William Godwin's Diary


Joseph Lancaster (1778-1838), an educationalist, pioneered the monitorial system of school discipline, in which a single teacher supervises large numbers of children by dividing the class up into small groups each taught by one of the older students. This was begun at his free school in Southwark, became well known with the publication of his Improvements in Education as it Respects the Industrious Classes of the Community (1803) and in 1805 led to Lancaster being given an audience by George III. However, by the end of the decade he had been imprisoned in the King’s Bench debtors’ prison and spent much time on lecture tours in the provinces and Ireland to avoid re-arrest by his creditors. Notice of another London lecture in the same month was given with the following advertisement in the Morning Chronicle:

'EDUCATION.—Jews Chapel, Spitalfields.—The LONDON SOCIETY having resolved to establish a Free School, particularly for the Children of Jews, but also to be open to the Children of the Poor of other Persuasions, residing in Spitalfields, and having adopted the Plan of Mr JOSEPH LANCASTER, they give notice, that THIS DAY a Lecture will be delivered at the above place, by Mr. Lancaster, on the Advantages of Education in General, of his System in Particular. The different parts of the Lecture will be elucidated by many interesting facts; and the Principle of Order whereby One Master can govern 1000 Pupils, will be demonstrated by a number of Boys, who wil exemplify the practice of the Plan.—The Lecture will commence at Six o’clock precisely. The Doors will be opened at Half-past Five precisely.—The company of respectable Jews, and Inhabitants of Spitalfields, is particularly requested; and such persons as may be desirous to attend the lecture are requested to apply at the Chapel House, in Brick-lane for tickets of admission, as no person will be admitted on that evening without a ticket.'

See DNB and Morning Chronicle, 3 August 1809.