Rev Hewitt O’Bryen’s school Rochdale 1839

This was five years before the Rochdale Pioneers started the Co-Operative Movement…………

THIRTIETH ANNUAL REPORT of THE NATIONAL SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING THE EDUCATION OF THE POOR THROUGHOUT ENGLAND AND WALES (established ad 1811 incorporated 1817) LONDON 1841 Sold By J G And F Rivington St Paul’s Churchyard And Waterloo Place Pall Mall Also By Roake And Varty 31 Strand

The remaining factory cases are in the chapelries of Lees near Oldham and St James’s Heywood near Rochdale. To the former containing a population of 7000 your Committee granted for two years a sufficient sum to pay the salary of a mistress for the daily instruction of girls. The incumbent of the latter district the Rev Hewitt O’Bryen has under his pastoral charge a district containing about 8000 souls. He was probably among the first to bring into effectual operation the provisions of the Factory Act. [The Factory Act of 1833 restricted working hours to eight hours a day for nine to thirteen year olds, and twelve hours a day for thirteen to eighteen year olds, it also required children under 13 to receive elementary schooling for two hours each day.]

In a building erected with the aid of £160 from the Society he opened his school in January 1839 having previously succeeded by personal application in prevailing upon all the mill owners with only one exception to contribute towards the institution, 220 children one half of whom worked in factories were soon in regular attendance.

The details says Mr O’Bryen of this joint school, boys and girls being taught together, are as follows, it is open from nine to twelve am from half past one to half past four pm. Half the factory children come in the morning, and half in the afternoon, by an arrangement with the employers, the half which attend one fortnight in the morning attend the next in the afternoon and vice versa. The school opens with prayer. It consists of four classes in which boys and girls are mixed, the instruction for the first two hours consists of reading writing and ciphering conducted on the principle of mutual instruction with assistance from visitors who regularly act as monitors. The third hour during which the factory children remain of their own accord is devoted to simultaneous instruction. The lessons then given are in geography, grammar, history, Scripture, and the Catechism. This part of the instruction, I frequently conduct myself, the younger children who are incapable of it are sent under a monitor to the Infant school from which they have generally been drafted.

To assist this zealous clergyman your Committee made a grant of £50 for providing additional accommodations besides £10 annually for two years towards a pupil teacher to take especial charge of the factory children.

Hewitt O’Bryen is the third child, and second son, of Henry Hewitt O’Bryen, and Mary Roche, and another of John Roche‘s grandsons. He was baptised at Tracton Abbey, in a Catholic ceremony, like his brother John Roche O’Bryen, and elder sister Jane. When he became a member of the Church of Ireland is still unclear, or why for that matter.

He appears to have lived, at least briefly, in Limerick which would make some sense as he married Louisa Grace Ann Hoare, the daughter of the Reverend John Hoare, the Chancellor of the diocese of Limerick. They then seem to have moved to England. As seen above, he is in Lancashire in 1839, before moving to Norfolk where he was rector of Edgefield, Norfolk in 1845, where he died aged thirty three. His widow, Louisa, then moved to Derbyshire where she lived for some time at the home of her aunt, Alicia, wife of the Rev. Walter Shirley, rector of Brailsford, before moving to Bath where she died, aged 61, on 2 October 1861.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *