Archive of the Month – January 2013, Art School Classes, 19th century
Minute note on class recommendations, Reference EPEW/2/4/1/6
January’s Archive of the Month looks at more ‘unusual’ classes taught at Art Schools during the late 19th century.
In the Epsom Technical Institute and School of Art Archive a scrawled handwritten minute note on 1st May 1895 relating to class recommendations makes a quick throwaway note to a ‘Bee Van’ and ‘Dairy Van’, which would not be a usual class today…
Although, not known exactly, a ‘Bee Van’ was thought to be a mobile van, which travelled around and taught bee keeping.
The following relating to the Dairy Van, and education in Art Schools is written for Archive of the Month by Stephen Knott. Stephen Knott, Founder Postdoctoral Fellow in Modern Craft at the Crafts Study Centre, University of Creative Arts, Farnham, is conducting research on the late nineteenth and early twentieth century history of craft and technical education. Research he has undertaken has also been at the Surrey History Centre.
In the years after the Technical Education Acts of 1889 and 1891 (which allowed Local Authorities to use duties collected from alcohol tax for technical education) the town and borough councils of Surrey set up a variety of technical evening class courses for both school leavers and tradesmen looking to complement their existing skills: from Woodwork, to French, to book-keeping, all funded by the Surrey County Council. Among the subjects taught in Surrey there were a large number of agricultural instruction courses on offer, reflecting demand within the country for farming skills to be preserved in the light of rural depopulation. This is reflected in both the correspondence between the Council and the representative of the Department of Science and Art in South Kensington about including things like thatching, ditching, hedging, and dairy farming on the list of approved subjects that the Technical Education funds could be spent on, as well as cross-County plans in the 1890s to set up a horticultural college for Kent, Surrey and Sussex at Wye (Wye Horticultural College).
Part of the agricultural provision from 1892 was to fund a diary van that would provide instruction to the villages and towns of Surrey for those who would not be able to leave work to attend other intensive agricultural courses the council was offering elsewhere. The Cumberland County Council had already deployed a similar vehicle and provided Surrey County Council with practical advice and information about costs.
This description is direct from the 6th Report of the Surrey County Council Technical Education Committee on 10th May 1892 –
‘[…] the van is furnished with separator, churn, butter worker, boiler, cistern, furnace and other appliances suitable for a six-cow Dairy, and can be drawn from place to place by one horse. When at rest and taken off its wheels it opens out on to a covered shed with a boarded floor (12 ft by 10 ft). The travelling staff consists of a Lecturer, Dairymaid and assistant’.
The plan was to take the diary van to 25 villages, the course lasting for a week in each village. The van was to be run by Miss E Hope Johnstone (with the help of assistant Miss Fleming) who was was from the Irish Glasnevin and Leinster Dairy School.
After a slow start (in Farnham of course, where else!) the Dairy van was a remarkable success. The majority of students’ were farmers’ wives and daughters, or labourers’ wives and daughters. Each week-long course in each village culminated in a Butter-churning competition and both the Van and the students’ work was displayed at the agricultural shows across the County. The Surrey County Council agreed to supply extra funding, and in the next year Kent County Council also employed Johnstone.
Johnstone reports to the Surrey County Council at the end of her first run of course in February 1893 that:
‘At nearly every place the hope was expressed that the Van would return in 1893’.
The van did indeed continue to run, and a later report of the Surrey County Council Technical Education Committee that year stated that the van planned to go to the 1893 Epsom Agricultural Show in Autumn.
I presume that it was both the notoriety of the Van across technical education circles at this time, and the agricultural show that prompted the Chairman or Secretary of the Epsom Technical Education Committee to write “Dairy Van” as one of the subjects they wanted to teach at the Epsom Technical Institute on that paper seen from 1895.
All other Archive Treasures can be seen here