Learning from History – Herbart, Hayward and the Celebration Movement

ROSALIND RAWNSLEY recalls a visionary educationist

For centuries, a child’s mind was considered a tabula rasa on which the teacher would do his best to imprint a series of facts which with a bit of luck would give the pupil all the basic tools needed for him to make his future way in life – as the 19th/20th century English educationalist Professor Sir John Adams put it, dividing the ordinary consciousness from ‘mind within and the great world of facts outside’, 

…the teacher’s work is regarded as the shovelling in of as many of those outside facts as the mind can contain. The great shovel for this purpose is known as Observation; a word dear to the hearts of, ‘Teachers; Inspectors, School Superintendents; School Boards, Parents and Others interested.’1

In most cases, a basic grounding in the ‘3 Rs’, with, if they were lucky, a working knowledge of the Classics, was for centuries considered a sufficient education for those few boys who were fortunate enough to benefit from schooling of any kind. The vast majority of the population remained illiterate. 

Village School, by Jan Steen , circa 1670

As early as the early 17th century, there had been a few far-sighted philosophers with more advanced ideas on education. The best-known among them was the Czech, John Amos Comenius (1592-1670), who advocated among other innovations, pictorial textbooks written in native languages rather than only in Latin, teaching based on the introduction of gradual development from the simplest to more comprehensive concepts, lifelong-learning, focussing on logical thinking rather than rote learning, equal opportunities for poor children and education for women. 

With evident justification, Comenius is considered the father of modern education, but his was an exceptional voice crying in the wilderness.  It was not until the 18th century, with the dawn of the science of psychology, that educational innovation really began to gather pace in Europe, with the German States leading the way. But the child-centred, leisurely pace of education, first advocated by Pestalozzi and Froebel in the 18th century, and built upon by J.F. Herbart and his followers a century later, by which the child was guided by the teacher to uncover and develop his own innate understanding of the world and his place in it, could not last. With the exponential expansion of educational opportunities in the 21st century, with the invention of the microchip and the internet, space exploration and the vertiginous pace of advance in information technology in particular, this ‘Herbartian’ model has on the face of it had to be laid aside in favour of increasing specialisation. But Herbartianism, as applied through the work of the English educationalist, Frank Herbert Hayward has not been entirely superseded, and may still have a future.

J. F. Herbart, 1776-1841

Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776-1841) the German philosopher and early psychologist, is less well-known in the English-speaking world than Auguste Comte, his near contemporary, with whom he is sometimes compared. It is difficult to comprehend the reason for this neglect, given that for at least half a century after his death, as the founder of pedagogy as an academic discipline, Herbart’s philosophy of education was extremely influential.  It was widely studied and applied by prominent educationists not only in his native Germany, but also in England and in America where, as in Germany, Herbart Societies still flourish. 

Herbartianism, with all its faults, is a system; apparently the only educational system in existence which has at the same time a definite psychology; a vast and fairly coherent mass of literature, a considerable number of journals devoted to its cause; a series of great names – above all, the power of raising enthusiasm!2

Herbart’s philosophy of education can be perhaps labelled simplistically as idealist.  He begins with the concept of the mind or soul as a single, inert and homogeneous entity which becomes the battleground for the one set of forces which can have any effect upon it – the ideas. Ideas, once introduced to the soul, compete with each other for a place. 

John Adams, in his magisterial volume of essays The Herbartian Psychology Applied to Education, describes the Herbartian model of the soul as a dome, “the summit of which is the goal of the ambition of every self-respecting idea”3. The base of the dome marks the threshold between the conscious and the unconscious mind. Once an idea rises above that threshold, its first task, in order to consolidate its position in the dome, is to make useful acquaintances or connections, which together form what Herbart describes as an apperception mass. According to the Herbartian model, the whole of our intellectual life is spent in forming new apperception masses and in expanding old ones. Ideas which do not succeed in attracting others to form apperception masses, having for the time being lost the battle, will sink once again below the threshold of consciousness, where they will nonetheless remain until or unless called forth once again.

Herbart was born in Oldenburg in northern Germany in 1776.  Little is known about his early life, except that as a fragile child he was taught at home until the age of 12. Afterwards, he attended the local Gymnasium for six years, before going on to study under Fichte, who taught him to think logically, at the University of Jena. After Jena, Herbart moved to Switzerland as tutor to the children of the Governor of Interlaken.  Here he made the acquaintance of the Swiss educator Pestalozzi4 and through him became interested in educational reform.

This meeting, and his own experiences as a teacher, led Herbart during the following years to develop his own philosophy of education – first at the university of Göttingen, where he eventually became a lecturer, and later in Königsberg, where he moved in 1809 to take up the Chair of Philosophy earlier occupied by Kant. Here he established, and conducted for the next 24 years, an influential seminary of pedagogy. In 1833 he returned to Göttingen as Professor of Philosophy, where he remained in post until his death eight years later.

Herbart’s theories of education were taken up and developed in different ways by his followers, who likewise reinterpreted the philosophy of Herbart to suit their respective interpretations. ‘Herbartianism’ thus eventually became synonymous with a system of education, rather than with the original philosophy of Herbart himself. By the second half of the 19th century, Herbart’s doctrines had been so much changed that they would probably have been unrecognisable by their original author.

While Herbartianism had considerably less influence in England than in Germany and in America, it did nonetheless attract a following among influential English educationists following the 1870 Elementary Education Act. This established a framework for the compulsory education of children between the ages of five and twelve.  The direct result of this enactment was the construction and establishment countrywide of hundreds of new Elementary schools5 and it was not until the Education Act of 1891, the latest in a flurry of Education Acts passed during the twenty years after 1870,  that education was made free of charge to all pupils in Board and Church schools alike).

Among those educationists who took up the Herbartian torch were John Joseph Findlay6, John Adams7, and Catherine Dodd8 and Frank Herbert Hayward, all of whom were household names in the field of pedagogy well into the 1930s.

While students of the history of education would certainly be familiar with the first three, Hayward sank into obscurity very soon after his retirement and by the time of his death in 1954 he had more-or-less been forgotten. A pessimist by temperament, Hayward may not have forwarded his own cause as well as he might, had his personality been different; the title of his autobiography, An Educational Failure, published in 1938, encapsulated his self-doubt, and as is so often the case, he was taken at his own estimation. This neglect was nothing short of a tragedy in the field of moral education.

Frank Herbert Hayward was born in 1872 into a poor but industrious Nonconformist family in Wotton-under-Edge in Gloucestershire. Highly motivated and of a studious disposition, he was to become in early adulthood a man of formidable energy and mental ability, rising to become a prolific writer and a highly respected (though controversial) educationist.

He attended various schools, mainly in Bristol, becoming a Pupil Teacher at Barton Hill in 1887, where he seems to have remained on the staff until 1895, when he gained a scholarship to University College, Bristol. From Bristol he gained by private study a B.A. from London University and went on to study for a Teacher’s Diploma at the College of Preceptors, where he gained a Special Certificate of Ability to Teach in 1899. During his studies for this diploma, he appears simultaneously to have studied privately for a B.Sc. in chemistry and geology, and for an M.A. in philosophy and economics.

In 1900 he was admitted as an Advanced Student at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, whence the following year (at some point evidently having acquired a working knowledge of German) he was given a grant by his College to study education at the University of Jena. Here he wrote The Critics of Herbartianism (1903) in which he gives a detailed critique of some 14 German commentaries on Herbart.    

That same year, he gained a D.Litt. from London University, his thesis being entitled The Ethics and Philosophy of Sidgwick ((Henry Sidgwick,1838-1900) English utilitarian philosopher and economist.  Knightbridge Professor of Moral PhilosophyUniversity of Cambridge 1883-1900. Author of The Methods of Ethics. Co-founder (1875) of Newnham College, University of Cambridge for women)) published in book form as The Ethical Philosophy of Sidgwick (1901). Meanwhile, he gained the Moral Science prize and a B.A. from Cambridge. These studies in Germany and at Cambridge seem to have awakened his interest in moral education and the precepts of Herbartianism in this field, which was thereafter to remain the principal focus of his working life. 

In 1902 he became Organising Teacher for Mid-Devon, published lectures on Herbartianism in Cambridge, while that year and the years immediately following, he gave lectures in Marburg in Germany. Later, he was appointed Assistant Inspector of Schools for the London County Council, where, rising to become Chief Inspector, he remained until his retirement in 1937. 

During the next 35 years he gave lectures on moral education in various parts of the country, published innumerable pamphlets and some 30 books, not only on educational topics, but also on matters as diverse as ‘Temperance’ and the ‘Power of the Press’. Biographies of Oliver Cromwell, Marcus Aurelius and Alfred the Great were well received by the press. Perhaps his greatest and most original contribution to moral education, however, was the Celebration Movement.

In his biography of Marcus Aurelius (1935) Hayward wrote:

I have been hunting during thirty years for a solution of what has notoriously been regarded as a certain “difficulty” in schools, as well as of certain cultural and civic “difficulties” allied to it… In the spirit of Comte, and indeed under his direct influence, I am an advocate; in schools and out of schools of Celebrations of Great Men as well as of Great Ideas and Great Institutions, in the hope that such Assembly Methods, with their mass emotion and broad impressions and an occasional touch of splendour, will be of help in these times of spiritual unsettlement and distress…9

Hayward’s period of greatest activity was likewise a period of flux in educational thinking.  Moral education and education for citizenship became more important than ever during this time of profound upheaval in all aspects of life following the conclusion of the Great War. Education had already been high on the government agenda during the closing years of the 19th century, and, following the flurry of major Education Acts in the years following 187610 by the outbreak of war in 1914 Britain did already have a basic educational system.  Nonetheless, for most of the population this did not extend beyond the Elementary age limit of 12.  By the end of the war, it had become all too apparent that education was more important than ever, not just for the children, but for the improvement of national morale as the country attempted to rebuild the structure of society and to create a ‘land fit for heroes’ from the ashes of conflict.

Hayward did not claim originality for the idea of the Celebration, tracing it back to Plato in The Laws, but the worked-out development and application to educational purposes was entirely his own.

The notion of celebrating ‘Empire Day’, inaugurated in 1907, had set Hayward thinking. He considered it “scrappy, faddy and narrowly propagandist”.  However, he thought, if it were to be celebrated as one of a group of five annual festivities (the others being ‘Home’, ‘City’, ‘Nation’, and ‘League of Nations’), it could be an excellent idea. Alone, there was a danger of Empire Day being nothing but a display of jingoism. On the other hand, under intelligent guidance, the school celebration of Empire Day might include, “impressive references to the ancient empires of the world as well as to those of later times”. The significance of the modern (British) Empire would be enhanced by being set in context. Taken alone, Hayward thought, there was also the danger that children who associated the word ‘Empire’ with a local music hall or cinema, would completely miss the point:

No adult can conceive of the mix-up in many children’s minds as they gather at the annual event and are given a flag to wave about.

The Empire Day concept, he considered, was too good and too original to be lost, but the way in which it was marked was very unsatisfactory. As he thought of it, it required an entirely “new spiritual start”. If the notion of a Celebration of Empire or Commonwealth was legitimate and attractive, Celebrations of the other four concepts, he considered, should be given equal weight. Looking back over his life in An Educational Failure, he regretted that this logic had not appealed to others in authority. Before the First World War, Herbartianism had risen from almost complete obscurity to a position of some prestige, with astonishing rapidity, particularly in England. Yet in the wake of the 1918 Education Act it went, at least nominally, swiftly into decline.

During the War, Hayward, like many others, had been giving considerable thought to ways in which education might be advanced once hostilities were over. Towards the end of the War, he circulated to educational journals and influential individuals a 10,000-word pamphlet, The Religious Difficulty in Schools – A Solution of an ‘Insoluble’ Problem.  However, like an earlier, more academic pamphlet directed to various members of the clergy; supporters of the controversial Education Bill and others; this received a lukewarm response.

A few encouraging letters came, indeed; from teachers (mainly women) and one or two from people of the literary and artistic type; attracted by the idea of a National School Liturgy. Hardly any came from the champions of “religious education”, “freedom of the teachers from religious tests” and other catch phrases of the last decade or two.11

It may be, he continued sarcastically,

…that the majestic brains of these gentlemen are still silently absorbing my suggestions and preparing a scheme of incomparable grandeur.  Great minds need time… 

It was therefore useless to bandy reproaches.  Hayward evidently had grandiose hopes for his proposals: “I undertake”, he wrote:

…to make the British nation fundamentally cultured on matters of Bible, literature, and music if I can get a few collaborators and the moderate use of official notepaper and stamps of any responsible educational body such as the Board of Education or the National Union of Teachers”12

Evidently not lacking in self-assurance, Hayward had, he continued, indicated the way to a solution of,

…the very honest problem of religious, civic, and aesthetic education that has been raised during the past half century…  

As if this were not enough, a further problem, which to his mind educationists had not considered at all, and one which would equally be addressed by his scheme, was that of the didactic approach to the Bible, literature and even music. There was a need to rescue, he felt, “the ear from its bondage to the eye”; educationists imagining that the Bible and Shakespeare and music should be taught through the medium of print, rather than being heard in live reading or performance.13

While these pamphlets may have received a disappointing response, the second document led Hayward to make the acquaintance of Arnold Freeman. Freeman was a Fabian, a philosopher, an educationist, a playwright, an Anthroposophist and founder of the Rudolf Steiner Sheffield Settlement for adult education. Freeman was, according to Hayward,

…one of the few men actively on the look-out for an educational contribution to the very threatening contemporary situation

This meeting proved to be momentous: it led to the joint production of a much-reviewed ‘manifesto’, published in The Spiritual Foundations of Reconstruction (1919) in which was set out for the first time the concept of the Celebration as a means of moral and civic instruction. Hayward had evidently had the idea at the back of his mind for some time before meeting Arnold Freeman, and it now became a fully worked-out tool for teaching moral values.

Hayward considered that as a disinterested educational practitioner who was not susceptible to political whims, he could bring an independent mind to bear on the solution of great problems. His earlier idea for an Empire Day Celebration had been suspected of partisanship. But nobody, he maintained could discover partisanship in the Celebration itself.  “What we can discover”, he wrote,

…is sound pedagogy; and the only criticism that can be proffered is that it is a solitary Celebration instead of being, as it should be; one among fifty others, each designed to impress the child with the greatness and the weakness of man, and to convey to his mind the social heritage of the race.14

Education was seen as a key element in the creation of ‘a land fit for heroes’, to compensate for the horrors of war and the terrible wastage of life lost in the fields of Flanders, while at the same time acting as a means of offering some reparation to those who had given their lives, and even more, to those who had survived.  Education for peace, and social and spiritual reconstruction were high on the agenda before, and in the years following, the Armistice.

How was this to be achieved became a burning question for educationists. Hayward and Freeman had written in the opening words of The Spiritual Foundations of Reconstruction:

The people of Great Britain desire fervently that the coming peace may bring a League of Nations and an Industrial and Social Order based upon Co-operation… If we are to reconstruct with understanding and imagination, we must have an electorate possessed of an intelligent grasp of the truth of things – of the workings of nature; of man’s history upon this planet; of social evolution…  There must be developed for the appreciation of this environment a widely-diffused reverence for Beauty.  Year upon year, and perhaps decade upon decade of after-war disorder and conflict can be avoided only if the minds of the people are filled with such ideals of national and international Citizenship as will assure unity and co-operation.15

This was to be achieved, they thought, through the schools. The very fact that it had been thought necessary to institute a national celebration of Empire Day, was in their opinion a tacit admission by the authorities that the concept of patriotism had not adequately been conveyed to pupils in either denominational or non-denominational schools, on the pretext that religious instruction included moral and civic education. This notion had been proved in practice to be erroneous since,

…if patriotism had been adequately and impressively taught in scriptural or theological lessons, there would have been no need of these celebrations! 

Following the first Empire Day celebration in 1907, the Feast of St. David had been marked since 1915 and the birthday of William Shakespeare since 1916. What for Hayward and Freeman had been “the most pregnant feature” of these celebrations had been the entirely new conception of educational method to which they bore witness.

Whether or not their originators realized the principle underlying them does not concern us.  It is none the less revolutionary. In its bleakest and most absolute form the principle is that:  THE CLASS TEACHING OF THE BIBLE, LITERATURE, MUSIC, HISTORY, AND CERTAIN OTHER SUBJECTS SHOULD BE LARGELY ABOLISHED IN FAVOUR OF A LITURGICAL CEREMONIAL. OR CELEBRATIONAL TREATMENT.  THESE SUBJECTS ARE NOT SO MUCH LEARNED AS ‘IMBIBED’16

Here the Herbartian principle of ‘apperception’ is invoked. Herbart believed that the mind was the sum-total of all ideas which entered into one’s conscious life, which grouped themselves into “apperceptive masses”. By assimilation (or apperception) new ideas could enter the mind through association with ideas already present. This principle could be applied to almost any arts subject – History, Morals and Religion could better be taught through Celebrations than by formal didactic methods.

The ‘revolutionary Scheme’ which Hayward and Freeman now proposed had already in part been formulated by Hayward himself. Writing in 1912, in his controversial book on educational administration (The Psychology of Educational Administration and Criticism) which he had written as a rebuttal of Edmond Holmes’ notorious Circular attacking elementary school education17 Hayward argued that what was lacking from moral and religious lessons in particular was an understanding of the necessity for appreciation.

The formulary for this new approach consisted of four Proposals, which Hayward had earlier outlined in a jointly-written letter to The Times Educational Supplement, the first of which, based on his earlier ideas, was eventually to form the nucleus of the Celebration Movement under his sole aegis18.

PROPOSAL I [all capitals in original]


Day after day, the child would hear the best portions of the Bible read impressively, as well as other splendid passages of poetry and prose. He would be familiarized with several hundred of the choicest pieces of music; once a week (say) he would witness or take part in a Celebration, ceremonial, or piece of pageantry in honour of a great personage (St. Paul, Alfred the Great, Joan of Arc, St. Francis, George Washington) or a great idea (The League of Nations, France, Agriculture, Science, Freedom).



The teacher would be free to express personal opinions, but if they were controversial he would be expected to refer his pupils (particularly as they grew older) to pro and con documents provided for the purpose. These documents would be drawn up by a board of responsible educationists, every sect and party sending from time to time statements of its views.


SCIENTIFIC CHARTS OF TIME, SPACE, AND HISTORY SHOULD BE STATUTORILY HUNG ON THE WALLS OF EVERY SCHOOL so that false views about the age of the earth, the existence of a material and spatial heaven “above the skies,” etc., could not obtain a fixed lodgement in children’s minds, and so that a definite and true time and space scheme could, on the other hand, receive a very fixed lodgement indeed.



During the recent war, the sinister influence of propaganda had been acutely recognised as a danger to democracy. It was therefore of vital importance that children should be educated to recognise that few issues are clear-cut. Future citizens trained to see both sides of every important hygienic, ethical and political question would thereafter be able to think for themselves and know how to get at the facts. The time charts advocated would give children a framework of space-and-time relationships which would familiarise them with the general scheme of things.

The rationale of the proposal, that children should listen daily to the finest music and literature and take part regularly in some sort of pageantry or ceremonial, would, it was felt, go a long way to rendering every child aesthetically sensitive – a more effective way of appealing to a child’s appreciation of Beauty than the lessons, dealing primarily and laboriously with technique, currently given.

The grandiose plan for a national liturgy of Celebrations – a sort of precursor of the National Curriculum – through which every child in the land would be offered the same experiences, would, the authors hoped, create a network of common culture-memories. Such a network would in turn help to bind the members of the population together, thus in turn combating the loneliness and isolation of a nation of individuals, a feeling exacerbated by the effects of the recent conflict. If adopted by schools of all classes, Hayward and Freeman’s proposals would, they averred, “bind the nation together by a thousand bonds of sympathy”, while at the same not destroying but intensifying whatever is valuable in sectional and individual effort”19

Although The Spiritual Foundations of Reconstruction was very well received by the press, the response from the teaching profession to the invitation to contribute their own suggestions was distinctly tepid. Hayward was understandably disappointed. In a letter to F.J. Gould, a secular humanist, follower of Comte and prominent educationist, who had reviewed the book with enthusiasm, he expressed his disappointment, but said that nonetheless he hoped to publish a first Book of Celebrations in the course of the year.

This volume duly appeared in 1920. It was reviewed in Nature as “a sound idea”, the writer considering that the suggestions made were wise and well thought out, and he was convinced that the methods suggested, “would grip in a way that nothing except the teacher’s personal influence has hitherto done”.20 He noted that the subjects dealt with were Shakespeare, the League of Nations, Democracy and St. Paul. Celebrations which had already appeared in The Spiritual Foundations of Reconstruction; to which were added Celebrations of,

…bards and seers; world conquerors, Samson, eugenics, temperance, commerce, summer, flying, Chaucer and Spenser.21

By the time the book was published the Celebration movement was beginning to gather momentum, but mainly through Hayward’s own promotional efforts through the London County Council Education Committee.

A second book of Celebrations, published the same year, expanded on the themes of the first, with the virtues of Work and Toleration, individual great men from history and from the recent past: Alfred the Great, Pasteur and Lister, Sir Philip Sidney, the artists Turner and Watts, The Musician, national Celebrations of Poland and Ireland (the latter in an attempt to alleviate the crisis following the 1918 uprising), Military Conflicts in Palestine, a revised Celebration for Empire Day, and finally, Political Parties, and School Leaving Day

No indication is given as to whether any of these Celebrations had actually been performed. However, The Journal of Education, reporting on a Summer School of Civics at High Wycombe noted that,

Dr. Hayward organised two of his school Ceremonials, one in honour of the city and the other to commemorate the League of Nations. These were carried out by the staff of the Summer School and proved impressive Celebrations  ((Journal of Education; September 1920, p.586))

In an interview with the present writer, Dr. Hayward’s son Frank observed that although the whole gamut of Celebrations eventually covered a great variety of topics, many of the early Celebrations were of a biographical nature, celebrating the lives of great men.  This he saw not just as a reflection of his father’s Herbartianism, but also because he was a Victorian projected into the 20th century, carrying with him the very Victorian characteristic of admiration for the great figures of history.

In a bid further to disseminate the concept, in 1926 Dr. Hayward launched a new quarterly journal, The Celebration Bulletin, which ran to 16 issues. Each contained several fully worked-out complete Celebrations, which could be staged by subscribers. In 1928, despite the rather discouraging response, Hayward published A New Book of Celebrations, reviewed in the Journal of Education:

On former occasions we have directed attention to Dr. Hayward’s idea of Celebrations, and to his very suggestive helps towards carrying the idea into practice… It is not difficult to detect the note of disillusionment and disappointment in Dr. Hayward’s preface. He has worked hard, and has received messages of approval from men so far apart in some ways as H.G. Wells, Bernard Shaw, Dr. R.J. Campbell and Prof. J. Arthur Thomson. Yet his efforts, marked though they are by ability and sincerity, have so far not commanded wide success.22

Hayward had many other eminent admirers within the profession, including Sir John Adams.23 Yet Sir Michael Sadler24 who must have known of Hayward even if they were not personally acquainted, did not find it necessary to include his name in his 1927 encyclopaedic list of British educationists, pioneering teachers, educational philosophers and administrators, whose talents had made Great Britain the greatest exporter of educational ideas of the time25.

A fourth and final book of Celebrations was published in 1932, in which details were given of those which actually had been performed. Of the 28 listed, ranging from Old Testament figures, classical writers, Shakespeare, Schubert, Purcell, various European countries, and India; to The Nation (England), The Home and the virtues of Temperance and Work and Saving.  Of these, nine or ten had been performed once, Schubert twice and Virgil three times. 

Altogether, F.H. Hayward compiled around 100 Celebrations on different topics, putting a lifetime’s knowledge and expertise into their creation. It was extremely discouraging therefore for him that his radical ideas were never enthusiastically embraced by the teaching profession, or the world’s educational authorities and governments. The Celebration as a means of moral and spiritual education seemed to be ‘dead in the water’.

Or was it?

Hayward had unfortunately become obsessed with the Celebration as the most effective means of combining religious instruction, moral education, and the teaching of citizenship, and this may have been his ultimate undoing.  Teachers, war-weary, conservative in outlook and no doubt discouraged when the first post-Armistice euphoria gave way all too soon to the Great Depression, were perhaps not ready to embrace this revolutionary inter-disciplinary concept.

The claims of science, not least as advocated by Bertrand Russell26 to be pre-eminent in any educational system at the expense of the humanities, may have been a contributory factor in the decline of interest in overt Herbartianism and, in parallel, in F.H. Hayward. Pedagogy, largely under the influence of the advances in educational psychology, also moved on, gaining its own momentum.

Yet Herbartian ideas did not expire with the 1918 Education Act, but continued to permeate educational thinking, even perhaps to the present day. The sinking of overt Herbartianism below the level of consciousness in educational theory does not imply its extinction. In 1929, Cyril Norwood, Headmaster of Harrow School, though not specifically acknowledging the influence of Herbart, wrote that an education on which the cause of international peace could be most firmly based was “founded on practical Christianity, culture, and character”. 27.  Norwood was advocating, in other words, the cultivation of the Herbartian ‘circle of thought’ as the foundation of a moral education. 

Child-centred education has not been abandoned.  It was a key to teaching practices, particularly in the 1970s – developing children’s understanding of the world by investigating the outdoor environment through a cross-curricular approach28. It was only with the introduction of a more rigid structure through the ‘National Curriculum’ proposed by the 1988 Education Act that this Herbartian’ approach to curriculum planning had, at least nominally, to be laid aside.  Every Government, of whatever political affiliation, has ever since the introduction of a National Curriculum if not from 1870 onwards, felt it incumbent upon them to tinker with the methods and content of education, in a manner which would no doubt have been anathema to Hayward.

Nonetheless, Herbart’s ideas and Hayward’s practical suggestions and theories continue to underpin educational praxis to this day, even if no longer in formal curriculum planning. The present writer, in collaboration with the Head Teacher and staff of a Shropshire primary school, during the late 1980s and early 1990s directed a series of major thematic interactive Festivals of the Arts and Sciences for young people, outside school hours, which could be considered as natural developments of Hayward’s ‘Celebrations’, and there were other examples elsewhere.

There are few comparable events today in schools, and certain aspects of Hayward’s theories feel outdated – which is rather ironic, considering that he conceived them as liberating and modernising. In 2021, history is more often contested than celebrated, morals, sociology and even the hard sciences are in a state of flux, while the concept of ‘Great Men’ is at odds with modern ‘diversity’ and egalitarian preoccupations. Yet still there must be a place for a model of education that uplifts even as it informs, and at the same time provides all-round thematic understanding rather than partisanship or uninspiring specialisation. Hayward, like Comenius in his day, seems for the moment to have been a voice crying in the wilderness, but perhaps his time too is yet to come.

  1. John Adams, The Herbartian Psychology Applied to Education, 1897, p. 135 []
  2. F.H.Hayward, The Critics of Herbartianism, p.52 []
  3. John Adams, The Herbartian Psychology Applied to Education, 1897, p.50 []
  4. Johan Heinrich Pestalozzi, 1746-1827. Founded several educational institutions, in Germany and in the Francophone cantons of Switzerland, publishing several works on his principles, revolutionary at the time. Educational motto: ‘Learning by head, hand and heart.’ Through his work, illiteracy in 18th century Switzerland was almost completely overcome by 1830 []
  5. Education did not become compulsory for all children until 1880 []
  6. John Joseph Findlay 1860-1940 Scottish educationist, Sarah Fielden Professor of Education, Owens College, Manchester []
  7. Sir John Adams 1857-1934, First Principal of UCL Institute of Education; Professor of Education at University of Glasgow, knighted 1925 for services to education. Author of The Herbartian Psychology Applied to Education []
  8. Catherine Isabella Dodd 1860-1932 First woman on academic staff of Victoria University, Manchester as lecturer in Education. Principal of Cherwell Hall Teacher Training College, Oxford 1906. Author of several titles on education including Introduction to the Herbartian Principles of Teaching (1898) in England in the last years of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th []
  9. Preface to Marcus Aurelius – A Saviour of Men, (1935) p.9 []
  10. 1876 – Compulsory for all children to receive an education; 1880 – Attendance made compulsory from 5 – 10; 1891 – Elementary Education Act made primary education for all intents and purposes free, since the State would pay school fees up to 10s per head; 1893 – School leaving age raised to 11; 1899 – School leaving age raised to 12 and later to 13; 1902 – Balfour Act []
  11. The Religious Difficulty in Schools, A Solution of an Insoluble Problem, The Literary Guide, 1917, also a pamphlet,  p.1 []
  12. The Religious Difficulty in Schools, p.3 []
  13. Ibid. p.4 []
  14. The Psychology of Educational Administration and Criticism, p.504f. []
  15. The Spiritual Foundations of Reconstruction, p.3f. []
  16. Capitals in original []
  17. E.G.A. Holmes, Chief Inspector of Elementary Schools in England , had in 1910 circulated a memorandum, not intended for publication, in which in the light of reports received from H.M. Inspectors of Schools, he is highly critical of elementary school teachers and local elementary school inspectors.  The majority of these, including F.H. Hayward, came from a working-class elementary school background and were ex-elementary school teachers.  The only local Inspectors who were really able to bring ‘freshness and originality” to their work, Holmes maintained, came from a public school and Oxbridge background.  The memorandum was leaked, and not surprisingly caused a furore. []
  18. The Times Educational Supplement, August 1st 1916, p.104 []
  19. The Spiritual Foundations of Reconstruction, p.15 []
  20. Nature, Vol.CV No;2649, 5th August 1920, p.707 []
  21. Ibid. []
  22. Journal of Education & School World, May 1928, p.361 []
  23. “The more I consider you and your educational work the more I regard you as a figure in the history of education rubbing shoulders with and rousing the writer’s wonder at the inability of your contemporaries to appreciate the value of your contribution…  The time will come when light will break… and you will be raised to the pedestal which is being silently prepared for you”, Sir John Adams, letter to Frank Herbert Hayward, 18th May 1933, quoted in An Educational Failure, p.152 []
  24. Sir Michael Ernest Sadler, KCSI, CB, 1861 – 1943) English historian, educationalist and university administrator (Manchester) and Vice-Chancellor, University of Leeds []
  25. J.H. Higginson (ed.) ‘The Educational Outlook’ in Selections from Michael Sadler, Studies in World Citizenship, p.150 ff. M.E. Sadler’s Presidential Address to the 16th Conference of Educational Associations, 1927 []
  26. Vide B. Russell, On Education, p.27 ff. []
  27. C. Norwood, The English Tradition of Education, p.187 []
  28. Vide Colin Brown & John Turnock, Curriculum Design in the Two/Three Teacher School.  Curriculum, Vol.2 No.2 Autumn 1981 []

Work with Joy – Rawnsley, Ruskin and the Keswick School of Industrial Arts

Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley at Crosthwaite
ROSALIND RAWNSLEY pays tribute to a great idealist and reformer

Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley is usually thought of today, a century after his death, as one of the three founders of the National Trust, or, in Lakeland in particular, as the Defender of the Lakes. The National Trust, it is true, remains his most tangible memorial, but his active involvement in a multiplicity of other fields, made of Canon Rawnsley a household name during his lifetime, not just in the field of conservation – but also in education as an early advocate of co-education and equal opportunities for girls, and in the encouragement of music, nature study and the arts; in public health, local government (he became one of the first County Councillors for Cumberland and towards the end of his life was co-opted onto the Education Committee for Westmorland) and literature, to name but a few of his wide-ranging concerns. Rawnsley was what today would be called an ‘activist’ – to any of the many and varied causes which captured his interest, he would devote his wholehearted attention, leading from the front wherever possible and whenever his ecclesiastical duties permitted.1

Born at Shiplake-on-Thames into an ecclesiastical family with its roots in Lincolnshire, Hardwicke, in spite of uncertain health throughout his life, was an indefatigable man of phenomenal energy and stamina. He would think nothing of tramping several miles across the fells during the night to see the sun rise over Helvellyn, catching a train to London after breakfast the next morning to attend a meeting, and returning home in the evening to deal with his correspondence or to prepare a sermon. No theologian, but a devout man of simple faith, he was much sought after as a preacher. He was blessed with a melodious voice, which he used to advantage not only in church but as a lecturer on a wide range of topics which interested him, ranging from the history, customs and archaeology of his beloved Lakeland, the influence of the Vikings, the German miners of Keswick in the time of Elizabeth I, to the archaeology of Palestine and ancient Egypt and the paintings of J.M.W. Turner, or the life and work of the Venerable Bede, and of course the application of John Ruskin’s philosophy of labour. He did however sometimes allow his vivid imagination to run away with him, and was not above reinventing history to suit his purpose. 

Rawnsley never stood on his dignity, getting on famously not only with the great-and-good, whose deep pockets could be relied upon as a source of funds for his various causes, but also with the Lake District shepherds and dalesmen. He made a study of the Lakeland native breed of Herdwick sheep, an interest he shared with his good friend and protegée Beatrix Potter, who herself in later life became a famous breeder of Herdwicks, and in more than one of his books about Lakeland he wrote knowledgeably about the upbringing and particularities of the breed. Somewhat choleric at home and in Committee, he could be rash and impatient with those who disagreed with him and his impetuosity not infrequently got him into trouble, but he was never afraid to apologise when proved to be in the wrong. To any cause capturing his interest he would not just lend his name, but would invariably be an active participant, always leading from the front. 

John Ruskin

Hardwicke Rawnsley was educated at Uppingham under the enlightened rule of his godfather Edward Thring, who introduced him to the Lake District and to the poetry of William Wordsworth, who was to become his poetic muse. From Uppingham he went up to Balliol, where he became an enthusiastic and life-long disciple of John Ruskin, whose ideas of social justice he wholeheartedly embraced and endeavoured to put into practice throughout his life.  

After university he volunteered as a lay chaplain to a mission to the poor in Soho, during which time he became acquainted with Octavia Hill, the social reformer, who was herself a disciple of John Ruskin. They remained friends thereafter and some 20 years later, in company with Sir Robert Hunter, would together become co-founders of the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, since abbreviated to The National Trust.  At Balliol, having neglected his studies in favour of athletics and the river, both areas in which he excelled, Rawnsley, achieved only a respectable Third in Natural Science. He made up his mind to follow his father and grandfather into the Church, was ordained deacon in 1875 and was appointed Curate to the newly-formed Clifton College Mission in Bristol. 

A prolific writer, Rawnsley published innumerable ‘occasional’ sonnets, having been introduced to what became, under the guidance of Charles Tennyson Turner, a family connection, his favoured verse form. Unfortunately for his reputation as a poet, he did have a fatal facility for sonnet-writing, which proved to be his undoing in this field at least, since he would dash off a sonnet at a moment’s notice on whatever topic occupied his attention at any given time. As a result, the poetic quality was, to say the least, variable. However, it has recently been realised that in the absence of any surviving diaries, Rawnsley’s sonnets – especially his first published book of verse, Bristol Sonnets – prove to be an invaluable primary source of information about his life and personal feelings.2

His literary output over the next 40-odd years, published on both sides of the Atlantic, extended far beyond verse, encompassing biography, pamphlets, magazine articles, papers for learned journals, innumerable letters to the press including at least 160 to The Times, memoirs, lectures, sermons, and ten books devoted to the Lake District, its scenery, history, literary associations and customs. The lyrical writing in these volumes, to a certain extent intended as early ‘guide-books’ to Lakeland, has seldom if ever been equalled, and never surpassed.

Marrying into a wealthy mine-owning family, Rawnsley became financially independent of his ecclesiastical stipend, as Vicar first of the tiny parish of Wray-on-Windermere, in the gift of his cousin who had inherited Wray Castle, and thereafter of Crosthwaite in Keswick. (He was later appointed a Canon of Carlisle Cathedral and an honorary Chaplain to King George V.)   

At Wray, Hardwicke and his wife Edith, herself a talented artist and craftswoman, recognised the precariousness of the lives of many of their parishioners, seasonal farm labourers, laid off during the winter months.  For these men, idleness led not only to poverty but also to boredom, to relieve which they would all too often resort to the pub, as Rawnsley had also found to be the case among the poor of Bristol. In the spirit of Ruskin, the Rawnsleys decided to offer lessons in woodcarving, a Lake District traditional craft in danger of dying out. These classes could not only provide an occupation to keep the beneficiaries at home, but also give them a new skill by which they could earn a competence during the winter months. When the Rawnsleys left Wray to take up the living of St. Kentigern, Crosthwaite and moved to Keswick in 1883, the classes in Wray were discontinued, but the seed had been sown. 

The Rawnsleys, as convinced Ruskinians, and in accordance with Ruskin’s teaching that, “Art is the expression of man’s delight in the works of God”, wanted to put into practice what they understood to be Ruskin’s philosophy of labour. In his influential work The Stones of Venice, Ruskin, through a close study of the architecture of that city, made it clear that, to him, the secret of its incomparable beauty lay in the hand-work which lovingly created it – the balconies, in which each element, taking inspiration from nature, was individually wrought by a master craftsman, using as his materials the hand-cut stones and hand-made bricks which comprise materials used for the buildings and palaces. No two are identical, but all bear what Ruskin described as a “family likeness”. He pointed out that objects, when hand-made, fit for purpose, and without any superfluous embellishment, have an intrinsic charm and attraction of their own which no mass-produced item, however well-made, could ever emulate.3

Rawnsley at Balliol, 1872
Edith Rawnsley in 1874

All Ruskin’s thoughts and reflections on this subject were distilled and synthesised in the eight volumes of Fors Clavigera. This series of open letters addressed “to the Workmen and Labourers of Great Britain”, appearing almost monthly from 1871 to 1884, taken together afforded Ruskin with a device for a philosophical exploration of various aspects of work and its conditions in England. Labour was a topic close to Ruskin’s heart – when Rawnsley had come under his influence at Oxford, soon after Ruskin had been appointed to the chair of Fine Arts at the University, ‘The Professor’ had recruited a team of undergraduates, of whom Rawnsley was one, to build a new road for the people of the village of Hinksey, an exercise which Ruskin deemed would provide a suitable antidote to their usual diet of athletics and beer, and teach them the value of manual labour. The ‘Hinksey Diggers’, immortalised in an early photograph, and much ridiculed in the contemporary press, represented an early exercise in ‘public relations’ long before the term was invented. Ridiculed or not, the lesson was not wasted, on Rawnsley at any rate who, as a sensitive and impressionable young man, was later to put Ruskin’s philosophy to effective practical use in the Keswick School of Industrial Arts.

The Hinksey Diggers, 1874 – Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley is leaning on the spade

Returning to Fors, as Clive Wilmer in his commentary on the work remarked, while the letters are indeed concerned with labour, their subject is work viewed through the lens of human destiny, the Fors or ’Fortune’ of the title, being she who holds the key to the future of mankind. (Perhaps in the midst of the current pandemic, through which Gaia seems to be at last wreaking vengeance on mankind for destroying the planet, ‘Gaia’ should have usurped the title!)4

All forms of labour are seen as rooted in nature and having a common purpose – that of promoting the wealth that is life, rather than simple existence from day to day, from hand to mouth. “There is no wealth but life”, as Ruskin proclaimed in Ad Valorem, the fourth of his essays on Political Economy in Unto This Last, the title being a reference of course to Christ’s parable of the workers in the vineyard.

Happiness, in Ruskin’s model, a model incidentally shared by his good friend Thomas Carlyle, does not depend upon making as much money as possible in as short a time as possible. Money, per se, should not be an end-in-itself, but only a means to a higher end, and payment should be geared to need, rather than to desert.

As Ruskin’s biographer, John Batchelor, makes clear, in an ideal world there would be no place for competition – no market forces – no laws of supply-and-demand – no industrial capitalism. This idealistic philosophy was diametrically opposed to the ideas of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill (Ruskin’s particular bête noir), for whom the sole purpose of labour was the generation of wealth, which in turn, it was to be assumed, would increase the overall happiness of nations.5

England in the third quarter of the 19th century, through the efforts of the newly-enriched and powerful entrepreneurs, had become the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth and the first to become an urban rather than an agrarian society. Yet at the same time, for much of the population the norm continued to be a life of grinding poverty, starvation and injustice. This paradox was not wasted on Ruskin. He laid the responsibility for this state of affairs squarely at the door of the industrial revolution. Men were no longer in touch with the land and with nature; they no longer gained inner satisfaction from working with their hands to create beautiful or functional objects, from the conception to the finished product. Instead the majority had become mere cogs in the wheels of industry – mechanical ‘hands’ on a production line. They had ceased to be individuals, happy in the joy of creation.

In his writings, Ruskin urged the socially conscious middle-classes to put the clock back by restoring to nature the urban wastelands which they themselves had created. Perhaps the new-rich individual with a social conscience would be in a position to put into practice Ruskin’s exhortations, but for the urban man-in-the-street this must have seemed a vain hope and an idealistic philosophy, impossible actually to put into practice. Those who do not have enough to eat do not have the time, leisure or inclination to engage in philosophical reflection.

Rawnsley in 1885

It was in reaction to this state of affairs, and drawing on Hardwicke’s experiences in Mission work in Soho and Bristol, that the Rawnsleys, building upon the work they had already carried out at Wray with the woodcarving classes, decided during the winter of 1884 that the time had come to put into practice some of Ruskin’s ideas about the dignity of labour. Ruskin had taught that for work to be enjoyable the worker must not only learn new skills, but he must at the same time have some autonomy and control over the task in hand – a notion completely at odds with the modern and more cost-effective factory system, where each man was employed to carry out one single repetitive task on a production line.

No doubt actively encouraged by Ruskin, who now lived conveniently close at hand at Brantwood on the shores of Coniston Water, the Rawnsleys wasted no time in setting up classes in woodcarving and metalwork. These classes were financed by local ladies, who paid to attend classes in the Parish Room in the afternoons, so that the classes for working men could be held in the evenings, free of charge. Woodcarving was taught by a local artist and designer, and Edith Rawnsley, who had taught herself to do metal repoussé, took charge of the metalwork classes. In this she was aided by a talented jeweller from the vicinity, she herself providing many of the designs. And so, the Keswick School of Industrial Arts (KSIA) was born. It was an immediate success, owing, as Ian Bruce observed in his magisterial history of the KSIA, to “the careful selection of instructional material and tuition”, and grew rapidly in size and scope. After two years, some 30 students were attending full time, rising to 67 after four years, with many more attending the evening classes. Every finished article remained the property of the school, with the student who had created it receiving part of the proceeds when it was sold.6

After only a few years of activity the School outgrew its makeshift temporary premises; better workshops and a showroom were essential. Accordingly, by the late 1880s, fund-raising for the erection of purpose-built premises had already begun. The money was raised with astonishing rapidity; in 1891 land was acquired on the banks of the River Greta in the centre of Keswick, and the first turf was cut in May 1893. The attractive building, in Arts and Crafts style, reflecting Westmorland vernacular architecture and featuring the round stone chimneys on square pedestals which Wordsworth had so appreciated, with a traditional ‘spinning gallery’ providing access to the showroom on the first floor, was largely built of various types of native slate-stone. The new School, with workshops adorned with improving quotations from Ruskin and others, was opened in April 1894 with considerable ceremony, though Ruskin himself was not well enough to attend. Ruskin’s philosophy of labour was encapsulated in the couplet, inscribed underneath the spinning gallery, and undoubtedly composed by Hardwicke himself:  The Loving Eye and Skilful Hand shall Work with Joy and Bless the Land.

The Carlisle Journal on 6th April 1894 reported that a particular feature of the new building was a collection of art objects and models, designed to constitute a museum of reference for art workers. A library well-stocked with reference works, displayed gifts from artists including William Morris, who presented specimens of printing by the Kelmscott Press, self-portraits by Holman Hunt and G.F. Watts, later to be joined by others promised by William Morris and Walter Crane. Since observation from nature was a key element of the teaching at the School, the grounds were planted with trees, shrubs and flowers. As Ian Bruce recognised, the school “embodied the ideas and philosophies which underpinned the idealised communities envisioned by the proponents of the Arts & Crafts movement.”

From its earliest years, even before the opening of the new building, the School flourished, making a wide range of products in silver, copper, and wood, such as trays, candle sconces, bowls and vases. In the woodcarving department, tables, screens, corner cupboards and clock-cases were produced. All were individually hand-worked and finished, to point up the contrast between these lovingly created objects and the soulless factory-made, die-cast products then flooding the market. Good design was of course vital, and this became even more important as the School, with its growing reputation, began to attract special commissions, often for church furnishings such as altar crosses, chalices, alms dishes, candlesticks, and so forth. One of the School’s most important commissions was for a new reredos for Rawnsley’s own Crosthwaite Church, designed by Edith and worked by her with craftsmen from the School.  She also designed elegant copper electroliers for the church and for the new Keswick Museum building, all of which were made at the KSIA and are still in use today.

The reredos at St. Kentigern’s church at Crosthwaite, designed and worked by Edith Rawnsley

In addition to metalwork and woodcarving, another local craft which had almost died out was the hand-spinning and weaving of linen. This had first been revived by Albert Fleming, another disciple of Ruskin, who with Marion Twelves, had set up the Langdale Linen Industry. Miss Twelves and her team of ‘spinsters’ had eventually moved ‘over the Raise’ (a reference to Dunmail Raise, now the A591, a mountain pass that connects the southern and northern sides of the Lake District, the main route through the centre of the Lakes) and became for some years amalgamated with the KSIA before differences of opinion between Miss Twelves and Edith Rawnsley resulted in the amicable separation of the two enterprises. Miss Twelves, yet another follower of Ruskin, then set up her own linen manufactory, which with his permission she named the Ruskin Linen Industry. Apart from beautifully worked items in what she called ‘Ruskin Lace’, a form of embroidered lacework incorporating different types of stitching and cutwork, two of the most publicised of the items produced by Marion Twelves and her team were the unbleached handwoven and embroidered linen palls, designed by Edith Rawnsley, for the funerals of Tennyson, the Poet Laureate, in 1892 at Westminster Abbey, and for John Ruskin eight years later. Ruskin’s pall is still on display in the Ruskin Museum at Coniston.

Many thousands of items were produced by the Keswick School of Industrial Arts during its century of existence, and are now much sought-after, commanding high prices. Unfortunately, however, in the end the KSIA became the victim of its own success. Increasing demand meant that orders could not be fulfilled without resort to the introduction of some mechanised processes. The range of goods was simplified; products in stainless steel which could not be entirely made by hand, were introduced and proved very popular, and in spite of the best efforts of the Trustees and management committees, changing tastes and the effects of two World Wars finally caused the School to close a few weeks short of the hundredth anniversary of its foundation. The fatal flaw of Ruskin’s philosophy of labour was embedded within it from  the start – as long as the enterprise remained small, with only a limited production, hand work from the drawing board to the finished product by a single craftsman as an ideal could not be faulted, but in practice, as the organisation grew, it simply was not commercially viable, and Ruskin’s principles had to a certain extent to be jettisoned, for the business to survive.

Today, in spite of various vicissitudes including serious flooding on more than one occasion, the attractive KSIA Arts and Crafts building, now a restaurant, still stands – a monument to the vision of the School’s founders, Hardwicke and Edith Rawnsley, and to John Ruskin, who inspired them.

Rawnsley, photographed by Herbert Bell (Courtesy of Armitt Centre)

Ruskin, in Ad Valorem, wrote:

There is no wealth but life. Life, including all its powers of love, of joy, of admiration. That man is the richest who, having perfected the functions of his own life to the utmost; has also the widest helpful influence, both personal, and by means of his possessions; over the lives of others

If Ruskin’s dictum is accepted, Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley was a rich man indeed.7

  1. Rawnsley, E.F. – Canon Rawnsley []
  2. Rawnsley, H.D. – A Book of Bristol Sonnets. Ruskin & The English Lakes []
  3. Ruskin, J. – The Stones of Venice, Unto This Last, Fors Clavigera []
  4. Wilmer, Clive – John Ruskin: Unto This Last and other writings []
  5. Batchelor, John, John Ruskin: A Life []
  6. Bruce, I. – The Loving Eye and Skilful Hand – The Keswick School of Industrial Arts []
  7. Carlisle Journal 6th April 1894 []