Education in St Andrews in 1849

In Charles Roger's book History of St Andrews: with a full account of the recent improvements in the city (Adam & Charles Black, Edinburgh, 1849) the University, Madras College and other educational establishments in St Andrews in 1849 are described.

The University of St Andrews

In 1849 the University of St Andrews consisted of two Colleges, the United College of St Salvator and St Leonard, and St Mary's College for divinity. Here is Charles Roger's description of the United College in 1849:

The United College of St Salvator and St Leonard

The offices connected with the College are a Principalship, eight Professorships, one Lectureship, a Clerkship, a Factorship, and Janitorship. The duties of the principal have never been defined, and the office may be regarded as a sinecure. Until about twenty years ago, when the late Principal Nicoll resigned the church living of St Leonard's in favour of the late Dr James Hunter, professor of logic, the office of principal of the United College and the pastorship of St Leonard's parish, had, from the union of the Colleges, been vested in one individual. Since then, the two offices have been held by different persons. The successors of Principal Nicoll, Dr Hunter and Dr Lee, discharged no duty. The present principal, Sir David Brewster, has occasionally delivered lectures in science. The eight professorships are devoted to the inculcating of Latin, Greek, Mathematics, Logic and Rhetoric, Medicine, Moral Philosophy, Natural Philosophy, and Civil History. The class of Civil History is at present not taught, and the professorship may be regarded as a sinecure. The class of Medicine or Descriptive Anatomy is attended by very few, and those only who intend to follow out the study of medicine. The other classes are well attended. The Lectureship was instituted in 1808, from funds bequeathed by the late Dr John Gray of London, to provide for the instruction in Chemistry of young men attending the College. The duties of the clerk are to keep the records, and write out the minutes; the factor's business is to collect the rents of the College lands, and pay the professors' salaries; and the employment of the janitor to keep clean the buildings, and to give general attendance on the professors. The principal and professors derive their salaries from a number of farms in the vicinity of the city, from numerous feu-duties and bishop's rents, and likewise from annual grants from the Exchequer. All the professors receive fees, save the professor of Civil History.

Madras College

The city is indebted for the institution of the Madras College to the munificent liberality of the late Dr Bell. The foundation-stone of the structure was laid on the 9th April, 1832. It was erected from a plan by Mr William Burn, architect, Edinburgh, and finished by Mr Kennedy, builder, St Andrews, at the expense of about £18,000. The building consists of a spacious quadrangle, surrounded in the interior by elegant piazzas, under which are the doors leading to the class-rooms. The front or northern side of the quadrangle consists of two elegant storeys, the other three sides are composed of one. There are ten class-rooms, all of which are neatly and conveniently fitted up for the respective departments. The two English class-rooms are exceedingly commodious, and occupy the whole of the south division of the building. In the trustees' room, which is very neatly fitted up, is a finely executed bust of the founder, by Joseph, composed of white marble, and placed on a pedestal of beautifully polished granite. The situation of the College is exceedingly favourable for the health of the pupils, being at the south side of the west part of South Street, exactly behind the ruins of Blackfriars' Chapel, which the ample area surrounds and embraces. At each side of the area, fronting the street, are houses for the teachers of English and Latin; the other masters are not provided with official residences.

The founder of this splendid edifice, Dr Andrew Bell, was the son of a hairdresser in the city, and was born on the 27th March 1753. After completing his studies at the University he went to America in 1774, as a private tutor, but shortly after returned home, when, obtaining orders in the English Church, he was chosen minister of the Episcopal Church in Leith. Through the interest of the celebrated George Dempster, Esq. of Dunnichen, M.P. for the St Andrews District of Burghs, he was enabled, in 1787, to proceed to Madras as a teacher of Natural Philosophy. Prior to his departure, he received the degrees of M.D. and D.D. from the University of St Andrews. On his arrival at Madras, he obtained one of the churches of the East India Company, and also became superintendent of a male orphan asylum, instituted by that body. It was by teaching in this academy that he professed to discover the monitorial system of tuition [the discovery has also been claimed by Joseph Lancaster], on which he afterwards published several works. Returning to England in 1797, he published abroad the importance of his discovery, which, at the time, attracting notice from its apparent novelty, speedily led to his being appointed prebendary of Westminster, and master of Sherburne Hospital, in the county of Durham. His yearly income now amounted to about £4000, and his private fortune was soon after increased by his marrying the only daughter of the Rev Dr Barclay of Haddington, who brought with her an ample dowry. From his remarkably penurious habits, he amassed the large sum of £120,000, which, near the time of his death, [Dr Bell died on the 27th January, 1832, in his seventy-ninth year, and was interred, in terms of his special request, in Westminster Abbey] he divided into twelve parts, appropriating six of them for schools on the Madras system in London, Edinburgh, Leith, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Inverness, and another for the moral and religious improvement of St Andrews, and construction of permanent and useful works connected with the town.

The remaining five parts he bequeathed for the purpose of erecting the Madras College and the endowment of masters, with the view of making his native city the head-quarters of the Madras system of education in the kingdom. He appointed the provost and first and second ministers of the city, and Dr Alexander, Professor of Greek, and on the decease of the latter, the Sheriff-depute of Fife, trustees for the management of the College, and enjoined that the Madras or monitorial method of tuition should be adopted and followed in the institution. He likewise provided that complete and abridged editions of his works should be published by the trustees, and kept on sale in the three capitals of Scotland, England, and Ireland, for the space of a century, and that copies should be deposited in all the public libraries of the kingdom. And still farther, to perpetuate his name, he bequeathed £1000 to the poet Southey for writing a full account of his life. This work appeared in 1844, in three large octavo volumes, and consists principally of letters addressed to Dr Bell by persons of learning and eminence, in various parts of the country. Dr Southey having become disabled during the course of preparing the work for the press, the last two volumes are edited by his son, the Rev Charles C Southey of Queen's College, Oxford.

The trustees have discharged the duties assigned to them in the most laudable manner. They have uniformly selected the most efficient teachers, and carefully endeavoured to promote the comfort and welfare of the pupils, and to keep the building in proper repair. Most of the teachers are engaged for a limited period, and are liable to be removed at its expiry. The strictest attention is bestowed on the religious instruction of the pupils. Sabbath classes are regularly taught in the class-rooms by young gentlemen attending the University and others, under the superintendence of the trustees. An address to parents and children, on their respective duties, is delivered on the first Sabbath of every month, in the largest English class-room, by Principal Haldane or one of his assistants. The poorer pupils are taught gratuitously, and with equal care towards their improvement. A large park, south of the College, is appropriated for the amusements of the children; and recently the inner portion of the quadrangle has been neatly paved, and the extensive area in front drained and otherwise improved.

Children from all parts of the kingdom are sent to imbibe instruction at this popular seminary, and the attendance of pupils is annually on the increase. The present number is nine hundred. According to the deed of foundation, all the classes are examined, in presence of the trustees, every quarter; and at the principal examination in the end of July, immediately before the vacation, the usual examinators are assisted by the resident Professors in the University, and by several distinguished Professors from the University of Edinburgh, who are requested to attend. A committee of Presbytery is also invited to be present. On this occasion, parents and guardians from all parts of the country assemble to witness the progress of their children and wards; and from the neatness of the pupils, and elegance of the spectators, the display is brilliant in the extreme. The present teachers are as under: English Department, Andrew Young; Classical Department, Edward Woodford, LL.D.; Mathematical Department, William Lonie; Arithmetical Department, David Smeaton; Writing, Andrew B Morrison; Drawing, Alexander Paterson; Modern Languages, Samuel Messieux; Music, George Boyack; Fencing, Messrs Roland. The patrons are the Lord-Lieutenant of Fife, the Lord Justice Clerk, and the Right Reverend Bishop Terrot. The auditors of accounts, who are chosen by the trustees, are Sir Ralph A Anstruther, Bart, of Balcaskie, and David Monypenny, Esq of Pitmilly. The secretary is Mr Stuart Grace.

Madras Infant School

This handsome building, which is situated immediately in front of North Bell Street, and facing Market Street, was erected in 1844, from a design furnished gratuitously by the late Mr Nixon, at the expense of eight hundred pounds. For the erection of this neat structure, the citizens are indebted to the public spirit and reforming zeal of the present indefatigable Provost. The infant-school was formerly taught in the large building behind the Town Church, now converted into the City Hall, in an apartment ill adapted for the purpose, and a locality the most unfavourable. Provost Playfair, seeing the propriety of removing it, applied to Government for a grant, and also put in requisition to the Bell Fund; so that aided by the co-operative activity of the other city authorities, he was enabled to rear the present fabric, surrounded with its fine playground and shrubberies, on the site of dilapidated cow-houses and depots of manure. This improvement the Provost emphatically calls his first child.

The class-room is spacious and suitable, and the teacher's dwelling-house attached is comfortable and convenient. The fabric is surrounded by piazzas, under which the children may amuse themselves when the weather is unfavourable, and is encompassed with an area, planted round with shrubs and evergreens, in which they may have exercise when the weather is fine. At present the school is attended by upwards of a hundred children. The annual examination towards the end of July is highly interesting, and exhibits the wonderful extent of knowledge of which the infant mind is susceptible.

Other St Andrews Schools

Besides these public seminaries, there are several private schools taught on adventure, and also a district school for the instruction of the children of the fisher population. A number of female schools for instruction in sewing and knitting are well attended. Within the last twenty years, there were two extensive boarding schools in the city for young ladies. There is only one at present, conducted by the Misses Oliver. Numerous boarding establishments for boys attending the Madras College are much encouraged. They are each provided with a properly qualified tutor; and the terms of board may vary from £30 to £40 a-year. Altogether, St Andrews affords advantages in the way of education to which few other cities in the kingdom can lay claim.


JOC/EFR April 2010

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