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History of Education
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Pestalozzianism, natural history

and scientific education in
nineteenth‐century England: the
Pestalozzian institution at Worksop,
Paul Elliott & Stephen Daniels
School of Geography, University of Nottingham,
University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK E-mail:

Available online: 20 Aug 2006

To cite this article: Paul Elliott & Stephen Daniels (2005): Pestalozzianism, natural history and
scientific education in nineteenth‐century England: the Pestalozzian institution at Worksop,
Nottinghamshire, History of Education, 34:3, 295-313

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00467600500065290


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HISTORY OF EDUCATION, MAY, 2005, VOL. 34, NO. 3, 295–313

Pestalozzianism, natural history and scientific

education in nineteenth-century England: the
Pestalozzian Institution at Worksop,


School of Geography, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham,
NG7 2RD, UK.
E-mail: Paul.Elliott@nottingham.ac.uk; Stephen.Daniels@nottingham.ac.uk
School of
00 2005
and GeographyUniversity
Ltd of NottinghamUniversity ParkNottinghamNG7 2RDUKPaul.Elliott@nottingham.ac.uk
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The importance of Pestalozzianism in the development of Continental European education

has been long acknowledged, but less work has been done on the impact and interpretation of
Pestalozzian ideas in Britain. The paper utilises a case study of the Worksop Pestalozzian
Institution in Nottinghamshire to explore how Pestalozzian practices were adopted and
adapted. Sources utilised include the remarkable letters of the Marling brothers, pupils at the
school during the 1830s, which shed fascinating light upon curriculum and practices and the
experiences of the students. The study shows how the naturalistic and experiential methods
were adopted at Worksop that utilised the local landscape and industry in order to teach natu-
ral history, improve the physical health and inculcate early-Victorian moral and social values.
It argues that one of the most important intellectual impacts of the school was upon the work
of the Spencers William George and Herbert, the latter regarding it as an ‘English Hofwyl’
and using it as a model for the composition of his influential book on education.

One of the most striking developments in British education in the period between 1760
and 1860 was the attempt to introduce continental European teaching methods such as
those inspired by Jacotot, Pestalozzi and Fellenberg.1 It has been argued that ‘Pestalozzi
and Fellenberg were the two continental reformers whose theories made the greatest
impact on post-war British education’ and that ‘between the 1820s and the 1850s, the
influence of [Pestalozzi] … played a major part in the transformation of classroom teach-
ing’.2 Roach has contended that Pestalozzi and Fellenberg were ‘the major foreign influ-
ence on English educators’ at this time, not only as ‘a major force in the development of
English popular education’, but also ‘on upper-class and middle-class schools in this
country’.3 Likewise, Tomlinson has argued that ‘by the time of his death in 1827,
Pestalozzi was the continent’s pre-eminent educator, his name, at least in Britain, being
virtually synonymous with the movement for infant education’.4 With its emphasis on
naturalistic and experiential methods closely related to the ideas of Enlightenment
philosophers such as Humboldt and Ritter, Pestalozzianism was applied to teaching
subjects such as the sciences, mathematics, geometry, languages and geography.

1 R. J. W. Selleck, James Kay-Shuttleworth: Journey of an Outsider (London: Routledge Falmer, 1995);

R. Aldrich, School and Society in Victorian Britain: Joseph Payne and the New World of Education (New
York: Garland Publishers, 1995).
2 W. A. C. Stewart and W. P. McCann, Educational Innovators (London: Macmillan, 1967), 136–7, 153,
3 J. Roach, A History of Secondary Education in England, 1800–1870 (London: Longman, 1986), 113.
4 S. Tomlinson, ‘From Rousseau to evolutionism: Herbert Spencer on the science of education’, History of
Education, 25 (1996), 235–54, 236.
History of Education ISSN 0046–760X print/ISSN 1464–5130 online © 2005 Taylor & Francis Group Ltd
DOI: 10.1080/00467600500065290
296 P. Elliott and S. Daniels

European educationists each had their own British champions vying for public recognition
and government support, with Nationalists and Lancasterians, dissenters and other groups
selecting and adapting different aspects for their own purposes. As British Pestalozzians
such as Herbert Spencer complained, reformers adopted isolated aspects that suited their
immediate purposes without much understanding of the overall educational philosophy, a
problem exacerbated by language barriers and a lack of quality translations.5
Nevertheless, Pestalozzianism and Fellenbergianism had an important impact on British
education encouraged by the romantic reception of Teutonic philosophy, helping to
change the way that young children and the disabled were taught.6
One example of an influential English school that adopted Pestalozzian methods was
the Pestalozzian Institution founded by Adele and Beatus Heldenmaier at Worksop,
Nottinghamshire. This was described by Spencer as an ‘English Hofwyl’ and by George
Holyoake as ‘unrivalled among English schools for the industrial, social and classical
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education it imparted’. Situated in a small town surrounded by beautiful Nottinghamshire

countryside, the school lasted for almost 50 years and educated the sons of various
middle-class Liberal and industrial families encouraged by adulatory accounts in periodi-
cals such as the Monthly Repository. It was also a practical model for Spencer’s influential
Education: Intellectual, Moral and Physical (1861).7
Accounts of British schools in the century after 1750 are usually written from the
perspective of masters or external observers and it is relatively unusual to get an insight into
the experience of pupils. Some parental diarists provide limited information on educational
matters whilst the journals of a small number of children have been preserved. Where
reconstruction of pupils’ experiences do appear they are usually based on textbooks, staff
recollections or retrospective memoirs often written much later with the advantages of
experience and hindsight.8 This study utilizes a remarkable collection of some 130 letters
written by the Marling brothers, who attended the Worksop school during the 1840s, to
provide a pupil’s perspective. As Pollock has argued, ‘the best way to reconstruct past child-
hood is to read diaries kept by children’, which are ‘the most reliable source for discovering
how children regarded their lifestyle and what they actually did’.9 The insights that such
material provide into the experience of school life and the minutiae of everyday activities
make them a valuable source. Most of the Marling letters were written, usually on a weekly
basis, by William Henry Marling (1835–1919) aged between 12 and 14 to his mother Marg-
aret Williams Marling (1816–85) and others to his father, the wealthy Gloucestershire
clothier Samuel Stephens Marling (1810–83). The collection also contains a few letters
from William’s brother Charles (1837–62) to his parents when aged between 10 and 11.10

5 H. Spencer, Education; Intellectual, Moral and Physical, edited by F. A. Cavenagh (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1932), 75–9.
6 G. Haines, German Influence upon English Education and Science, 1800–1866 (New London: Connecticut
College, 1957).
7 H. Spencer, Autobiography (London: Williams & Norgate, 1904), I, 322–3; J. Morley, The Life of Richard
Cobden, 2 vols. (London: Fisher Unwin, 1908).
8 C. Steedman, The Tidy House: Little Girls Writing (London: Virago, 1982); L. A. Pollock, Forgotten
Children: Parent–Child Relations from 1500 to 1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987);
R. Cox, Shaping Childhood: Themes of Uncertainty in the History of Adult–Child Relationships (London:
Routledge, 1996); P. Horn, The Victorian Town Child (Stroud: Sutton, 1997).
9 Pollock, Forgotten Children, 255, 260.
10 Gloucestershire County Record Office, henceforth referred to as ‘GRO’, D873 C17, C19, Marling correspon-
dence henceforth referred to as ‘MC’. The collection also contains a school exercise book, concert programmes,
notes and letters by the Heldenmaiers; J. Libby, Twenty Years’ History of Stroud, 1870 to 1890 (Stroud: 1890);
J. Tann, Gloucestershire Woollen Mills (Newton Abbott: 1967), 150–1, 154–5, 171; J. de L. Mann, The Clothing
Industry in the West of England from 1640 to 1880 (Oxford: 1971), 171–2, 177, 206–7, 217.
The Pestalozzian institution at Worksop, Notts 297

Middle-class education and Pestalozzianism

Following Davidoff and Hall and others, Tosh has argued that behind the separate public
and private spheres crystallizing in early-nineteenth century middle-class life, were
considerable anxieties concerning gender roles. Although men were regarded as patriar-
chal rulers of the family in charge of business and domestic lives and the guides and
moral councillors of sons, women had considerable domestic authority because of their
relationship to the child. The Victorian patriarchal family functioned through networks of
support to maintain external status and received a boost from evangelical Anglicanism.11
In this context private and later public schools were attractive to middle-class parents
because of the expectations of their roles and as a means to nurture boys to responsibili-
ties of manhood. These were exacerbated by post-Rousseauian and evangelical percep-
tions of childhood distinctiveness requiring a special kind of education rather than—or as
well as—the Lockean shaping of the proto-adult.12 These institutions and the changing
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perceptions of childhood tended to reinforce class differences, working-class children

having attended different types of school, and generally concluding education and begin-
ning employment at a younger age. Although public schools came to be regarded as the
prime institutions of masculine education after 1850, before that other private establish-
ments were favoured because endowed grammar and public schools were perceived to be
Given the widely varying qualities of endowed and public schools, the limitations of
statutes, and the continuing prominence of classical languages, private schools were
favoured by Liberal, business and dissenting circles as providing a more utilitarian curric-
ulum. Established educational institutions continued to be associated with the traditional
unreformed Anglican state in the eyes of many reformers and nonconformists, who still
faced some civil and political restrictions. Dissenters and reformers such as the Unitarian
minister William Johnson Fox called for reform of the grammar schools and universities,
encouraging the foundation of alternative institutions such as London University. As Seed
has argued, dissenting theologies such as Unitarianism provided a Liberal progressivist
narrative of progress, whilst involvement in business and religious networks encouraged
such calls for full and equal civil and religious liberties.14 Religious identities and business
activities also facilitated international contexts and fostered an awareness of continental
educational philosophies such as Pestalozzianism which promoted non-denominational
religious education.

11 L. Davidoff and C. Hall, Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780–1850
(London: Hutchinson, 1987); D. Wahrman, Imagining the Middle Class: The Political Representations of
Class in Britain, c. 1780–1840 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995); A. J. Kidd and D. Nicholls (eds),
The Making of the British Middle Class? Studies in Cultural and Regional Diversity since the Eighteenth
Century (Stroud: Sutton, 1998); J. Tosh, A Man’s Place: Masculinity and the Middle-Class Home in Victo-
rian England (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999); S. Gunn, ‘The public sphere, modernity and
consumption: new perspectives on the history of the English middle class’, and other essays, in A. J. Kidd
and D. Wells (eds), Gender, Civic Culture and Consumerism: Middle Class Identity in Britain, 1800–1940
(Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999).
12 Cox, Shaping Childhood; Tosh, A Man’s Place, 39–43.
13 J. W. Adamson, English Education, 1789–1902 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1930); B.
Simon, The Two Nations and the Educational Structure 1780–1870 (London: Lawrence & Wishart,
14 Simon, Two Nations, 26–38, 72–125; J. Seed, ‘Theologies of power: Unitarianism and the social relations of
religious discourse, 1800–50’, in R. J. Morris (ed.), Class, Power and Social Structure in British Nineteenth–
Century Towns (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1986), 108–56; R. Garnett, The Life of W. J. Fox:
Public Teacher and Social Reformer, 1786–1864 (London: John Lane, 1910).
298 P. Elliott and S. Daniels

Pestalozzianism was markedly influenced by French, Swiss and German savants

including Rousseau and the philanthropinists. It was fundamentally teleological, steeped
in theology and moral responsibility. Pestalozzi regarded education as a form of worship
and, in natural theological terms, a route towards an understanding of God as the father of
nature. He collaborated for a time with fellow Swiss educationist and agriculturist
Emanuel de Fellenberg whose views were similar.15 Broadly, Pestalozzi distinguished
three aspects of humanity, the natural, social and moral states. Society curbed and
controlled animal instincts whilst in reaching the full moral state, partly through the appli-
cation of individual will, the needs and restrictions of the social state were transcended.16
The most important concepts underlying Pestalozzian philosophy were probably sponta-
neity, method, harmony, concreteness and sociableness. The principle of spontaneity
understood mental development as a process of nature by which the child is allowed to
pass from external to self-rule through its own moral, intellectual and practical impulses.
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The principle of method stipulated that the teaching practices adopted should be designed
to maximize such spontaneity. According to the principle of harmony, intellectual, moral
and physical powers must be allowed to develop together equally, with practical activity
being essential to the former. This is supported by the concept of Anschauung, which held
that the totality of the child’s mind was present even in the simplest sensory activity,
perception not being a discrete function. Finally, given that the isolated individual was
regarded not merely as an isolated abstraction, the process of individual learning required
social interaction.17
Pestalozzi and Fellenberg’s schools for the poor forced them to confront the problems
of conventional modes of learning. Their response was a reassessment of educational
content and curriculum according to the utilitarian requirements of industry, agriculture
and the needs of society. Emphasizing the importance of the maternal bond, both
contended that learning was conducted most successfully experientially in a loving child-
centred environment replicating domestic life. Guided and facilitated by the educator,
children needed to experience the natural world initially through practical activity rather
than textbooks, concordant to the stages of their psychological development. These were
not necessarily chronological but divided into the physical, intellectual and moral aspects
of education.18
Pestalozzian and Fellenbergian educational ideas began to exert an important influ-
ence in Britain after 1800, and especially after the end of the war in 1815, whilst Pesta-
lozzi took a keen interest in British society, regarding it as potentially the most fertile for
the growth of his system.19 Amongst the first British writers to publicise Pestalozzian
methods were the Scottish novelist and educationist Elizabeth Hamilton and James

15 H. M. Pollard, Pioneers of Popular Education 1760–1850 (London: John Murray, 1956), 42–52; ‘Philip
Emanuel von Fellenberg’, in Deutsche Biographische Enzyclopadie (Munich, 1998), III, 259; ‘Philipp Eman-
uel von Fellenberg’, in Newe Deutsche Biographie (1961), V, 71.
16 M. R. Heafford, ‘Johan Heinrich Pestalozzi’, in A. Natan and B. Keith-Smith (eds), German Men of Letters,
VI, 306–7.
17 J. A. Green, Life and Work of Pestalozzi (London: University Tutorial Press, 1913), 116–39.
18 J. H. Pestalozzi, How Gertrude Teaches Her Children, edited by E. Cooke, 3rd edn (London: George Allen &
Unwin, 1915 [1894]); R. De Guimps, Pestalozzi; His Life and Work, translated by J. Russell (London: Swan
Sonnenschein, 1908), 227–50, 406–24; Green, Life and Work, 116–264; Pollard, Pioneers, 42–52; Stewart
and McCann, Educational Innovators, 141–6; K. Silber, Pestalozzi: The Man and his Work, (London: Rout-
ledge and Kegan Paul, 1965), 161–3.
19 J. P. Greaves, ed., Letters on Early Education Addressed to J. P. Greaves by Pestalozzi (London, H. S. King
1827), 2–3; J. Payne, Pestalozzi: The Influence of his Principles and Practice on Elementary Education
(London, H. S. King, 1875); Green, Life and Work 283–5; Pollard, Pioneers, 173–88; Stewart and McCann,
Educational Innovators, 136–97; Silber, Pestalozzi, 278–306.
The Pestalozzian institution at Worksop, Notts 299

Pierrepoint Greaves, who had stayed at Yverdun for four years from 1818 and urged that
Pestalozzian methods they be adopted in Britain.20 Richard Lovell and Maria Edgeworth
met Pestalozzi in Paris in 1802, whilst Maria visited him again at Yverdun in 1820 and
made favourable comments in their Essays on Professional Education.21 Unitarians and
other dissenting groups were the strongest advocates of Pestalozzian methods and
supported the foundation of Pestalozzian schools. The Unitarian clergyman William
Turner read a paper by John Bruce on ‘Pestalozzi’s System of Education’ to the Newcastle
Literary and Philosophical Society in 1813. William Henry Herford, another Unitarian
minister, studied German philosophy and Pestalozzian and Fellenbergian ideas and
founded various Pestalozzian schools such as one at Lancaster.22 Likewise, the Unitarian
clergyman Johnson Fox promoted Pestalozzian institutions and ideas in the Monthly
Repository. Emily Taylor, the Unitarian children’s writer, urged in the Repository that a
‘Pestalozzian association’ be created to promote Pestalozzian methods whilst criticisms
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were made of those who invoked the Pestalozzian name without satisfactorily attending to
his precepts.23
They were attracted by a number of Pestalozzian ideas, especially the importance
attached to religion, morality and ecumenicalism. The utilitarian precepts of Pestalozzi
and the attention given to mathematics, languages, the sciences and practical activities
over dogmatic learning appealed to families whose own prosperity depended on industrial
and manufacturing innovation in the face of civil disadvantage. Equally the Pestalozzian
emphasis on domesticity and maternity appealed to dissenting groups whose theology
emphasized family and congregational networks, and those schools that imitated ‘the
spirit of domestic education’ were adjudged the most effective. It was useful as a guide to
the upbringing of the middle-class male in a period when, as Tosh has argued, ‘never
before or since has domesticity been held to be so central to masculinity’, when gender
roles were circumscribed by the special position occupied by the male child.24 The atten-
tion given to education in developing citizenship, civic responsibility and state reform
appealed to reformers such as Fox who argued that government intervention would under-
pin educational inter-denominationalism. Given its Enlightenment roots, Pestalozzianism
was also favoured because of the congruence with evolving dissenting educational ideas,
which had always paid special attention to intellectual and educational currents on the
Continent and in the American colonies.25

20 E. Hamilton, Hints … principally intended to shew that the benefits derived from the new modes of teaching
may be increased by a partial adoption of the plan of Pestalozzi (London, Longman, 1815); Pollard,
Pioneers, 178–80; Silber, Pestalozzi, 295–98; J. Goodman, ‘Undermining or building up the nation?
Elizabeth Hamilton (1758–1816), national identities and an authoritative role for women educationists’,
History of Education, (1999)28/3, 279–96; Aldrich, School and Society in Victorian Britain; J. E. M. Latham,
Search for a New Eden: James Pierrepont Greaves (Cranbury, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press,
21 A. Paterson, The Edgeworths: A Study of Later Eighteenth-Century Education (London: University Tutorial
Press, 1914), 16–29.
22 M. E. Sadler, ‘William Henry Herford (1820–1908)’, rev. M. C. Curthoys, Oxford Dictionary of National
Biography, 2004, accessed 9 May 2005, DNB digital edition (Oxford; Oxford University Press, 1997).
23 Garnett, William Johnson Fox; R. Watts, Gender, Power and the Unitarians (London: Longmans, 1998), 112–
115; Silber, Pestalozzi, 280–1; E. Taylor, critical notice, Monthly Repository, new series, 4 (1830), 826–9, p. 829.
24 Tosh, A Man’s Place, 1, 11–32.
25 Monthly Repository, n.s., 1 (1827), 684–5, 842; 2 (1828), 43–8, 817–23; W. J. Fox, ‘Total logic’, Monthly Repos-
itory, n.s., 7 (1833), 413–26; C. Southwood Smith, ‘Memoranda of observations and experiments in education’
Nos 1–4, ibid., new series, 8 (1834), 477–84, 551–61, 687–91, 855–68; 9 (1835), 59–62, 141–9; C. R. Pember-
ton, ‘Fourteen days at school’, Monthly Repository, n.s., 11 (1837), 117–23; F. E. Mineka, The Dissidence of
Dissent: The Monthly Repository, 1806–1838 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1944).
300 P. Elliott and S. Daniels

British reformers such as Brougham and Duppa found the attention to economy, agri-
culture and natural history in Pestalozzianism and Fellenbergianism concordant with their
demands for economy and self-sufficiency.26 Probably the most successful early British
Pestalozzian was Charles Mayo who, after teaching at Yverdun, returned to Britain to
found an institution at Cheam informed by his interpretation of Pestalozzianism. Classical
and foreign languages were taught, but the school placed an important emphasis on math-
ematical and scientific subjects, which were conducted by Charles Reiner, a German
master. The curriculum included physical geography, astronomy, zoology and mechanics
with chemistry occupying a special place, and pupils were encouraged to conduct their
own experiments.27 The Mayos encouraged John Stuckey Reynolds to found a new insti-
tution designated the Home and Colonial School Society, which was originally intended to
train infant teachers in Pestalozzian principles.28
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The Worksop Pestalozzian Institution

Beatus Rudolph Friedrich Heldenmaier was born at Yverdun in October 1795 and died at
Lausanne in May 1873. After attending Pestalozzi’s Yverdun school from July 1807 until
1817 and becoming a master, he studied for a doctorate at the Friedrich-Wilhelm Univer-
sity in Berlin between 1820 and 1829. There, he was educated in logic and metaphysics by
Hegel and in botany, natural history and geography by Karl Ritter, who had just occupied
the first newly created modern German chair of geography in 1820.29 Crossing to England,
Heldenmaier and his wife Adele (Trachsel) (b. 1811) purchased a large stone Georgian
mansion in Worksop called Dunstan House in 1831 and opened the Pestalozzian Institu-
tion. The school had playing fields that extended north to the river and the Heldenmaiers
enlarged it by purchasing adjacent buildings.30 The numbers of boys varied. In 1841 there
were 42 boarders and seven resident teachers, at least five of whom were either Swiss or
German born such as Adele’s brother Charles Trachsel (b. 1821). In 1847, there were 72
pupils and five resident masters teaching 31 boarders and some local day boys.31
In 1854, Heldenmaier returned to Switzerland to open another school in Lausanne;
however, he was replaced by another staff member, the headmaster, Dr John Louis
Ellenberger (1812–90), who was probably his son-in-law. Ellenberger was popular with
the boys and taught various subjects including French and surveying; he also took the
boys swimming and was a good cricketer. The school survived until 1878 when it closed
probably due to Ellenberger’s retirement, though the death of his son Revd John Dufour
Ellenberger (1849–76)—who could apparently speak 18 languages and was being
groomed as his successor—was probably another factor. The extensive contents of the
school were subsequently sold at an auction lasting five days.32

26 Henry Brougham (attrib.), ‘Mr. Fellenberg’s Establishment at Hofwyl’, Edinburgh Review, 31 (Edinburgh,
1818), 150–15, ‘Establishments at Hofwyl’, Edinburgh Review, 32 (Edinburgh, 1819), 487–507. Duppa
called for county agricultural schools to be created on the Fellenbergian model.
27 Stewart and McCann, Educational Innovators, 169–78;
28 F. Watson, ‘John Stuckey Reynolds (1791–1874)’, rev. M. C. Curthoys, Oxford Dictionary of National Biog-
raphy, 2004, accessed 9 May 2005,DNB, digital edition; Bryant, London Education, 349–50.
29 Pestalozzianum Jahrgangn, 46 (1949), 907–8.
30 Letter of William Straw to borough librarian, 21 April 1968, Worksop Library, L.37.1; M. J. Jackson, Victo-
rian Worksop (Worksop: Worksop Archaeological and Local Historical Society, 1992), 96–7, 101–2.
31 B. J. Biggs, ‘Early Victorian schools in north Nottinghamshire’, Transactions of the Thoroton Society, 81
(1977), 64; MC, 13 October 1847.
32 MC, 25 March 1848; 4 June 1848; 20 April 1848; 27 August 1848; 2 October 1849; William Straw, letter to
the borough librarian.
The Pestalozzian institution at Worksop, Notts 301

The Heldenmaiers followed the precepts of Pestalozzian philosophy by trying to foster

a domestic atmosphere. Adopting strong paternal and maternal roles, they appointed
masters and mistresses sometimes from their own family or from the family of other staff
members. Former pupils also became masters, such as Henry Falkener, who taught Latin
and cricket from the 1840s.33 The Heldenmaiers played with the boys and lent them
books, led prayers, provided rewards, punished boys when necessary, set tasks, took
pupils on trips, led prayers and musical performances, cared for the sick and sometimes
allocated pupils rooms in their own quarters. The school was managed as a partnership
although Adele’s role was in the service of male education. Whilst her husband took
charge of most teaching, she took part in school activities such as concerts and looked
after the boys, selling them food and equipment such as rulers and compasses and looking
after them when sick. She was also instrumental in the establishment of a girls’ school in
August 1849, bringing her sister from Switzerland to act as headmistress.34 Important
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family occasions were used as the basis for the structure of school events such as staff
birthdays, which were set aside for special excursions, present giving and theatrical and
musical performances. Music formed a very important part of the curriculum with boys
being encouraged to take part with staff playing or singing in sacred choral classics such
as Haydn’s ‘The Creation’ and attending musical events in the town.35 Food items such as
cakes and bread sent by relatives and guardians were confiscated, pupils being required to
dine together in the refectory, thus preserving the formal ritual structure of mealtimes as
special social occasions and subtly reinforcing their own authority. Presentations were
made to long-serving masters using donations from staff and pupils such as a collection
made for Caldwell in March 1848 when the boys collected £5 and bought him ‘a very
handsome desk with a seat, pencil case and knife’ with the Heldenmaiers providing a
dressing case.36
This bald picture of school life is wonderfully enhanced by the preservation of the
Marling brothers’ correspondence. Given their emphasis on the importance of externality
and experience over text and prescription, Pestalozzian methods aimed to foster early
child self-awareness, and Pestalozzian texts encouraged children and mothers to compose
diaries. In extracts from a journal detailing the experiences of a mother in 1821, Caroline
Southwood Smith described how the child was ‘very fond of doing what he calls his
journal … repeating to [her] at night the deeds of the day’. Through this the mother could
‘learn therefrom the impression which things have made upon him’ which were also
strengthened by the act of recollection, whilst the child was encouraged into reflexivity,
this ‘habit of self-observation’ teaching him ‘the improvability of human beings’.37 The
practice was encouraged by the Heldenmaiers at Worksop and is reflected in the Marling
correspondence, which reveals a growth in self-awareness moving from bald description
to analytical thought, partly because of advancing age and social interaction.

33 MC, 21 February 1848; 23 May 1848; 1 September 1848; 13 October 1847, 28 November 1847, 26 March
1848; 4 June 1848, 29 April 1849.
34 MC, 21 October 1847; 28 November 1847; 12 February 1848; 30 April 1848; 1 September 1848; 27 Febru-
ary 1848; 16 February 1849; 10 March 1848; 19, 27 February 1849; MC, 27 February, 22 April, 10 June,
35 MC, 5, 13 Dec. 1847; 16 March 1848; 9 April 1848; 22 October 1848; 3 May 1849; 17 December 1849; 18
November 1849.
36 MC, 1 February, 26 March 1848.
37 Southwood Smith, ‘Memoranda of observations’, 555–6; C. Steedman, ‘“The mother made conscious”: the
historical development of a primary school pedagogy’, in, Past Tenses: Essays on Writing, Autobiography
and History (London: Rivers Oram Press, 1992), 179–92; J. A. V. Chapple and A. Wilson, (eds), Private
Voices: The Diaries of Elizabeth Gaskell and Sophia Holland (Keele: Keele University Press, 1996).
302 P. Elliott and S. Daniels

When they arrived in October 1847, the Marling brothers took an immediate liking to
the Heldenmaiers and were given their own small room to share and access to the family
drawing room on Sundays where William’s letters were sometimes composed. The room
was described by William as ‘a pretty little bedroom in the attic with a carpet, a dressing
table and looking glass, a little table to write upon, a washing hand stand and two little
beds’. Heldenmaier often enquired after their welfare and tried to make sure that they were
not bullied, whilst his wife cared for them when they fell ill.38 William’s letters home,
especially to his mother, make it clear that when he first arrived and at the beginning of
each new term he was very depressed and lonely. These feelings were exacerbated by the
constant bullying and teasing to which new pupils were often subjected, William being
called ‘Marling’s ghost’ by the boys. This teasing and bullying appear to have been exac-
erbated by William’s obvious piety and he was shocked at the conduct of the boys on the
Sabbath. Furthermore, his eyesight was poor and he could see little without his thick
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glasses, both pairs of which were smashed by a boy on one occasion.39

Without completely disappearing, the teasing and bullying gradually subsided and the
references to contentment at school increase as the boys prolonged their stay. Like Mary
(1808–25) and John Bingham (1810–27), two child diarists who detailed the vicissitudes
of their religious life, William found solace in praying and bible study. In this he was
constantly encouraged by his parents, who recommended passages for study.40 Some-
times, William dwelt upon hell and damnation, the punishment of the wicked and the
reward of the good. This religious angst reveals that the conflict between the post-Rous-
seauian romantic idealisation of childhood and the Puritanical image of sinful humanity
encouraged by some nonconformist denominations and evangelicalism remained potent.
The strength of William’s religiosity was encouraged by Heldenmaier, who talked about
God and had the boys compose sermons and attend church or chapel weekly but appears
to have set him apart from most of the other boys although some boys and staff attended
the local Congregational chapel. Following Pestalozzi’s example, exploration of the local
countryside and work on natural history were also encouraged by Heldenmaier as a form
of prayer and thanksgiving.41 William saw it as his duty to endure education, for which he
would receive his reward in heaven. He regarded it as an act of preparation for assuming
control of the family business from his father, and the correspondence is replete with
fervent exhortations for self-‘improvement’, partly, no doubt, for the benefit of his
parents.42 There were quarrels between the brothers, which were met with further calls for
self-improvement encouraged by their mother and more prayers, but these were overshad-
owed by a serious illness that Charles had, which forced him to leave the school. William
had his share of illness including toothache and measles but Charles, who had apparently
been good at athletics, rapidly declined during the spring of 1849 losing his hair, being
confined to bed and removed by his mother in April.43
The internationalism of the school is evident from the number of foreign boys that it
attracted such as Hassan, Mustapha and Mahomet, the sons of Ibrahim Pasha, Khedive

38 MC, 13, 14, 17 October 1847; 18, 24, 28 Nov. 1847; 2 December 1847; 30 January 1848.
39 MC, 7, 10 Oct. 1847, 14, 17, 27 Oct. 1847; 27 January 1848; 20 August 1848; 3 December 1848.
40 J. Bustard, ed., A Memoir of Miss Mary Helen Bingham… (London, 1832), A Memoir of John Bingham
Junior (London, 1832).
41 MC, 19 November 1848.
42 MC, 5 December 1847; 27 February 1848; 30 January 1848; 22 October 1848; 6 February 1848, 19 February
1848; 13 August 1848; 27 August 1848; 1 February 1849; 13 August 1848; 1 February 1849.
43 MC, 4 May 1848; 5 November 1848; 13 February 1848; 11 February 1849; 16 February 1849; 27, 28
February 1849; 8 March 1849; 17, 22 April 1849.
The Pestalozzian institution at Worksop, Notts 303

of Egypt, whose agent organized their education. By 1861 there were children from
Ireland, France, Switzerland, Mexico and Australia at Worksop. Hassan and Mustapha
became friends with William Marling, and were training as engineers. They built steam
engines in the workshop and were aggrieved to have to leave in 1849 without complet-
ing their education.44 There was a distinct Liberal and nonconformist manufacturing bias
reflecting the promotion of the school by periodicals such as the Monthly Repository.
However, the institution also succeeded in attracting a broader interdenominational
support. Pupils included Richard Cobden’s son and John Edward Taylor (1830–1905),
the journalist and second son of John Edward Taylor founder of the Manchester
Guardian.45 The industrial chemist Edmund Knowles Muspratt (1833–1923), the Liver-
pool businessman William Forwood and members of other Liverpool business families
including the Hornbys and Langtons also attended.46 Other important business and entre-
preneurial families that sent their children included the Elkington brothers, sons of
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George Richards Elkington (1801–65), the pioneer of electro-plating who had a large
Birmingham metal-working and ornament-making business. The three Lemann brothers
were the sons of a famous biscuit maker in London.47 Aristocratic families were repre-
sented by the Masseys, the sons of the Anglo-Irish Lord Massey, whilst other pupils
came from staff families such as Fritz, the Swiss nephew of Adele Heldenmiaer.48
William Fox encouraged the actor and dramatist Charles Reece Pemberton to visit
Worksop for two weeks in 1837, publishing his glowing account in the Monthly Reposi-
tory.49 Pemberton was from a nonconformist background having been apprenticed to his
uncle, a brassfounder, in Birmingham and been educated at a Unitarian charity school
under Daniel Wright, before serving in the navy for seven years and becoming an actor.
By the 1830s he was working as writer and touring the country giving performances and
lectures in mechanics’ institutes. In Pemberton’s view the school was the closest possible
approximation to domestic life. He claimed to have never ‘beheld any domestic circle’ so
‘delightfully free from all the harshness of feeling in gesture and word, glance and tone’ or
seen such ‘glee and elastic spirit and frankness of a community of children in association
with their elders, guides and instructors—such freedom from selfishness’. He noted the
absence of bullying and schoolmasterly tyranny, never seeing guardians so ‘unconnected
by the ties of blood, so honestly affectionate, sympathising and frank in exchange, as were
these guardians’. Such feelings were reciprocated by the pupils who returned the ‘affec-
tion and frankness’ with ‘fullness and freedom’. He found a unique ‘vivacity of intellect,
readiness of perception, eagerness to know and willingness to learn, and pleasure in being
taught’. Pemberton was impressed with the teaching methods, which were effective with-
out the need for harsh chastisement or the award of divisive prizes. The main punishment

44 Marling correspondence, 13, 24 October 1847, 3 September, 21 November, 9 December 1848, 7 October
45 Morley, Life of Richard Cobden; J. A. Hobson, Richard Cobden, the International Man (London, 1968); W.
Hinde, Richard Cobden: a Victorian Outsider (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987); ‘John Edward
Taylor’, DNB, 2nd supplement, 3 (London: Oxford University Press, 1912), 486–7. Taylor senior had been a
Presbyterian minister and later, like his son, became a Quaker.
46 E. Knowles Muspratt, My Life and Work (London: John Lane, 1917); T. I. Williams ‘Edmund Knowles
Muspratt (1833–1923)’, in DNB: Missing Persons Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 9 May
2005, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 487–88; W. Forwood, Recollection of a busy Life, being the
reminiscences of a Liverpool merchant 1840–1910 (Liverpool: Henry Young and sons, 1911), 18.
47 MC, October 1847; 5 March 1848; 5 December 1849; ‘George Richards Elkington’, in DNB, VI, 658–9.
48 MC, 10 October 1847; 2 March, 20 April 1848; 9 April 1848; 20 August 1848; 9 December 1848.
49 Garnett, William Johnson Fox; J. Fowler (ed.), The Life and Literary Remains of Charles Reece Pemberton…
(London, 1843); G. S. Phillips (ed.), The History of Pel Verjuice, the Wanderer (London: James Watson,
304 P. Elliott and S. Daniels

consisted of merely being withdrawn from lessons, which, as he noted, in most British
schools would have been the source of great enjoyment rather than displeasure. There
were ‘none of the disgusting tricks of what is nicknamed “emulation”, no exhibitions to
gratify the contemptible and heart-corrupting selfishness of the boy, and the demoralizing
and pitiable vanity of his parents, nor to excite splenetic envy to conceal itself under
hypocritical praises and compliments’. Prizes were not given ‘to bribe and to lure the
generous-natured boy into arrogant notion of another’. Teaching occurred without the
need for caning or other physical punishment yet ‘affectionate respect’ was yielded to all
the teachers.50
Although the Marling correspondence supports various aspects of Pemberton’s
account it reveals some of the problems that the boys experienced which the actor may
have not witnessed. It also suggests that proponents of Pestalozzian schools such as Fox
and Pemberton tended to downplay these aspects to suit their reform agenda. These
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required that the flowering of the boys in a natural state of freedom be contrasted with
their stunted emotional and intellectual growth under more puritanical and coercive
regimes. William Marling at times felt lonely and depressed and presumably these feel-
ings were experienced by other pupils, such as another boy who lost his father. Marling’s
letters reveal that fighting tended to be closely related to bullying with boys on the receiv-
ing end sometimes deciding to fight back when they could, though other causes are appar-
ent such as rivalry in games and being picked on for illegitimacy. Theft was another
problem for the staff, though over the course of the two years that Marling was at the
school only one of the boys appears to have stolen anything, suggesting that the Helden-
maiers and their version of the Pestalozzian system were successful in limiting such inci-
dences. It is interesting that the servants were initially blamed and that the thief was
eventually caught and thrashed by Heldenmaier whilst William was exhorted by his
parents to show sympathy for the boy, having condemned him.51 The other serious prob-
lem that faced staff and children was illness and there were numerous instances of pupils
falling ill with diseases such as colds, influenza and measles. Staff and boys were much
relieved when the country was declared free of cholera in November 1849. Like other
similar contemporary institutions such as hospitals and asylums, diseases spread quickly
in the school and the Heldenmaiers pursued strategies to minimize the effects. Pupils were
isolated in separate rooms and sometimes sent to stay with staff families, which also had
the advantage, as Charles Marling remarked, that unfavourable publicity for the school
would be minimized.52

Education at the Worksop Academy

Heldenmaier’s direct experience as a pupil and master at Yverdun was reflected in the
organization of the Worksop school. As at Cheam school, there were traditional aspects to
the education offered such as the attention to religious activities. Bells were rung at differ-
ent times to structure the day and punishments were administered, although these consisted
of extra educational tasks, more severe forms of admonishment being rare. The term-time
day was filled with activities, with pupils beginning lessons for an hour before breakfast

50 Reece-Pemberton, ‘Fourteen days at school’, 120–1.

51 MC, 24 October 1847; 21 October 1847; 19 November 1848; 14 May 1848; 11 June 1848; 27 October 1848;
3 December 1848; 27 October 1848, 3 November 1848.
52 MC, 2, 18, 21 November 1847; 21 November 1847; 2 December 1847; 13 December 1847; 16 February
1849; 18 February 1849; 18 November 1849.
The Pestalozzian institution at Worksop, Notts 305

during the spring and summer.53 As Marling recorded, the boys were encouraged to keep
their own journals of ‘the way we got on with our studies during the day, put marks against
the different lessons, from 1 to 5 according as we have done them well, ill or indifferently’.
They were also kept informed of important political events such as the upheavals of 1848–
49, with publications such as the Illustrated London News available for their perusal.54
At least four aspects of the curriculum appealed to the utilitarian demands of Liberal
and nonconformist groups: the study of languages, the attention given to practical and
physical education, the amount of time devoted to the sciences and the attention given to
excursions, especially to manufacturing and industrial sites. William Marling’s develop-
ment suggests that the educational programme provided by the school was reasonably
effective and reveals the extent to which pupils, following Pestalozzian practice, pursued
individually tailored curricula according to choice and stage of development. The curricu-
lum was broad by contemporary standards and included modern and ancient languages,
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mathematics, engineering and sciences.55 On arrival in 1847, Marling considered himself

academically beyond most of the other boys, complaining that most were backward and
that many sought his help with lessons.56 At first, when comparing their studies with those
provided by tutors at home, William and Charlie both thought that they had ‘not gained
more information … than at home’, with William being unimpressed with the standard of
arithmetic, French, Italian or English history. But the brothers were placed in classes
designed to determine their ability, and then moved. William soon acquired more Latin
and moved to higher classes in chemistry, geometry, English history, arithmetic and
German. He felt that he was making progress and began to ‘look forward with great plea-
sure to the recurrence of any lesson to complete [his] information, in some measure on any
subject’.57 Subsequently, he was moved into the highest classes in Latin, mathematics and
other subjects, commenting that he liked ‘this school much better this half than I did last,
the boys never hardly bother me’.58
The attention given to languages by the Pestalozzian system appealed to the interna-
tionalism of Liberal and dissenting groups. The ability to speak a variety of modern
languages was regarded as useful for business purposes and social status, whilst knowledge
of the classical languages was emblematic of middle-class aspirations to ape the aristoc-
racy. There was also a patriotic dimension to English classicism that appealed to aspiring
social groups, with its celebration of the exploits, selfless duty, civic virtues and cultured
tastes of ancient heroes.59 The scientist Edmund Muspratt was educated at the school
during the 1840s and wrote in his autobiography that ‘the teaching both of languages and
the rudiments of science’ was much more significant and interesting than in ordinary
schools ‘as it discarded ordinary methods of instruction and encouraged reasoning and
practice’. His time at Worksop was a ‘very happy one’ and he ‘made good progress’ in his
studies, learning both French and German, which he ‘could read and speak fairly well’
before he left and which proved crucial to his decision to study chemistry in Germany.60

53 MC, 2 December 1847; 9 April 1848.

54 MC, 27 October 1847; 2 December 1847; 3 September 1848; 19 November 1848; 10, 29 March 1848.
55 J. Louis Ellenberger, The Course of Arithmetic as taught in the Pestalozzian School, Worksop (London,
1854), Answers to the Course of Arithmetic as taught in the Pestalozzian School, Worksop (London, 1855);
Examination Papers and Results of the Pestalozzian School, Worksop, Nottinghamshire (Worksop, 1858),
Examination Papers of the Pestalozzian School… (Worksop, 1859).
56 MC, 11, 13, 17 October 1847.
57 MC, 14, 16, 21, 24 October, 2; 7 November 1847.
58 MC, 1 February, 27 October, 1848.
59 L. Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation (London: Pimlico, 1992), 167–9.
60 Muspratt, Life and Work, 10–14.
306 P. Elliott and S. Daniels

The importance of languages is evident from the large number of teaching hours devoted
to them. Four hours of study was generally allowed before and three after dinner with two
hours in the evening and 10 minutes’ break between lessons. William Marling received
some 16 hours of languages over the course of a week, five of German, four of French, two
of Italian and five of Latin, which he thought to be ‘a very good arrangement’.61
Academic education was supplemented by a typically Pestalozzian and Fellenbergian
attention to physical pursuits, a feature praised by British educationists. Sports such as
swimming and other outdoor activities were encouraged, as Pestalozzi and Fellenberg
contended, to support the health and strengthen muscular development. It has been
suggested that gymnastics and similar sports were first pursued in England amongst the
children of servicemen. However, the Pestalozzian schools also appear to have been
important in this, prefiguring and helped to justify the attention given to sports in
Victorian public school education where they were regarded as fostering masculine
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strength, competitiveness, loyalty, independence and thereby patriotism.62 Heldenmaier

remarked to the boys that they must ‘take care of your body as well as of your mind’ and
always wished them to be outside when the weather was fine.63 Muspratt recollected that
the school had a large playground of 20 acres. Part of the area in front of the house and
garden had ‘parallel and horizontal bars, a fly rope, and ropes and ladders for climbing, for
gymnastic exercises’. Later, Heldenmaier enclosed a large yard for use as a covered
gymnasium during the winter months and bad weather. This was fitted out by W. Hugenin
of Liverpool, then ‘the most celebrated instructor in gymnastics in England, at whose
gymnasium [were] a large number of the young men of Liverpool’. Marling and his
brother Charles took full part in these activities and enjoyed wrestling, swimming and
other physical sports, before illness overcame the latter. William thought that they made
him stronger and helped to cure him of his headaches.64
Engineering and the sciences were key parts of the curriculum. Muspratt recollected the
‘good natural history museum and chemical laboratory’. The scientific instruction in
general was ‘of a practical character … more interesting than in most schools, where
science was ignored and the classical languages taught in a way which is now admitted to
be faulty’. He found this a great advantage when he went to Germany, as indeed was the
chemical education, which helped to make him a leading industrial chemist, a student of
the great German chemist Justus Leibig and a wealthy businessman. Texts were not usually
utilized first but in tandem with, or after, experiential learning. Pemberton observed that he
had seen the boys ‘day after day, hour after hour; now with the mathematical class, or Greek
and Latin, French and German; not leaping to unsatisfactory conclusions because memory
has laid hold of words’. Things were taught and understood through sensory impressions
and experiences gained from activities. These took place ‘in the anatomical museum, now
at botany, geography … drawing, music, gymnastics, dancing; and in the chemical labora-
tory’ which did not ‘consist of a mere glass-cased show of apparatus to dazzle the visitor
with’. Pemberton noted ‘how philosophic and scientific’ the school was with its ‘substantial
building’ containing a furnace, forge, retorts, elembics, which were periodically refur-
bished.65 The extent of this equipment is also evident from the 53-page catalogue produced
by the auctioneers in 1878 for the sale, which shows that the scientific apparatus and books

61 MC, 2 November 1847; 2 September 1848.

62 Walvin, A Child’s World, 81–4; Colley, Britons, 167–70; Tosh, A Man’s Place, 187–9.
63 Pestalozzi, ‘Report to Parents’, in Green, Life and Work, 336–8; MC, 27 February, 29 March 1848.
64 MC, 17, 28 October 1847; 12 December 1847; 27 February 1848; 16 April 1848; 10 September 1848;
14 October 1849.
65 Pemberton, 121; MC, 1 September 1848.
The Pestalozzian institution at Worksop, Notts 307

included models, busts, collections of minerals and fossils and many species of animal and
insect. Scientific equipment included chemical and philosophical apparatus, air-pumps,
electrical machines, theodolites, sextants and a working model of steam engine. There was
a human skeleton, various anatomical specimens and plates, a herbarium and about 2000
volumes of books on artistic and scientific subjects. Most of the rooms were also hung with
maps and, altogether, the equipment was so extensive that the local newspaper suggested
it could form the basis of a new town museum.66 The boys were also taken to attend lectures
on scientific subjects such as astronomy, illustrated with the usual apparatus, and given
special lectures by former pupils on subjects such as topography and engineering. Thomas
Rymer Jones for instance, the Professor of Natural History at Kings College and a former
pupil of George Spencer, gave a course of lectures on natural history. He began by saying
‘come boys, let us a have a dive into the sea’ and described a voice they should hear at the
bottom and throughout the ocean saying ‘the sea is his and he made it so’. He then described
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the wonderfully rich examples of life they would encounter there and in another lecture the
animalcules in a drop of water. Marling was fascinated and thought his ‘his manner so inter-
esting that I could have listened any length of time’.67
Excursions to urban centres in the region, particularly to examine the manufactories,
were also an important part of the curriculum. With the middle-class move to the suburbs
during the nineteenth century and the promotion of the domestic ideal, family members
had less experience of the processes that ensured their wealth. Visits to industrial areas
and charitable institutions were designed to demonstrate the processes of manufacture to
sons who would one day inherit businesses and to inculcate a sense of paternalistic social
responsibility towards the workforce.68 Forwood recollected that ‘we were taken by the
directors of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway to the opening of the new
docks at Grimsby. The directors had a special train which stopped to pick up the boys at
Worksop’. Likewise, the boys travelled to Nottingham by coach in May 1849 and visited
lace manufactories as well as the castle. William Marling, however, was not much enlight-
ened as there were ‘such disagreeable smells owing to the chloride of lime in which the
lace is bleached’ and they did not see it being woven, which was what he was most curi-
ous about.69 On other occasions, the pupils visited Sheffield and Derby, observing steam
engines and blade-making equipment in hardware manufactories at the former, and then
glass working and a great furnace in an iron foundry, Heldenmaier bringing back a host of
multi-bladed knives for them to purchase.70 At Derby the boys saw various manufactories
including the production and repair of steam engines at the Midland Railway locomotive
works where Marling found that the ‘order and cleanliness alone, gave great pleasure’.
The visit fascinated him and he made a sketch of ‘ingenious’ mechanism that secured the
boiler doors for his mother. He was less impressed with the silk works, however, which he
observed to his aunt was ‘an unhealthy employment … for all the women and children
looked pale and scruffy’.71 Inspired by such trips, the boys made model or ‘sham’ engines.
The insights that the boys gained in the manufactory were allied to their practical
experiences in the laboratory and workshop and at surveying. Marling advanced in geom-
etry and surveying and began mechanics, whilst by the end of the spring term in 1848 he
was completing a small cannon in brass in the workshop and a stand to take home for

66 MC, 1 February, 1849; Retford Times, 12, 26 July 1878.

67 MC, 1 February 1849; 14 October 1849; 2, 5 December 1849.
68 The Sheffield Deaf and Dumb Institution was also visited, MC, 11 June, 1848; Tosh, A Man’s Place, 16–34.
69 MC, 6 May 1849.
70 MC, 27 February 1848, 7 May 1848.
71 MC, 10, 14 October 1848, 9 December 1848.
308 P. Elliott and S. Daniels

another small cannon that Charlie had made. His progress in mechanics is evident from a
surviving exercise book, which records the subjects he studied between February 1848
and October 1849 and is illustrated with neatly executed technical drawings and diagrams,
though he had some initial problems due to a lack of good compasses. It shows that the
boys proceeded through the problems of the mechanical powers of simple machines and
pulleys, levers, wheels, axles, gearing systems, inclined planes, wedges, screws, theories
of the centre of gravity and dynamics to descents on inclined planes. When he returned in
August, however, he had been given the best compasses and a new writing case and was
moved into the first class in geometry.72 He completed a cannon in brass in June 1849.73
Things did not always run smoothly and he managed to annoy Heldenmaier by damaging
a surveying instrument that he had let slip through his hands, which were greasy after
carrying bread and butter, which he admitted was ‘through my carelessness’.74
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Provincial scientific culture

Heldenmaier had some contact with provincial scientific circles, which enabled him to
enhance the teaching of scientific subjects at the school, for example by encouraging the
boys to attend scientific lectures. He attended meetings of the Derby Philosophical Society
that had been founded by the physician and poet Erasmus Darwin in 1783. The society
was still one of the leading scientific institutions in the region and membership provided
access to a library and periodical collection with hundreds of volumes on education and
scientific subjects, including natural history and geology.75 During the 1830s, Helden-
maier became friends with the educationist William George Spencer (1790–1866), secre-
tary of the Philosophical Society, tutor and father of Herbert Spencer.76 Spencer senior
sympathized with aspects of the Pestalozzian system and devised a scheme of mathemati-
cal and scientific education and an economical system of shorthand. His textbook on expe-
riential geometry was held by nineteenth-century British Pestalozzians such as Ebenezer
Cooke to ‘stand alone’ as ‘our most Pestalozzian school-book’, comparable in its practical
approach to teaching to Huxley’s Biology.77 His son Herbert, of course, became one of the
most influential pedagogical authorities, primarily through the popularity of his educa-
tional treatise. Just before moving to London to become sub-editor of The Economist in
December 1848, Herbert had planned to set up a Pestalozzian school with his father partly
modelled on the Worksop institution, which he called an ‘English Hofwyl’.78 His Educa-
tion demonstrates the importance of the debt to Pestalozzianism with the second chapter
on intellectual education having begun life as a review of Eduard Biber’s Henry Pestalozzi
and his plan of education (1831). The debt to Pestalozzi and the example of the Worksop
school is also evident in Spencer’s condemnation of rote-learning and easy recourse to
unsuitable textbooks such as gazetteers in defiance of child psychology. He recommended

72 MC, 12 Feb 1848, 9 April 1848, 30 April 1848, 4 June 1848, 20 August 1848; Exercise book of experiments
in mechanics, Marling Family papers, GRO, D873 F36.
73 MC, 2 June 1849.
74 MC, 19 November 1848.
75 Catalogue of the Library of the Derby Philosophical Society (Derby, 1835); Cash book of the Derby Philo-
sophical Society, 1813–1845, Derby Local Studies Library mss. 7625.
76 MC, 12 December 1847.
77 W. G. Spencer, Inventional Geometry (London: Williams & Norgate, 1860); Pestalozzi, How Gertrude
Teaches, preface, xxxvi; P. Elliott, ‘“Improvement, always and everywhere”: William George Spencer
(1790–1866) and Mathematical, Geographical and Scientific Education in Nineteenth-Century England’,
History of Education, (2004) 33.
78 Spencer, Autobiography, I, 322–3.
The Pestalozzian institution at Worksop, Notts 309

that ‘only when his acquaintance with the objects and processes of the household, the
streets, and the fields, is becoming tolerably exhaustive—only then should a child be
introduced to the new sources of information which books supply’. Object lessons should
include daily rambles in the countryside, the woods, fields and hedges, the quarry and the
seashore, where children could collect specimens and study them according to progres-
sively complex knowledge criteria, just like those adopted at Worksop.79 Alongside
dissent, phrenology and the political radicalism of the Derby scientific circle, as a practi-
cal realization of the Pestalozzian system, Heldenmaier’s school was therefore an impor-
tant factor in the development of the Spencers’ educational theories.

Natural history, geography and topography

The importance of natural history and geography in the Pestalozzian scheme is evident in
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the teaching methods adopted at Cheam under Reiner, and at Worksop. The role of field
excursions and observations at Worksop underscores the relatively neglected role of
schools in English provincial science. This is evident in the careers of naturalists influ-
enced by Pestalozzian ideas such as William Alfred Bennett (1833–1902), William
Pengelly (1812–94) and the brothers Mordecai Cubitt (1825–1914) and Ebenezer Cooke
(1837–1913). Educated at home and at a Pestalozzian school at Appenzell, Bennett—a
Quaker naturalist—became a lecturer in botany and translated important botanical works
from German such as Julius Sachs’s Lehrbuch der Botanik (1875). Pestalozzian practices
helped to inspire the Cooke brothers to adopt ‘revolutionary teaching methods in natural
history’, including the use of school museums like that at Worksop, and Mordecai became
one of the most important scientific popularizers in the Victorian era. Pengelly opened a
Pestalozzian school in Torquay in 1836 and, like George Spencer in Derbyshire, became
one of the leading scientific activists in his area. He was instrumental in founding a
mechanics’ institute, the Torquay Natural History Society (1844) and the Devonshire
Association for the Advancement of Literature, Science and Art (1862). Working as a
private mathematical and geological teacher and public lecturer, he researched and
promoted regional natural history and geology, publishing a large number of papers.80
The discourse of rational recreation promoted the study of natural history for the
purposes of social and individual improvement, aesthetic appreciation, natural theology,
economy and imperialism. Natural history was studied in the field, in a large number of
public institutions and in the home with inventions such as the Wardian case facilitating
the importation and domestication of previously rare or unknown species. Like suburban-
ization, rational recreation was partly a response to industrialization and changing percep-
tions of class and space, and the middle-class search for repose in domesticity and
Romantic bucolic idealism.81 The reception accorded to Pestalozzian and Fellenbergian
methods of teaching natural history and geography in Britain can be associated with
Romanticism in the fine arts and literature, and renewed interest in local, national and

79 Spencer, Education, (London: Williams & Norgate, 1905), 33–4, 92–4; G. Compayre, Herbert Spencer and
Scientific Education (London, 1908); Ann Low-Beer (ed.), Herbert Spencer (London: Collier–Macmillan,
1969); G. W. Trompf, ‘Essays on education and the young Herbert Spencer’, in R. J. W. Selleck (ed.),
Melbourne Studies in Education (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1971), 184–231; Tomlinson,
‘From Rousseau to evolutionism’, 235–54.
80 R. J. Cleevely ‘Alfred William Bennett (1833–1902)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 9
May 2005, in DNB digital edition; M. P. English, ‘Mordecai Cubitt Cooke’, in DNB digital edition,
Mordecai Cubitt Cooke: Victorian Naturalist, Mycologist, Teacher and Eccentric (Bristol: Biopress Ltd,
1987); H. Pengelly (ed.), A Memoir of William Pengelly of Torquay, FRS, Geologist… (London: John Murray,
1897), 12–27.
310 P. Elliott and S. Daniels

regional identities. Landscapes that had previously tended to be ignored or dismissed as

wild, inhospitable and barren became celebrated. Romantic works in prose and poetry,
tourist literature and histories celebrated and shaped these landscapes, which were visited
by travellers taking advantage of improved road and rail networks. This was facilitated by
the influence of Enlightenment philosophers such as Goethe and Kant on British intellec-
tuals such as Coleridge and Carlyle. In post-Rousseauian terms, the child was closer to
nature than the adult whilst urban political and social strife also encouraged the middle
class into suburbia and the countryside. The perceptions of the special qualities of child-
hood and the opportunities to undertake purposeful rational recreation and invigorating
rural exercise also increased the contrast with working-class children, who were much
more likely to be employed. The Monthly Repository encouraged the middle classes to
undertake vigorous rural recreations such as walking. It contrasted the ‘manly sports and
games of our ancestors’ who undertook ‘exhilarating exercise in the open air’ amongst the
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‘beauties of nature’ with unhealthy urban existence, which ‘must greatly enfeeble, if it do
not completely destroy, habits of external observation’. These were stimulated by the
‘varieties of productions, of seasons, and of weather’ and experience of the rhythms of
rural life evident from excursions to highland regions and the ‘pleasurable excitement
arising from external observation of beautiful images’, which stimulated botanical and
mineralogical studies. Citing the poetry of Wordsworth and the promotion of walking
tours by German and Swiss educators, it argued that the ‘complete change of food, of air,
and of exercise’ offered by rural excursions often ‘produces remarkable results. Only then
could much of the sciences, fine arts and poetry be appreciated.’82
At Worksop, countryside excursions were designed to complement gymnastics and
other physical exercises by promoting health and instilling masculine vigour in the boys.
Heldenmaier kept many of the windows open and proclaimed that the pupils always ‘should
be out of doors, when the weather is fine’. Pemberton observed that the ‘manly spirit of
boyhood’ and ‘true manly beauty of spirit’ were ‘cultured into a flourishing and self-
sustaining strength’ at the school. So the child was taught ‘to be honest again, up to the
angelic standard of infancy’ and, according to the Romantic conception of idealized child-
hood, boys were supposedly returned to the purity of their natural state.83 The location of
the school and the studies of natural history morphed nature, countryside and schoolroom.
Following the Pestalozzian plan in which physical and topographical geography were asso-
ciated with natural history and considered pivotal to the introduction of other subjects, the
boys were offered direct experience of the surrounding countryside. The school site was
chosen for its relative isolation and proximity to the wooded vales of the Dukeries and the
moorland of the Peak. Heldenmaier’s education under Pestalozzi and later Hegel and Ritter
at Berlin University encouraged him to combine Enlightenment rationality with teleologi-
cal purpose. This is evident in the moral importance placed on geography and natural
history and localized experiential learning—indeed Pemberton judged the geography
teaching to be ‘the most fascinating and advantageous of any I ever heard of’.84

81 L. Barber, The Heyday of Natural History, 1820–1870 (London: Jonathan Cape, 1980); Haines, German
Influence, 1–16; D. E. Allen, Naturalists and Society: The Culture of Natural History in Britain, 1700–1900
(Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001); D. N. Livingstone, Putting Science in its Place: Geographies of Scientific
Knowledge (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 87–134.
82 Cox, Shaping Childhood, 76–98; ‘The pleasures of walking’, Monthly Repository, (1835) 9, 194–204.
83 Reece Pemberton, 118, 121, 120.
84 P. Elliott and S. Daniels, ‘Post-Enlightenment philosophy, nature, science and pedagogy: Pestalozzi, Fellen-
berg and English geographical education, 1810–1860’, Journal of Historical Geography, forthcoming.
The Pestalozzian institution at Worksop, Notts 311

Although some gardening had always been a part of school life, particularly in rural
areas, the attention given to gardening and agriculture by the Swiss educators gave it
renewed importance. As the design of suburbs such as Edgbaston reveals, by the 1820s
gardens were considered an importance part of middle-class domesticity, with many
aspiring to maintain a large plot around their villa tended by servants. The proliferation of
gardening publications such as Paxton’s Magazine of Botany and technological
developments such as the lawnmower catered for the increasing demands of the middle-
class gardener. In this they were aping the much older concerns of the aristocracy and
gentry with pleasurable and purposeful gardening.85 At Worksop, the pupils were allo-
cated garden plots on which they began to work vigorously from early spring growing
salad crops such as lettuces, onions, mustard cress and radishes, sometimes forming part-
nerships to tend each other’s plots for greater efficiency. A small farm with three cows
was kept near to where the boys exercised and played. The pupils appear to have looked
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forward to the walks, which were often taken daily in season. Surveying, topography and
cartography were taught by Ellenberger and involved making plans of the surrounding
country using theodolites and other instruments.86 Pemberton thought that ‘happy, indeed,
are these boys in the fortunate position for rambles among the charming, rich, and varied
scenery which the immediate neighbourhood of Worksop presents’. The impact that these
excursions had on the minds and sensibilities can be adduced from the development in
William Marling’s descriptions of natural history in his correspondence. These are
perfunctory in his early letters but become much more detailed a couple of years later with
him evidently taking a delight in careful natural observations. Local myth and tradition
created a fabric of celebrated itineraries that were utilized by the boys for recreational and
educational purposes and imbued with mystery and charm.
Marling delighted in beautiful late spring days when the world around was ‘so green
and fresh’. He could hear from his room ‘the birds chirping and twittering so merrily’
whilst a robin redbreast had built a nest in the roof of the cowshed though he would not
‘tell any of the boys, lest they should come and take it’.87 William Forwood recollected
relaxing in the workshop and the playing fields and taking ‘long walks in the lovely parks
that surround Worksop’ in the Dukeries. During these excursions the boys ‘were encour-
aged to botanise, collect bird’s eggs, etc. and the love of nature which was in this way
inculcated has been one of the delights of my life’. The local aristocracy invited Helden-
maier and the boys to visit their estates. As Muspratt recollected, ‘most of the parks were
within two to four miles of the school and formed the object of our afternoon walks once
or twice a week’. The Duke of Portland at Welbeck Abbey was ‘always glad to see the
boys, and to show us the great subterranean galleries he was constructing’ but the favou-
rite locations were Worksop Manor, Sherwood Forest, Clumber Park and Roche Abbey.
Muspratt remembered ‘the country around the remains of old Sherwood Forest’ contain-
ing ‘magnificent trees, particularly old oaks’ with Shireoaks nearby being ‘celebrated for
an oak which it was said bordered on three shires—Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and
Lincolnshire. It was quite hollow, with only the trunk remaining, though the discovery of
coal locally was beginning to transform the environment. In September 1848, the boys
visited Robin Hood’s Oak in Sherwood Forest, now generally known as the Major Oak, ‘a

85 J. C. Loudon, Encyclopaedia of Gardening, 2nd edn (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown and
Green, 1830); Tosh, A Man’s Place, 32–3.
86 MC, 20 April 1848; 17 May 1849; 29 March 1848; 11 February 1849; 9 December 2, 20 April, 1848.
87 MC, 21 May, 30 April 1848.
312 P. Elliott and S. Daniels

most beautiful spot’ under which, as William Marling remarked to his mother, ‘Robin
Hood and his merry men are said frequently to have held their revels’.88
Clumber Park, the seat of the Duke of Newcastle, was another favourite location,
which Marling thought to be ‘a most beautiful park with great numbers of deer, and a most
exquisite lake, with a very handsome bridge across it’. A couple of years later Marling
told his father in much more detail of the beauty of the trees there in the autumn with their
‘various colours of … foliage … from the pales of green down to a rich dark brown, with
Scotch first here and there’. His description of one remarkable 100 foot high cedar occu-
pied half the letter as ‘by far the finest I have ever seen’ and ‘not in the least diseased,
beautifully grown, and not a single limb broken or lopped off’. The boys climbed up and
collected fir apples off it, one of which was given to Ellenberger as a curiosity. It was ‘so
splendid a tree’ that he could not ‘help thinking about it’, as he wrote to his father.89
Roche Abbey, about eight miles from Worksop, was visited by the pupils once a year
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during the spring. Muspratt thought that it was ‘a very secluded spot and rarely visited by
strangers’; from here the boys collected large quantities of botanical specimens.90 In May
1848 Marling and the other boys walked to the Abbey, which he thought to be ‘a lovely
place!’ lying ‘in a deep valley surrounded by woods and parks, so exquisite’. In the midst
were ‘the grey ruins of the old abbey’ and Marling climbed into an old tower with owls
living in it. Afterwards the boys bathed in the lake and had dinner on the grass; they were
also fascinated by a ‘wishing well’ and stream that would, so they were told by the locals,
grant the wish of those who drank its waters on condition that they told no one else. After-
wards, Barclay and Marling collected ‘pretty, sweet smelling’ lilies of the valley which
they planted in the garden and climbed up a steep rock where they rested and surveyed the
scene.91 Creswell Crags, some five miles from Worksop, was another part of the local
landscape that the boys imbued with magic and adventure. It featured a park with tall
rocks covered in shrubs in which they explored a ‘long dark passage, all underground’
using candles taken from a nearby house. There was a pool of water in the middle that
they had some trouble crossing but, when over, none of the boys managed to find the end,
which was hidden too far into the darkness.92
Pupils were encouraged to collect specimens during these excursions. According to
Muspratt they were allowed ‘to gather wild flowers and to catch butterflies’, which gave
them ‘a practical instruction in botany and entomology’. Forwood reminisced that ‘the
delight of those days will never fade from my memory’ as the boys ‘used to return loaded
with treasures, bird’s eggs, butterflies, fossils, and specimens of wild flowers’. Marling
noted that ‘a great many of the boys’ made collections of birds’ eggs, butterflies and silk-
worms, which served both as trophies, sources of rivalry and pride and as objects for more
serious taxonomic study to be housed in the museum. They brought back prized snakes
from the woods, one being two feet long and another an adder retained for preservation in
spirits, whilst all the boys admired Rochfort and Longley’s butterfly collection, which was
stored in a large deal tray lined with white paper.93
Although reformers had their own agendas in emphasizing the success of the school,
the delight that the boys took in natural history, according to the Marling correspondence,
the accounts of Pemberton and the recollections of pupils, appears credible and genuine.

88 MC, 10 September 1848.

89 MC, 23 April 1848; 2 October 1849.
90 Muspratt, Life and Work, 11–13.
91 MC, 19, 28 May 1848,
92 MC, 22 September 1848.
93 MC, 20 April, 23, 28 May 1848.
The Pestalozzian institution at Worksop, Notts 313

The reports also conform to descriptions of similar experiences by children in the period,
some of whose works, in conformity with the Romantic view of childhood proximity to
nature, were published at the time. Henry Alford (1810–71) for example, the future Dean
of Canterbury, collected seeds, eggs and other objects from the country and fossils on
coastal rambles around his boarding school. Emily Shore (1819–39), who lived in the
country, always played in the fields with her siblings, undertook walks, collected speci-
mens and made very detailed records in her diary, convinced that if confined for ever to
the vicinity she ‘should for ever be discovering something new’. The family were visited
by literary and scientific friends such as Charles Taylor, the explorer, and the astronomer
Thomas Maclear, who entertained Emily with new facts and provided her with a telescope
with which to continue her observations. At the age of 14 she commented that ‘the study
of natural history seems to me to be one which belongs to the nature of man, and is born
with him’. She never believed ‘that an individual exists who could not have been taught to
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love it, if led to it early’.94

The Worksop school educated pupils from some of the most powerful industrial families,
encouraged the spread of Pestalozzian pedagogy and inspired educationists such as the
Spencers. It demonstrates the complexity of the geography of educational development,
showing the importance of localized experience, international networks and the inter-
change of pedagogical ideas. Although it tended to be supported by provincial noncon-
formists and Liberals, patronage from some Anglicans, gentry and aristocracy such as
those in Nottinghamshire was also important. Middle-class dissenters and Liberals were
attracted by the combination of gentlemanly and practical utilitarian education, with
special attention being given to engineering, science and physical education as well as the
classics. Given their religious and commercial outlook they also sympathized with the
internationalist ethos of the school and were especially receptive to Continental educa-
tional philosophies. The geography and topography of the locality was an important part
of the Worksop educational experience, including natural history field excursions and
travels to surrounding industrial and manufacturing centres to nurture the boys in their
paternalistic responsibilities. As at Cheam and Queenwood College under the Quaker
George Edmondson, the curriculum was unusually broad, whilst naturalistic and experien-
tial teaching methods were employed, taken more directly from Rousseau and Pestalozzi
than those at the former under Mayo and Reiner.95 It was considered that masculine char-
acter and independence were nurtured by the physical education offered at the school but
the relative freedom experienced by the boys came at a price. The Marling correspondence
provides a contemporary pupil’s perspective of school life to set against the more adula-
tory accounts of politically motivated supporters and rose-tinted memoirs of elderly old
boys. Broadly, however, although problems such as loneliness, teasing and bullying are
revealed, the letters confirm the innovative aspects of the curriculum and teaching

94 F. Alford (ed.), Life, Journals and Letters of Henry Alford D. D. (London: Rivingtons, 1874), 9–11; B. Timm
Gates (ed.), Journal of Emily Shore (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1991), 35–7, 91–2;
Pollock, Forgotten Children, 255–60.
95 Roach, History of Secondary Education, 131.