Now! Then! A Yorkshire Almanac for 2024

18 September 1880: An elderly reader of the Leeds Mercury recounts in its children’s column a pre-1839 alternative to flogging in a one-room school

Leeds Mercury. 1880/09/18. Put on the Shelf. Leeds. Get it:

.

Excerpt

There were many classes in the school, but only one room and only one teacher. The room had once been a kitchen of a great house, and round it were a number of shelves. The teacher was a good-hearted man, but very passionate, and it was with difficulty he could control himself over the blunders of stupid pupils. He whipped many lads very severely, and after the punishment he was very much overcome – partly from exhaustion, as was natural, for the blows fell hard, but partly also from remorse. One day, however, he told his pupils that he was about to try an experiment. He would save them the trouble of hiding the rod; he would destroy it (here there were “loud cheers,” as the reporters say), and instead of striking the unruly and the lazy, he would place them on the shelves for an hour at a time. The plan succeeded wonderfully. The boys were lifted up on the shelves, and strapped down flat to prevent them from tumbling over. For a time the novelty of being one of the teacher’s “mummies” converted the punishment into a sort of amusement, and the shelves in the earlier days of the experiment were frequently filled up; but by and by the disgrace of being laid aside like something dead and useless, began to make itself felt, and before a month was over it was a rare thing to find more than one lad put away at a time.


Order the book

Subscribe to the free daily email
To facilitate reading, the spelling and punctuation of elderly excerpts have generally been modernised, and distracting excision scars concealed.

Comment

Comment

The writer presumably went to school before 1839, when Her Majesty’s Inspectorate for Schools seems to have started.

Something to say? Get in touch

Original

A contributor, who says he is no longer young, sends for the entertainment of the readers of this column a description of a curious mode of punishment that was adopted in the school he first attended. He writes-

There were many classes in the school, but only one room and only one teacher. The room had once been a kitchen of a great house, and round it were a number of shelves. The teacher was a good-hearted man, but very passionate, and it was with difficulty he could control himself over the blunders of stupid pupils. He whipped many lads very severely, and after the punishment he was very much overcome – partly from exhaustion, as was natural, for the blows fell hard, but partly also from remorse. One day, however, he told his pupils that he was about to try an experiment. He would save them the trouble of hiding the rod; he would destroy it (here there were “loud cheers,” as the reporters say), and instead of striking the unruly and the lazy, he would place them on the shelves for an hour at a time. The plan succeeded wonderfully. The boys were lifted up on the shelves, and strapped down flat to prevent them from tumbling over. For a time the novelty of being one of the teacher’s “mummies” converted the punishment into a sort of amusement, and the shelves in the earlier days of the experiment were frequently filled up; but by and by the disgrace of being laid aside like something dead and useless, began to make itself felt, and before a month was over it was a rare thing to find more than one lad put away at a time.

There was, of course, no Government inspection of schools in the days our correspondent speaks of. To be laid out on a shelf for on hour was better than being whipped till the blood came, as was the experience of many a lad in the era of tyrannical school teaching; but it is hardly the kind of discipline that would be allowed under the Education Acts. Still, this novel mode of punishment was a step forward, for the idea was that a child should simply feel that he was in disgrace, and that it was not necessary in order to make him a better boy to treat him with cruelty.

402 words.

Tags

Tags are assigned inclusively on the basis of an entry’s original text and any comment. You may find this confusing if you only read an entry excerpt.

All tags.

Search

Donate

Social

RSS feed

Bluesky

Extwitter