March 23rd (Tuesday) – Monro’s school at Harrow Weald

March 23, 2009

Left Town by the 7 o’clock train (an endless 3rd class) for Pinner, the 4th Station from London on the Birmingham line. My object was, chiefly, to see Mr Rhodes’ house at Great Stanmore, mentioned by Mr. Marriott on Sunday, and, secondly, to make the acquaintance of Mr. Monroe, who had established a small College for the sons of the poorer classes at Harrowheele.1

His present residence is 1½ miles from the College, & close to the Pinner Station. Bringing a note of introduction from Sewell, I knocked at the door at the unwarrantable hour of 8 o’clock am. I found Mr Monro just setting off to see his father, at no great distance, though he told me he hardly ever left home. However, after breakfast I was to have a guide to Stanmore, & settled to meet him at the College at 1 o’clock. A pupil, resident in his family, & lately come to him, accompanied me instead of a very little, odd-looking, boy. – & I was not sorry for the change.

Our walk lay through Lord Abinger’s Park, the House being called ‘The Priory’. On the other side of it is the Village of Stanmore, and a little above the village stands the structure which I came to see. It is a very beautiful building, composed of rubble of Kentish Rag, with Ashlar & carvings of Caen stone. The ornamental work is very elaborate in some places, & yet it is not oppressive; a lofty turret stretched up, crowned with a conical roof; the gables are good, the irregularities well disposed, (with the exception of the Oratory, which to me appears to be irregular to affectation,) and the grouping of the octagonal kitchen & other offices is very happy. Altogether, it is the best modern thing I have seen. In the interior the rooms are small, & not very numerous, – but nothing is finished, – much not near finished, and all the offices are bare shells as the Masons & Slaters left them. It would take £5000 to complete the design, so that this consideration alone would put it entirely out of our thoughts: and this is not all, for it stands in only 14½ acres, bounded by two roads & two gentlemen’s places, so that the boys wd. have no range, no room, no liberty. Indeed, what little space there is, which is not taken up by garden & pleasure ground, is so uneven that cricket would be out of the question. Yet the view from the Terrace is very fine, commanding an extensive prospect of rich country, with Harrow Hill, crowned with its Church, on the right.

The old house, (not, however, very old,) of which this is to be the successor, stands near, and is soon to be pulled down. I went over it to see if there was any possibility of making a Dormitory out of it, or any other necessary rooms, – but could find nothing to modify the positive sentence against the suitableness of the place for our purpose.

[Later note in Singleton’s hand: This whole place was sold in June or July for about £6000. The house alone must have cost £20,000 at least.]

Between 1 o’clock & 2 o’clock I met Mr Monroe at his College. He has 22 boys, whom he educates, feeds & clothes, (I think) gratis, their parents resigning them to his care entirely, he undertaking to rear & fit them for the service of the Church, as Deacons, or Schoolmasters, or in any office for which they might prove suited. They are dressed in a neat frock of blay linen kept tight at the waist by a strap passing round the body. Soon after I arrived two boys came into the Hall to lay the cloth & dinner things. They kept on whistling & singing, quite unawed by the presence of a stranger. Soon afterwards the School bell, (a very respectable bell, by the way, which Mr Monro told me was the pride of the whole neighbourhood, & so reminded me of Stackallan,) rang a happy release from their studies. They all came in, & got their little books of devotion and then went upstairs into their chambers, where they remained for a quarter of an hour in silence and meditation, a few minutes being devoted to washing and brushing their hair.

The bell rang again, and they came into Hall, not without a little tumultuousness of manner. Being now arranged at table the four senior boys, in gowns over their frocks, in virtue of their office as Prefects, a grace was chanted by Mr Monroe, at the High Table, he also in his gown, to which the boys made 2 or 3 responses in harmony, concluding with the ‘Amen.’ I sat next to Mr Monroe, who had a boiled neck of mutton before him, to which he helped me, one of the prefects attending me with the plate. Mr Monro then carved his dish as far as it would go for the boys, who had likewise other very simple dishes at their table, at which Mr Ashe, Mr Monro’s assistant, presided. When the plain meal was at an end, a similar grace was similarly offered.

The Hall itself is a very unpretending room, built of brick, with a roof of good pitch, about 45 ft. by 20. ft., and yet by a little judicious management, and a little ornament well chosen & happily disposed, the effect is right good, and it bears quite a Collegiate air. The high Table is slightly raised, and the neighbouring window is a little recessed, about double the size of the others, and each of its four compartments bears a device in stained glass by Willement, such as the arms of the College, those of the Bishop of the Diocese, & 2 others.2 On the end wall behind the dais, is a beautiful picture of St. Andrew, in whose memory the College was founded. Thus a very decided character is given to the room, which cannot but tend to elevate the tone of the boys; and yet the cost was trifling: it was built in 2 months for about £100. This fact was not to be thrown away upon us. At the Entrance end was a large square board, on which hung different notices affecting school-work, the subjects for prizes to be contested on the next commemoration time. Scrolls with different texts from Holy Scripture decked the walls; including one over the door, -‘the works of the flesh’ – ‘are rioting & drunkenness’, – and another over the chimney piece, which is moveable, and has reference to the Ecclesiastical seasons: – at present it was ‘Lent, – repent’.

The dormitory consists of separate, closed, chambers, containing bed, &c., and the walls of each were enlivened by several prints, one of which is furnished by Mr Monro, of a more pretending class than the rest, and chosen with reference to the inmate’s peculiar character and circumstances. These appeared to be all of German origin. Outside the chamber doors are texts & prints, illustrating our Saviour’s history or impressing some truth in connexion with sleep. To this I paid particular attention, – an important hint.3 Mr Monro’s assistant sleeps on one of the floors. In a general passage, leading to the different apartments of the College, boards are hung up, stating the boys whose occupation is assigned by rotation to each particular office, – the games to be played during the week, – & so on.

Their gardens are close at hand, and a prize is given for the one that is best kept.4 Remarked some lads at work at them, others at different sports; and never did I see a healthier or a happier set in my life. What a mistake it is to imagine that to live under strict rule is to live in melancholy & misery! The very reverse is the case. The contrast of discipline is what makes relaxation so charming. The boys go to church once a day, to an ugly brick building not above ¼ of a mile off. This, however, is to be soon superseded by a decent structure, the chancel of which is now in progress; – as is also a parsonage-house, (nearly finished) which Mr Monro will occupy. This will be very convenient, as his present residence is at a serious distance.

The Study has nothing remarkable about it, but that it shows what can be done with the most unpromising materials by a person who knows what he is about. What wonders may be done by the energy of a right principle! It raises up a world of harmony out of desert & disorder. Mr Monro has clearly got possession of the Philosopher’s stone, – he has turned his community into a Church. As for myself, I saw much to admire, much cordially to approve, & not a little to reflect upon very gravely.

By the way, I forgot to mention that when we sat down to dinner, he observed to me, ‘- you have a brother at Stackallan, have you not?’ ‘No,’ I replied, ‘I have a brother living near it, but not at it.’ ‘And what,’ said he, ‘are you the late Warden?’ ‘Yes,’ was my answer. ‘Dear me, I must have read Sewell’s letter in a great hurry; but had I known that, I should have been in great alarm.’ I assured him that his alarm would have been quite groundless, and then enlarged upon the wonders that he seemed to have effected in so short a time, and on such uncouth subjects. I told him that after dinner I would give him a short sketch of my own history and of that of St. Columba’s. When we got into the Study the clock struck one of the quarters on a coil of steel, which gave him the opportunity of mentioning that while it is striking the hours, silence in preserved that the thoughts may dwell for a few moments on the fleeting nature of time, & on a coming Eternity. I told him the cause of our secession, which he thoroughly justified and admired, and then mentioned our project of raising a St. Columba’s in England. He was delighted; and, when asked if he anticipated a flow of boys to our College, replied that he had not the remotest doubt of it; that numbers of Parents had implored him to take their sons at any remuneration, – which his system compelled him to decline. One gentleman came to him, and said that he was anxious to present the most precious gift in his possession to Him that gave it; that that gift was his son, and he wanted to dedicate him wholly to His Maker’s use, – that he knew of no such opportunity as that which the College of St. Andrew opened out, – and would he refuse that appeal. Mr Monro could no longer withstand his wishes, – he received the boy. ‘This’ he said ‘will be sufficient to show you what interest people are taking in Church education.’ I returned with him to Pinner, and on the way he warned me against trusting in the Bishops, – that the Bishop of London had been very kind to him, – but that —- would meddle if he could. I made his mind easy by telling him that bitter experience had taught us that very lesson, & that we were resolved that their influence should not be admitted one jot farther than the Canons allowed. He took an affectionate leave of me, praying for God’s blessing on what we were about, enjoining me to make whatever use of him we thought fit, and making me promise to go & see him again.

I returned to London, drank tea with Mr Henry Sewell, and settled to meet him at Slough the day after tomorrow, if Sewell thought that St. Leonard’s should be looked at, which I was to mention by early post next morning. Got to Oxford at 10 ¼ pm, where Monk & Sewell were anxiously awaiting my coming. Told them my adventures, and laid the lithographed plans of St. Leonard’s before them. Sewell said that the building was ‘detestable’. Monk & I thought that hereafter something decent might be made of it, that it was as easy to Gothicise it as to Elizabethanize Radley. Sewell was immoveable, saying it was a nasty thing, full of pretence, & and that the only way to improve it was to pull it down, – that if I didn’t think the same, the style should not be fatal. However, he argued strongly against it, on account of its neighbourhood to the Court, and especially to that of Eton. I felt that there was much force in the remarks, but resisted the idea of the objection being unsurmountable. Mr Henry Sewell & I had gone over the same ground in London, but thought that we ought not entirely to throw it aside, especially as it was to be either let or sold. It was therefore ruled that I should go and see it on Thursday. Wrote to Mr Sewell to that effect.

1: Edward Monro, a Tractarian minister. He was the curate of Harrow Weald, where he established an agricultural college which he operated at his own expense. Entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

2: Thomas Willement was a prominent stained-glass artist of the mid-nineteenth century; six panels of heraldic glass which have been attributed to him were inserted into the wall of the barn which Sewell and Singleton converted into the Schoolroom at Radley (now the Library). Entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

3: This may be an early sign in what would be adopted at Radley as sileatur in dormitorio, one of the greatest and most far-reaching of Sewell’s school reforms. When the original Dormitory was built in 1849, it contained 70 cubicles in Upper and 43 in Lower. Each boy had his own cubicle with a curtained entrance, which was to be regarded as a sacred place, where privacy and silence were the order of the day. The resemblance to Monro’s school is very clear.

4: Sewell would later introduce individual gardens to be tended by the boys at Radley.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s