Archive for September 7, 2015


Robert Raikes was born in Gloucester in the year 1736. His father owned a publishing business, which Robert inherited at the age of 21. He became a noted philanthropist and is most famous for his initiation of the Sunday School movement. He opened his first school in Gloucester in 1780. Its initial aim was to provide a basic schooling for boys who had to work in factories from an early age. Sunday was chosen as this was often the only day they had off from factory work. The curriculum of Raikes early schools was simple and twofold. First, the boys were taught how to read and then they were taught about the Bible. Within two years, several schools based on this principle had opened in the Gloucester area and the attendance had also been widened to include girls.

The Raikes’ schools were not without their critics, who often referred to them as ‘the ragged schools’. These criticisms came from those who saw it unnecessary for the general populace to be educated; from those who believed that there should be no work on a Sunday and strangely, from a group who believed that the schools could be used to spread a radical political message.

However despite the opposition, the Sunday School movement continued to grow. Robert Raikes died in 1811 and it is recorded that just 50 years (1832) after Raikes’ original school opened 1,250,000 children were attending Sunday schools around the country. This was at a time when opportunities for education for people from poor backgrounds were still based on the work of charities and as such were patchy in their availability.It would not be until the Forster Act of 1870 that local authorities would be required by law to provide comprehensive elementary education for all children.


This statue of Robert Raikes was erected in the Victoria embankment Gardens in the year 1880 by the Sunday schools union to celebrate the centenary of the opening of Raikes’ first school.