Spotlight on Hitchin British School

Published: Monday 9 February 2015
Hitchin British School
Hitchin British School

Following on from our previous news item about the 1897 British Schools list, we thought it would be interesting to tell you about the British School Museum in Hitchin, whose 1837 Monitorial Schoolroom is the only one of its kind left in the world.

In 1808 Joseph Lancaster visited Hitchin where he met William Wilshere, a local lawyer and land-owner.Lancaster had founded the first monitorial School in Borough Road, Southwark in 1798, and was touring the country to spread the word about his new system of education, whereby 100s of children could be taught by one master assisted by monitors recruited from amongst the older children. As a result of this meeting in 1810 Wilshere founded a Lancasterian or monitorial school for c. 200 boys and c. 100 girls in a disused malthouse he owned in Hitchin. Following the creation of the British and Foreign School Society in 1814, founded to further Lancaster’s plans and ideas, Lancasterian or monitorial schools became known as British Schools.

In 1837 a new purpose-built schoolroom was built, followed in 1853 by a gallery classroom, both of which survive today.

During the 20th Century the school experienced further new buildings and name-changes, eventually closing in 1969. Sterling work by local people over 20 years managed to save the site and today it is run as the thriving British Schools Museum, whose volunteers were honoured with The Queens Award for Voluntary Service in 2012.

The museum reopens on 17th February 2015.


Page last updated: Monday 09 February 2015