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Family Notices




ABERGAVENNY. OPENING OF THE GIRLS' AND INFANTS' NATIONAL SCHOOLS. The inhabitants of Abergavenny cannot be accused of apathy in the matter of popular education those who know what the condition of the place was 20 or 25 years ago cannot but be agrpeably struck with the contrast between its prospects, in an educational point of view, then and now. Few means of imparting knowledge to the lower orders then existed, and the social state of the place earned for its inhabitants a stigma more appropriate than flattering. Thanks, how- ever, to the persevering efforts of the leading men of the place, encouraged and assisted by those for whom those efforts were put forth, things have undergone a change, and such educational facilities have been afforded as were only required to give an impulse to that general disposition to improvement which exists naturally amongst the inhabitants of the town, while, at the same time, the stigma before mentioned has been removed with the cause, and it may not be unrea- sonable to hope that the town, which is now in posses- sion of such educational privileges, will in time be characterized by a name as flattering as that formerly applied was degrading. Many, undoubtedly, were the difficulties to be surmounted in obtaining those privileges, but the energy of those who had taken the matter in hand was equal to the emergency, diffi- culties only tended to increase their ardour, and perseverance has been, as it invariably is, attended with the desired success. Under their forming liand the desert smiled, And Paradise was open'd in the wild." It was not until some time afier the attention of these gentlemen had been turned to the improvement of the male portion of the population that arrangements were made for providing suitable and similar measures for the education of the female portion. The neglect of private education has bpen too general throughout the countrv, and this fact must be a matter of regret when it is considered what an influence for ultimate good or evil, for ultimate success or failure, is exerted upon the minds of the rising generation by that portion of the community. The task of "teaching the young idea devolves upon the female parent-, and we are not far wrong when we say that in nine cases out of every ten the impressions formed under their care are never erased, but continue to exert their influence to a greater or less extent, and for better or worse," until the end of life. We have not space to descant upon this important question as we should wish, but we may say that the efforts that have lately been made in the cause of education at Abergavenny reflect the greatest credit on all concerned and we may again express the hope that Abergavenny will in this, as in all other matters calculated to improve the moral or mental welfare of her people, continue to deserve the character given of it by an old anti- quarian, who describes it as "a fine town, wealthy, and thriving, the very best in the shire." The girls' and infants' schools were formally opened on Thursday, the 15th instant. Divine service was held in the parish church at 4 p.m., when an excellent sermon was preached by the Rev. William Capel, from 1st Cor., xi. 2, "Moreover, it is re quired in stewards for a man to be found faithful." After the conclusion of Divine service a public tea-meetii.g was held in the new school-rooms, which were very tastefully and skilfully decorated with fes- toons of evergreens, interspprsed with choice bouquets of flowers. Handsome bouquets of flowers also graced the tables whereon the refreshments were laid. Pre- vious to the tea-meeting the inauguration service was performed in the recreation ground by the reverend Vicar, who, after reading appropriate sentences from the Psalm-, offered up prayer, asking for a continuation of that Divine Providence which had so far attended them in their undertaking. The company adjourned to the school rooms, and about 600 partook of the refreshing beverage, together wi h the usual accom- paniments. The tables were then cleared, and prepa. rations made for the proceedings, which we subjoin. The Rev. Bury Capel (vicar) opened the meeting with an address. In the first place he would, he said, on behalf of the building committee and himself, wish all present a hearty welcome. (Applause.) He was sure he spoke sincerely when he said he was pleased to see so many present, and he expressed the hope that the interest which had hitherto been exhibited on behalf of these schools would not cease now that they were about to be opened. (Hear, hear.) The work was now about to be brought to a termination, and he thought he should on such an occasion very briefly give them an idea of what they had done. Some people com- plained that they had beenla long time about it, and so, in one sense, they had, but if they knew what they had had to go through, he thought they would acknowledge that they had not been longer than was absolutely necessary. About the month of February, 1864, a public meeting was held in the Free Grammar School, in that town, but, owing to its being a very wet night, it was very thinly attended. Certain resolutions were passed, empowering a number of gentlemen, who were kind enough to do so, to act as a building committee. These gentlemen immediately proceeded to work, and the first thing they did was to endeavour to find a site. A sub-committee was appointed for that purpose, and after considerable difficulty and after looking at many sites in the town, the site was chosen on which they were asscmbled that evening He ought, perhaps, to have told the assembly that when he first came to Abergavenny as vicar one of the first things he did was to look at the schools. He found an excellent boys' school but when he came to the girls' school it struck him that he ought to attempt, with the help. of his parishioners, to build a new girls' and infants' school. The room in which the school was then held was totally unfit for the purpose, although it was the best that could be obtained at the time. One thing rather disheartened him in his endeavour to obtain schools in the town, and that was he was told by some that it would be almost impossible to build schools of any magnitude; that when the boys' schools were to be built such difficulty was found in getting the money together that had it not been for the large contribution of £ 900 from the Bedgworth Cnarity, the boys' schools would never have been built. His reply was, "It is not my intention to say I will build schools (or cause them to be built), but, with God's blessing I will try (applause), and if the parishioners of Abergavenny will not come forward as they ought, on their shoulders will the responsibility lie, and not on mine," Now they saw how they had succeeded, and how wonderfully the money had been collected, and he might make the announcement now —an announcement he was proud to make—that he thought (and he spoke advisedly) that, with the money that had been promised to them, they would be out of debt or nearly so. (Hear, hear.) "But to resume. The first thing the committee did was, after selecting a site, to appoint persons to go round and collect; and his good friend Dr. E. Y. Steele (hear, hear) came round with him. He was not paying Mr. Steele a compliment when he said that he thought it was owing to his kind way of asking those to whom they went for a subscription, the collection of the money was due, He (himself) went round as- a mere cypher, and he considered then, as he did now, that the main staple of the colleelion was due tomr. Steele's kindness. (Hear, hear.) When they (the committee) saw their way clear, they applied to Government, and then it was their difficulties commenced. Government bad many requirements of one kind or another, and thev sent plan after plan to them for their consideration. But he was forestalling his story. He must say that they had to choose their architect, and after examining the plans of several gentlemen who sent them in, they fixed upon Mr. Nevill. (Hear, hear.) His plans were sent to Government, and then they were sent back again, to be altered, and there they kept going back- wards and forwards for a period of nearly eighteen months (laughter), until at last they nearly began to get tired. There were certain conditions exacted in connection with the expense, and one of those was that they should not exceed a certain mark. When the tenders were sent in they thought they had selected one which would come within the desired limit, and they immediately (before they had obtained the sanction of Council) deliberately laid the foundation of their schools. What was their surprise to find that when they received their letters from Government their plan was rejected, and the work which they had in hand of laying the foundation stone was laid on one side. Now, he dared say some of them (especially the ladies) would say, What silly people those gentlemen were (laughter) to begin the schools before they were sure the Government would sanction their proceedings." He would explain to them why they did so. A gentleman in the town said to him, "I don't know whether you are aware that there is a communication from Government respecting public money. They lay their hands upon all money connected with chari- ties, and as the^Bedgworth charity will contribute £ 300 towards your schools, Government will pounce upon it, if you don't begin at once." Well, they were obliged to begin at once, and nobody asked any ques tions, so they took the stone up afterwards and laid it in another place. (Laughter.) One month after that he sent a demand or request for payment of the X300 and that sum was paid over to the bankers. Two days after that money was paid into their hands, an order came from Government that no money was to be paid and although they did look rather foolish over it, they bad got the £ 300. (Laughter and applause.) He considered this a pretty good specimen of the difficulties they had to go through. Government had refused their plans, and what were they to do? Well, they prepared more and sent them, but one day a plan came down from London with a bit of scribbling in the corner, which he took for a sort of sketch of what the schools ought to be. A note from Sir Thomas Phillips informed them what it was, and he told Mr. Nevill to draw his plans like it. He did so, and they were returned accepted. They could not help them- selves then. The tender for the building was given to Messrs. Jones and Son, and in a wonderfully short time these beautiful rooms were built, and brought almost in the state they saw them. Lastly, they had a second canvass. Mr. Christopher Davies, Mr. Lawrence Baker, Mr. Ashwin, and Mr. Steele, went round the town, and the result was that they would be able to balance their accounts satisfactorily to themselves. He would just mention further that they would spend from beginning to end £ 2,150. Out of that sum they had collected locally over £ 1,000. (Applause.) Then from the Bedgworth Charity they got ze300, while Government granted X404. The National Society and the Local Diocesan Board made the subscription to £ 600, and the balance was made up by persons interested in the parish, such as the Earl of Abergavenny. Between all they made up the sum of X2,150, and he must say it was a sum that did great credit to the town and parish of Abergavenny. He truly hoped it was an earnest of future collections (hear, hear) whenever they might be made. He could not say they had any idea in their minds at the present moment for which to call upon them for a subscription, although a hard working member of the committee had suggested one or two things which might be carried out, they must, however, allow a little breathing time. (Hear, hear.) He must, before he concluded, mention the names of those gentlemen to whom their thanks were due in this matter. He had already mentioned Dr. Steele, and added to his name, he must mention those of Mr. Christopher Davies (their treasurer), Mr. Manley Ashwin, and Mr. George Peake (their secretaries); he would also thank the working committee. The working part of the committee comprised about one-half of those appointed; the rest of the committee did them the honour of countenancing their proceedings, but somehow they never saw anything ot them. (Laughter.) He thought their thanks were due to the architect (hear, hear) for his perseverance, and also to Messrs. Jonei and Sun, the builders. (Hear, hear.) He was glad to see bo: h of those gentlemen present. It must be highly satisfactory to Messrs. Jones to know that every one who had seen these rooms had expressed unqualified approbation of the way in which they had been built. It was highly satisfactory to themselves (the committee). The other day Archdeacon Crawley, who knew how places ought to be built, walked over those rooms and exclaimed, What beautiful rooms you have here; what is the cost of them?" He mentioned the cost, and he said, "Well, let me tell you this: they are built in a first rate way, and you have an uncommonly good bargain." They were uncommonly cheap; so cheap, indeed, that Messrs. Jones and Son must get an uncommonly small profit out of them. Those "facings" they saw in the large window and the two smaller ones they intended to have of wood, because the committee of council insisted upon cutting down the estimates to such an extent that they could not afford to make them of stone. They, however, saw that they were of stone, and those stone facings were the gift of Messrs. Jones and Son. (Applause.) He thought it right to mention such a mark of liberality on their part. He must now come to the ladies. The arrangements for this even- ing's enjoyment devolved upon a committee of ladies. The gentlemen thought they had better retire from such a thing, as the ladies understood them better than they did. They had seen the result of their labours, and he hoped it gave them all satisfaction. (Applause). Miss Nevill understood the decorations, and he must mention her particularly (hear, hear), but all the ladies had given up their time and labour day after day in a very hard-working way, and they deserved their heartiest thanks. (Hear, hear.) Before he concluded the mention of those to whom thanks ought to be given, there were two whose names stood out, in his mind, pre-eminent. Those were Mr. and Mrs. Peake. (Applause.) It was to the untiring perse- verance of Mr. and Mrs. Peake that the girls and infants of that town and parish had had the benefit of such education they were able to give them at that poor place in Byfield-lane. He did not know how many years since the question was put before them of providing that place; but from that time to this they had been indefatigable in carrying out those schools; indeed they had done so up to some time after he came amongst them. They avoided no responsibility in performing these duties, and he thought such labours as theirs should be acknowledged. (Applause.) He felt great pleasure in adding his testimony to the value of the labours of Mr. and Mrs. Peake, on behalf of the children whom they were about to move into the new schools. He bad mentioned the name of Sir Thomas Phillips. He thought they must all feel that they had experienced a sad loss in losing Sir Thomas. He gave a donation of X30 to begin with, in connection with the schools, and a further donation of £ 15, with the promise that lie would contribute another £ 5 if they wanted more. He was their advocate in London, and from the National Society, unknown to him (the Vicar), he obtained for them an extra grant of X40, their first grant being 2120. They must all lament that it had pleased God to take Sir Thomas Phillips from them. He was a good friend to schools (applause); he was a good friend to that town (hear, hear); and although he trusted they should be able to carry on the good work, they could not but feel that they had sustained a great loss. His decease had left as it were a gap amongst them. Most liberal was he towards the boys' school-whenever there was a deficit in the funds he would take out his cheque-book and say, That settles the matter." It was seldom they found a man willing to do that. In conclusion the reverend speaker said that Mr. Peake had accepted the offices of treasurer and secretary to the schools, and would be most happy to receive any contributions with which he might be entrusted. They were all in the dark as regarded the sums they would require in the working of the schools, but for whatever they wanted they would have to apply to their parishioners, and he trusted that what- ever they did want (and they would try to be as economical as they could, consistently with the welfare of the children), they would have no difficulty in collecting. Mr. Capel then added a few sapient re- marks on the importance of a good home influence, and hoped the parents would try their best to strengthen the good the children obtained at school by a good example at home (applause). Glee Among the Barley." Solo—Mrs, Bevan The Banks of Allan Water." SOLO—Pianoforte .■ Miss Pritchard. Solo—Mis» Greenland. Angels, ever bright and fair." The Rev. Henry Peake then addressed the meeting. He expressed himself grateful for the handsome way in which the reverend Vicar had spoken of him. Sur- rounded as he (the speaker) was by so large a number of familiar faces, and assembled as they were on such an occasion, he could not feel otherwise than happy. The company had evinced such a sympathy and such a union of sentiment in taking up the matter before them, that it must make them experience a ieeliug akin to solemnity. He thought there never was a day in Abergavenny like this one. (Hear, hear.) He had had the pleasure of living in the neighbourhood for thirty. three years, and was in a position, therefore, to flatter the denizens of that lovely valley. He did not think there was another spot in the world where they would find altogether such charming scenery more salubrious air, or more enjoyment of health. That enjoyment would be very materially enhanced by the blessed Avork they bad undertaken. (Hear, hear.) However, they must thank God their lines were cast in such pleasant places. They must not forget that there was something more necessary for the happiness of life, and that was domestic comfort. The ladies, he dared say, would at once appreciate that brief remark. (Hear, hear.) It was that one thing which had influenced himself and his partner in taking that interest in, and in carrying on, without unwillingness, or without re- luctance for a single moment, as far as in their power lay, the work of education of the young. The one point he referred to was this, that the greater part of domestic comfort depended upon the female branch of the community. If they had not in their houses a number of well-trained servants, and if tfeeir poorer brethren had not likewise for the sharers of their labours, well-trained, well-principled, and well-dis- ciplined partners, would there be one day without sorrow and bitter disappointment? They were all, then, every one of them, deeply interested in this matter, and he hoped it had something to do with the delightful readiness in which they had assembled together in church and in that room, to join in their appreciation of the good work which had been carried on. That parish was highly favoured in many respects; they had the best boys' school in Wales-he heard some one say the other day that it was the best in the world (laughter). Now, he wanted them to have the best girls' and infants' schools in Wales, and they had very fair prospects of obtaining that point. He could testify that they had an excellent mistress for the girls to begin with; he had seen her work very well with the means and appliances she had had, and he did not doubt they would be able to lay their hands on an equally efficient mistress for the infants. Remember, the better their schools were the more help they would have from Government, and the better the children attended, and the better they were taught, the less they would have to draw upon their individual funds for any deficiency that might occur. I.et him remind them that whether their houses should be comfortable, whether they could get their servants to do their work on principle, depended, in a very great measure, on the Christian habits and influences instilled in those schools. The training of the mind, and the training of the habits would stand them in good stead in life, and he impressed upon parents the necessity of attend- ing to the important words of their Vicar, who said, take care you do not undo at home the good done at school." Mr. Peake added a few more remarks ia praise of the ladies who kindly assisted in preparing for this occasion, and concluded. Glee. Song—Mrs. Bevan .8cotch ballad. Tianoforte duet-The Misses Williams.Selection from "Don Giovanni." Dr. E. Y. Steele then addressed the assembly. After referring to the flattering terms in which their reverend Vicar had spoken of him, he said he had been deeply interested in the success bf those schools from the commencement, and therefore should feel he ought to be ashamed of himself if he could not stand up before them and answer the vicar's call on such an auspicious occasion, when they were all met to crown the (difice their labours had constructed, and to pray for God's blessing on the useful work which was to be carried on. (Hear, hear.) He would allude first to a subject which arose out of the detail of the arrangements for the day's proceedings. The committee had a meeting to arrange matters, and the question was asked, Whom shall we have to preach the sermon ?" The names of bishops and others were mentioned, but he raised his voice and said, "Mr. Vicar, if you want to draw a good congregation and gratify the parishioners of Abergavenny, ask your brother, and I am sure he will not only give an admir- able sermon, but will be listened to with very great pleasure, both by those who had the pleasure of hearing him before, as well as by strangers So, he was sure, it had turned out, and if they would allow him, he would propose that the thanks of the meeting be given to the Rev. William Capel for the admirable sermon he had preached that day. (Applause ) He would add that the oftener he came to Abergavenny the better. They did not want to turn his brother out of the pulpit, but they wanted him to come and help as often as he could. He would now turn more especially to the proceedings of the day, and truly he might say it was a memorable day in the history of their little town. For the many years, for the many centuries he might say, during which genc-ration after generation had lived and paised away, during which the voices of children had been heard sorrowing or' rejoicing in their streets, for the first time a suitable building had been provided, wherein to gather together the girls and younger children of the poorest classes,—waifs and straj s on the rocky shore of life; wherein to teach them, to afford them, to impart to them the blessings of education and not only that, but by the training of a careful discipline to make them useful and happy members of the community. (Applause.) When he spoke of this as the first building of the kind, he begged it to be understood he did not intend to ignore or undervalue that school which had been provided by the munificence of Miss Herbert. Admirable, how- ever, as its object was, and great as had been its success, its scope was too limited and its regulations too select for the admission of those 11 waifs and strays" he had alluded to, and for whom they had provided these buildings. They had heard from the addresses which had been given them of the difficulties which had to be surmounted in order to accomplish the results which were now, he might say with pride and satisfaction, presented to them by the building com- mittee. \Vhen in a^ long and toilsome journey they met with obstructions, some disheartening, many unexpected, a break-down here, a misdirection further on, amid clouds of dust and storms of rain, their fears and their hopes for the safe termination of their journey, nothing but the dauntless determination to persevere in the scheme prevented them from turning back on the road in despair but when the rugged hills had been surmounted, and the dangers and trials of the road left behind, when reaching at last the long- wished-for resting place, they turned round to contem- plate the lovely scene round them, then the remembrance of their trials added a zest to their pleasure, and shed a lustre over their success. (Applause.) So had it been wi h them, during the long and difficult course they had had to run, and that night they had all assembled to give with their kind hands the finishing touch to their labours which had occupied so many busy months. He hoped and trusted that having now told them on the part of the committee that they were happy to see them there, they would allow that they had carried out the work in a creditable manner. (Hear, hear, and cheers.) It might be that they, who through their generous assistance had been able to do this, might take for their little child more credit than was due they might seem to regard it as better in form and feature than it really was, and more handsome and shapely than in their opinioa it was entitled to be considered (hear, hear) but he must remind them that beauty after all was but skin deep, and that in all matters of this kind there were different opinioni. To gratify all would be a most difficult, if not a hopeless task. Moreover, as their excellent vicar had told them, they had imperious masters to deal with who held over them a pair of shears ready to trim off those fascinating ringlets which might have adorned the forehead of their little one however, he would, on the part of the building committee, assure them that the walls were of the best material and most substan- tially constructed, that the drainage and ventilation were of such a character as to secure for the children all those sanitary advantages which it was possible to afford them, and that was a matter of very great consequence and he hoped that the schools would, under the auspices of tht ir vicar, carry out all those objects which be had had I VIew. (Hear.) It might be that he had exceeded his task, and that it was time to resume his scat, but he felt that he had his duties to perform, some of a pleasant and others of a painful nature, before he had acquitted himself to his own satisfaction; and in the first place, although their vicar had so ably said what they all felt towards Mr. and Mrs. Peake, heasanold and valued friend did feel so deeplytheir worth that he could not allow the vicar to speak alone on the subject, but was bound himself to speak up for what they had done in that town. (Applause.) He must say this, that of all those with whose intimacy he was favoured he knew no more single-minded and more earnest Christians (hear, hear), and in alluding to their schools they must bear in mind that their pecu. niary resources were limited, and they could only provide such a room as they had, poor and unfit as it was. They would, therefore, agree with him that they ought to accord a vote of thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Peake for all they had done. The new era in the management of the Girls' and Infants' National Schools originated with the Rev. Bury Capel, and all the honour and credit was due to him for this great improvement in the parish. (Applause.) On his first arrival there he (the speaker) had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with hiai; one of the first things he mentioned to him was his desire to erect such a building as that, and he did him the honour of con- sulting him as an old inhabitant of the town, who knew most of the people, as to what prospects there would be of finding support. Much pecuniary aid and encouragement in many ways would be required to carry out the scheme, and he told him boldly, from his long acquaintance with the town, he was satisfied that, in the liberality and generous disposition of the inhabitants, he would find all the help he would want. He lost no time in putting those promises




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