HL Deb 03 July 1879 vol 247 cc1272-5

asked, If the Lord President can give any information as to the progress and success of the measures recently taken by the Science and Art Department for the encouragement of the principles of agriculture in this country? The noble Earl said: My Lords, I feel sure that my noble Friend, who combines presiding over the Department of Science and Art with a great interest in the agriculture of England and Scotland, will not object to the Question which is on the Minutes in my name. The depression which exists in agriculture must make everyone more alive to the importance of all things which can contribute to its future prosperity. There are different opinions as to some of the causes of the depression and as to the character of possible remedies—there can be none as to the advantage of improved and more diffused agricultural knowledge. It is one of the uses of adversity to make all concerned more alive to such needs. I was lately at a great meeting of the Iron and Steel Institute. There was an immense attendance of the representatives of an interest which has been depressed for some years. One of the original members was much struck with the contrast of the apathy amounting to contempt which was shown at the early meetings of the Association, when scientific suggestions were made, with the intense interest shown by all this year in everything which tended to give scientific information of a mechanical or chemical character as to improvements which might be introduced into the manufacture of iron and steel. It is probable, and most desirable, that the present agricultural distress may turn the attention both of landowners and of land occupiers more to the subject. I believe that the want of publicity as to the agricultural examinations conducted by the Science and Art Department is in itself an evil. Great as is the number of enlightened landowners in this Assembly, I have some doubt whether the majority know of these examinations, or are aware that more than 2,000 candidates have successfully passed them; though it ought to be a matter of pride to the Scotch and Irish Peers that more than two-thirds of these successful candidates are Irish or Scotch. I wish means could be devised for giving greater publicity to these examinations and to the names of those who are the successful candidates. A farmer who goes to the expense and to the enlightened trouble of preparing his sensor these examinations, not unreasonably thinks that this distinction, ceteris paribus, entitles his children to some preference in obtaining farms from the best landlords. There is another reason which gives great importance to these examinations and their results. In our great manufactories it is possible—though not desirable—that a very few persons, having brains, can direct the work of a great number of hands. This is not the case in agriculture. Knowledge to be nationally useful must be diffused; it must belong to a large number of agents—of farmers and of bailiffs. Now, it happens that the agricultural classes of the Department can be established even in very out-of-the-way districts, and can be made infinitely more useful and numerous than at present. I shall be quite satisfied with the success of my Question, if it creates a little more attention among individual Members of this House to the subject, and if it induces my noble Friend at the head of the Department to take steps for giving greater publicity to the examinations and to the names of successful candidates.


My Lords, so far from complaining of the noble Earl (Earl Granville) for having put a Question to me on this subject, I am very glad that he has done so, because I hope the answer which I am able to give to it will show your Lordships and the country that the attention of this branch of the Science and Art Department has been usefully extended to those matters of instruction to which my noble Friend refers. There is no question that there is much more of science now imported into agriculture than formerly, and that there is a very considerable amount of interest taken in the chemical properties connected with the various manures which are used—a matter in respect to which the Royal Agricultural Society exerts itself very beneficially, and, through its agency, means are now adopted to ascertain that the manures which are sold contain the properties which they are supposed to have, and to test them if they should appear to be of a doubtful nature. Coming to the Question of the noble Earl, it was not till the end of 1875 that it was decided to add the principles of agriculture to the list of subjects towards instruction in which aid is given by the Science and Art Department. At the first examination, which was held in May, 1876, there were, of course, but few candidates—because the matter had not become generally known—the number was 150. By the next year—1877—we found that 72 classes had been established in the country, who sent up about 800 students to be examined. The following year the number of classes lied increased to 91, and 1,265 students were examined. At the examinations which were held on the 13th of May last, 147 classes were found to be established —20 in England, 16 in Scotland, and 111 in Ireland. There were 2,839 students under instruction, of whom 2,193 came up for examination. Of these, 1,244 passed in the elementary stage, 389 in the advanced stage, and 20went out with honours. It will thus be seen that a rapid and satisfactory progress is being made in this important subject. The Examiner, Professor Tanner, reports of the last examination— Some of the papers examined are of very superior character, and in the highest degree satisfactory; in fact, the entire series of examination papers gives proof of a most important system of education in agricultural science being gradually established in the country, and of valuable instruction being imparted by the teachers who are acting under the Department. At the present time, a short course of instruction in the principles of agriculture is being given to a class of 50 selected teachers at South Kensington, of whom 25 are from English, 9 from Scotch, and 16 from Irish schools, all of whom have their expenses paid. In addition to this, free admission to the course has been given to all teachers who desire to attend. I have had drawn up in a tabular form the information which I have now briefly given to your Lordships. There are, besides, two or three reports of the examinations; and it may, I think, meet the views of my noble Friend, if I lay those Papers on the Table in a printed form to be circulated among your Lordships.


rose to thank the noble Duke for what he had said, and for having, in adding this new branch to the duties of the Department, so far acceded to the recommendations of the Committee of the Central Chamber of Agriculture. He hoped the allowances given in the case of selected teachers would be extended to the teachers generally who were anxious to qualify themselves for imparting instruction in agriculture, and so enabling their pupils to pass the examination provided by the Department. It would be impossible for teachers at great distances—from the North of Scotland, for instance—to attend lectures at South Kensington, unless they received assistance to do so. He could assure the noble Duke that the action of the Government in this matter was very much appreciated through the whole of the rural districts. He did not ask for undue credit for the Central Chamber; but when the noble Duke issued his Circular, the Chamber sent out copies of it to the teachers and colleges interested in the subject, and from all these bodies they received expressions of very strong approval of the project.

Then, on the Motion of The Earl GRANVILLE—

Memorandum of the Science and Art Department, South Kensington, as to instruction in Agriculture: Ordered to be laid before the House.

Return laid before the House accordingly, and to be printed. (No. 137.)