Recollecting his childhood, George Mockford writes about his short time at a dame’s school. These schools were noted to be extremely small and usually privately-run for the schooling of young children that emerged in the British Isles and its colonies during the early modern period. These schools were taught by what was known as a “school dame”, usually a local woman who charged a small fee. Reading Mockford’s memoir, it is not shocking to believe that he attended one of these schools due to his parent’s background and attitudes as these schools were extremely localised and could typically be found at the town or parish level. Gender roles were usually enforced in children during their time here, with girls usually often instructed to do handiwork such as knitting and sewing, while boys were not taught this skill.
“I was soon noticed as one paying great attention to my instructors, who I remember excited my wonder as to how they knew so much, and I had a great wish to be as wise as they: there I drank in very eagerly all they told me; and by their instructions the church and her ministers, ordinances, and ceremonies were soon looked upon by me as having something mysteriously angelic or heavenly about them; and being very naturally very credulous, particularly of anything that had some mystery about it, I could easily be made to believe the statements of the mysterious, learned men, the clergy or church ministers.”Mockford, G. (1901) Wilderness Journeyings and Gracious Deliverances: The Autobiography of George Mockford, : J.C. Pembrey. pg 2
Later moving schools to the British School at Lewes it is evident that George Mockford’s parents did not in fact care for their children’s education but rather more of their religion and work ethic. Not recalling any of his literary or mathematic skills, Mockford recalls the times were he was taught the church catechism on. Sunday afternoon, the instructions he received to use the Lord’s pray and the time when he was send to the church Sunday school, where he took pride in the education he received, these being the earliest memories of a positive religious experience.
Typical for a young working class boy during this time period, Rockford began to work at the tender age of 8 during his summers when he did not attend school. Unable to give up this extra money during the school period months, Mockford’s parents withdrew him from school when he was just 10 years old. It was during this time Mockford was made help his father in the capacity of shepherd-boy, for which he earned two shillings per week and gave directly to his father. With no money or education, Mockford’s future certainly had many restrictions to it. It is due to this, I believe that Mockford was destined for a spiritual awakening as he was so either to escape from the brutal working class reality that he had been enduring from such an early age.
The school built after George Mockford’s education, where his children went to school.
Rose, Jonathan, ‘Rereading the English Common Reader: A Preface to a History of Audiences.’ Journal of the History of Ideas. 53. 1 (1992): 47-70
Mockford, G. (1901) Wilderness Journeyings and Gracious Deliverances: The Autobiography of George Mockford, : J.C. Pembrey.