HC Deb 07 May 1896 vol 40 cc835-40

*MR. HARRY POLLOCK (Lincoln, Spalding) moved:— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to withhold her consent from that part of the Charity Commissioners' scheme dealing with Cowley's Charity (at Donington, in Lincolnshire) which refers to the establishment of a Commercial and Agricultural School at Donington. He explained that early in the 18th century, the money which would be dealt with under this scheme was bequeathed for the benefit of the poor of Doningtonby Mr. Cowley. Shortly after his death a commission was appointed consisting of Lincolnshire residents, who devised a scheme under which the charity was administered until 1858, when a fresh scheme was prepared with the approval of the then Master of the Rolls. That scheme provided that the Governors or Trustees of the school that had been established should be residents in Donington or within 12 miles of it, and it also made provision for certain agricultural education at Donington. Under this scheme the school had been conducted up to the present time. The amount of the charity came to £1,150 per annum and it had hitherto been expended in Donington; but under the present scheme a sum of not more than £350, or 33 per cent. of the whole, was to be allocated to the purposes of elementary education in Donington, and for the first time fees were to be paid for tuition, in the schools. Another part of the scheme provided that the governors should no longer be chosen exclusively from the neighbourhood of Donington, and the right of electing a governor was given to County Councils of Lindsey, Kesteven, and Holland respectively, and to bodies like the Lincolnshire Board of Agriculture and the University of Nottingham, although not many members would know much about that institution, and it certainly did not carry the same recommendation as the other bodies who were domiciled in Lincolnshire. He did not oppose the scheme as a whole, for he recognised that the time had come when some change should be made. But opposition to the scheme did not come from any political party in the county. The parish was unanimously against it, and a petition had accordingly been presented by his hon. Friend the Member for the Stamford Division. Neither was there any question of religion involved, both the Vicar of Donington and the Nonconformist clergy being against it, while the Parish Council had passed a resolution unanimously condemning it. He would like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University, as representing the Education Department, and the hon. Member for the Thirsk Division of Yorkshire, who represented the Charity Commissioners, to remember that in making this proposal he, only asked that the scheme should be sent back to the Commissioners for further consideration. He also wished to remind the House that they were dealing with what had been for 200 years the property of the poor, and he thought they ought to be especially careful how they interfered with the property of those not too well able to protect themselves. He would put it shortly that this scheme should be rejected in the terms of his motion, because under it, out of £1,100, less than 33 per cent. would be retained for the poor, and because the benefits of the college would not be secured to the neighbourhood. Again, he would remind the House that he did not desire to reject the scheme as a whole, but he thought it was one which the Commissioners might fairly take into their consideration again.


, seconded the Motion. He did so because he believed that if the House would consent to it it would meet the wishes of almost all the inhabitants of Donington. This charity was left in 1701 for the Benefit of the poor of Donington for ever, and in 1858 a scheme was made by the Court of Chancery which had been working ever since. Under the existing system adequate salaries were provided for the teachers, amounting to £560 per annum, in the upper elementary and infant schools. It was now proposed to erect an agricultural college, and possibly that fact might lead several hon. Members to give their assent to this scheme. In 1858 a scheme was sanctioned by the Court of Chancery, and met with the approval of the inhabitants of the district. Under that scheme the trustees had power to set apart 50 acres of land for the purpose of a school of agriculture, and to apply £100 per annum as a salary for the head master. It was because that scheme was not carried into effect that agriculture was not taught in the school. If an agricultural college were to be established, 20, and not 50 acres of land would be all that would be allowed by the new scheme. Under the old scheme £120 a year would be set apart for doles and £100 per annum for apprenticing the boys and girls. Under the proposed new scheme a large sum of money would be taken away which was now applied in doles and in apprenticing the boys and girls. Up to 1880 there were 50 to 60 boys in the upper school, but the plan which had been adopted since 1880 had not been successful, in consequence of several changes of head masters. From 1815 to 1835 the Charity Commissioners had commented strongly on the absence of local trustees, as the charity was intended for the benefit of the poor of Donington. It appeared that for many years no new trustee had been appointed. Under the scheme of 1858 the minimum number of trustees was fixed at eight—five to be a quorum, but subsequently the number of trustees had been reduced to four, and three were to be a quorum. There was, however, no trustee resident at Donington. The scheme had not worked so well during the last twenty years as it had before that time. As they had now local bodies like the Parish Council and the County Council, he thought that their opinions ought to be considered. The Parish Council had opposed the scheme, and the chairman of that body said:— For upwards of 170 years the parishioners have, by means of this charity, enjoyed free higher education. The new scheme, if passed, will abolish this privilege, will exclude girls from the benefits of higher education. … The scheme is opposed to the wishes of the inhabitants and is considered unnecessary, inasmuch as a scheme was approved by the Court of Chancery so recently as 1858. For the last 170 years the parishioners of Donington had, by means of this charity, had free education, which was now about to be taken from them. The funds of this charity were given for the benefit of the poor of Donington. As well as the Parish Council, the agricultural labourers had also met, and one of their societies, the Rural Labourers' League, had, through their secretary, sent a letter, in which he said:— If this Motion is carried, the result would be that the Charity Commissioners would have to amend the scheme by making it more suitable to the wants of the labouring classes. If, however, the Motion is defeated, the scheme would become law, and thus the great bulk of the charity would be diverted for ever from the use of those to whom it was originally given. In view of that fact the wishes of the agricultural poor of the parish ought to be considered before this scheme was permitted to be carried into effect.


said that his noble Friend the President of the Council and himself approved of the scheme, and, therefore, it seemed only respectful to the House that he should state the reasons why they approved of it, and what would be the consequence of carrying this Motion. The charity was one which was partly educational and partly eleemosynary, and, as the law now stood, when the charity had once been appropriated to educational purposes, there was no power to go back again. Therefore, the only question was to what purpose that part of this charity, which had for 170 years been appropriated to educational purposes by the establishment of this Grammar School at Donington, should be applied. It was at one time a flourishing boarding school, and had boys from many parts of Lincolnshire; latterly, however, they had dwindled down to a very small number indeed, and only eight of the boys were Donington boys. Under these circumstances, it appeared expedient to the Charity Commissioners to turn this grammar school, where nothing but a classical education was given, into a commercial school with an agricultural department. At the time the scheme came before the Education Department there was an objection made to it on behalf of the Parish Council, and that objection was divided into three points. The first was that the income allotted to elementary schools was insufficient. The second was that there was no security given with regard to these schools, and at the suggestion of the Charity Commissioners words were inserted which removed this ground of objection. The third objection was the claim that the children residing there ought to have free education. It was entirely contrary to the view of the Charity Commissioners to give absolutely free education in secondary schools, but eight free places were reserved for ever for the boys of Donington. The school would continue as efficient as ever under the scheme which he thought was not unreasonable. He believed it would be to the public advantage that this reform should take place.


said, as the matter under consideration was one of vital importance to a people in whom he was greatly interested himself, he asked leave to state the reasons why he was obliged to differ with his right hon. Friend. [Opposition laughter.] He was was well aware of the difficulty he was under in opposing a scheme so ably supported. What was the original aim and object of the charity given to the people of Donington by Mr. Cowley nearly 200 years ago? It was sufficient to say that the object would be defeated by this scheme. No one denied that amendment was required, but they did not want the people of Donington to be improved out of existence. They wanted care taken that in any scheme of reform some regard should be had to the intentions of the original founder. It seemed to him that in the present scheme the Charity Commissioners had taken very considerable licence, for under that the charity would be devoted to purposes for which it was never intended originally. It proposed to take away from the poor people of Donington endowments which they had up to now enjoyed. He hoped the House would reject the scheme.

MR. GRANT LAWSON (York, N. R., Thirsk)

agreed that the will of the founder should be carried out, but he asked the House whether a commercial school, where the boys would get a technical training, would not be better than a grammar school. If they wanted a higher education they could get it, but surely it was better they should be taught matters which would enable them to earn their own living.


said, this was a question in which he had long taken a deep interest, on the ground that these schemes of the Charity Commissioners had been spoliation of the property of the poor. He sincerely hoped that the scheme would be rejected. He begged the House to remember that the property in question was granted for the benefit of the poor for ever, that the grammar school was not erected in the parish till years after the death of the founder, and, therefore, he could have no cognisance of the departure from his intention. This was a very important matter for the poor, not only of Donington, but of the whole county. This House was the guardian of the property of all classes—["hear, hear!"]—and he held that the property and privileges of the poorer classes should be held sacred, and, therefore, he trusted that the scheme would be rejected by the House.

The House divided:—Ayes, 92; Noes, 80.—(Division List, No. 136.)

The announcement of the numbers was received with Opposition cheers.

Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to withhold Her consent from that part of the Charity Commissioners' scheme dealing with Cowley's Charity (at Donington, in Lincolnshire) which refers to the establishment of a Commercial and Agricultural School at Donington.

To be presented by Privy Councillors.

Adjourned at Ten minutes before One o'clock.