Read my next post, about ‘Reading and Writing’.


  • Berkeley Primary. (2018). Our History. [online]. Available at: Accessed: 18/03/18).
  • Burnett, J. Destiny Obscure: Autobiographies of Childhood, Education and Family from the 1820s to the 1920s. London: Routledge, 1994.
  • Davies, A, S. (2015). William Webb: (1830-1919) – Education & Schooling. 14 Dec. [blog]. Available at: (Accessed: 16/03/18).
  • Elliot, I. (2018). Dora R. Hannan: Education and Schooling. 5 March. [blog]. Available at: (Accessed: 16/03/18).
  • ‘Frank George Marling’ in Burnett, John, David Vincent, David Mayall (eds) The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography 1790-1945. 3 vols. (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1987, 1989)
  • Hendrick, H. Children, Childhood and English Society 1880-1990. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. (Accessed: 16/03/18), 1997.
  • Marling, Frank George. ‘Reminiscences’. Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies. Brunel University Library. Special Collection, 1:492.

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